BRACEBRIDGE — Muskokans have seen the Hammond name on the side of buses for decades, but 2019 marks a milestone achievement for the company as it celebrates 75 years moving people from point A to point B.
Greg Hammond has been with the company for 35 years and is the president. As we circle a specially wrapped Prevost motor coach he points out the historical photos that help make up the unique montage telling the company’s history.
His father, Orv, who passed away in 2017 at age 88, started the company at a very young age, striking out on his own to create Park and then ultimately Hammond Taxi, as a 14-year-old in the 1940s.
“Back then, if you had a company that would sign, it was OK to get your licence at age 14 during the war,” explains Greg.
“Locals called it Pearly Gates taxi because if you wanted to ride to the Pearly Gates you would ride with (Orv and George Parlett) driving,” Greg says with a chuckle.
As the company’s website reports, “Over the years (Orv) owned and operated a Regent and BA gas station, garage, ambulance, trucking, school and charter bus services, Hammond Transportation Ltd. and Bracebridge Bus Lines, employing hundreds of people whom he considered to be a part of his family.”
Greg went to business school and quickly tied in the lessons in the classroom to real-world applications at the company.
Through the 1940s, Orv bought a delivery service and expanded his business empire. In 1950 came an opportunity to provide school bus service for Monck Township.
“It was Golden Beach Road to Monck Township school,” recalls Greg. What followed were acquisitions of other small, regional school bus companies. That business expanded into the charter business, as well, with the company taking people across Canada and into the United States.
Hammond provides regular school bus service in Muskoka, Simcoe, Parry Sound and Haliburton, with the charter service providing coverage into the Toronto area.
“We have around 220 vehicles currently,” Greg says.
Walk the halls of Hammond’s head office in Bracebridge, and within a few feet, you will run into someone with the name Hammond. Greg lists off names of various family members who work for the company, numbering a half-dozen or more. Scott is director of operations, Derek runs the maintenance operations, while Kent takes care of the travel business, just to name a few.
They, for the most part, have come from other companies, eventually finding their way to the family business after years working in other fields.
It is a trend that is dying off, says Greg. His kids worked some summer jobs but have not shown much interest, and the same seems to be true of other employees’ children, he says.
The prospects for the future remain good; however, he is quick to tell you full automation of driverless buses will not be happening any time soon, though he does see a day where a human would be on board as backup to a driverless system.
On Sunday night, Dec. 1, more than 200 employees celebrated the company’s anniversary with a dinner at the Deerhurst Resort in Huntsville. Many dignitaries attended, lauding the success of the small company started by a teenage Orv and expanded into a large company that employs multiple generations of Hammonds.