For 25 years Rock’n August has been a huge part of the local summer landscape. Once again, St. Albert traffic will soon flow with street rods, muscle cars, classic trucks, vintage beauties, and other specialty vehicles as part of its annual drive into automotive history.
The city’s downtown will morph into a hub of nostalgia during the event, which takes place from Aug. 3 to 7 this year. Rock’n August’s big events are a Friday night parade of vintage vehicles and a rock and roll street dance. Saturday’s show and shine at Lion's Park is an extravaganza of cool head-turners where car lovers swap stories and tips, however, it’s only one of many locations where the action is.
In support of this diabetes fundraiser, many businesses and service clubs across town are organizing diverse events, such as a pancake breakfast, a rally, parking-lot shows, and multiple barbecues.
One participant who will be making the rounds and working the event is Archie Childs, the proud owner of a metallic blue 1966 Ford Mustang two-door hard top. Most vehicles displayed at car shows are purchased second hand and restored. The St. Albert resident is a rarity – a gearhead who can boast about being an original owner.
To this day, the rumble of his Mustang always draws a crowd – both friends and strangers alike eager to strike up a conversation. But for the Saskatchewan-raised farm boy, the Ford pony is more than a snappy exhibition car. The hard top links him to important memories in his life.
“Likely my honeymoon, the camping trips with the kids. The memories of watching grandkids in it. You look back over life – the camping trips, the ski trips, the trips back to Saskatchewan. So much has revolved around that car since the time I got it. You flip through the memories – Drumheller, Edmonton, St. Albert. Maybe you become a little sentimental,” said Childs.
At the time of purchase, Childs was a young SAIT graduate in industrial electrical technology working for Canadian Utilities in Drumheller as a lineman. Back in the mid-1960s, he was earning a hefty $500 a month.
“I paid $3,500 and traded in my ‘63 Ford Fairlane,” said Childs. “I’d been looking at Mustangs since 1964. I’d gone into a number of car dealerships, but money was tight.”
From 1967 to 1969, Childs lived in Red Deer, a town poised between Alberta’s two major cities and the Rocky Mountains' natural beauty.
“We had a group of friends. One had a Firebird. One had a Javelin. We had a lot of fun together. Most summers I had a [five-metre] canoe strapped on a ranger rack. In the winter, I had a ski rack and we went to Sunshine, Lake Louise, Drumheller, and Red Deer [Canyon Ski Resort].”
In the summer of 1969 Childs moved to Edmonton and worked as a designer for Alberta Power. It was also the year he met Velma, his future wife. A year later they were married. For their honeymoon, the couple picked up an AMA TripTiks travel planner, hopped in the Mustang, and cruised through the western United States before returning home.
He would later move to ATCO Electric to work on complex projects for Syncrude as project manager for the Mildred Lake Substation. After 33 years working for companies, Childs retired and set up his own consulting firm to deal with high-voltage projects.
The pony car was a constant in Childs’s life, first as a single man eager to impress the ladies; then as a honeymooner; and later as a family man with twin daughters pulling a Trillium trailer on vacations. It played a major role in family life until his daughters turned 16, and car insurance spiked for new drivers.
The Mustang was parked in his garage for restoration and stripped. About [201,168 kilometres] were clocked on the speedometer, seals were cracked, rings were replaced, and rust patches glared through the paint. Throughout the $17,000 restoration, all the major original parts were kept intact.
“The person who did the body work on the car – what he could do with a MIG welder. He was an artist. He cut the rust out and welded new material in. Very little Bondo [body filler] was used.”
While certain stages of restoration were farmed out, Childs also enjoyed being a hands-on guy, eager to lift the hood and get his hands greasy.
“One thing about growing up on a farm. You are miles from anyone that can fix anything. I watched my dad rebuild the tractor motor and a car motor. I had a Meccano set. Any boy who has had a Meccano set is interested in building things. If somebody can put it together, I can take it apart. You’re not intimidated by it. The things I do today are the result of my upbringing on a farm.”
By 2005 the Mustang was in road-trip condition, and Childs first showcased the collector car at Rock’n August. This year, as a Rock’n August volunteer, he estimates 450 classic cars and trucks will roll into the city.
“It’s a fun event. There’s a lot of history. Some cars, you look in awe at the quality and work that’s gone in them. And there are some pretty interesting people. There’s a lot of fellowship and a lot of stories.”