AUTO PARTS & POP­PIES

Busi­ness owner val­ues free­dom

24 Hours Toronto - - NEWS - JOE WARM­ING­TON

While many don’t seem to be wear­ing pop­pies this year, it’s not an is­sue at John Hutchins’ auto parts busi­ness.

He won’t let peo­ple get away with be­ing a poppy snub­ber.

“Please read,” says a huge sign with two pop­pies on it as you walk through the door of his shop in the Hwy. 10-Bo­vaird Dr. area. “Un­til Re­mem­brance Day Novem­ber 11, all in­voices for parts will have a $2 fee at­tached. The money will be matched by Heart Lake and will be do­nated to the Royal Cana­dian Le­gion for dis­abled vets who gave to make a bet­ter and free life for us all.”

But it does not stop there. “If you find this un­ac­cept­able, you can buy your parts some­place else or come back af­ter Novem­ber 11.”

John is proud of his sign. “Dave Franks and El­liot Cal­lan over at FL Signs also sup­port the vet­er­ans so much they made it for me for free,” said Hutchins.

If that doesn’t en­cour­age you to wear a poppy, maybe the two gi­ant shep­herd mas­tiffs — Rocky and Bully — will con­vince you. Ac­tu­ally, the dogs look men­ac­ing but seem quite friendly — not that I would ever test it.

The whole shop is old Canada per­son­i­fied — com­plete with Toronto Sun front pages pasted to the walls, in­clud­ing a few of my col­umns and ones by Michele Man­del and Mark Bonokoski. There’s also a full-page Sun ad from Con­ser­va­tive Val­ues of Canada, show­ing a car­toon of Pre­mier Kath­leen Wynne putting a stran­gle­hold around GTA home­own­ers.

“We are for the lit­tle guy,” said John.

Next to a shelf full of old car ra­dios, there was even a Toronto Sun front page pic­ture taken by Dave Abel of John and his son, Steve, from the time they ar­rested some guys who were dumb enough to break into their shop. The po­lit­i­cally cor­rect may not be com­fort­able here.

“Ev­ery­body is wel­come but we call it as it is around here,” said John, with a grin. “That is our right, thanks to the sol­diers who died.”

John, 66, has done this very thing for the last five years and most years sends about $500 to Bramp­ton’s Ma­jor Wil­liam Dwight Sharpe Branch #15.

His own fa­ther and grand­fa­ther fought in the world wars and he has served many vet­er­ans from other wars, in­clud­ing Korea and Afghanistan.

“It’s im­por­tant to help these vet­er­ans,” he said.

The big ques­tion: Has any­body ever re­fused to buy a poppy?

“Just once,” he said laugh­ing. “It was a cou­ple of years ago.”

A man came in and said, “Does this re­ally mean if I won’t buy a poppy he won’t sell me the part for my car?” John replied: “I told him it does.”

The guy wouldn’t con­trib­ute.

“He left with­out the part.” But John was not mad. “His free­dom to do that is what those guys fought and died for. He didn’t have to buy a poppy and I didn’t have to sell him a part.”

He added he is heart­ened to find out that some of the peo­ple who em­brace his poppy push the most are new Cana­di­ans.

“They ap­pre­ci­ate we went to war so we don’t have wars here,” he said.

It seems in Toronto this year, many don’t seem to ap­pre­ci­ate that and need re­mind­ing.

But there is no need for re­minders of what Re­mem­brance Day means out at John Hutchins Heart Lake Auto Parts in Bramp­ton.

DAVE ABEL/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

John Hutchins, owner of Heart Lake Auto Parts in Bramp­ton, helps vets by adding a $2 fee, which he matches, for a poppy.

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