August Truck of the Month: Trucks and Family Ties
STRATTON, ON — Paul Brown, owner of Stratton, ON- based Paul Brown Trucking and Heavy Equipment Rentals, was seven years old when his father, Dennis, bought his first brand new truck; a 1979 White Western Star 4864-2 model with a 671 Detroit and 13-speed transmission.
“I rode in that truck any chance I could get. As a kid I spent countless hours playing in the yard when it was parked, pretending to be B.J. McKay, from ‘B.J. and the Bear’ or Jerry Reed from ‘Smokey and the Bandit’,” Brown says. “But it was the most fun to pretend to be Dad, and to copy everything he did, as he meticulously operated and cared for that first new truck.”
Brown Sr. used that White to haul gravel to construction projects in the summer and to plow for the Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) in the winter. His brother Don had an identical White; the only difference was the serial number. Don's VIN ended with #338 and Dennis' with #339.
But then came the summer of 1987 and the MTO changed a spec in their winter contract for the minimum front axle plows. The Whites had to go.
“I had seven years of memories in that truck,” Paul Brown says.The Browns went up to C.J. Edwards and Son, in Kenora, ON, to trade the White in for a 1978 Chevrolet Bison that met the new contract spec's. Edwards had already bought Don’s White by then.
In ’94, 22-year-old Paul went from pretending to be Dad in the yard to following dad’s tire treads; he got his first plowing contracts.
“My current fleet is made up of mostly Western Star tractors. The trucks and trailers are all pure white in color, and I like to think that I care for them all like dad had cared for his,” Brown says.
A childhood memory remembered this fondly has to come with a side of divine intervention. About five years ago, Brown spotted two red White Western Stars in C.J. Edwards' yard.
“I couldn't get the thought out of my mind,” Brown says. So on the next business trip, he found himself pulling into the Edwards' yard.
“I introduced myself to the owner, Wray, and told him my story, with baited breath, hoping to find out if one of those trucks was dad's,” he says.
Wray smiled, and said "Why, yes, they are! Let's go take a look!"
“Then I found the courage to ask him the big important question: ‘Well Wray, if you ever come to a point in time, where you wish to part with Dad's, I would really love the opportunity to be able to purchase it back?’”
In 2011, Brown got a call that he can have his dad’s old truck back, but only if he also bought its twin — his uncle Don’s White.
To Kenora Brown sped, and bought the trucks. And the painstaking restoration began.
“The proudest moment so far, was entering it in the recent July 1st Canada Day Parade, for its first official outing,” Brown says. “I was driving down Main Street, dad in the passenger seat, my two oldest sons, Jude, who is six and Quinn who is four, proudly sitting between us. After the parade, we had a nice lunch and when it was time to head home, I asked dad, ‘You ready to drive ‘her home?’”
“It was the best feeling in the world, looking over at him, holding that wheel, his big arm resting on the gear shift, looking over that hood, making happy memories once again!”