Every car has a story, says enthusiast Satch Willis. Port Alberni’s fascination with the automobile spans 100 years, and there are some good stories to be found.
Willis is collecting memorabilia—as well as cars and trucks—for a special two-day centennial car show, to be held Aug. 4–5 in the AV Multiplex parking lot, concurrently with the city’s centennial homecoming celebration at Bob Dailey Stadium.
Nearly a century ago Port Alberni’s first mayor, Arthur Waterhouse, owned a 1913 Buick McLaughlin. Volunteers with the Western Vancouver Island Industrial Heritage Society vehicle have kept it in pristine condition, and the Buick is still on display.
Another distinctive car, a REO the Fifth, played a bit part in the city’s history too, when Thomas Wilby and Jack Haney drove it from Halifax to Victoria in 1912. The duo stopped in Port Alberni, the furthest they could travel west at the time, and Wilby wrote about the experience.
Willis is looking for more recent history too, like photos from the famous hill climbs, drag races, off-road races and auto clubs. “Port Alberni’s always been known as ‘car town’,” he said.
Willis is putting together a two-day car show that he would like to see span the century. “Bring what you’ve got,” he said. “There are so many cars in this Valley that are tucked away. I don’t care if it’s on a trailer, bring it out.”
The categories are wide open: soapbox cars, sports cars, racing cars, hotrods, and because it’s celebrating a century, early-model cars would be most welcome, he said.
Vehicles will be displayed outside in the multiplex parking lot (security will be available).
There will be space in Glenwood Centre for memorabilia and photos that show the city’s automotive history. “I want to collect—borrow—as much paraphernalia about the car clubs, car shows, hill climbs, gymkhanas, drag races, motorcycle and off-road racing events that we have had over the years,” Willis said.
There is no entry fee, but Willis asks car owners to please pre-register by calling him at 250-723-6162 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. Car owners will receive a commemorative centennial plaque for displaying their vehicles, but there is no prize money.
The car show is just one part of the homecoming events planned for Aug. 3–6, when Port Alberni will truly celebrate its centennial.
A welcome event is tentatively planned at the chamber of commerce visitors’ centre for Friday, Aug. 3. On Saturday, Aug. 4, the day begins in South Port with puddle duck races off Harbour Quay, the farmers’ market, artists’ demonstrations at the Rollin Art Centre and other galleries on Argyle Street.
At noon, people can switch to Bob Dailey Stadium for entertainment, crafters and artisans’ booths, a kid zone, and the car show at the AV Multiplex parking lot.
There is also a bike and wagon decorating contest for kids, sponsored by Harbourview Collision. “We want every type of transportation that will hold a baby or a kid,” organizer Darlene Coulson said. Materials for decorating bikes and wagons will be available at the kid zone, and there will be prizes for everyone who enters, she said.
Entertainment continues on Sunday, also at Bob Dailey Stadium. The Timebenders will feature 50 years of music, and the chamber will judge its beard and bonnet contest. A family picnic at McLean Mill National Historic Site and half-price train rides will fill the day on Monday, Aug. 6.