Salvage Kings feature rare B-A collection from Minden
By Sue Tiffin
Last week, viewers watching Salvage Kings, a Canadian television series that features demolition and salvage teams from Priestly Demolition Inc., caught a glimpse of Minden in a segment featuring a rare British-American oil collection that once belonged to beloved Kawartha Dairy businessman, Don Crowe.
The episode, entitled ‘Let the games begin,’ is the ninth in season one of the show, which airs on the History Channel, and aired three times last week beginning Nov. 10.
“Family patriarch Vic brings Julien and Ted on a road trip to Northern Ontario to salvage a pair of vintage gas pumps to add to his personal collection,” reads the description of the first segment of the show, lasting just under 15 minutes.
In the episode, Vic Priestly, the company founder of Priestly Demolition, tells his team they’re going to pick up what the narrator refers to as “an amazing collection of British-American gas pumps and signs.”
“We’ve got a pick to go to,” says Priestly. “We’re going to Minden, we’re going to go get that B-A stuff I’ve been telling you about, up at Kawartha Dairy.”
The team travels to the quonset hut located on the Crowe property next to Kawartha Dairy on Hwy 35, and begin collecting what Vic has purchased from Don’s family. He died in 2017. British-American oil collectibles, including vintage globe-style and electric gas pumps, vintage signs, even an oil can estimated to be from 1914-era, complete with a still intact paper label.
Craig Crowe, son of Don, was on hand to help as the team gathered the collection. Though he said he tried to stay out of the shot, he admits he couldn’t stay far because he wanted to help, and ended up signing a waiver so that scenes in which he appeared could be aired. At one point, after the team tries to collect a massive B-A sign from the outside of the quonset hut, a Kawartha Dairy truck is driven to the entrance of the building to assist in getting the team close enough to retrieve it.
“I’m tall but I’m not tall enough to reach it from that bucket,” says Ted Finch in the episode. “Luckily, there’s a Kawartha Dairy truck there we can stand on.”
Craig said the B-A collection was revered by his dad.
“He always said that the B-A stuff, when anything ever happened to him, that it was kind of up to us,” said Craig. “His wishes were for us to keep everything. But when you can’t maintain it and do stuff like he was doing, it’s pretty hard.”
The B-A collection was especially valued because the company, which was incorporated in 1906 and amalgamated into the Gulf brand in 1969 according to the episode, was defunct.
“[Dad] knew it was rare,” said Craig. “It was very rare. There’s not too many people who have B-A stuff. Dad was a pretty top-end collector, he didn’t just go and collect anything, he collected the stuff that was very rare. Dad would never tell you how much he paid for it, he would tell you, ‘too much.’ He knew it was going to cost him money to get that stuff because that company was out of business and had been for a long time.”
Priestly has been a longtime family friend, who Craig remembers from his own childhood memories, and is a collector himself who understands the value of the collection.
“Knowing it’s going to him, it was OK,” he said. “I mean, still, every time I go up and see that shed now with the stuff gone off the front of it ... you know, of course you always think of Dad all the time, but knowing it went to Vic, I think it kind of makes it a lot better, and knowing the fact that he’s not going to go pick it apart and sell it and make a profit off of it, he’s got it for himself. That’s kind of the reason we did that. Because, you know, you could sell it piece by piece and have no idea what was going to happen to it. But Dad spent a lot of time, a lot of time and money and effort and all that stuff. He hooked it all up himself. You hate to see it go. But like the old saying, all good things have to come to an end, right? But knowing that Vic has it is certainly a bonus.”
On the episode, the whole collection was valued at more than $30,000. Craig did not reveal the selling price.
For Craig and his family, that it is going to Priestly where they hope it will be a pride of the family as it is passed throughout generations, is priceless.
“I really think, the biggest thing about that, is that I think my Dad would have approved of that,” said Craig. “If anybody was going to take it, it would be him that he would want to have it, for sure, I think.”
A shot of Ted and Julien eating Kawartha Dairy ice cream after the hard work of moving the collection is seen near the end of the segment.
The full episode of Salvage Kings, Season 1, Episode 9 featuring Don Crowe’s B-A collection can be watched at https://www.history.ca/shows/salvage-kings.