Out to Lunch with Peter Neilly
Today’s Out To Lunch guest is Larry Healey of Campbellford. Larry has chosen Mama’s Place for lunch at 28 Doxee Avenue South. It’s a very popular diner that serves up an excellent breakfast and lunch with those little extra touches that keep people going back for more. I have known Larry for several years having met many times at various antique auctions, but I have never been to his house to look at his unique collection. I don’t know of anyone else who has a collection like his. It includes not only engines, but also lamps, signs, tins, gauges… just about anything that ever served a purpose is part of his enormous and eclectic collection.
Peter: Most people that I know collect smaller items, like stamps or coins or even china, but you collect huge pieces of machinery and engines. How did this happen?
Larry: As a kid I collected lots of what you would call normal things, like watches, clocks and even radios, but my dad would end up tossing most of it out. Back in the 60s, I went to a steam show in Milton with my wife’s sister’s husband and that’s where I started having an interest in engines and motors. I bought one and got it working and I went on from there.
Peter: What type of motors and engines do you collect?
Larry: You will see when we go back to my place; I specialize in Canadian pieces and try to get items manufactured before 1910, but I also collect different items ranging from oil lamps to signs.
Peter: You were also in the publishing business for a while.
Larry: Yes, back in 1979 I started publishing a magazine and it had roughly 2,500 subscribers. It was called Antique Gas Engines and Tractors, but it only lasted for 11 issues. Most of the subscribers were in the U.S. It was really a tough go because I was working my full time job at the same time. When I decided to close the magazine, I sent a letter to all the subscribers telling them I was losing money and I would refund their money if they wanted. Only one person asked for a refund. In fact, a subscriber from the U.S. sent me a letter telling me, “Not to worry, you did your best, here’s twenty dollars. Take your wife out to dinner and enjoy yourselves.” At that time, you could buy a nice dinner for twenty bucks.
Peter: This stone building of yours is massive. How old is it and what was it originally used for?
Larry: It’s over 20,000 square feet and was built in 1881 with an additional part built in 1916. It originally operated as a paper mill producing tarpaper, boxboard and egg crates. In 1886, a generator was installed and the Northumberland Paper and Electric Company was formed supplying power to the area.
Peter: I researched the history of the building and found it has had many other uses since 1881. It was also operated as a blacksmith shop, a cement block company and a tannery for many years.
Larry: I also operated a flea market here in the 1990s.
Peter: This large machine here looks like it has something to do with electricity.
Larry: Yes it is an electric generator that was manufactured back in 1890. It was missing some parts when I first got it, but I restored it and it works great now. I was an electrician by trade so I do have an interest in most things electric. I purchased it from a man in Vienna, Austria. The reason I bought it was because it was manufactured in Peterborough and I thought it should be in Canada.
Peter: What is this huge machine over here?
Larry: It was built by the Sylvestor Manufacturing Company in Lindsay Ontario, before 1907. I have that company’s original catalogue that goes from 1907 to 1916 and it’s not in it, so it must have been made prior to 1907. It is one of only two known to exist. I had to trade an engine dealer that I know 20 other engines just to get this one from him because it is so rare and it is Canadian.
Peter: I’m amazed how well the graphics on the nameplate have survived for over 100 years. What was it used for?
Larry: I think it was used in a sawmill because when I got it, it was just packed with sawdust from top to bottom. The machine has a wider flywheel on the one side that was used to drive machinery. The other side has a normal sized flywheel.
Peter: Is that a cigarette machine over there?
Larry: Yes, I purchased it in Brisbane, England, and had it shipped over about 25 years ago. The clock in it has a date on it of 1937.
Peter: That television brings back a few memories. It’s a Philco and it looks like one that a friend had back in the 60s. Thanks for the tour, Larry. You have an incredible collection and I’m glad you tend to concentrate on Canadian manufacturers.