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Seniors & their Vintage Cars

Bob & Michelle Gieselman

You may have heard of Bob Gieselman through his real estate endeavours, but he is also well known through his association with all things automotive. Bob was born in Kamloops in 1945 and then moved to Chilliwack, where his father worked at garages at Cultus Lake and Chilliwack. As Bob was one of eight children, every summer his mother would send him and his two older brothers to Kamloops to spend time with their grandparents. In 1962, when he was 17 years old, Bob moved back to Kamloops permanently and started work at Luis Vigna’s Shell station at Third and Lansdowne. He had previously bought his first car in Chilliwack—a 1934 Dodge Brothers Six rumble seat coupe—when he was 15 years old. This car was purchased from a 90 year old gent and it had been damaged in an accident so Bob set to repairing it even prior to having his driver’s licence. The Dodge was Bob’s transportation for several years until he had to sell it to pay for his room and board. He then went logging near Sabiston Lake, staying in the buildings that were originally used for a Japanese internment camp. Next job was at a portable sawmill near Clinton and then over to Merritt where he worked for the local GM dealership as a partsman and service writer.

During these early years, Bob took up auto racing and built his first racing car where it was raced at the dirt track up on the flats past the Barnhartvale Hall. This car was cobbled from a ‘51 Chevrolet frame, a Chevy 6-cylinder engine and body parts scrounged from a ‘28 Chev. After two years in Merritt, he moved back to Kamloops and a job at the First Avenue Home Oil station. (Building still stands today on the northwest corner of First and Victoria). Keeping with the automotive theme, he then went to work as a service writer at the GM dealer in Port Alberni but couldn’t stand all the rain and moved back home after a year and back to the Home garage. Bob kept up with his jalopy racing and was instrumental in building the new race track on Scheidam Flats, on the way to Paul Lake. His newest race car wasn’t ready for the inaugural race but he became the track’s first flagman instead. He continued racing for several years until he was involved in a serious accident when the steering column on his car broke and he slammed into a concrete wall. After a two-week stay in hospital and a lengthy recuperation, Bob bought an “offset” racer, but after a few races he discovered that he had lost his nerve so the car was sold and that was the end of his racing career.

Bob’s next career move was to Revelstoke where he became a partner in a new garage and tire store. The best thing about Revelstoke was that was where he met his future wife, Michelle (Dunn), and they were married in 1969. Michelle was born in England to a war bride mother and a father who flew Spitfires in WW II for the RAF. After the war, only her father was initially allowed to come home to Canada where he established a dairy farm in Chase. Michelle and her mother arrived in Chase later and that is where Michelle grew up.

After their Revelstoke stay, where the first of their three girls (Therese) was born, Bob and Michelle moved to Cache Creek in 1971 where Bob went to work at a Gulf Oil station and then took over the Shell station. During that time, their other two girls, Andrea and Tiffany, were born in Ashcroft. After seven years in Cache Creek, Bob moved the family to Kamloops, driving a Shell bulk oil tanker while studying for the real estate exams. Michelle became a fitness instructor and an accomplished belly dancer, performing at Expo ‘86. Bob’s vehicles during these years included a modified ’66 Chev truck and a ‘64 Beaumont 2-door hardtop, a very desirable car today.

In ‘99, the late Glenn Gallagher, a charter member of our local Vintage Car Club chapter, told Bob about a 1950 Pontiac Silver Streak coupe which was for sale. The Pontiac was an original un-restored Kamloops car purchased new by Johnny Fuoco who owned Johnny’s Texaco service station at the corner of Seymour Street and 5th Avenue. The car had been sitting in an alley behind Dominion Street for over 20 years, but Bob liked what he saw, bought it on the spot and promptly joined our Club. In his 20 years with our group, he has been right in the mix with five terms as President; several as Governor; as a Director looking after our cruise nights; involved in all of our swap meets; and is currently planning our Backroads Tour in June. Several other vintage cars have graced his garage over the past few years, including a Model A Ford, a 1941 Chevrolet sedan and a 1964 Pontiac Parisienne convertible.

Bob has also kept busy with other pursuits, including a stint as President of the Real Estate Board, as a member of the RCMP Auxiliary, playing hockey, riding motorcycles and 50 years skiing at Tod Mountain/Sun Peaks. As with a lot of our Kamloops Connector readers, the years are catching up with Bob and after a mild stroke last spring, he has basically retired (after 41 years) from the real estate business and has disposed of most of his vintage cars. Bob and Michelle still really enjoy participating in vintage car events and you will see them dressed in their period costumes and driving their ’50 Pontiac in our upcoming Golden Anniversary Easter Parade on April 12th.