Around the Nation
by Tom Van Dusen
You know a guy has got to love vintage automobiles when he chooses not to crush a good portion of the ones that wind up in his licensed scrap yard for the recycling cash, preferring to let them dissolve with dignity, slowly disappearing into the undergrowth.
And you know the same guy has to love live music when he installs a venue at this same scrap yard and gives regional performers a chance to shine, pre-COVID-19, on a regular basis throughout the summer. That guy, Joe Martelle, promises to bring the music back along with the scrap yard photo groupies when pandemic protocols permit.
The combo is called The Barn at the Bone Yard. It says so right on the sign custom-painted on an old Ford hood at the entrance to the premises off Wynand Road north of Cardinal. The Martelles have operated a vehicle dumping grounds on 150 acres there for close to 60 years.
Joe grew up in the family home at the yard, gaining an appreciation early on for classic cars, particularly battered ones that had reached the end of the road. He carried on his father and brother’s tradition of letting the special ones rest in pieces, rather than stripping them down and sending them off to the crusher.
Lately the Bone Yard has become trendy. Ottawa news hounds have discovered it’s a place where sophisticated photographers have been flocking to – like the chickens that live in the yard – sometimes accompanied by attractive women to spice up the rusted scenery.
Joe and family take it all in stride, with no admission but donations requested for the area food bank. A lot of what goes on at the Bone Yard is done tongue-in-cheek, with a heavy dose of whimsy. Joe has “projects” including one he’s just finishing, transforming the remnants of an engineless 1950s classic into the BYPD (Bone Yard Police Department) squad car.
There are three components to the operation, Joe explains while escorting a visitor along a series of trails through the woods where pieces of metal loosely shaped like cars of yesteryear poke out between the branches. Others are in clearings to be viewed in all their faded glory, almost all American-made, almost all of them cars with some trucks, along with oddities such as a tumbledown Zamboni that ran out of ice time.
One component is a basic metal recycling drop-off in conjunction with the municipality; the second component is breaking down newer wrecks for parts; and finally it’s the dilapidated road warriors strewn trough the bush.
Former editor of the defunct Prescott Journal and the South Grenville Journal which briefly replaced it, Joe can pretty much tell how most of the four-wheeled oldsters arrived at final destination and where they came from. He knows the vehicles that came in under his dad, his brother or himself. It feels more like a shrine to old beaters, or a theme park, than a run-of-the-mill scrap yard.
He’s about to add to that feeling by creating a section called “Our Hood” which will consist of paintings applied to about 30 car hoods discovered during bush clearing, remnants of bygone wrecking days when those parts often got lost in the shuffle. A sign has been installed and ornamental hoods will be erected over the summer.
And get this! Joe was going to cast the stray hoods into the random metal pile… it was his wife Donna who declared they should do something to honour those parts which lead to the “Our Hood” concept. So Joe has the cool scrap yard, the Barn music venue… and a wife who goes along with it all and even instigates some of it!
And bonus for this correspondent! I drive a Chrysler PT Cruiser convertible and Joe has five Cruisers in the yard, an endless source of replacement parts. Joe sized up my car and commented on how much “at home” it looked in his parking lot. You can’t have it Joe! Yet!