The Way We Were

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the August 10, 2005 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Harky, hot rods, and youths with nothing to do

by Catherine Joyce

Harky Milks is a happy man.

Born in Chelsea in 1943 as the youngest of 14 kids - old Dr. Geggie of Wakefield attended the home birth - he has grown up and prospered in a world where he knows everyone. And, as the owner of Harky's garage for the last 32 years, everyone knows him.

"I love what I do but I'm not the boss," he says with a laugh. "My clients are the boss - my job is to make them happy."

Harky has been hanging around that corner of the 105 and Chelsea Road since 1953 when the Yuill family opened the original garage.

"I guess I was a bit of a nuisance but I swept the floors and pumped gas and I learned all I could about cars from watching a really good mechanic - I did that until I finished high school at Ottawa Tech."

The Way We Were
Harky (Harold) Milks, a ... few years ago. File photo.

Harky had a car before he had a driver's permit - at 12 he learned to drive in the fields where kids play soccer today. He could hardly see over the steering wheel when at 15 he was out with the tow truck. "The cops never stopped me but they would give old Mr. Yuill hell."

In 1963 Harky and a bunch of young guys started the Chelrod Club. "We were all hanging around Chelsea with nothing to do. So we decided to start a car club. Mr. Nankin, the farmer who owned all the land around here, gave us an acre off Mill Road where the old train station used to be. We wanted to build a cement block building, so we organized dances in Chelsea to raise the money to buy the blocks and put in the windows.

"Right away we had 30 members. To join, you had to have a car and a valid driver's licence. The guys would work on their cars, jacking them up and shining them, helping each other fix things and learn auto mechanics.

"In those days everyone played with cars. Today's young men don't know anything about their vehicles - they buy fancy wheels but everything's electronic, so they need an expert to figure things out. All the fun's gone."

Harky remembers the car rallies they used to have, two or three a summer up around Ladysmith, all through the back roads.

"Then we'd have a big bonfire or party afterwards. Everyone would come out. The Chelrod Club was a great way to bring young people together - we were always dreaming up a life around cars and making things happen. I guess you could say I'm still at it."

The memories of the good ol' days are sweet. But the story of how Harky got his nickname brings a deeper laugh. "Oh, there was some Christmas party going on at school and we were singing 'Hark the Herald Angels Sing'. My first name is Harold, so Bob Trudeau started in on the schoolyard with 'Harky this, Harky that' - I guess it just stuck."

It stuck indeed - as did the love of cars.

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