I think Colonel Sam would be proud

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It was my great pleasure to be part of the Canadian Automobile Dealer Association’s (CADA) 10th anniversary celebration of their Laureate program.

As part of the 10th anniversary celebrations, CADA invited all the past Laureate winners to a multi-day event culminating in a tour and lunch at the Parkwood Estate, the former home of Sam McLaughlin. McLaughlin was instrumental in bringing the car to Canada in the very early part of the 1900s.

The history detailing the transformation of the McLaughlin Carriage Company, from arguably Canada’s leading manufacturer of horse-drawn vehicles through to becoming the McLaughlin Motor Car Company, and ultimately, General Motors of Canada, is a fascinating story. It is a story that is likely well known in automotive circles, at least from the perspective of the McLaughlins as manufacturers.

What I think is less well known is the McLaughlins’ history as car dealers.

I had the pleasure of exploring that history in preparing for my role in the anniversary celebrations. I gave a brief speech that explored McLaughlin’s history, both as a manufacturer and as a dealer. Following my speech, CADA awarded a posthumous Laureate to him. The traditional navy blue Laureate jacket with the embroidered crest was presented to McLaughlin’s granddaughter, Jocelyn Shaw, who travelled from Montreal to join us for this historic event.

It was a thrill for me to explore McLaughlin’s history as a car dealer. The retail aspect of this brand new business must have been at the very top of his priority list, as the McLaughlin Motor Car Company began production in 1907, and opened its first dealership in 1908.

This first store, located at the corner of Church and Richmond St. in Toronto, was near to many of the city’s largest churches. This put the dealership in an ideal location to offer its window displays to the members of the congregations as they left church. From the reading I did it’s apparent the new cars in the window drew quite a crowd. McLaughlin certainly understood early on the value of the silent Sunday shopper!

Another one of the McLaughlin dealerships is also noteworthy. This store, located on Bay St. in Toronto, opened in 1925. It continued as a McLaughlin store until the mid 1950s, when it was sold
to Harry Addison. It continued as the Addison store until 2007.

It was also a tremendous thrill to speak with Shaw and hear firsthand some of her stories about her grandfather, and the adventures she had in that great house as a child.

I have to acknowledge what a pleasure it was to have some time with the Laureates who came in for the event. What a truly remarkable group of entrepreneurs and business leaders. If McLaughlin was around to be a part of the day, I know he would be proud to be recognized as part of this exclusive group of business leaders. I think he would also be thrilled to see how far the industry he helped start has come.

Note: McLaughlin’s Laureate jacket will be on permanent display as part of the newly renovated lobby that CADA has donated to the Automotive Business School of Canada (ABSC) in Barrie, Ont. I encourage you to visit both the school and his former home at the Parkwood Estate in Oshawa, Ont. While the estate will give you a chance to be close to some of the most important history of Canada’s automotive industry, the school will give you a chance to see where tomorrow’s industry leaders are being shaped.

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Canadian auto dealer