Neil Peart's dad, Glen Peart, recalls his son's days as parts manager in St. Catherines, Ontario.
Editor's Note: Thanks to Larry Smith, president of the Ontario, Canada-based O'Neils Farm Equipment, I was able to connect with Glen Peart, retired president of Dalziel Equipment Ltd., to ask a few questions about his son, Neil (of Rush fame), and the International Harvester dealership Glen co-owned and operated (Dalziel Equipment Ltd.) in St. Catherines, Ont.
"You asked me what time it is, and I told you how to make a watch!" the retired Glen Peart writes, adding that "it's going back many years, but I'll give you my best shot." Below are Glen's memories about his son, in his words, in an email from October 11, 2019.
This was a natural fit; he had worked with me for several summers while attending school, was good with numbers and had an easy way with people. But Neil had only one burning passion — "to be a drummer!" He had several local gigs and some local success, but he was disgusted that the other band members did not share his passion.
All the music that Neil wanted to play was coming out of England. At the age of 18 we talked it over and he would be working with me for the summer. I said whatever he could save up, I would double.
In the fall, we built a plywood crate for everything he owned — pretty basic — plus his precious drum kit, and off he went. The pickings were pretty slim; he ended up working for a Canadian who operated a souvenir shop on Carnaby Street in London. Neil was to clean up the old store paint it and get it ready for merchandise to put on the shelves. Neil had been working this project for a few days when the owner popped into the shop and said "I'm going to be away for a few days, the merchandise will be arriving. Could you just open the cartons and put it on the shelves?"
Neil was glad to have the job. As it arrived, he lined it all up on shelves as he had done many times in our dealership. When the owner returned, he was so pleased he said, "Why don't you stay here and manage this store for me? His dealership experience did pay off!
In the fall of 1973, our dealership won a sales campaign trip to England with many other Canadian dealers and his mother, Betty, and I had the chance to spend a couple of days with him in London. Betty was concerned that he was so thin and pale — the English climate will do that to you — but he was obviously homesick and missed all his friends.
Neil and I had a talk. I said "Neil, you are managing the store here and I have a Parts Dept. that could sure use you!" I know this was working on him and in the New Year (1974), he sent us a note and said "Dad, I'm coming home!" I don't know who was happier — his mom or dad — but it was a celebration!
When he arrived home, we computerized the parts inventory, set up some new controls and he slipped into the position quite comfortably. I know that all of the basics and the experience he had working with all our other employees formed a solid base on several levels that helped him cope with all the new challenges he would be facing!"
Neil had joined a small local band playing only on weekends. Somehow, his reputation had gotten around.
The "White Corvette" visit to our farm equipment dealership has been documented several times. After lunch when the two men left, I could tell that Neil was really tormented. He was certainly not himself.
When we locked the door, he came and sat in my office and unloaded. The two visitors were the managers of Rush, a band from Toronto that were about to hit the big time. They had signed a contract and their first tour was arranged but their drummer had just dropped a bomb on all their plans — for health reasons, he had been told not to travel. The managers wanted Neil to audition ASAP and, if successful, to join the other two guys and start to practice — immediately!
Neil was consumed with guilt because we were just coming into our busy season and he felt he was letting me down. I finally said, "Neil, this could be the chance of your life. We have to talk this over your mother when we get home, but I feel you have to do this. It could be a dream come true and if it doesn't work out, there will still be a Parts Department that can use you!" Obviously, Mom agreed with my thoughts and the rest is history!"
I ran the business, Dalziel Equipment, for a few more years and then closed it. It never did reopen as a dealership. A few years later, my daughter and her husband took me for a little drive in St. Catherines. There was a small shopping mall where our dealership had stood.
As to Ontario Retail Farm Equipment Dealers Association (ORFEDA). The original owner of the dealership (Don Dalziel) was one of the original charter members of ORFEDA and had been always personally involved in its success. So, when I took over his dealership, it was only natural that I joined, became an active member and served as Secretary-Treasurer for 5 years. I knew that the present ORFEDA Manager was due to retire, so I threw my name in the hat. After a round of discussions, the Board of Directors decided to take a chance on a "retread" farm equipment dealer to run ORFEDA. I lasted for 19 years until I retired in 1998 and loved every minute of it — working with people that I trusted and admired!
From Glen Peart, October 11, 2019