Jim Bray of Long Branch (Toronto) enjoyed racing stock cars in the 1950s

Jim Bray

Some years ago, I got a phone call from Jim Bray, who used to live on Villa Road in Long Branch.

As a result of the call, I got to know Jim Bray and his daughter Sandy Bray. The latter member of the family recently arranged for a Jim Bray Long Branch mini-tour which took place on Aug. 21, 2014. Quite a few people connected with the extended Jim Bray family turned up for the tour, from as far away as California. I had the good fortune to meet with all of them. Part of the tour included a Villa Road reunion visit.

On the right in the photo, from around the 1950s, is an Austin Healey sports car that Jim Bray used to race. Photo source: Sandy Bray

This is a photo of an Austin Healey sports car that Jim Bray used to park in the back yard of a house on the south side of Villa Road. Photo source: Sandy Bray

The highlight of the visit to Villa Road, for Jim Bray, was the opportunity to meet with Dorothy, who lives on the north side of Villa Road – and who also lived there when Jim Bray lived on Villa Road in the 1950s and early 1960s. They had a great conversation.

The Bray family lived on Villa Road from 1955 to 1963

The tour included stops, among other places, at houses where Jim Bray, who is now in his eighties, grew up, and the house where he lived with his young family from the mid-1950s until 1963.

I met some of the adults who used to live on Villa Road as children. It’s always a delight to hear stories about what kids were up to on the street 50 and more years ago.

A photo that I’ve included at this post shows Jim Bray and Sandy Bray (see photo below) at Villa Road in 1955. Another photo (top of page) features a car that Jim Bray used for racing. As well, we have two photos from the bug-eye version of the Austin Healey Sprite sports car that he owned.

As a result of the recent mini-tour, I’ve picked up many great photos. I’m pleased to have the opportunity to share some of them at this post.

When time permits, I will share additional details about the Jim Bray Long Branch mini-tour. We owe thanks to Sandy Bray for organizing this great event.

Austin Healy sports car

It’s a delight to see the photos of the Austin Healey Sprite sports car. I owned a used Sprite – it cost me $800, a considerable amount in those years – when I lived in Vancouver in the late 1960s and early 1970s while attending Simon  Fraser University.

The version that I had did not include the bug-eye headlights. The headlights by that stage were part of the front end of the car. I much enjoyed that car. With the top down, the experience was not unlike riding a motorcycle. You were close to the elements – to the wind and the rain, and to the small of the blossoms if you were driving through some orchard. I also learned that, with that model of the Sprite, if you pop the clutch, you break the axle. That happened to me twice, before I learned to be more careful about this detail.

The low centre of gravity of such a sports car means that you can readily initiate a controlled skid when driving around corners, such as on mountain roads. That’s a key feature of such a sports car. I look back on that driving experience with much pleasure. That was such a fun way to drive around the city and in the mountains.

Sandy Bray at age 2 and Jim Bray at age 22 at Villa Road in Long Branch, 1955. The vehicle in the driveway is a 1954 GMC pick-up. Photo copyright: Jack Bray and Sandy Bray

 

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