Knights of the Road

By Bill Trbovich

Every community in Ontario, big or small, has service clubs. A common sight as you drive the roads of Ontario is the welcome sign on the outskirts of a community and one of those signs will likely display the service clubs of that community. Everything from the Lions Club and Rotary Club to the Oddfellows and Kinsmen but in Durham there was one club that likely never made it to that sign in its day and so begins our story.

You have to go back more than sixty years to find any information about this unique club. The year was 1956, a time of Brylcreem Pompadour haircuts, brush cuts held in place with Barber’s Butchwax, high school leather jackets and cars with fins. After the Second World War, North America had become obsessed with the automobile and Durham like many Canadian towns fell to the lure of the open road. The railway was replaced by the highway as a means of travel and it provided a new sense of freedom. It was every boy’s dream to own their own car and soon car clubs became very popular and one of the most unique was founded in Durham by a group of seven young men. The Durham Road Knights were created to assist other motorists when their vehicles broke down.

The club crest adorned the leather jackets of members of the Road Knights of Durham
Photo courtesy of Darlene Hastie

The club was organized with the assistance of then Durham Police Chief, Elmer Hutchinson, who taught the members the rules of the road. The club met twice a month at the Town Hall next to the Police Station. The countryside of Durham and its surrounding townships is crisscrossed with paved highways both provincial and county and numerous dirt and gravel concession roads. The club members offered assistance to any motorist with a vehicle that broke down, be it a flat tire, a dead battery or in some cases to some who found the roadside ditch!

Graham Hastie, seen here in the middle of the back row was one of the founding members of the Durham Road Knights. The club’s leather jackets in gold red and white were a source of pride for the members.
Photo courtesy of Darlene Hastie   

If a motorist was stranded, the Durham Road Knights responded, if the tire was flat, they fixed it, if the vehicle needed oil, they provided it and if a tow was needed, they would fetch the tow truck and if they came across an accident, they would summon the police and an ambulance if needed. Why? It may seem to be a silly question to some but that’s what you do in a small town, you help your neighbor in need, it’s a reflection of their upbringing and the moral fiber of the community in which they lived. No money was ever received or asked for, they were happy to provide a unique community service and after the job was done all they left behind was a card that said you had had been assisted by the Durham Road Knights!

After assistance was provided, the motorist was left with a card like this and the satisfaction of knowing there was someone looking out for their safety.
Photo courtesy of Darlene Hastie