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A passion for wheels

Fourth in a series of pioneer profiles

Crescent Valley’s Ray Kosiancic was acquiring vehicles before he could legally drive them.

In 1947, at age 14, he bought a tired and worn 1928 Model A Ford for $150 and put in a rebuilt motor. The following year, he got his driver’s license.

Since then he’s owned and driven all manner of automobiles, from school buses to milk trucks, farm equipment to classic cars — as often as not rescuing them from oblivion.

“I have about a dozen, but some don’t count,” he says. “They need to be restored. I’ve got models I really like but I’m not going to do it. Takes a lot of time, and at this stage I just enjoy driving them.”

(His favourite is a yellow 1972 GM Screaming Jimmy that has Slocan Motor Freight decaled on the side.)

Kosiancic has restored all three of his father’s trucks, beginning with a 1927 Chev one-ton used on the family farm, which he and his siblings learned to drive on.

“It was a workhorse for years, up until 1950 when Dad bought a new GMC ton and a half. We used that truck for delivering wood and sawdust when the sawmill was running.”

Long abandoned in the field by the time Kosiancic set to work, “it was in terrible shape,” with the old wooden cab falling off.

“So I started out from a frame and restored the wheels, put a steam engine in it, built a body for it, and spent a good three years just working on that little truck. It’s become quite famous, especially with the steam clubs.”

He also has the 1950 GMC plus a 1937 three-ton that were in equally bad shape, but have since been returned to their original glory.

Some of Kosiancic’s vintage cars have been in movies: he rented them out for Snow Falling on Cedars — although covered with fake snow, they were unrecognizable. An all-day shoot aboard the old MV Anscomb on Kootenay Lake resulted in a one-second scene.

His vehicles and farm will be shown to better advantage in the forthcoming L.V. Rogers production Project Turquoise Snowflake. Kosiancic turned down a speaking part — he appears in the background “here and there” — but the farm was one of the primary sets.

“Old vehicles, plus everything from the house to the shop to the garden, to views of the land. They did a lot of shooting out here,” he says.

Kosiancic, 78, still owns 15 acres of the original 400-acre family property his grandfather acquired more than a century ago. He grew up helping his uncle Jack on the farm, and then bought it when he was 24, after much haggling with the bank.

“I finally got a down payment and went from there. It was so hard because there wasn’t much income and I didn’t really know what to do. I tried a little of everything from pigs to chickens to some root crop.”

But what really paid the bills was milk. He and late wife Ida ran Raida’s Dairy (a combination of their first names) and delivered raw milk from Slocan Park to Corra Linn until tightened regulations forced them to quit in the early 1970s.

Kosiancic then spent 25 years as a popular school bus driver — and after retirement, bought his own bus, “just for the hell of it.”

His family photos are featured throughout Rita Moir’s recent book, The Third Crop, whose title he helped inspire.

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