Snowplowing Stewarts

Jim Day
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Arnold Stewart, front second from left, poses with brothers, nephews and sons that all followed in his snowplowing shoes. Front row left to right are Glenn, Arnold, Gary and Byron. Back row left to right are Blair, Nick and Kent. Collectively, this clan have plowed roads for 194 years.

Clearing snow has been a family tradition for Crapaud clan

Some are said to have ice in their veins.

In the case of the Stewart clan, they must have snow in the blood. Make that snowplowing in their hearts.

Arnold Stewart, the patriarch of the plowers, got rolling in 1958 at age 17 in a practice that would grow into a familial way of life.

Collectively, Stewart, along with two brothers, two sons and two nephews, has pushed snow off P.E.I. roads for 194 years.

Getting the gang together in a room to talk about the trade, colourful stories fly as fast as the fluffy stuff shooting off the blade of a plow from a heavy truck thundering along a snow-covered highway.

There was the time a woman gave birth in a car that was being towed by a then 20-year-old Arnold Stewart in his snowplow as he was just approaching the hospital.

“It was quite a thing,’’ he recalled as brothers Byron and Gary, sons Glenn and Blair, and nephews Kent and Nick listened in.

Then there was Kent one-upping that story, telling of being forced to react in a split second as a car cut in front of his plow in the slush. Kent’s plow sliced off the front corner of the vehicle and his vehicle ended up in a ditch.

The car’s occupants — man, woman and baby — were shaken up but emerged from the sharp jolt without a scratch.

Gary once drove a snowplow into a brook in Canoe Cove. He was not hurt, but getting the rig back on the road was a major job.

Another member of the Stewart Snow Squad, while out clearing roads, came upon a couple in a stationary vehicle. The occupants were not dressed for winter. In fact, they were not dressed at all.

Of all the misadventures and upsides in his storied snowplowing career, 73-year-old Arnold Stewart of Crapaud most fondly remembers the 15 days he and his sons spent in 1999 helping plow Torontonians out from under a major snowstorm.

In total, 115 Islanders took part in the mission. For his part, Arnold oversaw a large group of private contractors.

“That was the biggest experience of my life,’’ he says. “They gave us a great big party when we left.’’

Arnold’s plowing days ended several years ago. His younger brothers have also parked the plow.

Gary, 57, says he stopped a couple years ago because his legs could no longer take the pounding.

Byron, 68, stopped five years ago after putting in an impressive 35-year run. He says the toughest part of the job was when his plow would break down in a storm, sending him out into the bitter cold running for the nearest farmhouse.

Gary, who can recall driving a snowplow for 24 hours straight, shivers at the memory of sitting for two or three hours in a broken down plow “freezing my butt.’’

The downside of snowplowing extends beyond aches and chills, though.

Glenn says hours upon hours spent at the wheel, plowing snow and navigating sometimes less than sensible motorists, can cause plenty of stress and tension.

Still, the seven Stewarts were certainly not looking for pity when they sat down to talk about snowplowing. They love what they do — or in the case of Arnold and his brothers, what they used to do.

“It’s in your blood,’’ says Arnold. “It’s something you comes winter, you want to go plowing.’’

Blair says as boys he and his brother Glenn would ride with their father, Arnold, as dad hit the highway in his snowplow.

“Dad would say ‘sit down and don’t complain — we’re going to be gone for awhile,’’’ he says.

“We never thought we were learning but we were,’’ adds Blair. “We knew what we were going to be when we were five.’’

Glenn and Blair do not have any sons and none of their daughters are showing much enthusiasm for snowplowing.

Nick has a four-year-old son who has hopped along for some short trips in the plow. Could the youngster grow into the next generation of Stewart snow pushers?

“If he does it, it will be great,’’ says Nick.

Arnold is proud of the legacy to date. He beams when speaking of the talent his clan displays behind the wheel.

“They are very capable,’’ he says.

Glenn says his brother and his cousins are competitive. They like to see who can finish their route first. They also keep a keen eye on the Weather Channel each day in the winter to see if they will likely soon be hitting the road and if they will be, just how much plowing may lie ahead.

When the roads are clear and the snow is no longer flying, the Stewarts work on fixing and maintaining their mighty snow-clearing machines.

Of course, the boys have it easy these days when compared to Arnold’s harsh accounts of days long gone.

First, he notes, the snowplows are much better machines today. Also, back in the day, the snow just kept coming and coming and coming.

“There was an awful lot more snow then,’’ says Arnold of the days in the late '50s and early '60s when he was stationed in Elmsdale to clear roads. “Storms were three days (long) those times.’’

Organizations: Weather Channel

Geographic location: Canoe Cove, Elmsdale

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Recent comments

  • Dianne
    February 03, 2015 - 16:21

    Well, I only know that Gary Stewart is probably the best snow plow operator I know of. Thank you to all of you guys for the work you do to clean up our roads, I commend you, you rank right up there with the fire fighters!!

  • murdena ferguson
    January 27, 2014 - 20:48

    great job guys keep up the good work

    January 26, 2014 - 20:25

    They were the best that ever will be

    • murdena ferguson
      January 27, 2014 - 20:53

      great job guys

  • Bill McIver
    January 26, 2014 - 17:54

    David, why are you so envious of the snowplow operators? Is it because unlike you they want to help their community or is it because they represent everything you never could or ever will be? Somehow I cannot really see you bothering to do anything, no matter how simple, to help anyone let alone your community. You realize this and so you have to mock those like the snowplow drivers to make yourself feel better. Sad, really.

  • 40 year vet
    January 26, 2014 - 17:15

    Nice story on a thankless job been there done that also for 40 years

  • david
    January 26, 2014 - 15:12

    The story maybe all nice and warm and fuzzy. But the point I was making they people were doing a job which they were paid to do by the taxpayers. They were not doing it for free or volunteering they were being paid just like everyone else who is on the public purse. They had a job to do like countless thousands upon thousands of other government employees. So they done a good job great just like every other person who has job. I would much rather praise the electric employees who are out on poles during snowstorms or the ambulance attendants who deal with people during in car crashes during snowstorms. Better yet lets look at the thousands of people who volunteer everyday and never get any praise other then a hearty handshake and knowing they were doing a good job and are happy to do it. Now a group of people who are paid for what they do and if they didn't do it someone else gladly would do it. If the trend is going to be to start praising people for just doing the job they are paid to do then the news paper will certainly need to get much larger.

    • Piet Hein
      January 26, 2014 - 17:45

      David, why would you rather praise the electrical workers or the paramedics? They, like the snow plow operators, are paid to do a job so why would you single them out for praise while mocking the snow plow drivers who keep the roads open for the ambulances and utility trucks? There are times when snow plows are called out to get police, firefighters and utility workers to where they are needed during major storms. David, to be honest I detect a hint of troll in your comments along with envy of people who are doing much more to help their community then you ever would or could.

  • Islander
    January 26, 2014 - 12:03

    TO David you missed the story here all together it is about a family of men who all did this for a living and enjoyed doing it as hard as it was sometimes for them. The story was not about hero's just men making an honest living and liked doing it and come on there is not many families here on the island with that many men in one family driving snowplows it is unique on its own you would have to agree. Enjoy a nice story when you see it.

  • Islander
    January 26, 2014 - 08:51

    When we lived in Desable we could always count on Gary to have the road clear as soon as the storm passed you would hear the snow plow coming. A little wicked with the mail box's some times LOL but he always had the road cleared. Thank you for a job well done.

  • The Urban Oysterman
    January 26, 2014 - 07:31

    We have some suttle business dealings with this Family. In our work, it was pleasant to entertain, in 1999, some of the group, here in Hogtown. Let us not forget Anna, of Anna's Place, in Crapaud, Wife to Arnold and Mother of the Boyz. I think her steadiness and fine country cooking might have had those plough boys thinking of supper at the end of the road, and the day, on many occasions! Nice article and the essences of an Island Family. It is a pleasure knowing them. Don't loose the plough keys and may you always find the road.

  • david
    January 26, 2014 - 03:42

    Of course keeping in mind they were paid to do the job just like anyone else who does public service. It seems in this world everyone needs to be treated like kind of hero because they get out and do the job for which they are paid. These people are no different then any other snowplow drivers or bus drivers or mail driver or your auto mechanic. They all get paid to a job and we expect them to do it because that is what they are paid to do. Just seems like now everyone needs to treated like hero. Grow up people and do your jobs because that is what YOU are Paid to do. If you don't like it then someone else will gladly do it I am sure.

    • Jackofalltrades
      January 26, 2014 - 09:37

      Wow, what a sad comment. Nowhere in the story did it depict them as heroes but a family with many years of service in that line of work who has many interesting stories to share about those years. Too bad your bitterness and jealousy got in the way of enjoying the stories. Sad.

  • Island Boy
    January 25, 2014 - 17:30

    About time this family got some media recognition for their years of servicing some of PEI roads. Just last week I was telling some fellow co-workers in Calgary, Ab., about the plow drivers back home(The STEWARTS) and how they plowed roads, as we don't have good plow drivers in Calgary. I recalled watching from my parents picture window, as the plow roared through Canoe Cove with nothing but a trail of white fading behind it. I don't think many people got to pass the plow in our area with one of the Stewart boys behind the wheel. Any way, I would like to thank the STEWART boys for their years of service and dedication! Job well done gentlemen, keep up the great work!

  • Proud Islander
    January 25, 2014 - 13:06

    Thank-you lads for all the years of great service.Now a days people take for granted that the roads will be in "like summer"condtion.Like the growing of good food,fishing ,trucking,and all the other needed services we enjoy.Its easy to forget that none of this "Just happens". Folks work hard so we all can enjoy a good life on our dear Island.