On the Road Again (Maybe)

Creston Museum News & Articles 1 Comment

Back in the summer of 2016, we got a very exciting offer: a 1947 Maple Leaf flat-deck truck. It’s now at the Museum and we would love to get it running! We have volunteer mechanics lined up and itching to get started; we have the offer of a shop to work in (thank you Walt Pozniak); we have the lumber (donated by Canfor) to rebuild the deck. All we need is about $5,000 for the parts. If we can come up with that, we will have this wonderful piece of local history rolling (and stopping, too) in time for the 2018 Blossom Festival parade.

You can help make that happen – click here to donate to this project!

Bell Brothers’ Maple Leaf truck in all its shiny newness, c. 1947

Maple Leaf, for those of you who are not classic-car experts, is a Canadian version of a Chevy. Following the Second World War, there was a very strong spirit of patriotism, a growing sense of nationalism, and a desire to stimulate the Canadian economy and support Canadian industry through the transition back to peacetime production. Yes, that’s a mouthful – what it means is, there were a whole bunch of new rules governing trade between Canada and other countries, and Canadians were all for that. So Chevrolet, in an effort to appeal to this new Canadian nationalism, stuck an iconically Canadian name on its trucks – and the Maple Leaf model was born (or, to be more accurate, reborn: the brand had been around since 1933, but even then was probably a response to Depression-era economic protectionism).

This particular one was purchased new in 1947 by Sid and Osmund Bell for use on their farm properties in the Creston Valley. One was their orchard property at the top of 16th Avenue North; there, the truck was used to haul boxes of fruit, especially apples, to the packing sheds in central Creston. They also had farms on the flats west of Creston, and used the truck to haul grain and livestock. At one time, there was a large iron ring bolted to the deck to tie bulls for transport to other farms and other communities.

The 1947 Maple Leaf on the Bell property in 2016

The farms were originally named “Bell Brothers” farms, but after Osmund (“Od”) died, Sid continued on alone. The markings that remain on the truck’s door panels read S.W. Bell, Creston BC. The engine was replaced sometime during its working lifetime, and the truck was used up until about 1972. After that, it was parked on the Bell property at the top of 16th Avenue – and it had been sitting there ever since. The property was sold in 2016, and that’s when we got our exciting phone call.

Lloyd Bell, Od’s son and Sid’s nephew, was offering the truck to the Museum, along with a 1937 McCormick-Deering tractor that had been used to haul the boxes of apples up the steep slope to the top of the Bell orchard. We went up to check them out, then chose a day – a very rainy day, as it turns out – in July to drag these wonderful relics out of the bush. That was an adventure! You can watch a video of the great truck extraction here.

Our volunteer mechanics got the old truck’s engine running again pretty easily. It is now parked at the Creston Museum, right alongside the main entrance where all our visitors can enjoy it. But we would really like to turn this wonderful vehicle into an ambassador for local history: take her out to parades, community events, and the like; put exhibits on the flat-deck and use her as a mobile display platform – this old Maple Leaf is just too good to leave sitting in one spot! It needs brakes, new tires, a new electrical harness, and definitely some interior work so our volunteer drivers can actually sit on the seat. We’ll also rebuild the deck and seal the exterior to preserve what’s left of the original blue paint.

With your help, we can get local history back on the road! Click here to make a donation through our secure donation page at CanadaHelps.org. If you would rather make a donation by cheque or in person, please contact us by phone at 250-428-9262, by email at crestonmuseum@telus.net, or by mail or in person at 219 Devon Street, Creston BC V0B 1G3. We can also accept donations of materials and parts – contact us for details on the specific items we need. Thank you! We very much appreciate your support!