By Val Davies
Jim Gushue’s fascination with horse-drawn buggies is that they are “truly works of art and a lasting example of fine wood and iron crafts, providing a sense of pride of ownership and comfort of ride to the owner.” The buggy was a single-seat ‘sports car’ of its time, light in weight, powered by a small pony and usually owned by the clergy, teacher, or doctor
With great attention to detail Jim lovingly and laboriously restored his first buggy which was owned by local veterinarian, Dr. Scanlan. His latest acquisition is from Dr. Dill of Annapolis Royal. Jim’s prized possession however is a rare ‘spindle-cab’ buggy built by the McLaughlin Carriage Company of Oshawa, Ontario. The company began making horse drawn carriages in the mid 19th century and it is said that the first automobile built in Canada was a McLaughlin Buick. The McLaughlin Carriage Company eventually became General Motors, Canada.
Jim has a great deal of work still to do on two of his buggies but is proud of his two finished ones. To do restorations of any kind, Jim maintains that you must have a deep appreciation of the article itself, how it functioned, what it looked like in its former glory, its history, quality of art and workmanship. The challenge depends on the degree of deterioration. It helps to have a knowledge of tools, paints, varnishes, fabrics and other materials, although research is fairly easy. However when it comes to buggies there are no after-market parts available.
Buggy wheels are quite unique as they are constructed concave to ensure strength and durability. The front wheels are smaller than the rear to provide a smaller turning radius. The wheel nuts on the left are threaded backwards as the left wheels turn counter-clockwise.
Not only does Jim restore horse drawn buggies but has a pair of platform rockers he reconstructed, a billiard table, and an old chest of drawers. In his ‘spare time’ he plays golf and has constructed three holes for golf practice on his land.
Jim was born in Newfoundland, one of 15 children and after graduating from the Technical College in St. John’s moved to Halifax in 1956. He ‘didn’t get rich as a book salesman’ so became an audio technician with RCA Victor and was the first television serviceman when television arrived in Halifax. While in Halifax he did refrigeration training through the Institute of Technology and then from 1960 to ‘63 worked with Canadian Westinghouse. In 1964 he joined Canadian General Electric as electronics technician and a year later was transferred to St. John’s with his wife the former Judy Bragg from, Lawrencetown.
The Gushues have three children, all born in St. John’s, and in 1975 the family returned to Nova Scotia where Jim worked as appliance manager with Mark A. Leonard Ltd. from 1976 to ’86. In 1986, with the late Beverly Longmire, Jim founded the Annapolis Appliance Sales and Service Ltd. which became a family business in 1988. Later they added Radio Shack which became The Source and operated the business until he and Judy retired in 2011. Jim is also part of the red seal program, licensing home technicians and is acknowledged in the manual for Eastern Canada.
Jim has always been a community person and a keen sportsman, enjoying hockey as well as golf. He coached hockey and baseball, while his children were growing up and later motocross racing. He has been chair of many local development and aquaculture commissions, president of the Royal Canadian Legion and member of the Kinsman and Lions Club. At present he is director of the Annapolis Health Foundation and vice-president of the Annapolis Royal Golf and Country Club.
In 1995 he represented Annapolis Royal as Provincial Volunteer.
While his happiest experience was marrying Judy, his proudest is watching their three children, Jim, Jeffrey, and Jacqueline become the people they are today.
Val Davies writes Our People, a periodic column, for The Annapolis County Spectator.