By Sue Tiffin
It was around 1979 when Larry Parsons was coming up to a cottage on Brady Lake, bombing along the Queen’s Line through Minden that he heard the voice of his future wife.
Cheryl Conboy was in the area vacationing at the property her grandfather and father bought. They didn’t have hydro, they didn’t have a phone, but they had a CB radio her parents had at the cottage, in case they needed to access quick help.
“We used to talk to basically anybody going by,” said Cheryl. “If we heard someone on the CB, we’d get talking to them. That’s kind of how we got started, you’d just talk to people going by. It’s almost like you’re meeting somebody, you’re just meeting them over the airwaves. And so we got talking, Larry and I got talking on the CB,” said Cheryl.
It’s been 38 years since they got married in Canarvon, holding their reception at the hall on the Minden fairgrounds with just a few date changes to not coincide with the fair, and only turning away a few uninvited people who tried to get into the party. They went on their honeymoon to Muskoka Sands in a ’47 Ford.
(The Christmas card: At back, is Cheryl and Larry’s daughter and her husband, Elizabeth and Don, and in front is Cheryl, Larry, son Allan, and club mascot Jetson./Submitted photo)
That Ford is another love of the Parsons, a symbol of a passion that keeps them involved with the Haliburton Highlands Time Travellers Club, a vintage car and social group they have organized for the past seven years. Larry became president of the Time Travellers when he and Cheryl retired up here at that time, helping to rejuvenate the club that had been going since the ’80s. It had 25 members then, and has about 100 members now.
“It’s just because people lost interest in it, but we put a lot of energy back in it, it’s a really going thing now,” said Larry.
Larry had also been vice-president of the Canadian Street Rod Association, which had yearly meets involving about 500 cars but ended about 15 years ago.
“The volunteers got burned out,” said Larry. “I was used to all that, so I just decided to take it up, get this one going again.”
Larry had been interested in car models as a youngster, but his interest in cars grew as a teenager.
“I went to a car show, a hot rod show, when I was about 16,” he said. “I saw the coupes and I said, I’ve got to get me one of those. And I did, but boy, it was a wreck.”
The old beater was a ’47 Ford.
(The first: Larry Parsons still has the first car he bought more than 40 years ago as a teenager, a 1947 Ford Coupe that cost about $500 and required years of rebuilding./Submitted photo)
“I loved the car, so the first one I found, I grabbed, which was a big mistake but … I still got it,” said Larry. “When [my dad] saw it, he said, you’ll never get that on the road, so he bet me five bucks it would never happen. I got my money. I got five bucks richer.”
The car itself had cost around $500.
“There was nothing in it when I got it though,” said Larry. “It came in boxes and pieces and stuff. I put it together the first time, it took me three years, of course I broke everything doing it. It was a scary ride because the steering was horrible and everything.”
Through trial and error, the car began to take more shape.
“Actually I wasn’t allowed to bring it home, I had to build it far away,” he said, laughing at the memory. “I wasn’t allowed scrap in the driveway.”
Over the years, Larry rebuilt the car three times. Now, he said, it’s perfect.
“I built it up and I still have it to this day,” he said.
He’s also learned about the history of the car, prior to his own ownership of it.
“I went to one show years ago and this maniac ran behind me for half a mile,” Larry said. “I was trying to park the car, so I said, what is wrong with this guy? He saw I had custom taillights on. He runs up and he says, I had a car like this years ago, in the ’60s. Same taillights. He looked inside the car and saw my custom dash which is a Studebaker and went, holy crap, that’s my car. I got all the history on it, from different people.”
Larry got an answer as to why, as he was building it, “there was a nasty split in the back fender,” and also has a picture of the car from 1969 when somebody else owned it.
“Same thing, he chased me down one show, figured it was his car. It’s incredible.”
Besides the ’47 Ford Coupe, Larry has a ’41 Willys Sedan – an art deco-inspired car prior to Willys making Jeeps. He said he also has a ‘64 checker wagon.
(Pre-jeep: Larry Parsons with his Willys sedan./Submitted photo)
“Excuse me, you do not, your wife does,” pipes up Cheryl from the background. Later she says: “Larry always wanted a checker, so he built me one.”
Right now, he’s trying to restore a 1947 Ford convertible.
How’s that going? “Slow,” Cheryl calls out. “Five years, so far,” said Larry. “But when I got it you could walk from the back bumper to the dash and not touch anything.”
The Haliburton Highlands Time Travellers meet weekly during clear weather days, taking turns between parking together at spots their vintage beauties can’t be missed like Kawartha Dairy or Carquest in Minden and at Head Lake Park in Haliburton. Sometimes they venture out together on mini-cruises to the Eagle Lake Country Market, or park at West Guilford to bring some attention to those spots. They line Water Street as a much-loved attraction during Minden’s Canada Day celebrations, gather at Heritage Day in Stanhope – last year a white dump truck from 1912 was driven in for the celebration – and take part in fall Colourfest. This season has looked a bit different with COVID-19 precautions in place, but included a sort-of parade of vintage vehicles through hospital parking lots and alongside long-term care facilities, with horns honking and members waving to staff and residents.
(In a row: The Haliburton Highlands Time Travellers met at Carquest last year for a June show./FILE PHOTO)
Cheryl responds quickly in the background when Larry is asked what is involved in making the club work.
“Having a good secretary?” she calls out, and acknowledges the work of the executive.
“Well, first of all, the whole thing is you want to be friendly with everybody,” said Larry. “If anybody comes from out of town you welcome them, you say thank you for coming, and when they leave, you say, thank you again for coming and be safe going home.”
Some clubs he’s belonged to, he said, have been “real stiff.” They haven’t been welcoming to non-members or based on the car you have.
“Whatever you’ve got is fine with us,” said Larry.
(Sweet rides: Haliburton Highlands Time Travellers vintage car shows are typically held in Haliburton and Minden on a weekly basis during warm weather months./FILE PHOTO)
And the inclusive approach is working – members pay $25 a year to be part of the club, receive regular newsletters and join weekly meet-ups during the car showing season and monthly dinner meetings all winter long, either at local restaurants to help support businesses through the season, or in warm garages of members. Some drive from Bancroft, Kinmount, Kirkfield, or are cottagers only in the area for a few weeks.
“The whole thing is, there’s no cliqueyness,” said Larry. “It’s all just, if you have a vehicle or love for vehicles you don’t even have to have a car to join. As long as you love cars – I’m not talking a 2020 ‘Vette or something – if you like older cars, no problem.”
Some members have had cars that are long gone, some have more than one. Everyone has an interesting story behind their car.
“Everybody does,” said Larry. “One guy’s into older Corvettes, other guys only like the old Pontiacs and Buicks. I like the hot rods myself. It’s very diverse.”
For show, the club does try to keep cars at 20 years old or order.
“There’s a young fellow with an old Astro van,” said Larry. “It’s not quite old, but it’s still old, you just want to keep the blood flowing in the club.”
The cars in the club range in age from “the teens, ’20s, ’30s, all the way up to the ’90s, 2000s.”
(Variety is the spice of life: The Haliburton Highlands Time Travellers vintage car club is proud of the diversity of cars in their club, attracting vehicles of all kinds from throughout the ages. /FILE PHOTO)
At the weekly meets, it’s social.
“We talk,” says Larry. “Say someone’s got a problem with one of their cars when they’re there, well, you’ve got a bunch of guys around that know what they’re doing and we can pretty well figure out what the problem is and get them going again.”
Outside of the club, Larry has called on members to help him out when working on a car at home.
“When I was working on my convertible, I needed a bunch of guys to help lift the body of it, what was left of it. I just made a phone call, a bunch of club members came over, we just lifted it off, there it is. It’s a club where we help each other. If someone needs help, we’re there.”
(A look under the hood: The Haliburton Highlands Time Travellers shows offer a social time for club members, as well as vintage car enthusiasts who can ask questions and take a close look at their favourites./FILE PHOTO )
The club is known for their generosity and support of local businesses and organizations. After last year’s Christmas party they donated 154 pounds of food to the food bank, and their 50/50 draws support local hospital auxiliaries. A sign and business listing at the car meets heralds the support of local businesses.
“It’s local businesses, you have to help them out, because [they only have] four months of the year to really make a good deal up here,” said Larry.
That generosity of kindness extends to the road, as with a cruise last year to Bobcaygeon.
“You put the slowest guy in front and the fastest guy in the back, and that keeps everybody together,” said Larry. “Somebody breaks down, everyone pulls over to give him a hand.”
(Social outing: Cars, trucks, even a motorcycle, fill the parking lot of Carquest at a 2019 meeting and vintage car show of the Haliburton Highlands Time Travellers Club. /FILE PHOTO)
It’s that fellowship that is a big draw for Larry and Cheryl, and the members who make up the Time Travellers Club.
“Whenever you see two old cars pass each other, they always wave, even if they’re not members,” said Larry.
“Quite often motorcyclists will do the same thing if they pass an old car,” said Cheryl. “We do not pass – like if we ever saw an old vehicle on the side of the road, we don’t pass them. We stop to make sure they’re all right, if they are broken down, see what we can do to help them. It doesn’t matter if they’re a club member or whatever, it’s the fellowship of old car owners. Anybody who’s got an old car basically. It’s just kind of the code of the road.”
The next cruise night of the Haliburton Highlands Time Travellers Club is planned to happen – in clear weather – at Kawartha Dairy at 5:30 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 3. For more information about the club, visit Haliburton Highlands Time Travellers on Facebook.