About Mel Martin's Transfer

Every good business starts with the great idea of one person and the passion and hard work of a few. No matter how well the business is planned or run, there are often a few ‘hiccups’ and interesting stories along the way. We thought you’d enjoy the story of Mel Martin’s Transfer Ltd. as told by the founder, Mel Martin.

Late in the Fall of 1977 I was fueling up one night about 5:00, when a local trucker came along with an idea. He was hauling both the light stuff and he also had two tractors. His idea was he wanted me to buy his three ton tuck and haul the light stuff and he would concentrate on the heavy hauling. I knew that Larry Ashton had a good business and always seemed to be busy, so I did a little investigating talked it over with Nellie and the kids and they all thought we should go for it. Larry Ashton told his customers that I was the one to take the light stuff and put in a voice for me (they called it good will) and also the driver, Neil Fordham, was to come with the truck. We agreed to start on January 2nd, 1978.

Of course there were a lot of incidentals that had to be looked after before we could start a business, however, most of it was done before the end of December. Gary's wife, Carol, was our bookkeeper and she set up the bookkeeping plan. Of course we missed a few details that had to be ironed out later. I wanted to run the business and have my trucks on our residential property, but I soon found out that the town wouldn't stand for that. Also, I hadn't noticed that Larry hadn't sold me his whole business, which meant that we were starting a brand new business and would have to get a business license number of our own. Of course, all these things came to a head later.

We started on our new venture on January 2, 1978. Nellie left her job at the Bakery; she had been on the job (at two different bakeries - Hans and Howard's) for over thirteen years and she was going to be our Dispatcher, Our residential phone number now became our business phone number and the name of our company was Mel Martin's Transfer Ltd. The office was in one of the bedrooms and we were all set to do business. That phone number, 998-2429, is still the company phone number twenty-nine years later. We had to get another phone for the house. We also had a lawyer, John Valens and he set up the company, A lot of things happened in a short time.

At first I thought this would be a kind of semi retirement job, but I soon found out that that wasn't going to fly For one thmg Neil couldn't keep up to all the work alone and another was, unless I did some work, we couldn't meet our expenses. With only two drivers, there wasn't really all that much money in this business, so I was learning something new every day. We started billing on January 15th and surprise, surprise, the money started to come in. We must have had a few sympathizers out there! After that it was just once a month (on month end). Then there was the banking that had to be done in a certain way and also Revenue Canada wanted money on a certain date, All of this was more or less new to us, but we caught on pretty quick. Carol didn't have a full-time job, but was always there if Nellie needed her.

There was also another trucking outfit in town. They were called L & D. We had been operating for about a year and a half and things were going pretty well when all of a sudden L & D shut down their operation in the middle of July and now we were getting all these extra calls which we couldn't handle. So Nellie and the kids wanted me to go to the banker, borrow some money and get a couple of trucks. It all sounded so simple. The business was there and all we had to do was get more equipment and go to work. Then Gary wanted to come on too. So over the next two months we got three more trucks and suddenly we had five drivers and six trucks {one for a spare) and now Nellie and Carol were practically full time, Carol never went out working again as there was lots to do right at home and also she had the advantage of being able to work at home and keep an eye on her family.

The Town gave us a hard time until we rented a bay in the Industrial Park to park the trucks in and after that there was no more hassle. There was one problem though. Times were good and anybody who was reliable already had a job and I had to depend on the boys out of the bar. We had one flat deck truck and there was three of our 'potential" drivers living in an old house in the downtown area. It was only seldom that the same driver would show up two days in a row. As it turned out, whichever one who was not too badly hung over came and drove for that day. It wasn't the most satisfactory way of doing business, but apparently necessary at the time. We then developed a list of potential drivers and we got it to the place where we could always, (almost), get a driver when we needed one. Of course that wasn't the only headache we had the first few years. The drivers were too hard on the trucks and also our fuel expense was getting bigger all the time. We had a key lock pump at the Esso station across the road and our key was hanging up in the truck bay; so if anyone had to gas up he just picked up the key and got himself gassed up. Anyway things got worse and after a while the Esso Manager wanted to talk to me and so I went to see him. What he had to say was a little shocking. Some of his employees had been in the Fort Hotel bar and overheard one of our driver's making a deal to sell gas out of our pump after the bar closed. He also told me he was going to have the lock changed the next day. Also the police had told him they would keep an eye on the pump that night.

Needless to say I didn't get much sleep that night. I took the gas key out of the Bay and checked the pump reading shortly after 11:00 and then went back at 5:00 a.m. and checked the pump reading again. Someone had got away with one hundred and thirty five litres of gas that night. There was a very light snow fall that night and I could see the vehicle tracks at the pump and I thought they looked to be about an hour old. I guess the police were not on the job all the time. Then it dawned on me that I had a pump key in my one-ton truck; the one I always drove and so checked that out. The keys were still in the switch and the only way they could have got into that gas was to take the keys out of my truck and then put them back after the transaction. All of this was a little bit much. The Company had been losing money for quite a while and business had been slow for a couple of months, so there was just one solution. A short time later we didn't have all these drivers and Gary and Roy and myself did all the work ourselves the last couple of years. Nellie and I had the Company and we made good money the last couple of years and by that time Nellie and I were both played out and we sold the Company to Gary and Carol. This was in the summer of 1983.

We decided to go on a trip to Eastern Canada starting in July. By this time I was 65 years old and my brother Wilford wanted us to come to Ontario and we could go together and have a good look at Eastern Canada. We had bought a motorhome from Carol's Dad, Ben Thate, and about the time we had our plans pretty well established we got a phone call from Ontario from Vern Wilson. He and his wife, Cathy, had moved there about four months previously and they were living in a French speaking community and it wasn't working out. He wanted to come back to Alberta and he also wanted a job. Gary thought it was a great idea, so we called back a couple of days later and told Vern if he wanted to stay in our house for about two months he could store his stuff in our garage and stay here rent free. He would have to pay the utilities, but that was all. Vern went to work for our co. and stayed until he retired just a few years ago.

Mel passed away in 2010, predeceased by Nellie in 2008, leaving sons Gary and Roy and the rest of the Mel Martin’s staff to carry on his legacy.