These two photos from 1963 illustrate a spectacular car accident which, fortunately, did not result in serious injury. A Despatch taxi driven by its owner, Charles Wedley, was rear-ended by a truck and sent through the front window of a bank. The bank had already closed for the night, so there were no staff or customers to get in the way.
More interesting than the accident is Wedley himself. At 82 years old he was reputedly the oldest active cabbie in Canada, and his career in Winnipeg spanned a large piece of local taxicab history.
Wedley was a 21-year-old Boer War veteran when he emigrated from England to Winnipeg in 1902. He landed a job driving a carriage for local businessman Ed Cass, and then became a chauffeur when Cass bought his first automobile.
Wedley was part of the plague of jitney drivers who sprang up between 1914 and 1918, scooping fares from streetcar stops and driving electric railway companies to the brink of bankruptcy all over North America.
When jitneys were outlawed in Winnipeg in 1918, Wedley was one of 35 ex-jitney drivers who formed Despatch Taxi. Over the years, as other drivers dropped out, Wedley became owner of the company and had a fleet of half a dozen cabs during the 1940's.
In later years, Wedley trimmed his fleet down to one cab. Each summer he and his wife would drive it down to Mexico for a holiday, Mrs. Wedley riding in the back seat and posing as a wealthy eccentric who had hired him for the trip.
Although he was only slightly shaken up by his accident, the experience made Wedley think about retiring. In the end he changed his mind and continued driving his taxi until 1966.
Some of Wedley's account books from between 1920 and 1966 are in the Provincial Archives of Manitoba.
Picture source: Provincial Archives of Manitoba, Winnipeg Free Press Collection, Aug. 24, 1963; photograph by Dave Johnson.
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Revised February 13, 1998