Highways Alexander Manitoba

 

Highways Alexander Manitoba


(rough copy)

September 2020

Alexander Manitoba is located 15 miles west of Brandon Manitoba on the Trans-Canada Highway. This made life growing up the community quite interesting during the late 1970s and the early 1980s. If you follow the Trans-Canada Highway straight through you end up at the northern part of Brandon. If you turn off at Kemany Manitoba and follow Highway 1A that will bring you in to about the centre of Brandon. The main street of Alexander if followed straight through, it turns in Richmond Avenue in Brandon. There was 3 ways of getting home depending on the road conditions.

In the mid 1970s when my family moved to Alexander most cars had the bias ply tires which did not offer much traction in snow and ice. If you could afford the radial tires they gave the most traction for the money. Plus most vehicles back then were re-wheel drive only. The Manitoba Highways Department during a snow storm would work non stop to try and keep the highways open. But you have to remember the equipment in the 1970s was not that great. It was easier to plow a little snow off the road at a time then to try and plow a big amount. In the year 2020 the snow plows have radical tires and special snow blade cutting edges that can cut the ice and snow off the highway in one pass. Plus all the vehicles today have radial tires and traction control which gives all wheels traction. In my eyes for the 1970s, the odds were against us driving vehicles in the winter time.

In the winter months mother would sit in her chair and watch out the front window of the pink house while drinking coffee and smoking endless cigarettes. She was keeping track of the Trans-Canada Highway to see the semi trucks go by. If there was no semi trucks that means the Trans-Canada was icy or snowed in. But dad and mother would still try to travel to Brandon because you have to work to get a pay cheque. Dad learned very quickly how to modify the car’s engine to run in the snowy conditions so it does not freeze up. Dad and mother would head off the Brandon and we would have no idea if they made it or not until they returned from work at supper time. The sister and I would walk to school and enjoy the fun day at school because no teachers came from Brandon. The teacher’s union made sure they got paid for snow days so it didn’t matter to them. When we got home from school, dad or mother might call to say they are leaving Brandon and if they do not make, eat supper, do the dishes and go to bed. There was nothing else we could do because the sister was 9 years old and I was 8 years old. If the road was bad they would make it home around 8pm which is not bad for a 15 mile drive which is usually 30minutes across the city and down the highway. Dad being an auto mechanic would stop and help people or have to wait for people stuck on the road to get out of the way to pass. Any slight hill on the Trans-Canada or the Highway 1A was bad for vehicles to climb because traction was a problem. Plus in Kemnay Manitoba people would get stuck trying to climb the hill from coming under the train bridge. It was always a great adventure and every time it seemed to be more of an adventure.

Now if we were in Brandon and it started to storm all plans were canceled and we headed home by way of the Kemnay route because less hills. But if it was freezing rain then we drove down the gravel road from Richmond Avenue to main street Alexander because the gravel provide traction. There were a couple of times growing up that we got stormed stayed in Brandon because the highways were closed by big snow storm with lots of wind. Then we stayed at the grand parents place and order pizzas and had fun. The 37 Dodge hot rod truck was rolled in the winter time on the bad “S” curves on the Trans-Canada Highway just east of Alexander. I bought it after the accident and repaired the truck so I could have fun during my wasted youth.

In the summer the highways were dangerous because increased summer traffic plus people over driving big boat sedan cars which had no handling ability. One of the things you hoped to never came across when traveling back and forth to Brandon from Alexander was a car accident. When you drove by the accident scene you hoped not to recognize the vehicles involved. If you did you tried not to look because you did not want to know. The small town of Alexander seemed to lose members of the community due traffic accidents. I know we lost a few classmate growing up which effected all in different ways. Once they made the Trans-Canada Highway a 4 lane highway and straightened out the bad “S” curves, traveling to Brandon was a lot as safer. But the amount of traffic on the roads increased too.

When the sister got her license to drive or as I say “license to destroy cars”. Then I would have to catch a ride with her but her Disco Queens got to ride up front in the 1965 Pontiac 4 door sedan. Which was fine with me because riding in the back seat increases your survival rate. For some reason she thought that 65 Pontiac 4 door sedan with a 250 Chevy inline 6 cylinder motor was a vehicle of high horse power which it was not. The sister would try and pass a slow car but the 65 Pontiac did not have the power. I would have to lean forward from the back seat to yell at her to abort the passing and pull back in. The Disco Queens were so high or fried out of their minds from sniffing all the hair spray used to keep the hair up and out they would not say anything. I was so glad to get my license to drive legally then my life was in my hands.

My 1967 Chevy ½ truck had no problems driving in the winter back forth to Brandon from Alexander. The only problem was the truck was a little rusty so it was breezy and cold inside at highway speeds. I add a second heater to solve the problem. Plus I bought a good set of radial tires so I would have the traction for when the highways were snow packed and slippery. Also I added weight in the truck box for more traction. I never got stuck or stormed stayed in Brandon at all that winter because I used common sense and chose the right road to travel home for the conditions. But the sister was a different story, I spent a lot of time going to pull her and the Disco Queens out because she was always stuck in one of the many cars that were gifted to her. If she was stuck, she was calling the place where I worked before 11pm so I could go and pull her out. Once I was done work I was driving the 15 miles back to Alexander in the dead of winter and did it with no cell phones or other means of communication because that is what it was like in the early 1980s. The company I worked for had me travel to Winnipeg in January because the shop in Brandon was slow. I would leave school on Friday in my 67 Chevy truck and head to Winnipeg on the busy Trans-Canada Highway. I would arrive around 7pm and work all weekend then on Sunday night head back home to Alexander. That month of January traveling on the weekends I learned that Winnipeg has some bad weather compared to the 15 miles of road I traveled growing up. The biggest problem I had in Winnipeg being 16 years old was the motel room. The company booked the room then when I showed up at 11pm to check in they thought I was there to party and would not give me the room. I told them I’m here to sleep and leave. Plus I got to enjoy the different take out foods of Winnipeg because I was regular customer at all the ones in Brandon.

Once summer came around the highways back and forth from Alexander to Brandon got busy with more traffic. This means more chances of accidents so you had to drive safely. Plus I got my 37 Dodge hot rod truck on the road because it is now the summer of fun. The 37 Dodge was built for speed not for smoking the tires and low end speeds. Arriving home in Alexander I had to travel down main street then across the tracks and then the short distance to the pink house. The gear ratio in the rear end made it prefect for 1st gear but the engine rpms are too high for the 3” side pipes exhaust which makes the truck loud at midnight. If you travel in 2nd gear then the engine rpms are too low and the truck wants to stall. I found it best to shift the gears and let the truck coast and such to try and be quiet. But during the day light hours it was 1st gear and let the engine rev high. There was a few time I arrived home during day light hours to change clothes or fix something on the truck. Dad would hear me come off the highway then towards the house. If he was in the shop he would come out to meet the truck and give me shit for the way I drove. But if the truck pulled in the yard and Naughty Natalie was driving then all he would do was smile and ask how the truck was running. We usually did stick around if mother was home because she did not like Naughty Natalie for some reason. There was a couple of time Naughty Natalie took dad for a test drive in the truck and you could hear them leave town and down the Trans-Canada and then come back to the shop. Dad would get out of the 37 Dodge with a big smile on his face until mother came out of the house to see what was going on. It seemed like mother was never happy when dad and I were having fun.

Leaving Brandon on the Trans-Canada to come home to Alexander on a hot summer day Naughty Natalie would want to drive. Once the 37 Dodge was up to the speed with windshield cranked out letting the cool air in plus the cowl vent brought a cool breeze in to the floor of the truck so air conditioning was not really needed. The Assiniboine Valley just west of Brandon would have a few semi trucks climbing the steep hill out of the valley. The semi trucks back then did not have big horse power like they do in the year 2020. The semi trucks would be bumper and down to a speed of 30 mph climbing the hill. That is when Naughty Natalie would pull up beside the last semi truck in the passing lane. The truck driver would look down at the 37 Dodge hot rod truck and smile I would wave back to him. Then Naughty Natalie would drop the 37 Dodged down a gear and kick the gas pedal to the floor and the 4 barrels in the carburetor would kick in and the truck would be gone with great sounds from the 3” side pipe exhaust. The semi truck driver would use the CB radio and tell the semi truck a head of him to look in the mirror for this hot rod truck that was coming up behind him. Naughty Natalie would slow down the 37 Dodge and run beside the second semi truck. The driver would be on the CB radio chatting away to the friends that he is traveling with. Naughty Natalie would speed the 37 Dodge up and down because we are only going 30 mph climbing the hill. Once I waved at the driver she would drop the truck down a gear and speed past like she did the first one. Now she has the 37 Dodge slowed down and running beside the 3rd semi truck and the driver is chatting on the CB radio and just smiling. Once again she does the down shift after I calmly wave and we speed by the semi truck and off to last one which is leading the group of semi trucks up the hill. Naughty Natalie has to wait till the semi trucks to start cresting the top of the hill so they start speeding up. She just puts a show on for them with speeding the 37 Dodge up and down. The drivers are all chatting on the CB radio but they don’t know it is a woman driving because the cab of the truck is small and has small windows. So the truck drivers think it is 2 farm guys out having fun drinking some beers and killing time.

Once the semi trucks are getting over the crest of the hill and getting some speed Naughty Natalie drops the 37 Dodge down a gear after I wave to the last driver and smile. She kicks the gas pedal to the floor and the 4 barrels in the carburetor kick in and we are gone but she keeps just a head of the group of semi trucks. The drivers will be chatting up a storm on the CB radio and talking about the 37 Dodge because they are mechanics too by keeping the semi trucks running. One mile past the Kemnay Manitoba turn off heading west was a truckers pull out. Naughty Natalie times it prefect to pull in and get out of the 37 Dodge truck as the first semi truck drives by so the driver can see that it was a woman doing the aggressive driving. The driver just about falls out of his driver seat because he trying to get the best look at Naughty Natalie because he was surprised to see a good looking woman was driving the hot rod truck. On those hot days she would wear a pair of tight blue jean shorts and a white tank top with no bra. Plus it was hot in the 37 Dodge so the tank top was sticking to her body. Now the driver was on the CB radio with the other drivers as they pass us on the side of the road. They are having a good look at the aggressive driver of the hot rod truck. Plus they blow the air horn as they go by with big smiles on their faces too. Now we just let them get a head because they will be coming up to another slight hill they have to climb. I now drive the 37 Dodge and Naughty Natalie was on the passenger side of the truck. We catch up to the semi trucks on the hill and they bumper to bumper and slowed right down to climb the hill. They are watching in their mirrors as we come up beside them in the passing lane. The drivers get a good look at the 37 Dodge plus Naughty Natalie as we drive by them. They blow the air horns and are smiling while chatting on the CB radios. When we arrive in Alexander we go in the shop to see what dad was working on. When dad seen what Naughty Natalie was wearing he was speechless and went to the house to get the beer. I think he also told mother not to come out to the shop because she would be mad for sure. I think that was one of the best beer dad ever drank on that hot day with Naughty Natalie and me.

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