Now and Then

Floyd and his son Dave in the North West Territories

By Petra Wall

Floyd Lockyer

Floyd and Lila Lockyer live in a beautiful brick home on the corner of Little Current’s Campbell and Worthington Streets in a house this writer has admired for years for its charm, the impeccably manicured lawn, finely trimmed bushes and shapely trees. It is the perfect home to sit on a popular corner across from St Bernard’s Catholic Church. Young Floyd grew up in this town and hockey was a vital component of his early years. He was a member of the Little Current Flyers. Floyd left school at 16 for a great summer job at Okeechobee Lodge, later followed by a satisfying career with the MTO where he ultimately became ‘Area Patrol Supervisor.’

Floyd Autrel was born on May 26, 1933 to Clifford and Anne Lockyer in their Vankoughnet home. He was named after his father’s good friend, Autrel Wilkinson. Floyd was a younger sibling to Betty and Audrey (Toots McDermid). Sally (LaChapelle) and brother Dean would be added later. Clifford worked at Richie’s Grocery Store where the TD Bank is today. His love of hockey and fishing surely inspired his son. Anne worked in her garden and loved to cook. She was an enthusiastic member of the Anglican Church.

Floyd had many friends and he was an active supporter of his community. When he was seven, a buddy offered to give him a dog. He accepted the gift and quietly brought his new friend home, where he hid him in a small shed. Despite his best efforts, the dog was found by the family before Floyd had gathered enough intestinal fortitude to bring the subject up. “Although he was a big dog, he was very friendly and I was overjoyed when the rest of the family seemed to like him. I was very grateful that my newly adopted pet was allowed to stay.”

As mentioned, Floyd was passionate about hockey. He was Assistant Captain for the Flyers when Bill Cunningham was Captain. “Our team coveted the McGovern Cup for the Island. For a few years, Blind River and Espanola teams joined our league but it seems that they had unfair advantage. Some of their players joined semi-professional teams and later returned to play for the North Shore teams in our league. They consistently beat our teams until one year when we played our hearts out and one of our teams got the trophy back. There was a decision to keep the cup on Manitoulin after that. We had a fine coach, Don Cooper, who put a lot of effort into his teams for many years. He was a vital part of getting the McGovern Cup back to Manitoulin.”

“The first day of school was rather eventful because we were all sent home,” Floyd points out. “I don’t remember what our small group of kids had done to offend Mrs. Siry, but she was upset and all of us got out early and nobody got the strap.” Later, in high school, Latin was the subject Floyd disliked the most. “I could not understand why we had to learn this ancient language that only priests used. I decided I was not going to learn it and I skipped the exam. I left school part-way through Grade 12 and started to work.”

Sudbury Department of Highways, October 1962
Sudbury Department of Highways, October 1962

Okeechobee Lodge hired him for a dream job. “I got to run the speedboat from the mainland to the lodge. Guests would arrive to the nearest spot on the mainland, park their cars and then be escorted by boat to their lodgings. I loved that work. Okeechobee Lodge was a busy place. On any given day, you would see five or six float planes and 40 to 50 yachts. I remember the Fruehauf family coming for a meal by boat from Killarney.” They were famous for manufacturing heavy truck trailers and uniforms back in the ‘40s and ‘50s.

At season’s end in 1949, Mr. Reg. Stansbury, the owner of Okeechobee Lodge, surprised Floyd with a trip to Toronto. “He offered me a week of holidays. I was thrilled. I packed up and got down to the train station in Little Current. In Toronto, I was picked up by Mrs. Stansbury. She drove me to their farm in Markham. On the way, we stopped at a men’s store and I was measured up for a fine blue suit.”

They had horses at the farm and Floyd was encouraged to ride them. During the week Mr. Stansbury decided to buy two new Ford Meteors. “He asked me to drive one of them home for him. That was an added thrill. The week went by pretty fast. Just as Mrs. Stansbury was getting ready to take me back to the train bound for Manitoulin, her husband called me over. ‘Here’s a little something for you.’ He handed me a $100 bill. I was astounded and thanked them very much for the wonderful trip and all the gifts.”

The following summer of 1950, Floyd, by then 17, got summer work at Ontario Hydro, helping to lay the power lines between Manitowaning and Wiky. After that job was done, the teen expected to go with the Hydro team to Kirkland Lake but his boss said “no, but someone will contact you.” It was winter and hockey season when the MTO finally called and offered a job. Floyd could work from home and still play hockey.

The following summer Floyd and a few friends decided to try a stint on the big boats. “We got hired onto the ‘Laketon’, an iron ore and coal boat that travelled between Thunder Bay and Cleveland. I didn’t really like this work so left after three months. I couldn’t find my ‘sailor’s legs’ and had fought nausea much of the time. The rough water helped me realize I wasn’t cut out to be a sailor.”

Floyd spent another summer at Okeechobee then went back to the MTO to his foreman Denny Callaghan and asked if he could come back. Danny had told him if the sailing job didn’t work out to give him a call. “An opening came up in August and I stayed for 36 years, later moving up to ‘Patrolman’ and finally ‘Area Patrol Supervisor.’” Floyd was working in the construction sector of the MTO. “I found that work very fulfilling.”

Lila Size came into his life during his early years with the MTO. They met at a dance in Manitowaning where Lila lived. She had five brothers who watched out for her. “My dad Harold was a captain on the lake boats. He worked for Hindmans of Owen Sound,” Lila explains. “My mum was Ellen (Moggy) and my brothers are: Earling who lives in the Manor, Bud and Norman, who have died, Ted, retired on Lake Manitou and my youngest brother, Harley. He lives in Little Current on Vankoughnet St, in the house Floyd and I built after we were married.”

The couple was wed on September 12, 1956 at the United Church in Manitowaning. “We had about 60 guests and all went well, apart from the rain. But they say it is lucky to have rain on your wedding.” A supper was held at the Bass Creek Resort on Lake Manitou in the Bidwell area. The honeymoon took them to Toronto and on to Niagara Falls, the perfect place to celebrate nuptials. When they got back, they moved into the Vankoughnet home, which was newly finished.

Floyd in the old arena circa 1950
Floyd in the old arena circa 1950

In the early 1970s, they moved to the corner of Campbell and Worthington Streets. A beautiful brick exterior was chosen, both for beauty and low maintenance. Floyd could help with much of the construction but a bricklayer was hired to do the vast exterior of the building. “I have always wanted a brick house so this was perfect.”

The couple had two children, Tammy and David. Tammy has retired as an office manager for the OPP and now lives in Toronto. David is a shop foreman for Manitoulin Transport in Toronto. He has two girls, Shannon who works in administration for the RCMP in Toronto and Mabayla who is just nine-years-old and is still a student.

Floyd had grown up in Little Current and he was well-known, so he was not surprized when Bid Smith, endowed with a great sense of humour, put a snake on the seat of his parked car one day. Floyd was shopping at the AJ Smith Hardware store. “I was startled to find the snake but I quickly realized how it had got there. Bid enjoyed playing a few pranks from time to time; I’m sure he felt they helped to make life more interesting and they surely did.”

Working for the MTO as Highway General Foreman kept Floyd away from Manitoulin most weeks. “I would head home Friday night and get back Sunday night. It was a bit stressful being away so much, but we had some fun too. The truck rodeos were very successful.” Floyd got quite talented at manoeuvering his truck. The MTO put on several truck rodeos including one in Sudbury in October of 1962 as well as one on Manitoulin and another in Toronto. Floyd did quite well in the Toronto Rodeo. “That was immensely rewarding. I loved being in my truck and was gratified at driving it in a skillful way that was appreciated by the MTO.”

“Later when the job as patrolman came up on the Island I decided to take it so I could be closer to family. Being away so much was not good. Moving home meant a cut in pay, but I was happier. In 1969 I became Area Patrol Supervisor for road maintenance until my retirement in 1989. I oversaw all the numbered highways on Manitoulin, up to Espanola. This entailed the repairing of roads with their limitless potholes.”

“I recall one outfit from Huntsville that had been sent up to paint the lines on a section of road we had just rebuilt with new pavement, between Little Current and Honora. They arrived and did their job one afternoon. When I got to work the next morning, one of the crew asked me if I had checked out Hwy 540 at all. I said ‘no, why?’ ‘You should go and check it out,’ he advised, so I drove down to inspect their work and when I got there, I couldn’t believe my eyes.”

“This zone painting crew had zig-zagged all over the road with that yellow line. It was a terrible job.” Floyd headed back to the yard and saw the Huntsville crew gearing up to finish their work. “We had a rather heated discussion and I wound up sending them home. The lines had to be sand-blasted off and redone.” Floyd was teased for some time, about that job done under his watch. At his retirement party, an ongoing joke was about the snakes that had gotten into the paint on that job.

Close to his retirement date, another issue rose to prominence at the MTO. “Yards were being consolidated and some closures were made as well as some relocations. There were two salt sheds in Meldrum Bay and they were slated to be moved to Silverwater to the Priddle Rock area. This seemingly benign move created a lot of animosity. People just don’t like change. I was 56 and it was 1989, late in my career. Being a negotiator to such passionate controversy was enough to encourage early retirement.”

When the dust finally settled, Floyd did retire and enjoyed the prospect of no more arbitrations or negotiations. “Nevertheless, I had enjoyed my many years with the MTO; there were lots of times we celebrated completing a job and feeling proud that we made Manitoulin roads a little safer.”

For his retirement party Floyd was handed a huge green rock named ‘Priddle Rock’ with the caption, ‘This Souvenir of Manitoulin was presented to F. ‘Porky’ Lockyer by his co-workers on June 17, 1989; Both symbolic of his unerring dedication to his Highway Patrols and to his beloved Island. God’s Blessings.’

Floyd and Lila in the mid 1950s
Floyd and Lila in the mid 1950s

After his retirement, Floyd decided to take things easy. He worked around the home, cutting grass and doing odd jobs, but he felt he needed to do more. He had joined the local council in 1988, staying for three terms. But the council work still left some free time. The entrepreneur started a part-time aluminum siding business, buying his materials in Sudbury and then returning to the Island for installations. “I fixed up quite a few houses in town,” he adds. “and did some roofing as well.” He was on the Resident Landfill Committee for NEMI and in his spare time, he was also a Mason. “I have been part of the Masonic Lodge for 55 years and I enjoy my time with the Brothers.”

“I guess an important event in my working life was coming to that cross-road decision when I left sailing the big lakers and made a career move with the MTO. I have never regretted this decision. A good salary for 36 years and now a good pension with benefits, starting at age 56, have been rewarding and given us a feeling of security.”

“Summer is my favourite time of the year. Weather is good and we enjoy the warmth. In 1988, a few months before retirement, we bought a place in Florida so we could enjoy warm winters too. We loved Florida and drove there faithfully, apart from one year in the 1970s when there was a gas shortage. Two years ago we found coping with the lengthy trips had become less enticing. We sold the vacation home a year ago, but our daughter and son-in-law have a home in Florida and we can visit them if we feel nostalgic.”

We can’t leave out the ‘famous dog’ story. Lila and Floyd have owned two dogs, ‘wiener dog’ or Dachshunds, and both were recognized for skills they had. The first one, Butch won a ribbon for being a great representative of his breed in a dog show.  Their second dog, Wrinkles, on the other hand, was nominated for stardom. Coming back from Florida one time, the couple and Wrinkles made a stop in Flint, Michigan. They spent the night in a motel and the next morning Floyd started to transfer the luggage back into his car.

As he was exiting the motel room door, a stranger put a gun to his head and demanded he move back into the room. Floyd did as he was told. At that precise moment little Wrinkles, more than 12-years-old and diabetic, reacted to the stranger’s voice, jumped off his chair and clamped his jaw tightly on the offender’s ankle. This action forced the attacker back out of the room. The door was quickly locked and calls were made. Wrinkles had saved his master’s life. The beloved pet was later nominated for entry into the Purina Pet Hall of Fame for his fine deed and he is memorialized there in the hall of fame’s downtown Toronto location.

“Television isn’t on a lot in our house, but when it is, we generally watch the news or a sports program.” Lila adds, “Floyd has a strong work ethic and he is a very organized person. He still lives to work. He put in this hardwood floor and did such a good job.” Another sideline was fishing. Floyd recalls the trip to the Northwest Territories where he and son David visited the Great Bear Lodge and caught a 60 lb trout. “Pulling in a fish that size requires a lot of strength and endurance. It was very exciting. We both had a great time on that trip but I must acknowledge that David is the true fisherman in this family.”

May 2016 in their front yard.
May 2016 in their front yard.

“If I could go back in time, there isn’t anything I would change. I enjoyed my life then and I enjoy it now. We have been fortunate. My recipe for happiness is working hard so you can be proud of your accomplishments. Keeping our garden in good order has always been a passion for me.  It is also good to remember that life will hand you ups and downs and if you deal with them right away, they won’t grow to be serious. We have been married 60 years now.”

“Manitoulin is really the only place in the world for us. We were born here and we have always lived here. This is one of the safest places when you compare it to so many others. We are close enough to Sudbury and we have good health care, access to doctors and nurses,” Floyd offers. Lila adds, “Manitoulin is home for us. It’s nice to get away occasionally but we always like coming back. That comfortable feeling of being home is incomparable. It takes over and you know you can enjoy peace here.”