It was 1978 and I had moved to Bracebridge, in the beautiful Muskoka Region of Ontario, for my first teaching position. Winter in Muskoka is significantly colder than coastal Nova Scotia.
(Appeared in Bracebridge Examiner August 1978)
I drove a rust bucket of a car, an American Motors Hornet. Thankfully, it had a block heater. Without it, my old AMC Hornet would never have started. Bracebridge was where I learned ‾40 degrees Celsius and ‾40 degrees Fahrenheit are the same temperature. COLD!
After school, each day, I drove to the Post Office for my mail. On the day in question, it was bitter cold and I was too chicken to turn off my car in case it would not start again. When I returned, I discovered I had locked the doors and could see the key chain dangling from the ignition. I didn’t have CAA nor could I afford to call a garage to unlock it. What now?
As a last resort, I called my principal, Arie VanderStoel, to help me. Arie and his family had moved from the Netherlands only months before. He wasn’t your run-of-the-mill blonde haired, blue-eyed tall, slender Dutchman. He was a tall, heavy fellow with a big, black beard and a heavy Dutch accent.
I had a second key, but it was in the top drawer of my jewelry box, at my basement apartment. Don’t ask me why I kept it there. Arie agreed to go my place and explain the situation to my landlords, the Billingsleys. They had never seen him before. How did they know he was telling the truth? Mr. Billingsley agreed to unlock my apartment door and Arie retrieved the key from my jewelry box in a clothes wardrobe.
I waited and waited. Would he ever return? From the lobby of the Post Office, I peered at every approaching car. I breathed a huge sigh of relief, when Arie’s car pulled up. YES! He had the key! I unlocked my car, which had been running for nearly an hour, thanked Arie profusely and away I went — to the gas station.
I have locked my keys in my car many times since then, but nothing has ever compared to that ‾40 February day in beautiful Bracebridge — knock on wood, yes wood, just like one of the fenders in my jalopy.