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Canadian turns Mack AC into Penticton hospital donation


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Penticton Western News  /  May 19, 2016

A member of a long-established Penticton family in British Columbia, Canana is celebrating his love of vintage vehicles with a generous donation towards Penticton Regional Hospital.

Jim Leir recently sold a restored 1918 Mack AC “Bulldog” truck which his father, Hugh Leir, purchased after the First World War for use at the family’s sawmill in Penticton.

The $30,000 in proceeds are being donated to the South Okanagan Similkameen Medical Foundation’s campaign to provide medical equipment for the new patient care tower at PRH.

“It’s a bit of a family heirloom.  It is a very rare vehicle,” he said. “They were war assets and my Dad bought two of them. This was the only one left.”

The Mack was one of several hard rubber-tired trucks working at the mill at the time, hauling lumber and shunting freight cars in the yards.

“My brothers and I learned to drive it when I was a kid,” Jim recalled. “It had to be cranked to start it and the radiator often boiled over, throwing scalding water onto our laps.”

It took Jim about five years to restore the truck some 25 years ago.

“When my father sold the sawmill in 1966, I rescued what remained of the truck and stored it until I began the restoration in 1981.”

Jim took it to several classic truck shows throughout Western Canada and the U.S., including the Peach City Beach Cruise in Penticton.  He recently sold it to a friend in Kelowna who also collects vintage vehicles.

“I wanted it to stay in the Valley, being a vintage piece. It’s gone to a great home.”

Jim still owns a number of other antique vehicles kept on his current property in Summerland, including a 1913 KisselKar.  Despite the German-sounding name of the company’s founding family, these cars were made in Wisconsin.  Other vehicles remaining in his collection include a 1935 Ford pickup truck and 1948 International 10-ton flatdeck.

Jim was born in 1928, one of 11 children who lived at their family’s distinctive stone house, now home to the Leir House Cultural Centre.  His oldest sister Marjorie, turned 100 last year, although two brothers and two sisters have passed away.

The Leir home in the 1930s and ‘40s was situated in what at that time was considered the outskirts of Penticton.  “It was in the centre of 10 acres of cactus, rocks and trees.  It was a great place to grow up, we didn’t have to go out of the yard,” he said.

The current Penticton Regional Hospital property was the site of a “hobo jungle” during the Depression Years, as many jobless men camped out next to Ellis Creek.

“We knew all these guys,” Jim said. “They used to go by our place on the way into town.”

Now Leir is happy to see the money from the sale of the 98-year-old Mack truck help out the Foundation’s PRH tower campaign, noting his family’s long-held ties to the community and the hospital.

“I’m very pleased to be able to do it,” he said. “It’s a good place to put the money.”

Construction of the $312.5-million PRH project starts later this spring.



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