Tuesday, April 17, 2012

The man who brought GM to King City

Aubrey J. "Doc" Gordon was born June 22, 1907, in King City, and was raised on the Gordon family farm in Laskay, on the 6th Concession of King Township, across the road from the Laskay Emporium.   His father and grandfather had been on their farm since the mid-1800s.   The East Humber River flowed into the farm from the east and curled out at the back of the 100 acres, in the west.   "Doc" started repairing the farm equipment and vehicles at home as a teenager and gained a reputation for being able to repair anything.   He left home and worked on a local farm, further up the 6th in Strange, before going to work for B.J. Langdon, at his Keele Street garage in King City, just south of the King Road.   B.J. Langdon would become the founder of Langdon's Coach Lines and school bus business.   "Doc" left Langdon's and opened his own business in a small wooden one-bay building, on the King Road, that is now recognized as the bright, yellow, chinese restaurant that recently went out of business.   "Doc" married Florence Edgar and they moved into a red brick house a little further along the King Road, on the south side of the street.   Two children, Thelma and Donald,  rounded out the family.   Across the road from their home was an open field and "Doc" decided to build his own auto repair garage, on that spot.   His new garage opened in 1938.   After WWII, there was a pent-up demand for new automobiles and "Doc" Gordon determined he would fill the need.   He successfully landed a General Motors dealership for Chevrolets and Oldsmobiles in King Township.   Demand for new cars exceeded the supply and "Doc" was hard pressed to satisfy everyone.   His business thrived but his health faltered and after a heart attack in 1950 and upon the advice of his doctor, "Doc" built a new house for his family further east along the King Road and sold the car business to Bill Drinkwater.   Subsequent owners included Charles Leslie, Peter Boyd, Lawrie Veal and Alex Williamson, who also owned a Chev-Olds dealership in Uxbridge.   More than 60 years after "Doc" Gordon  brought GM to King, the dealership was given up and the building razed.   On April 29, 2010, a large, new Shoppers Drug Mart opened on the old "Doc" Gordon Garage site.  

        Aubrey J. "Doc" Gordon                                                  Florence (Edgar) Gordon

Photos from the Gordon Family Collection

In the 1938 photo above, Thelma, daughter of "Doc" and Florence Gordon, is seen in front of the garage's gas pumps, with the family's Newfoundland dog, Tarzan.   Later, a second Newfoundland dog, named Rubin, took over as the family pet and unofficial mascot of the garage.

The Gordon family lived above the garage for all the years that "Doc" owned and operated the garage and car dealership.   The family occupied the second floor while the third floor was utilized as tire storage.   In the middle of the last century,  there were those who underestimated the contribution of wives to family businesses, but "Doc" Gordon's son Donald (also nick-named "Doc") says his mother "...could run the two flights of stairs carrying two tires".   Florence was also the business's bookkeeper.

Pictured above, shortly after the opening of his new garage, "Doc" Gordon, above right, is seen with his employees, Wilf Bayliss (his cousin) left, and Charles "Red" Gordon (his brother) centre.   Later, "Doc" also employed another of his brothers: Verdun "Stash" Gordon.   Cement blocks for the new 3-storey building were made on the site.

As the business grew, two extra service bays were added on the west side of the building, while on the east side, an enclosed entrance to the upper living quarters was added.   Gasoline and oil products were the Red Indian brand, which was later taken over by Texaco.

"Doc" Gordon is pictured above, at left, in this picture taken around 1947, after he had secured the Chev-Olds dealership.   Texaco signs had replaced the Red Indian signs.   Houses to the east of the garage, along the north side of the King Road, did not exist when the garage was built 10 years earlier.   One former employee of both "Doc" Gordon and Bill Drinkwater was a young Ken MacQuarrie who opened his own garage on Keele Street South, in King City.   Ken  has owned and operated Clearview Motors, in the south end of the village for the past 53 years...but that is a story for another day.   "Doc" Gordon left King City and moved into a new house he had built back in Laskay, where he had grown up.   The last house he lived in was in Alliston.   As for that nickname "Doc", his son Donald says that "Doc" inherited the nickname from his father and his grandfather, who were both farmers and had reputations as "lay" veterinarians among their neighbours.   As far as I know, Aubrey "Doc" Gordon, and his son Donald, were never horse doctors, but the nickname has spanned four generations.  A. J. "Doc" Gordon passed away  just over 32 years ago, on March 16, 1980.   He was buried in King City Cemetery.     

Shoppers Drug Mart now occupies the site of the former "Doc" Gordon Garage, on the north side of the King Road in King City.

Please comment if you wish.
Barry Wallace

1 comment:

  1. Enjoyed this. Looking forward to one on Ken MacQuarrie.