By Sheila Mason Gale
Over a period of time, Canterbury has had several gas stations or filling stations as they were called. There was one on Route 169 near the Cat Hospital, operated by Bernie Utz, but Bernie went into business for himself and moved to a building where Baker's Dozen is today. The Papuga family had a station near the intersection of Route 14 and Water Street. One station was named The Red Dome, which was originally owned by Mr. Gaskill on Route 169 near the Kinsey house. Becottes, located where Bergeron Limited is today, is another station I remember very well because our school bus would stop there on our way back from Griswold High School. However, the longest lasting gas station/garage/gravel bank in Canterbury is Ed's Garage, which has been in business since 1946.
Edward Waskiewicz was born in Canterbury in 1926. His parents Walter and Martha were farmers in Poland. They came to America via Ellis Island and they eventually bought a farm on Lisbon Road where Ed and his brothers and sister were raised. Ed said the farm had a little bit of everything - a garden, cows, chickens, and other farm animals.
Ed attended the Frost School then the School on the Green and then Griswold High School. He liked to dance and went to all the Polish dances in the area. He met his wife Lillian at a dance in Moosup. She was collecting tickets at the door. Lillian said she liked Ed right away. Ed said Lillian and her sisters were all nice looking girls, but he chose Lillian.
He learned to be a mechanic on the farm and when he went to war in Korea, he worked as a mechanic. When he got back from the war he bought his first dump truck and started his trucking business. He bought the property where Ed's Garage now stands from Walter Peck who was a schoolteacher in New London. Lillian kept the books, but in the beginning she would also go out and pump gas when Ed was away. He was eventually able to hire a mechanic. Cliff Coombs was his mechanic for several years and he also hired Howard Hart. Many young people worked for Ed and Lillian - Charles Anthony, David and Jeff Strmiska just to name a few.
Marguerite Tracy Simpson worked in the office with Lillian and it was Marguerite who encouraged Ed to run for political office. He ran and was elected First Selectman three times between 1963 and 1969. He did the job for free because he felt he wanted to give something back to the Town. One of the things he is proud of are the roads he constructed when in office. The more roads a Town has the more state grant money it receives. This is still true today. Ed, with the help of Cliff Williams, Arthur Grab and other Town workers cleared and constructed Buntz, Cory, Kitt, and Howe Roads.
He also served the Town as an assistant Chief and is a Charter Member of the Volunteer Fire Company.
Ed became interested in horses when he bought one for his daughter and a pony for his son. From this experience with horses he decided to raise quarter horses. He went to a horse auction in Texas to bid on the King Horse Line of quarter horses. He bought 16 horses, which made the Texans unhappy because they didn't think these quarter horses should leave Texas for Connecticut. He bred, showed and entered horse shows. My childhood friend, Linda Bassett, rode Ed's horses in barrel racing competitions. His horse Mr. Wimpy Leo became a world champion.
He was also a car racing enthusiast and received the championship trophy in the Non Ford Division at Waterford speedway. His drivers were George LaChapelle and also Lew Tetreault. Not only did he like fast cars, but he collected antique cars as well.
Edward and Lillian Waskiewicz started a booming business with one dump truck. Ed had vision and always strived to improve his business and his life. They affected many lives individually and as a community and made Canterbury a better place to live.