This year’s show-stopper item at June’s Awesome Auction is a first for the Heartland Youth Center (HYC), one that has set the theme for the event and had the organization looking back at its past.
The theme this year is the 1950s, and the HYC intends to take people back on a road-trip to the post Second World War decade courtesy of a 1956 Pontiac Laurentian, the first car the youth centre has ever had on the block.
This particular vintage car is nostalgic not only because of its age, but because of who it once belonged to: the late Lloyd Smith.
Smith became involved with the youth centre more than two decades ago at the insistence of a neighbourhood boy, Charlie Thurston.
“We were going to hold a rummage sale to raise money,” recalled Winnie Bissett, director of the youth centre. She was fairly new in her career with the centre when she met Smith.
“Charlie comes to me and says, ‘I think I know someone who has stuff he can donate,’” Bissett recalls. “Later that day this fellow shows up with a truck full of stuff. He drops it off and comes back with two more truckloads of just stuff.”
After dropping off the first load of items for the sale, Smith stopped to speak with Bissett about the youth centre and what purpose it served, and from that discussion bloomed not just a personal friendship between Bissett and Smith, but a long-lasting attachment for the youth centre as well.
Smith’s primary involvement in the centre was through the annual Bowl for Kids event, where teams would raise pledges for the youth centre.
“He said he wanted one solid thing to be involved in,” Bissett said, adding that he picked Bowl for Kids.
During the near two-decades of bowling fundraising, Smith raised roughly $72,000 for the youth centre.
The event was rechristened Lloyd’s Bowl for Kids several years ago to recognize Smith’s contributions through Bowl for Kids.
Even though Lloyd’s been gone for more than a decade, he’s still giving to the youth centre, though.
When he passed away, he had collected “stuff,” Bissett noted.
“He was a collector,” she recalled with a laugh.
A lot of that stuff found its way to children who had grown up in the youth centre and had become friends with the Smiths, a couple who had never been able to have children of their own.
“Lloyd really wanted children,” Bissett said. “He ended up having hundreds through the youth centre.”
One of those adopted youngsters, the very one who introduced him to Bissett and the youth centre, went on to become a successful engineer.
As Thurston aged out of the programs, he remained involved as a volunteer with HYC until his job had him move away to the southern United States.
When Smith passed away, he bequeathed one of his cars – the 1956 Pontiac – to Thurston. Because he didn’t live locally, Thurston put the car in storage, all with the hopes of being able to drive it someday.
As the years stretched on, though, and his job sent him all over the world – Thurston’s now working on a job in China – being able to take the dust cover off the car and drive it around seemed to be less and less likely.
The pressure to do something with that car – a car Smith had willed to Thurston to enjoy – continued to build until one day, Thurston sat down at his computer and wrote an email to Bissett.
Thurston wrote that he felt terrible leaving the car in storage, where all it did was sit and collect dust.
Smith had willed it to him to be driven – Smith had driven all of his collected vehicles, enjoying the whole experience the entire time – and Thurston felt if he couldn’t drive it, he should pass the experience on to another.
“‘If I’m not driving it, he’d want me to give it to you,’” Thurston told Bissett.
And so, Thurston, who brought Smith into the HYC fold through a rummage sale, came full circle and donated the car to the organization, which this year will auction it off.
The car will be on display at the Red Deer swap meet on May 1-2 at the Westerner Grounds, and then on display at Stettler GM from May 3 until June 5. On the sixth, the car will be at the Stettler Community Centre for the Awesome Auction.
In the 17 years Smith raised pledges in the Bowl for Kids event, he only missed one year, due to a family matter that had him out of town. Despite not being there to bowl, he sent in his pledges and had someone bowl in his place – and just like then, even though Smith can’t be at the event, he’s making sure that everyone knows he cares about his adoptive family by sending someone to bring in his donations for him.