The Old Spit and Chew

Guiler's Garaage and Tea RoomA local news story today about a gas and service station which is being torn down brought a flood of thoughts about the end of an era which our grandchildren will not understand.

My Grandfather owned a gas station and garage for about 40 years on Main Street in Port Dover and it, like this one which is about to be demolished, was much more than a place where you got your gasoline and had your car fixed.  It was the local hangout for the men of the town.

Now we all know that men never gossip.  (tongue planted firmly in cheek).  No!  What men do is pontificate.  On occasion they may tell stories about people walking by the window, weave a yarn about someone’s daughter or wife, elaborate about a recent local event or even “expand” on a story about a fish they caught.  (Sometimes that expansion could be anywhere from 2 to 10 inches depending on the length of their arms.)

In the case of my Grandfather’s garage the stories were also accompanied by a significant amount of chewing tobacco and cigar smoke.  When I was growing up I didn’t think men ever swore because when a lady or a girl walked into that shop all such talk was stopped immediately by the tip of a hat.  I’m also sure I never saw my grandfather spit or chew but I know he just about swallowed it a few times trying to get rid of the chaw so I wouldn’t see it.  (Possibly the reason he died of stomach cancer at 83.)

I will never forget the smells of that garage.  Smoke, oil, gasoline.  They filled the air along with the smell of the coal fire and the sparks from the welder and the key making/skate sharpening grinder.  It is a smell like none that we can experience in this century.

The floor of my grandfather’s garage and so many like it was likely cement but it was hard to tell because of the soft dark surface it had become.  The chewing tobacco and grease along with the coal soot made it almost feel like rubber.

I have some inclination that every time someone left any of those shops they may have become the next topic of conversation but I know when I went in I was always greeted with a great smile and hello which brought laughter to the day.

And what about the stories.  Where have the men gone to tell their tales now.  There is a little coffee shop in town and Tim Horton’s.  The boys might still be hanging out in one of the sheds by the pier and basin but that is a whole different kettle of fish.


About Peggy Guiler

You just never know what show up on my blog. As the name implies it is about the stuff of life just like Spilt Milk. Everyday events spark thought and contemplation. Special events in the community, the country or the world may strike a cord and get me talking. Sometimes it's about people in my life or circumstances, sometimes about my garden, sometimes about a book or a political issue. Always it's about something I am passionate about. In my business, River of Hope Enterprises (, I work as an "Certified Coach" (International Coach Federation), a trainer, consultant and speaker. and as a spiritual director. I also drive a school bus to keep the wolf from the door while I build my business. I love the kids on the bus (most of the time). My family is grown and I have three grandkids who thrill my heart but I don't get to see any of them very often. Circumstances of life have made "family" difficult. My son died by suicide at age 16 in 2000 and the strain on our family relationships since has been huge. Mental health is a field where I worked for almost 22 years and where I still do some consulting and training. That combined with my own battle with depression and my son's death weave together to form some of my greatest soap box items: suicide intervention, suicide bereavement and peer support in mental health are right on the top of my list. Social justice is an underlying passion. Keeping the wolf from the door as a single parent was full-time work and my career path as a journalists was augmented with cleaning contracts, cooking, retail clerk, and bartending. I have known hard work and am grateful for the experience and perspective it has given me. A firmly grounded faith and a passion for learning has now taken me toward a new field as a Spiritual Director and I am soon adding to that a license to marry people. As I move toward retirement I am very aware that I have to keep working so I chose to do things which will meet my modest financial needs and also my love of supporting people in their life journey. Woven into all of this is my love of writing. Trained as a Journalist, and having worked in the field as a freelance news writer for many years, I have a great love for writing. This blog is a new beginning for me. As I hone my skills and begin to form a daily discipline of writing I hope it will lead to more writing in the future.
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3 Responses to The Old Spit and Chew

  1. This post brought back a flood of memories from my childhood. One time a few years ago we drove from Oshawa to Port Dover just to get one of those famous hot dogs.

  2. A friend’s father owned a garage way back when. Sometimes after school we’d stop by for her to see her Dad. Like your experiences, there were always men there, they were always courteous to us gals with no swearing when we were around. Thanks for bringing back some good memories.

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