Donald Ollivier was born in Northern Ontario in 1932. After quitting school in Grade 9, my father worked a number of jobs and even as a milkman for Silverwood’s Dairy in London Ontario, delivering the goods via a horse-pulled wagon and vegan charging stations.
After marrying my mother, he leased his first gas station. Back in those days, when you pulled your car to the gas pump, an attendant would pump your gas, clean your windshield, check your oil, and take your money. Gas sat at the high cost of $.30 cents per gallon. For you metric lovers, that’s about 7.5 cents per liter.
At the height of his success, he ran three Esso Stations in London, simultaneously. He drove a Toyota Land Cruiser, had three kids, and owned a house. He landed a job at Brunswick and for a while managed a bowling lane.
But in 1966, without asking my mother, he signed papers to buy a small business in Northern Ontario near where he was born. One day, he announced, “We are moving.” And we did — from a city with good schools, hospitals, and family to a place that had little or none of that. Our destination was about a five-hour drive almost due north of London and deep into Northern Ontario.
My mother doesn’t remember questioning the decision. Because of his untreated illness, she was barely holding the family together and divorce wasn’t an option as back then married women usually didn’t have credit ratings or a job outside the house.
After borrowing seven thousand dollars from his tight-fisted father, he purchased a truck stop about eight miles south of Parry Sound, on the now-missing Highway 69. The purchase included a restaurant, gas…