by Dick Parkes,
Vintage Car Club of Canada, Kamloops Chapter
Ernie and Marg McNaughton are long-time Kamloops residents and vintage car proponents. I have been anxiously waiting to write about them as they have one of the best car-related stories that we have run across, but more on that in a bit.
Ernie was born in New Westminster in 1930 and spent his first few years in Langley Prairie until brought to Kamloops in 1945 after his parents split up and he and his sister were put in a convent. About a year later they were put in foster care with a family up on Robbins Range, southeast of Barnhartvale, where they lived for five years. Ernie even attended the Robbins Range log school which was eventually moved to Springview Place and became a heritage school. Trips to Kamloops from Robbins Range were infrequent and required a horse and buggy ride to the Barnhartvale store where they caught a jitney into town. In 1950 the farm was sold and Ernie and his foster family moved to the original Powers home in Powers Addition and his foster dad started work at the Tranquille Farm. Just two years later, the house burned to the ground, taking everything they had with it and the family was taken in by another family on Battle Street, just two houses away from Marg’s residence. Half way through grade 10 Ernie quit school and started work (in 20 feet of snow) with the federal government surveying for the Rogers Pass portion of the Trans Canada Highway. When this job was finished, the survey crew moved to the Banff/Jasper Highway project and Ernie became the instrument man.
Ernie’s first car was a 1940 Ford sedan that he bought from his brother for $40 and drove it until it expired. He then traded a handgun (that he had acquired to protect him from the bears while surveying) for another 1940 Ford—this time a convertible. When driving to Golden one day they ran out of money and gas and abandoned the car on the side of the highway.
Marg (nee Hull) is a true Kamloopsian, born in the Royal Inland Hospital and in 1945 her family moved to a house on Battle Street which just happened to be right across the alley from 936 Nicola Street, where I lived with my family until 1955. Marg became friends with Ernie’s adopted sister and when Marg saw Ernie underneath his car on the street one day, she assumed that someone who had his own car was worthy of her attention.
Ernie eventually moved back to Kamloops permanently, working as instrument man on a survey crew for the B.C. Dept. of Highways and in 1956, when he and Marg were only 17 years old, they were married and this is where the story gets really interesting. Shortly before their marriage Ernie accompanied his foster mother to W.S. Wilson Motors, the local Austin dealer, and saw a 1937 Lincoln Zephyr V-12 coupe on the lot. Shelling out $200, Ernie bought the car and they used it for their honeymoon. On their way home, when passing through Balmoral (near Shuswap Lake), the engine blew up and they pushed the car off the road, grabbed their bags, jumped on a passing Greyhound bus and that was the last they saw of the car for 20 years. In 1957, Ernie began working for the City of Kamloops Public Works Dept. eventually becoming Utilities Manager, then Personnel Director, and retired after 35 years of public service. Marg began a bookkeeping career after working part-time for an accountant, then took two years of night school and spent many years working for other accountants and private firms.
The McNaughtons and their two young boys moved to 1260 Dominion Street in 1962 and joined the Kamloops Chapter of the Vintage Car Club (VCCC) in 1975 after they had purchased a 1922 Model T Ford sedan that had been converted into a pickup truck. This car was sold before being restored and then Ernie bought a derelict 1958 Cadillac convertible which was rebuilt bit by bit over the years and was used for many weddings and even made an appearance in the movie “My American Cousin.” When a large 11-car garage on 13th Avenue, just around the corner from their house, came up for sale, Ernie bought it and began filling it up with his vintage cars. His next car was a 1939 Ford coupe, purchased from a fellow Club member, and although this car was Ernie’s first frame-off restoration, it came out a show winner.
One day while driving through Balmoral, they noticed a pile of rusty cars in the trees and stopped to investigate. Amongst the other wrecks was Ernie’s old Lincoln Zephyr coupe and they gave the property owner a few dollars and brought it home. The car was literally only a shadow of its former self as it was completely rusted through on one side, had no fenders and all of the running gear was gone. Investigating the title, Ernie discovered that it was still in his name so the restoration process began. He ended up buying three more parts cars and sourcing other parts from all over Canada and the U.S. to accomplish the restoration which took over 30 years. The car was finally completed in 2013 and was outstanding, a testament to Ernie’s dedication, hard work and bank account! Who else could have resurrected their actual wedding car, almost 60 years later?
After their retirement the McNaughtons moved to White Lake for 11 years and concentrated on their hobbies, Marg with her weaving machine, Ernie with his vintage cars and then he discovered a new hobby, flying radio controlled airplanes. Eventually Ernie’s garage had many model airplanes hanging from the ceiling, sharing space with his cars. His most ambitious project was a four-engine Empire flying boat that he rebuilt and re-engined after a friend had crashed it. Ernie flew this plane for many years and then sold it to a younger flyer and it is still going strong over 25 years later.
Other interesting cars gracing Ernie’s garage over the years were a 1939 Willys coupe, a 1939 Hudson convertible and a 1937 Cord sedan. All of these have since been passed on but their final vintage car acquisition was a 1964½ Ford Mustang convertible, purchased from a friend at Adams Lake. This car had been converted into a drag racer with a huge engine, roll cage, traction bars and other racing paraphernalia but Ernie jumped in with his usual gusto to return it to its original factory condition. This is the only vintage car they still have but it can be seen regularly on the streets, participating in Club events.
The vintage car hobby has benefitted from the McNaughton’s participation as they have held many executive positions including president, treasurer, governor, swap meet registrars and chaired one of our National May Tours, a huge responsibility. After 63 years of marriage, Ernie and Marg are still a pair, always together whenever they are out and about. And they said it wouldn’t last!