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The Promotex Story...
The story started in 1985 except that I didn't know that this was the beginning of a story. That summer I was visiting my sister in Germany. I love flea markets, and as I have often done, I decided to visit a flea market in Fedderwardergroden which is a little suburb to Wilhelmshaven - way at the northern end of Germany.
As a child I had a collection of 1/87 scale vehicles, like many German children. Countless hours were spent playing games with these cars and trucks. They were mostly made by Wiking with some Roskopf tanks and Roco trucks and tanks interspersed.
As I was walking the flea market, my eye fell on a golden colored Porsche 911. On a whim I purchased it - for old time sake. Arriving back in Canada I put my Porsche on a bookshelf.
I was running six restaurants at the time. It was stressful and time consuming. For years my wife Dagmar and I had an adoption application pending. On my birthday in 1987 we received the long hoped for phone call. "We have a new-born boy for you", the voice said.
Sitting at home in my office, with a new baby in the house, my thoughts were directed towards the future. I knew one thing for certain: There was no way I would work 16-18 hours a day in my restaurants and miss my child's childhood. But what to do?
My eyes roamed around my office and my gaze rested on my golden Porsche. I picked it up and examined it more closely than I had examined before. It was at this point that I decided I was going to try selling HO-Scale vehicles. The manufacturer of my Porsche was 'Herpa'. I had never heard of it. There was no such model maker when I was a boy.
I contacted Herpa and after many conversations it was decided that I could buy Herpa vehicles and bring them to North America for sale. I knew nothing of this market, nothing about modeling ... but I did have fond childhood memories.
Armed with my total ignorance, I tackled the market place. I thought people would share my enthusiasm for these cute little vehicles. Well, one year later I could still count all my enthusiastic supporters on one hand. I had invested a lot of money and almost nothing to show for my investment.
By chance I found out that Herpa had made North American truck models in the early 1980's to try to establish itself on this continent. I asked Mr. Claus Wagener, the owner of Herpa, if I could buy these models. The answer was 'yes' ... the molds were in China at a factory. I gathered a few licenses and made my way to China to see what could be done. I placed my initial order and ... low and behold ... some 9 months later I received my first truck runs.
The initial response was not great but I was determined. 'The runs were too long, the delivery time way too long and really this would never work this way'. Those were my thoughts in a nutshell.
Mr. Wagener and I had scheduled to meet in a hotel in Toronto. It was 1989. We had met for three days and discussed market conditions and how we could improve our combined lots in North America. All along I had one thought in my mind: We have to make these trucks in Canada if we wanted to have any chance of success.
- Riding with Mr. Wagener to the airport I finally had mustered enough courage to ask him the one question that was on my mind all these days: 'Will you let me make Herpa trucks in North America using the Herpa trademarks?'
I know that will not appear to be such a difficult question to my North American readers. But I was raised in Germany and I have much of the cultural baggage of that country in my blood. Asking Mr. Wagener this question was akin to David asking Goliath for a rock for his sling.
Mr. Wagener's answer was almost immediate: 'Yes.' - 'Yes?' is that what he had said? 'Yes!' I was speechless for a moment or two (that doesn't happen very often). Such a grave and all-important question and my hesitations and trepidation, and all he has to say is 'yes'? I was floored and overwhelmed by his immediate generosity. Nothing like this had ever happened to me.
My friend and partner, Bernie Penner, and I discussed Promotex's future. We would make trucks in North America. We would print them and paint them, assemble them and box them right here, from parts supplied by Herpa. Oh it was great! We were full of hope.
Along came another friend - George Wiebe. He also was looking for new fields of activity. Sitting down at the Red River in Manitoba, fishing, I tried to convince him that he should run our little factory to be. He agreed.
I will never forget the first truck made in Canada. It was # 6019, a GMC General with a 40' van bearing the colors of Beatrice Foods. It was beautiful! It was the beauty that only the parents of a newborn child see.
Over the years our trucks got much better. Every new run that came out of our little factory was my pride and joy. I was still working three jobs but things were looking up.
That was the beginning of HO-Scale model trucking as I recall it.
Here are some names that get rarely if ever mentioned when it comes to model trucking and some names which people are quite familiar with.
First and foremost: My wife Dagmar, who always believed in me and encouraged me. Without her I would probably be in a mental institution.
Bernie Penner: My friend and partner. Without his contribution many things would not have been possible.
Claus Wagener: He had faith in me and he shared my dreams.
George Wiebe: He manufactured trucks under the sometimes most trying circumstances.
Tom Yaegerhofer: He was always there when I needed a shoulder to cry on or just some plain good advise.
Richard Muller: He also was always there when I needed a shoulder to cry on or just some plain good advise.
Ralph Johnson: He still shares the dream.
Bill Goddard: A truly good egg who helped me push many times.
Bruno Cerri: My dream was his dream. Neither one of us knew that this would always remain a very small dream.
Doug Musey: He is always an inspiration with his hand-built models.
... and all importantly: My customers without whom nothing would have succeeded!
It is now 28 years later and Promotex Inc. is still in business. Many things have changed and some have not.
First and foremost I should mention my friend and partner Bruce Penner who has been at the heart of the company for the past 20 years. If you ever meet a nicer, gentler person than Bruce, please let me know.
The modeling industry has changed significantly. There are now quite a few companies offering HO-scale vehicles. The market has not really grown substantially but the pie has been sliced into many pieces.
We here at Promotex have changed our 'dream' significantly. Whereas in past years we had seen our market in the emerging collectors' field, today we try to cater as much as we can to true modelers of trucks. Our entire line is now available in parts and we have invested many dollars in the creation of new accessories to make truck modeling easier and more enjoyable.
With that, I want to thank everyone who has always stood by us ... and please, visit our website at promotex.ca. It will show you our world in pictures.
A tribute to a friend and co-worker.
Axel Meyer died Sunday, September 18th, 2016. He was 64.
Axel grew up in the wake of WWII. He spent hours collecting unexploded bombs with his friends, each earning a pittance when they reported or delivered the ordinance to someone in authority. He splashed in the murky water downstream from ex-bomb factories.
He learned to be a journalist under the watchful eye of his dad. Axel's job was to help typeset for his dad's newspaper articles. Covered in lead and driven by the hope of a wink and a nod. Artistic and meticulous, his talents led him to New Jersey and then to a place called, Winnipeg, Canada.
He married Dagmar and spent their life together raising 2 children, Dean 30 and Nikki 25. Many volumes could be written about their life together and how they let me be a part of it...I digress.
Axel's family spent 25 years in Altona. He kept himself busy running Chicken Delight(s), being a town councilor and an economic development officer. In 1986 he along with Bernie Penner and George Wiebe began Promotex.
He loved Altona. "Although, it could have been a little bigger and hiking trails a bit closer than a 14 hour drive away", he would muse.
Axel was not raised in a church, but knew of a God and trusted Him.
In February of 2016, Axel was admitted to the hospital for emergency surgery to remove a large tumor on his bowels. Tests later determined that this cancer had already spread to this lungs and liver. In his calm demeanor (which never left him) and desire to deflect attention he would say, "I always knew that there was something not right in there".
Axel never liked pain-killers. He had such a soft heart, I'm certain the name 'pain-killer' was just too harsh and that he felt bad for the pain!
They (pain-killers) always distracted his mind from what his body was trying to tell him... He strove to stay healthy by choosing foods that agreed with his digestive system, the one that had, "something not right in there".
In his last few weeks, the pain was unbearable and I am convinced that he took them to alleviate the pain from his family's eyes that watched his body suffer.
He was looking forward to seeing his dad. Mostly since, "My dad left many questions unanswered. Although, in my 30's we spent some time together in the Whiteshell where he talked about what he went through as a soldier and a father."
Life is a vapor, says James in the New Testament. Axel's time on earth was short. He spent his time wisely and left a legacy of goodwill and humility.
|published by Cadabra Corp.||This page was lasted updated: October 11, 2006|