When Jimmy Canning says he has lived his whole life around cars, he is talking serious mileage.
Canning was 15 when he bought his first ride in 1937—a $50 beater that ran well enough to drive him and his pals up to Wasaga Beach on gas that cost 19 cents per gallon.
“We had a hell of a time,” he says, laughing.
Five years later, Canning got behind the wheel for a vastly different mission. Starting in 1942, he drove the heavy-duty army trucks that delivered collapsible wood and steel bridges to war-torn Belgium, Holland and Germany.
And Canning stuck with motors after the war, first by selling Fords for 20 years at Hillcrest Motors, where he also crewed on the company’s stock-car team, and then by driving container trucks another 15 years on Ontario highways.
But now, at 91 years old, a tire slasher is taking Canning’s wheels out from under him.
About a month ago, Canning walked out of St. John’s Norway church to find a slashed rear tire on his maroon 1998 Ford.
Canning had the tire replaced. But on April 7, the tire slasher struck again. This time both passenger-side tires were sliced while he was parked between Calvary Baptist Church and his apartment on Benlamond Avenue.
In both cases, the tires were cut along the sidewalls, meaning Canning had to buy new ones rather than simply plug holes.
“The car is a must in my life,” he says. “The week I was without it I was virtually lost, really.”
Friends and neighbours have told Canning they are avoiding parking their cars on Benlamond, afraid of another attack.
But Canning doesn’t think that will happen.
“These guys have targeted me,” he says.
Exactly who is cutting Canning’s tires is a mystery, but he has a theory.
Canning regularly goes to weekday lunches at four Beach churches and a Jewish Community Centre that serve people in need.
“I’m not pressed—I don’t need the food,” he says.
But after volunteering at the lunches for more than a decade at Belfair United Church, Canning says he knows a lot of the people who do.
“I live alone, and it’s somewhere to go,” he said. “It brings up my day. I’ve known some of these guys for 10 or 12 years.”
Canning feels someone at the lunches is targeting him because they are jealous of his apartment and his modest car. He did report the incident to police, but “the gate is up and the horse is already out of the barn,” Canning says. He is hoping someone in the church community might know who did it.
Anyone with information about the incident can call 55 Division at 416-808-550 or leave an anonymous tip with CrimeStoppers at 416-222-TIPS (8477).