A Collector, Storyteller and Local Gem
When I think of Alvinston and the people who make the community of Alvinston so unique, one of the first images that comes to mind is of Ray Lloyd.
I first met Ray when I worked at Lou’s Country Cookin’, a local restaurant and bar (now closed) where I looked forward to serving the regulars and listening to their stories of Alvinston’s glory days. One of these regulars was Ray.
In August of 2021 I sat down with Ray after touring his vast collection of antiques, a passion of his for many many years. When asked He couldn’t remember exactly when he first started collecting but he did start with push plows. “ I decided to see how many makes of them I could get, I guess” he said. I asked Ray if he is still collecting or has time dwindled the thrill? “I got two things yesterday” he quipped! He had picked a pair of old boxing gloves at a yard sale around the corner from his home. There were two pairs and when he came home he discovered he had accidentally brought home two left handed gloves. He made the trip back to trade one in and he ended up coming back with the second set as well.
At 83, Ray at the time of our chat has been married to his wife Majorie for 60 years (61 years this spring). Ray was born just down the road from where he and Marjorie now call home. The first farm he purchased was one road over in 1960. “A year before I got married,” he said, “and my car was beginning to be a wreck, the wife could hear me coming.” She grew up on Old Walnut just north of Petrolia Line. He said at the time he still lived at home allowing him to save up thirty-five hundred dollars as he didn’t have to pay rent. His first farm was 75 acres. “I was telling someone the other day, gosh how times have changed!” He said.
The next year he and Marjorie were getting married and his friends decided to have his stag party at the house on his first farm. “About quarter to twelve in comes a police car,” he said. It took a minute to realize it was a friend who he also played cards with. “As soon as I saw who it was, well it was no big problem. He put his revolver on the table and he sat there until 3 o’clock am,’ he laughed, “I think he was still there when I left, playing cards!” His friend and local police officer was off duty at the time. We discussed how today that would never happen and how much times have definitely changed since then.
Rays neighbour, Bob Chapman who worked at Imperial Oil in Sarnia told Ray that he needed a car as he was getting married and was intending to take Marjorie to Niagara Falls for their honeymoon. He purchased a V8 55 Chevrolet for $485 through Bob and Imperial Oil from vehicles the company used for employees to drive around checking to see how the oil worked in them. “I ended up in a pretty good damn car to take my wife on our honeymoon!” He said.
“The whole community atmosphere has changed in my time since I’ve been here,” Ray reminisced. Years ago Ray said he knew who lived in most of the houses in Inwood but today that’s not the case. Inwood is so different today than what Ray remembers fondly, “I could show you pictures of three or four grocery stores, there was five places to buy gas at that time, a butcher shop, two pool rooms,” he said, “ and then I’d be riding my bicycle up there, you couldn’t find a place to park on a Saturday night when I was younger.”
Ray and Marjorie moved to their current house about 30 years ago, “things were falling down so you buy the place up the road a bit,” he chuckled. They raised four kids together, three girls and one boy and now they are proud to say they have 9 grandkids.
Trying to put a number on how long Ray has been building his collection of antiques seemed to be an impossible task throughout our conversation. He admitted there are still a few things on his first farm stored away but “nothing worth much” he said. He had a neighbour who would accompany him to every sale from Chatham to Wiarton. “We would buy things in the fields,” he said. He admitted it was mostly him buying and that his friend helped him load his purchases into his vehicle. He spent a lot of his time going to auctions looking for deals and pieces to add to his collection. Hector McNeil was Alvinston’s own auctioneer, “Hector McNeil was the first one around here and he did ninety percent of the sales,” stated Ray. Then there was his son, Leonard McNeil, who followed in his fathers footsteps as an auctioneer. He was also the Mayor of Alvinston during the amalgamation of Brooke Township and the Village of Alvinston.
Ray still prefers to look for antiques in person saying he doesn’t know how to turn anything on today electronically so online auctions are for the new generation. Ray showed me a metal wind up “Jet Propelled” G.I. Joe toy that his Grandmother gave him. At one point when his children were young he was out and saw the same one for sale and they were asking a couple hundred dollars for it. When he saw it he said “ I better get home because my kids had it in their toy box playing with it, so it never got back in their toys after I got home again.” Now it’s a treasured piece in his collection.
On weekends in the summer Ray and Marjorie like to spend time out at Kettle point where they have a small cottage. Ray still farms his land and shows no signs of slowing down. If you are lucky you might find him and Marjorie cutting a rug on the dance floor , often at Armor’s Alehouse in Alvinston especially if their grandson’s band, The Southlanders, are onstage.
Ray is one of those local gems. When you sit down with him you walk away with a smile on your face not just for the local history but from the telling of the tale! I am positive I will sit down with him many more times as a resource of local history, stories and I look forward to those moments moving forward with this blog.