AudioNorm Epps interview
E. Brubaker (00:03):
And this is an interview with Norman Epps, better known as Norm Epps or Normie Epps, from Guelph. And it's being conducted in Guelph on Saturday, February 6th, 1999, and being conducted by Ed Brubaker for the Alumni in Action Oral History Committee.
E. Brubaker (00:39):
Norm, you were born and raised not too many miles in Guelph. Where was your home?
Norm Epps (00:45):
I was actually born in Barton township, Ed, which has now been completely engulfed by the city of Hamilton. If any of you are familiar with the new Lincoln Alexander expressway, it passed right through, and has completely removed the farm home, and the farm, and all the beautiful scenery that was around there at one time was springs, and areas where Indians had settled, at least had their bonfires, and camping grounds, and so on. That's all been taken away. The exact address was Paradise Road, which I thought it was rather appropriate.
Norm Epps (01:30):
Well, after about four years or so ... In fact, I think they sent me off to school a little before the legal age just probably to get me out of the house. And I went to a little one room school on Mohawk Road, which had been attended previously by my mother and by her father. And, eventually, this same building became a museum for the local teaching association or something like that that sponsored it. And I think it is still standing.
Norm Epps (01:57):
After a few years in that school, I headed out to a little more modern two room school in Lancaster township, where we had moved in, I don't know, 1932 or somewhere around that. And after completing education there, I went to Westdale Collegiate in Hamilton. It was rather interesting because the year that I started high school, the county decided that they would pick up the tab for education in Hamilton. Otherwise, I would've had to go to Caldonia, which was the county school, and transportation would've been impossible. So I probably wouldn't have been able to get a education. I don't know. I may have moved just into farming and that might have been the end of my career at that point. So I was rather fortunate in that aspect that I had an aunt who was taking her children to Hamilton, and then the county committee suggested they'd pick up the tab.
Norm Epps (02:49):
So I went to Westdale. I participated in track, and rifle team, and various different things there, which meant that oftentimes I had to miss my ride home and walk several miles, but it was worth it. And had a very interesting time there. And ended up after five years with a diploma saying I was graduating from high school.
Norm Epps (03:12):
And I went back and was on the farm for a few months, and decided that maybe the Air Force looked like a pretty interesting area to investigate. And I thought I had always been interested in flying, so joined the Air Force in 1943, and spent about two-and-a-half years there. I was a pilot, and ended up not going overseas. We had an overseas posting, but that was canceled, and I end up at the flying instructor school out in Pierce, Alberta. I did cover much of the west. I was stationed in Edmonton; Regina; Saskatoon; Dafoe, Saskatchewan; Gimli, Manitoba; a few of the places where I was stationed during those years that I was in Air Force.
E. Brubaker (04:01):
And what were you flying?
Norm Epps (04:04):
Actually, I was flying Cornell aircraft, Cessna Crane, a little time in a Harvard, Ansons for navigation work. And I guess that was all the ones that we covered. We were supposed to get checked out on Bolingbrokes, but the weather got kind of bad, and they got behind their flying, so we didn't make that. But those were the main ones that I flew.
E. Brubaker (04:24):
And you were instructing on?
Norm Epps (04:27):
E. Brubaker (04:27):
Norm Epps (04:27):
In Prince Albert, Saskatchewan.
E. Brubaker (04:31):
And how many hours did you put in here?
Norm Epps (04:36):
Oh, I've forgotten what I had. Not a lot, but I would think maybe 400 hours, something like that. It wasn't a lot. Let's see. I got in there. Well, as far as requirement where pilots were concerned, they were just on the edge when I went in. They needed pilots, and then all of a sudden, things turned and they weren't losing as many as before. Unless we had to move on into the Asian operations, and then they had enough pilots, and that's why they switched us from the overseas posting, I guess. But we were still on standby in case they needed us for the Japanese theater, which fortunately didn't happen.
Norm Epps (05:25):
After that stint, I worked for a little while, and I had always had the idea of attending OAC. And that was, I guess, in part because my father had attended short courses there when he was active in young people's activities around the farm, and he had told me what courses he'd taken there. And so it was a thought.
Norm Epps (05:47):
And he had sort of thought perhaps animal husbandry who would be a good area, and I didn't have a lot of experience. And we had a mixed farm, gardening and that sort of thing. And I think I knew from reading the calendar that it was necessary for you to have a certain amount of experience with cattle. Even though we did have some, we didn't have a lot, and I had no experience in dairy farming. So I was going to go out and get a job with a dairy farm, and that didn't happen. Like I say, they needed me at home, so I worked there for a while, and then headed out for OAC with the idea of animal husbandry, perhaps having to work maybe at the college then, or maybe out in the farm during to get the experience that I would need.
Norm Epps (06:39):
Anyway, that didn't happen because I got interested in a completely different field of bacteriology, and I ended up in the bacteriology option at Guelph. And it's something I haven't regretted. It seemed a very promising field at the time, and today, it's still developing. And a lot of breakthroughs they've had, like DNA testing we hear so much about now, actually had its infancy in that area where they were looking at comparing DNA of organisms, like E coli. So the whole area of virology, too, has expanded so much since the days when we were students, and we didn't even have the electron microscope to examine things, and we'd postulate what these things look like. And now, we've got breakdowns. We have a very good idea of what these things look like now.
E. Brubaker (07:35):
Okay. Norm, at college, you lived in residence for four years.
Norm Epps (07:41):
That's right. We started out in the one that was back behind, down the little lane way. There'd been a mate's dorm was back down in a little lane way by the golf course.
E. Brubaker (07:58):
Norm Epps (07:58):
No, I'll probably remember the name of later. I've forgotten now, but we started in there for the first year. And then after that, I guess, in second year, we moved to Mate's Dormitory, and then third and fourth year were both spent in Mills Hall.
Norm Epps (08:12):
I remember, in the first residence, George Arbuckle was there, and he was a skier. He was going to give us a demonstration of his skiing abilities because we could step out the back door, and we were looking right out onto the golf course there, Cutten Club. And I remember he stepped out with the skis, and he was all ready to put on a big demonstration, and something happened. One of the skis came loose, and went down across the golf course, and that was the end of our demonstration. He had to walk down through the snow, and pick up the ski, and start all over again.
Norm Epps (08:51):
I remember one of the students had bought himself a nice, new Chevy car. And, of course, a new car in those days was something. And they were heading out. He used to take some of the students with him. I think he lived in Toronto, and he would take some of the students home with him on the weekend, or give them a ride to Toronto. So we get out to this day, and we fixed up a big sign, "Just Married" we put on the back of the car. And, of course, they took off, and there was five guys in the car driving down. Everybody was tooting at them. They didn't know the sign was on the back of the car. So I think there's a picture of that somewhere in my collection. It was kind of funny. I was just trying to remember who it was, but, anyway, I'm sure they'll know when they hear it.
Norm Epps (09:39):
Oh, we used to do terrible things sometimes to our roommates, like taking their beds and setting them up in the washroom, or I think at one time, they used to have a court, remember that? For the students. So they conducted a little court, and somebody got charged. I think it was Hugh Shepherd. Somebody got charged. They put cigarette tobacco in the coffee maker, and I guess it was Dick Goman came in and tried the coffee, and just about poisoned him. And, anyway, somebody got charged with putting this in there, and I remember I defended him at the ... I think it was Sam Davidson, actually. That's who it was that was charged. And I was his defense counsel at the student hearing there, and I had him wear a long sleeved sweater. And when the case came up, and I had him pull his sleeves down over his hands. And I said, "There's no way my client could have carried out this because, look, he has no hands." But anyway, they fined him anyway. We didn't win that one.
Norm Epps (10:48):
There were quite a few pranks along the way. I remember when we moved into Mate's Dorm in second year, we took somebody's bedroom, I think, and filled it all full of furniture and things so you couldn't even get the door open. I think that was Fred Wilson's room. Maybe we did that. And Forschow was our dean, of course, at the time there, and I think he earned his money that year that we were in there.
Norm Epps (11:14):
During the final year in Mills Hall, it seemed a lot of water fights occurred. And there certainly are pictures to prove that. There's a number of 49 people, I think, involved in the escapades.
Norm Epps (11:29):
And during the time at Guelph also, a friend of mine from Lancaster and I owned a Tiger Moth aircraft, and we had an involvement with year members a number of ways. We flew it down to Al France's wedding. He was married in the Renfrew area in place called Northcote. And we flew down early one on Saturday morning, left home about 5:00, and stopped in Peterborough for gas at what we thought was an airport. It turned out to be a grassy field that was not in very good shape. We managed to get gassed up, a little delayed. We ended up getting into Northcote, and found the church, and it was getting pretty close to 11:00 deadline. We flew around and we found a field right close beside the church, and made a pass, and cleared the horses and cows away, and landed in the field. We didn't have to worry about being late because the ushers all took off and ran over to greet us in the field, and left the guests standing at the door. So we were able to arrive on time.
Norm Epps (12:36):
Coming back, we were a little short of gas, so at the farm there, they had some tractor gas on hand. So we strained that, and put it into the Tiger, and flew from there down to a regular airfield, and picked up gas and some oil, and headed back to Guelph with no problem. And I landed it once ... I think it would be in the spot where the Village by the Arboretum was located now. We landed there and took a few classmates up for a ride, and also flew out to the St. George area where Dick Goman's family farm was, and we took up Dick, I think, and his brother. I'm not sure if anyone else or not.
Norm Epps (13:17):
But the Tiger Moth wasn't really the greatest plane for flying out of fields, but somehow we survived. And we used to take up passengers at fall fairs. I'd been to I think it was a Schweken Fair, and Acton Fair, and Erin Fair, few those places. And making enough money so you could buy gas, and have a little fun playing around, doing a few aerobatics and so on.
Norm Epps (13:40):
Also, a few pranks that occurred during our time on campus. There was what they called I think it was a Rose Bowl, a Rose Pond there, and Professor Baker was in charge of UNTD on campus, and somehow there was a lot of construction going on. There was a lot of that duck walk, I guess. Was it duck walk or duck board they called those things they put across the mud bowls when construction was on? Well, we borrowed maybe 10 foot section of that, and we borrowed some other things, and we made a little barge and put it on the Rose Bowl, and called it Commander Baker's Barge. He came back from lunch the day it happened. This thing was floating around, and someone standing near him as he observed it indicated that he was not really impressed, I guess, with our little escapade. But I thought it was very fitting.
Norm Epps (14:37):
I remember in those days, on campus, the graduating year stayed on campus for an extra couple of weeks or so for examinations, and usually there'd be some kind of a prank done by the graduating year. Sort of relieved the tension a bit. So that year, we got the cannon, and dragged it up and put it right in front of Creelman Hall, which was, I guess, the first time that had happened maybe. It was pretty heavy, but having a good year, we managed to ... I think we borrowed some rope from the horse barn or somewhere, and all these people on there, we dragged it up, wheels skidding, and got it mounted there.
Norm Epps (15:17):
And then we also rented a Hurricane aircraft that had been purchased by a local man. And I think he charged $15 or something in rent. We put it on the back of truck that belonged to a class member, and the wings separately, and brought it down and assembled it right in front of Johnson Hall, and stood it up on its nose. One of the interesting things about that is that Dr. McLaughlin, I guess, at that time was in the Botany Department, and as he come into work, he spotted this thing here. And somebody told him that it was me who had flown it in and landed there in front of Johnson Hall. Well, that was no problem. It's nice to be famous.
Norm Epps (16:06):
But, later years, back in 1954, when I started working at the Department of Bacteriology, the chairman of the department, of course, any new employee had to go over and have it okayed by the president. And he looked at it, and he says, "Isn't that the fellow that landed that plane in front of the Johnson hall?" He says, "I don't know whether they'd want a guy like that around or not." But, anyway, he assured him that I had matured a little in interim, and they signed the papers, and I did start to work there.
Norm Epps (16:34):
There are a number of pranks that went on, some of them with McMaster University. They were, of course, our rivals in football. And they came over one Saturday morning, I think it was, and there was a game coming up, and they dropped some toilet paper on the campus here at Guelph. So to retaliate, we went down, and we rented a plane. I think it was Dick Goman, myself, and Jerry Krober, I think. And we got a lot of toilet paper from our janitor in Mills Hall, but it wasn't quite enough, so we went out and we got ... I think the year donated a few bucks, and we went down and got a couple cases of toilet paper. And as it turned out, the paper that the college was supplying was not high quality paper, and when we went down and released this over McMaster, and incidentally the football team was out practicing on the campus at the time, the stuff that we got from the college didn't unroll. It just dropped. And it's lucky we didn't hit anybody. We would've killed them.
Norm Epps (17:47):
But the stuff we bought was little fluffier, and it unraveled. And the bad news was that there was quite a strong west wind that day. And instead of landing on the campus, this good stuff drifted across into Westy on all the fancy homes there, and their big blue spruce trees were all covered with toilet paper. I was a little worried because, in the first place, I was probably a little below the level that I should have been legally over the city. And I thought, man, this may be the end of my license, but nothing ever came of it.
Norm Epps (18:18):
And, actually, in the old days, there was a airport down the east end of Hamilton. That's where we rented the plane. Then we flew out to the Mount Hope airport, loaded up, carried the bombing mission, and then came back to Mount Hope again because we had to take some toilet paper off the tail of the plane before we took it back to the other airport. We didn't want them to know what we'd been doing.
Norm Epps (18:40):
So that was one of the pranks, and it turned out pretty good, I guess.
Norm Epps (18:44):
I was thinking of some of the profs at the college when I was a student. One I remember especially is John Wheel. And, of course, I got to know him better after I joined the faculty there. But I always remember a classmate of mine, Don Petit, he and John Wheel used to speak a lot to women's clubs and that sort of thing on horticulture, and my friend, Don Petit, and I used to go along sometimes and put on a little entertainment at the beginning of his lectures. And then, in return, we usually got a free meal, which was very nice.
Norm Epps (19:17):
However, one of the lectures apparently, one that we weren't attending, which was attended by Dr. McLaughlin's wife, apparently John told a story that some people thought was a little off color. And when the word came back via Mrs. McLaughlin to her husband, I guess John was told that he would have to not appear at some of these lectures for a period of time. And so when he sent out his notice to the people telling him he couldn't fulfill his obligations, he said the reason, "Doctor's orders," but he didn't say it wasn't his medical doctor. It was actually Dr. McLaughlin. I thought that was rather a funny one.
Norm Epps (19:57):
John was a great man, and the one prof that certainly stands out in my memory. He came to the college while we were students here. We were, I guess, his first group that he lectured, and he did outstanding job over the years.
E. Brubaker (20:13):
Norm, who was Dr. McLaughlin?
Norm Epps (20:15):
Dr. McLaughlin was in the botany department when we were students. He taught us. Excellent teacher. And then he became President of Federated Colleges, and, later, the first president of University of Guelph.
E. Brubaker (20:27):
Norm, did you make any good friends in college that you've kept in touch with over the years?
Norm Epps (20:33):
Well, there are quite a few, I guess, ed, including yourself. And Hugh Shepherd and I were good buddies for a number of years. And Hugh went to OVC following graduation from OAC, and has practiced veterinary medicine out in Alberta for number of years. I believe he is retired now. We don't keep in as close touch as we had. Christmastime, we always exchange greetings, and I did manage at least on two occasions to drop in and see him at his home out there. And I'm working now and Dave Adam's working, too, I guess, trying to see if we can get him back for the 50th.
Norm Epps (21:16):
Sam Davidson, who actually dropped out after second year I guess it was, he and I have kept in touch, and we do see each other regularly or fairly often anyway. And he drops in. He and his wife drop in often, his son drops in occasionally. He has a son, Cameron, who went to OAC as well. And, yeah, we have kept in touch over the years, and it's very nice to have people like this that you can, when you're traveling along, just say, "Hey, I'm going to be down in the Coburg area. Let's drop in and see Sam." Or if he's in Guelph, we say, "Well, we'll drop in and see Norm."
Norm Epps (21:55):
And Fred Wilson, of course, still in here, and I've kept in touch with him over the years as well. And, of course, a number of our people on campus here, Jack Douglas I worked with here at university on campus for over the 30 years. And Tom Lane, of course, a classmate here on campus. And Bert Reinhardt and Ed Brubaker, of course I mentioned before, has kept in touch with over the years as well.
Norm Epps (22:23):
So, yes, there's been a number of friendships there that were made during the years, and some other ones that we were friends during our four years here, but haven't seen that often since. But you often think of these people, wonder how they're doing. And now when this publication is coming out, we'll be able to update ourselves, and find out what everybody has been doing over the years. That'll be very interesting.
E. Brubaker (22:47):
Norm, what did you do after you graduated from college?
Norm Epps (22:51):
Well, after graduation, Ed, I worked for a time as a poultry blood tester for salmonella pullorum testing in Ontario. And then I worked actually for the interior government. It was administered through OAC by Harvey Petit in the poultry department of OAC. And I also went out and did blood testing for private hatcheries. And, for a time, I worked as a blood tester and poultry health worker with a large turkey hatchery, rearing operation hatchery, and turkey rearing operation.
Norm Epps (23:32):
And during that time, I traveled extensively through southern Ontario in the fall of 1949 blood testing, I think ... Traveled all the way from Cornwall. We tested on Manitoulin Island. And I remember when I was in Manitoulin, they used to have a big beef cattle sale there, and I remember seeing Frank Wolf, who we had known during our undergraduate days, he was there at sale. And we went away up further north and west beyond Manitoulin Island to several places there. So I covered the province pretty well that fall.
Norm Epps (24:12):
And following that, in 1954, I received an invitation from the Department of Bacteriology to joined their group, and working again in the blood testing area. But when I started at OAC in 1954, one of my responsibilities was the production of legume inoculants, which at that time were distributed mainly through the agricultural representatives. And I can't remember exactly, but it seemed to me we used to produce 15,000 seems like a figure. I think it may have been around that amount that we produced each year for distribution.
Norm Epps (24:54):
In addition to that, of course, we had the department there, where in charge of the salmonella pullorum blood testing. They had a tube test that was done in the laboratory for turkeys, and they had what they called a rapid field test that could be carried out on the flocks right in the field. The advantage of the field test was that any birds that reacted to the test could be taken out immediately from the flock, whereas when you did the tube test in the lab, you had to send out numbers, and they had to go around and check through all the birds, and find the clout that's in there, which made it a little more difficult.
Norm Epps (25:32):
So that went on for a number of years. And in addition to, I supervised the blood testers in the field, trained them, and in the fall, that took up a great deal of my time. So it was really a lot of extension work in my early days there. And that extension work carried on throughout much of the 30 years that I was on campus to include things like hatchery sanitation, and the use of formaldehyde fumigation in hatcheries. And during that time, I worked with people like Meritt Wright and George Anderson, who had done a lot of the groundwork in that area previous to my appearing on the scene.
Norm Epps (26:13):
In addition to the field blood testing, any chickens or turkeys that showed suspicious reactions to the test had to be sent in for postmortem examination, and I did my most of that for a number of years. And we also looked after samples, feed samples. Sometimes there'd be problems with contamination, or suspected contamination, in the poultry feeds. And we would process them, and made many calls out to hatcheries in early hours of the morning because that's when the hatches usually came off, and we'd be there to collect material and monitor for not only for the salmonella pullorum, which was the original one that we're looking for, but also for various other salmonella that were creeping into the system.
Norm Epps (27:00):
So, over the years, we had a very closely liaison with the poultry industry, mainly with the hatcheries, and, indeed, with some of the growers as well. So I had seen it go from where you were finding reactors to the salmonella pullorum testing very often, and they simply have to pack up and leave, and the birds in could be destroyed or whatever they wished to do with them. They simply couldn't qualify for hatching.
Norm Epps (27:33):
I'd seen it go from the stage where we saw many, many flocks being turned down to the stage where it's now a named disease, and there are very, very few cases of salmonella pullorum in the poultry industry, as far as I know, at present time. Maybe some in wild birds that we're not detecting, but in the commercial version, we've seen a tremendous reduction now. So it's not really the problem that was back in ... Well, starting back in the twenties, I guess. And so bad in those days that hatcheries were having to close their doors because they simply couldn't produce enough viable chicks or pullets to replace the ones that were dying that they'd sent out previously. So it has been a tremendous improvement there. And I like to think that some way I may have made some contribution to that improvement, even though it may very small.
Norm Epps (28:26):
So in order to achieve this control, a lot of people working together in various areas managed to get the level of this down, and a lot of it was due to simply the blood test in the first place, and, secondly, to the improved sanitation practices that were followed in hatcheries and in environments where the birds were being grown and so on. So there were all these things working together. It was a good overall effect was that the incidence is down to the point where we don't think too much about it anymore. I guess it's always a possibility, but it has been brought into control.
E. Brubaker (29:08):
You're still watching for it in the industry.
Norm Epps (29:12):
Yeah, I'm not up to date on what industry's doing at the present time, but I'm certain that there's still some. But out there in the wild population, there's always a possibility of it crossing back into the commercial breeds, I'm sure.
E. Brubaker (29:25):
But you feel it's no longer a threat to that poultry industry these days.
Norm Epps (29:29):
I think they have a good handle on that, I'd say, at present time. So it's really one they worry about night and day anymore.
E. Brubaker (29:35):
That's wonderful. Norm, can you tell us about some of the research work that you did while you were here at the university?
Norm Epps (29:42):
Well, most of the research that I did was concerned with salmonella. My PhD research was looking at the effects of gamma radiation on salmonella in poultry feeds. And also there was a public health aspect there that people were wondering what might happen to a facility, or at least to the salmonella, if they got into a facility where radiation was taking place. And if they got irradiated serially day after day, if these things were exposed, what might happen? Was there a chance of a new super bug coming out of the system, and then perhaps getting back and causing a problem? So that I addressed, to some extent, as well.
Norm Epps (30:24):
The work was done actually out of ...
E. Brubaker (30:26):
Norm Epps (30:32):
McDonald College, right. And, fortunately, right near there was a facility that had been built originally to radiate potatoes to inhibit sprouting. And so the facility was there, and we found that it would accommodate our bags of feed that we wanted to get irradiated. And this worked out very well for us.
Norm Epps (30:53):
What we found was that, at fairly low levels, yes, we could control salmonella. In order to see what would happen if these salmonella got into the radiation facility and contaminated it so that they were being serially irradiated each time that our batches of feed were being done, in order to set up an experiment, we, in the laboratory, exposed these organisms to the same level of a radiation that we were giving to the animal feed, but we did it a number of times. And what we found was that the organisms that survived were indeed different. They would probably be detectable using routine tests, although they were slightly altered. But the big thing was that they had lost their ability to infect, so they really were not going to pose a problem.
Norm Epps (31:48):
And as I said, the radiation of the feed itself at the levels that we were using did control the salmonella. And there has been some interest in this over the years. This was done back in 1968. Every once in a while, we hear the idea of being put forward that perhaps you should be irradiating some of these things, but I don't think, present time, hasn't received large scale use. It's always something we perhaps look forward to in the future.
Norm Epps (32:21):
In addition, some of the research that I'd done was concerned with the structure of the lipopolysaccharide, the outer coating of the salmonella, which is involved in a way in its ability to cause disease. And there was some interesting work done there. And I also got involved later on in looking at the structure of the avian egg shell from the standpoint of the protective coats on the outside, and whether or not the pore size was large enough to admit for bacteria to be able to get in there. And we looked at the inner membranes to try to see what their role would be in penetration by bacteria like the salmonella and pseudomonas. Pseudomonas, of course, are involved in our egg spoilage.
E. Brubaker (33:13):
Norm, you've used several very technical terms here. Could you spell them out for us?
Norm Epps (33:20):
Okay, Ed. The lipopolysaccharide would be L-I-P-O-P-O-L-Y-S-A-C-C-H-A-R-I-D-E. I hope that's right. And the pseudomonas are P-S-E-U-D-O-M-O-N-A-S. Pseudomonas. That sounds right. And they're a bacteria that characteristic could produce some pigment. And they also are very resistant to antibiotics, and they can be bad actors. And if you break open an egg, which we very seldom see this sort of spoilage now in our eggs, but it can happen. If you get a greenish, blueish color, that's probably the pseudomona that's doing the damage there.
Norm Epps (34:07):
For a number of years. I taught the large introductory courses in microbiology, which in some cases were in excess of 500 students per semester. And, in addition, we ran a large laboratory section, and I worked in those as well. So I got know a number of students over the years, and I still time to time meet up with someone who had taken the introductory micro there. I ran into a veterinarian the other day in Guelph, and he says, "I think I recognize you." And, sure enough, he'd taken the introductory micro way back several years ago. So kind of interesting to run into these people, and have a little chat with them. And I don't ever ask them how they like the course in case they might give me a adverse reaction, but sometimes they say it was good, and I guess they don't want to tell me if it was bad.
E. Brubaker (34:51):
When you say 500 students, this would not all be one class?
Norm Epps (34:55):
No. The way it was in those days ... I'm not sure now. I know they have started going to larger classes, but probably three sections. So we would have maybe up to 200 in a classroom. Yeah. That's about what physical science 105, the lecture room in there I think was held somewhere in that range.
Norm Epps (35:19):
I was married in 1951 to Eileen Skews from the Hamilton area, and I have three daughters, Cathy, Carrie, and Cindy. One daughter living in Brampton and two in the Guelph area. And, unfortunately, Eileen passed away in 1996. We have six grandchildren, and they keep me pretty busy at times. They drop in often to see me. And, in fact, last Sunday, my son-in-law left his Ski-Doo at the house, so I went out and took a spin on that. And still keeping fairly active, and enjoying the outdoor life, and wildlife out in Puslinch township.
E. Brubaker (36:05):
Okay. Norm, you told me earlier that you got a nice Christmas present that you remember...
Norm Epps (36:16):
Oh, that's right. Yeah. My children gave me a membership in the War Heritage Museum in Mount Hope, and, apparently, included with this is a trip into Harvard. So I'll be looking forward to that. The last time I flew a Harvard was in 1944, I guess, out in Pierce, Alberta, at flying instructor school. We put in a few hours on them there, and I can remember waking a few people up in the morning when we slipped the old Harvard into fine pitch to go around again, and be sure we woke everybody up in the barracks there on a Sunday morning was all very popular. So maybe I can try that again.
E. Brubaker (36:53):
You still have fond memories of a Harvard though.
Norm Epps (36:55):
Oh, they're a very nice plane, yeah. I always remember somebody telling me that when you're flying one of those, if you stalled in the top of the loop, that they would automatically do a roll off the top sort of thing. So I thought, well, I'll give it a try. So I up stalled in top of the loop, took my hands off the stick, and then flipped over and did probably a better one than I could have done with the hands on.
E. Brubaker (37:16):
Okay. Yeah, they were good on acrobatics.
Norm Epps (37:18):
Oh, yeah. Very good.
E. Brubaker (37:19):
Had lots of power in the engine. 600 horsepower.
Norm Epps (37:22):
Something like that. Yeah. And there's still a lot of them around. They're still flying.
E. Brubaker (37:25):
Yep, and you can always recognize the sound of a Harvard.
Norm Epps (37:29):
Absolutely. That's right, their characteristic all right.
E. Brubaker (37:31):
And characteristic of the propeller.
Norm Epps (37:35):
Actually, I had a chance to visit the museum last year, and my granddaughter and her boyfriend wanted to go down, and they said asked me if I'd like to go along because he had an uncle that had flown one of the planes or something that was down there, and he wanted to get down and see it. So on the way down, I said, "Knowing my luck, probably the place will be closed today." When we arrived, the local John Bear, I think it is, GM dealer down there had taken over the hangar for a big car sales, and some of the aircraft are outside, and the rest of them were all pushed over to one side. But we did see the planes, and the good news was they didn't charge us to go in that day.
Norm Epps (38:15):
So I'm going to get back. I'm going to try to get back shortly. And now that I'm a member, I better get in. And incidentally, they have a nice display up in memory of Al Ness, who was a classmate of ours. And it's up in the lobby in there, too.
E. Brubaker (38:29):
Al was killed at the CNE, demonstrating a heritage plane.
Norm Epps (38:35):
That's right. That's right, yep. Quite a few years back now.
E. Brubaker (38:40):
Norm, I think you have an interest in old cars.
Norm Epps (38:44):
Well, yes I have, and it actually goes back quite a long time. In fact, when I was a student here in Guelph, I had a 1921 Model-T Ford coupe, and I used to drive it up sometimes. And, of course, in the Model-T, you could take the key out, but they could still start them without too much trouble. So I was sitting in the old biology building, I think, one day, and I looked out, and I saw my Model-T Ford go flying down the driveway there. And I thought, "I hope this person knows how to stop that thing," because they didn't have the greatest brakes in the world. Now, as it turns out, somebody had found out how to start it. They'd taken it all right, so from that time on, when I arrived on Sunday nights from Hamilton, I'd always take the steering wheel out. People used to wonder why I was walking up the hall carrying this steering wheel, but that way, they could start it, but they couldn't drive it very well. So that was one of the ways to curb borrowing my car.
Norm Epps (39:46):
I've forgotten what happened. I think the motor quit or something on that, and I finally had to let that one go. But what I have at the present time, and since retirement in 1985, I have spent a lot of time working on a 1928 Model-A Ford that belonged originally to my grandfather. And although it got sold out of the family for a short period of time, I did manage to get it back. And actually that was the car that I drove when I first got married for a short period of time. And then the police were stopping me all time for headlights, and brakes, and this sort of thing, and I had to move on to something better. But, anyway, it's been restored now almost completely, and it's on the road. It's licensed. The license number is IMA28A, "I'm a '28 A."
Norm Epps (40:33):
And I have been participating in some club activities. We've gone on tours around, and I'm getting a little more confidence all the time that it's reliable. And I think, well, maybe about 125 miles on one of our tours, not too bad. It's running well, has the original motor in it. And I have pictures of it back in the days when my grandfather was driving it, and also I have memories of riding in the rumble seat of that same car back in the 30s when I wasn't all that old either. So now I have my grandchildren riding in it.
Norm Epps (41:03):
So it's got a long history there, and runs well. I went out the other day and hadn't started it for about three months, and turned on the key, hooked up the battery, and away she went. So good, reliable, old car, and it's been a lot of fun for me rebuilding it.
Norm Epps (41:20):
And I was president of the local Model-A club for a while, and still a member. And it's a very good hobby if anyone is interested in old cars. You can certainly spend a lot of time and a lot of money, but you're going to get a lot of pleasure back out of it. Certainly well worth it.
E. Brubaker (41:36):
When you talk about restoring the car, what did you do?
Norm Epps (41:39):
Yeah. Actually, when it got sold over the family, the chap that bought it, and actually he was going to prepare it, and he and his son were going to take a trip out to British Columbia. So he had the motor rebuilt. So I didn't really have to do a lot to the motor, although I did strip it down, but it was a complete restoration. Where I lived before, one winter, I had the frame, the motor all down in the basement, and the body was taken apart, and it was stripped down completely. So it's been rebuilt right from the ground up.
Norm Epps (42:11):
And although, as I said, the motor was rebuilt, I did strip it down when I headed the basement, and there was a little problem with the valves that I got corrected. So I've done a lot of work myself, and I've farmed a lot of it out, too. The body work, of course, I couldn't do. And it's not exactly 100% the way I'd like to have it, but it doesn't look too bad from a distance, and certainly runs good. And a lot of people have said, boy, they wished their old Model-A sounded as good as that one. So it's doing well.
E. Brubaker (42:36):
And was there rust on it?
Norm Epps (42:40):
There were some places that rusted out, but a lot of it is original metal in there. But I had to replace the rear fenders. The front fenders I got rebuilt. It's kind of unique in that it has double side mount tires, which you don't see that often, and it has a trunk on the back. Most of them had a spare tire. And it has a rumble seat, of course. And has things like electric windshield wiper, and I managed to find an original Ford to replace the one that had quit working on there. And has the original headlights, all those sorts of things. I tried to keep it as original as possible. Some people go out on tours, they add alternators and all kinds of things to them, but I want the old generator, and I'm not going to drive it down to Florida or something like that. It'll be short hauls probably, and keep it as original as possible.
E. Brubaker (43:27):
So you still have the six volt battery?
Norm Epps (43:29):
Six volt system still intact. That's right. A lot of people go to 12 and put on the 12 volt, all the meters and things. But, no, it's there. The only major thing I changed was that front motor mount was solid on the '28s, and I did take that off and change that, and put in a spring loaded system that you used in '29, '30 and '31. But outside of that, I haven't made many changes. It has the original old multi-disc clutch in there, and it's got a red steering wheel. In fact, being a '28, that was the first year they made them. There's some carryovers from the Model-T days in the size of starter shafts and those kinds of things, and different kind of touch setup and flywheel, and those things.
Norm Epps (44:13):
But it's looking good. And it's in the original colors, what they call dark Niagara blue. And 21 inch tires. It's looking good. So I'm going to have it out for the reunion.
E. Brubaker (44:30):
Oh, good. And you can still get parts for it?
Norm Epps (44:31):
Parts are very plentiful. The dealers compete. They're made offshore, but there's some parts you can't get, of course. I have a spare generator, and actually call them a powerhouse generator in those days because they were producing a little more than they really needed. They were a little rough on batteries, and they just kept on charging. But I have a spare, and what I didn't know was that there's a little Bakelite part in there that you cannot replace. And I didn't handle it probably as carefully as I should have, but it survived. And so I have one of those in tact in both of my powerhouse generators, but I didn't realize until after I get through rebuilding that these parts you just cannot get.
E. Brubaker (45:16):
Norm, thank you very much for this interview today. And this has been an interview with Norman Epps of the OAC at Guelph on February 6th, 1999.