This is the first in a three-part series remembering John Fleming who served as a driver and mechanic in the First World War. Part 1 focuses on his early life and his fascination with automobiles, including his collection of annotated photographs from the earliest days of motoring.
John Fleming was born in Glasgow on May 21, 1888 to John Thomson Fleming and Marion Stewart. The family was living at 11 New City Road in 1897 when John’s father died tragically of meningitis at just 38. At some point after 1901 Marion and her four children moved to Kilmarnock where John became an apprentice with the Dunlop Motor Company.
The first of two galleries includes photos taken between 1906 and 1908 in Kilmarnock. The captions feature John’s handwritten notes from the back of each photo.
On May 29, 1909 John, his mother Marion, sisters Margaret and Mary, and Wallace (possibly a cousin) departed Glasgow aboard the S.S. Cassandra bound for Montreal. They settled in Saskatchewan, primarily in Rouleau, 40 miles southwest of Regina.
In 1911 John was lodging at a home on Rouleau’s Main Street and described himself as an Engineer working at a garage, likely the Excelsior Garage referred to in two of the photos below. In December 1912 John married Maggie Dalrymple Goldie in Moose Jaw and began raising his family in Rouleau. His son Roy was born in 1914 and a daughter Edith followed in August 1915.
The second gallery features John’s photos from his early days in Rouleau and includes the first car he ever owned, an Orient Buckboard. It also includes a series of three photos taken in June 1915 when a group of six motorists made the journey from Keota, Iowa to Rouleau:
“There were 6 cars we all stayed together for a week and helped each other through mud holes. I was 17 days on the road and it rained 14 of them. I lost 9 lbs in weight on the trip”
In December 1915 John enlisted with the Canadian Army Service Corps in Winnipeg. Part two will feature a letter and photos from his time in France in 1916 and 1917.