It had been a number of years since I last saw Bill Hutchinson, so I decided to pay him and his wife Hazel a visit.
Bill, you will recall, introduced the first taxi cab using a CB radio to Lindsay. He used the radio in an effort to compete with rival "hackies" such as Lamb's, Keown, Wells, Miner's, Jerry's, Roland's and Del's.
"When I first started taxiing, there was a flat fee of 25 cents for a trip anywhere in town. Soon we fought for and got a raise allowing us to charge 50 cents and then after a long spell we approached council and they permitted fares to rise to $1," Bill said.
"I started back in 1956 and continued my trade for 21 wonderful years. My dear wife Hazel was a tremendous help to me and let me tell you, she was a busy girl managing the telephone and then relaying messages to me via the radio in my cab as to where I was to pick up my next fare," said Bill.
Bill Hutchinson arrived from Saskatchewan in 1937 with $10.50 in his pocket, and he worked at various jobs until he started his taxi business.
"I was never one to park at the local hotels in an effort to pick up fares I depended solely on word of mouth and it wasn't very long until I had a large clientele."
Bill's wife Hazel told u there were times when she would be trying to carry on a conversation on their private phone when a call would come in on their business line. Then she would have to radio Bill to pick up a fare. "Many were the times that folks never knew they were talking to me when they called for Bill to pick them up," she said.
"Oh, I could tell you many stories but a good taxi driver turned a blind eye and let on he was deaf when certain conversations went on," Bill said.
When I asked Bill for a favourite story or two, he laughed when he told me about picking up a fellow who was very intoxicated. The man instructed Bill to take him to a certain bootlegger in town. "I did as he asked and when we got to where he told me to go, he just said 'wait, I'll only be a minute.'"
"I had just nicely dropped him off when I saw what I was sure was the Lindsay Police car, so not wanting to get involved in an illegal operation and perhaps lose my license, I drove a short distance up the street. From that vantage point I watched to see if I was correct. Soon the fellow came out of the bootlegger's, bottle in hand, and thinking it was my cab, walked up to the police cruiser, opened the rear door and hopped in! I couldn't help but laugh," he said.
"I think the most exciting thing that ever happened though, was when Hazel radioed me and told me she had just had a call from Premier Leslie Frost's office. They had given instructions for me to go to his home and pick up his passport and get it to him at the Toronto International Airport and not waste any time in getting there. It seems Les was about to take an overseas flight and on business when he noticed he had left the passport at home.
"I picked up the document and raced as fast as I could and just as I got outside of Toronto, a couple of Ontario Provincial Police cars, who had been watching for me, signaled me over to the curb and asked for the passport. 'We'll take over from here,' and off they sped with sirens blaring and red lights flashing. What an experience that was, but an enjoyable one," he concluded.
I regret I didn't have more time to spend with these two wonderful people, but as I left, it did my heart good to learn that Bill had been names Lindsay's Citizen of the Year in 1970!
Never was there a more deserving person than Bill Hutchinson!