ZURICH, ON – When an individual’s dream is to build and restore an antique vehicle, they are, in fact, bringing back a part of history. This story is narrated in two chapters. The first is the legacy of a woman, whose name is Alive Thiel. The second is Bev and Hub Thiel’s two year project to build a 1930 Chev truck. This is in honour of Hub Thiel’s Aunt Alive (also his godmother) and a business formerly known as Thiel Transport in Zurich, Ontario.
Alive Thiel is a legend in many ways, just recently celebrating her 102nd birthday. Her tenacity for life and business has given her the ability to live in her own house and still drive. She purchased a brand new vehicle when she was 99 years young. Alive and her husband Earl were originally part owner and then sole owners, of the business.
The story begins with George Thiel (Hub’s grandfather), who originally bought the local livery business in 1912 and eventually, along with his sons Earl and Charles, purchased the mail and freight department. They also transferred passengers to the train station in Hensall, Ontario. The mode of transportation was horse-drawn wagons and buggies and in the winter, they utilized a three-seated cutter. They made two trips from Zurich to Hensall every day, six days a week, delivering people and goods. In 1929, George purchased his first truck. In 1938 Earl and Charles bought one truck from George, when they purchased the business. Their continued success allowed them to increase their truck inventory and hire local men. Charles was called to war and when he returned, his wish was to sell his part of the business. Earl and Alice became sole owners for the price of $6,000 in 1945.
At that time, there were five trucks, a tractor and loader, bulldozer and coal unloader. One truck went to London five days a week and freight was delivered to businesses in Zurich, Blake, Drysdale, Hensall and Dashwood. The men delivered coal for Stade and Weido Hardware from the railway at Hensall to their many customers. They picked up grain and beans for the farmers at harvest and delivered them to the mills in Hensall. From there, many trips were made to Toronto and other distant markets with beans. In the months of June to December, large drums of honey were picked up at numerous companies. One of the customers was Haberer Bros. and the merchandise was delivered to Toronto. Just to give insight into the significance of the honey delivered for this company, in 1948, the volume was 66,560 pounds.
They performed a variety of jobs, from delivering milk, collecting garbage, moving furniture and cultivating gardens. On Tuesdays and Thursdays, livestock was picked up at area farms and delivered to Coleman’s packing plant in London, Ontario. There was an incident of which two drivers survived, when the tractor trailer was hit by a train that was hauling chickens. Needless to say, there was a posse trying to catch chickens in the Monkton area that day.
Alice was in charge of the office duties which involved answering the phone, coordinating the drivers’ schedules, invoicing and recording all transactions in ledgers for the accounts payable and receivable. They also drove one of the mail routes, beginning in 1933. Earl unfortunately had to sell the business in 1958 due to health problems and passed away in 1961 from a heart attack. Alice continued the mail route till 1982, when she was informed that she had to retire at 65 years old.
The importance of Thiel Transport’s legacy became the beginning of the process for Bev and Hub Thiel’s project. They took 1929 and 1930 Chevy 1 ½ ton truck parts (basically scrap trucks), to create this masterpiece of originality. The 1929 truck was beneficial for parts, like the wooden bed frame on the back. This was bought in 1979 from Jim Dalrymple of Seaforth and had originated in Blyth, Ontario. In 2014, they purchased the 1930 truck from Lillian Laidlaw in Toronto, for the frame and engine. During the process, they were amazed that the engine, when cranked, started after decades of neglect. When this occurred, Hub’s excitement was comparable to a child opening Christmas presents and receiving exactly what they wished for. The rebuilding took over two years to complete. Their endeavour was to build a 1930 work truck (not a show truck), to replicate the appearance of what the truck would look like in 1958, after years of service.
Similar to needing many ingredients to make a great cake, it is beneficial to have the assistance of family and friends. The mechanical and welding ingredients of this structure were of utmost importance and they were fortunate to have the expertise of their friends, namely Bob Smith, being an amazing mechanic and their nephew Ian Thiel for his gift of welding. Bev helped her husband cut the wood, put on metal and upholstered the seat, back of seat, ceiling and doors. Hub had previously built a 1929 Chev coach in the 1970s named “Martha”, so was knowledgeable in the procedures of restoring an antique. Among being a “Jack of many trades”, most important, he was the creator of this dream come true. Bev and Hub want to thank Aunt Alice for the inspiration to recreate this truck – whose name is “Earl”. This is a tribute to Thiel Transport and the owner’s memories of this period of time in her life. It is also an honour to bring awareness to a piece of Zurich history.