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Things were different back in 1945.

Back then you couldn't buy steel due to the war effort, so the only thing that farmers had to hold fuel was 45 gallon drums.

Back then, the back door of your house was the front door of your office.

Back then, a hand shake and a nod were binding contracts and your word was your bond.

In 1945, most of the fuel sold in these parts belonged to Imperial Oil. A few others dotted the landscape: K&E Construction at Reece's Corners sold for White Rose and Elmer Shortt of Brigden sold for Shell Oil.

However, Elmer had decided to sell his distributorship. He had owned it for about five years and loved his community but his asthma was getting the best of him and in 1945 when your asthma got the best of you, you moved to Arizona.

Elmer's Shell representative was an ambitious young fellow by the name of Douglas Mackenzie, whose family lived in London where his father sold insurance for Mutual Life. When Douglas heard that there was soon to be a business opportunity up for grabs, he rushed home and convinced his father Charles to buy it.

Even though the family was moving from the city of London to the hamlet of Brigden, everything was about to get more exciting for the Mackenzie family: Douglas became a fuel truck driver (the original driver stayed on to help as well), while Charles was the sales department and his wife Ariel handled the books.

Running a fuel business from a small community presented its challenges. The roads to and from Brigden were not paved and could be treacherous in the winter. Shell Oil, while stable, was not nearly as big as its competitor Imperial Oil. The entire business was run out of their house and would be for the next few years. When Leck Shortt, the original driver, quit, Stuart had to quit high school and learn to drive.

And being the driver meant that you had to slowly fill five gallon pails, lift and empty them into your customers' forty-five gallon barrel and go back for more until it was full.

Luckily, customers loved the Mackenzie family. A quick call (using a crank phone) to Brigden 54 would have Douglas or Stuart on the road delivering much needed fuel to neighbouring farmers the next day! The office was open seven days a week, especially during harvest when farm crews would move from farm to farm, hurrying to get the wheat in before the weather hit.

There was no hard selling needed. Business depended on being a part of the community and the Mackenzies were a solid part of Brigden. Their first new delivery truck was purchased one block away from George Boyington, the local International Truck dealer and when the Brigden Fair rolled around every year, it would be polished to a shine for the parade.

Soon Charles gave Douglas the reins to Mackenzie Oil and retired. The business, built on a solid foundation of service and family values, expanded to include a depot in Sarnia (call Digby 4-1711), as well as a growing list of industrial and commercial customers.

When Douglas retired, Stuart and his son Charles Jr. continued to run the business the same way that Charles Sr. did all those years ago. In fact many of the companies and farmers that struck deals with Charles Sr. stuck to them with Stuart, many years later.

Many businesses have come and gone since Douglas first talked Charles Sr. into moving to Brigden. The chief factor in Mackenzie Oil's staying power has been the ability to handle your business, day in and day out.

That tradition continues today.