The man behind the wheels

Reprinted from Decks Awash, Volume 15, Number 6
November – December 1986
Photograph from MUN Digital Archives

(Click on photos to enlarge)

Joshua Goobie

Talk to anyone in the Southwest Arm communities and sooner or later the name “Goobie Rentals” or “Goobie Contracting” is bound to crop up. We talk to the founder and owner of Goobie Rentals and Contracting Limited in Queen’s Cove — Joshua (Josh) Goobie.

As befits a man in the contracting business, Josh is always on the move, a family trait that goes back to the days when the Goobie family moved from Old Perlican to Queen’s Cove and set up a sawmill. Even then, the Goobies were ambitious enough to take on more.

“Old George Goobie, a cousin of my father, set up a sawmill as soon as the railway went through what was then called Goobies Siding,” recalls Josh. “George wanted to name the rapidly growing new settlement after his family so he made a sign that just said ‘Goobies’ and put it on the freight shed. The railway officials kept removing it and putting the sign saying ‘Goobies Siding’ back on the siding itself. But George was persistent and eventually the officials gave in and Goobies became the name of the community that grew up alongside the railway. Hubert Green was the first permanent settler and he’s my wife’s father.”

Josh started his construction business in 1965. It was a new venture for the family who had made their living in the fishery and the lumberwoods.

“My father was a fisherman, lumberman and farmer who made his living right here in Queen’s Cove,” Josh tells us. “He was quite well-off when he died, but he worked hard for what he had. In the winter he’d work in the sawmill until the spring caplin fishery, then he’d take time off fishing to work his ground and set his potatoes. He’d do this year in, year out.

Ron Goobie of Queen’s Cove and Wallace Bailey of Ivany’s Cove direct raffic as Charlie Price of Hillview digs the ditch in Hillview for Goobie Rentals and Contracting.

“I was a mechanic and welder for a construction company and I put aside enough money to buy a couple of rigs and a tractor. Pretty soon it got to the point where I had to leave my job to look after my own business. When I started out I did work for farmers around Lethbridge and Winterbrook, and rented machines to businesses as far away as Marystown. When I went into the contracting business the company name changed to Goobie Rentals and Contracting Limited, and I took on business all over the province.”

At first, Josh operated the business on his own, but now two of his sons, Alton and Alister, are full partners.

“They grew up with the business and could operate machines when they were 10 and 12 years old. My father worried about that, but I felt it was better to teach them right from an early age,” Josh explains. “They looked on their learning like every day was another school day and they both have an excellent knowledge of the trade. That’s been a big help to the company and so has my daughter Jocelyn’s doing the books for me.

“I kept on adding equipment whenever I could afford it. Now we have ten tractors, nine front-end loaders, six tandem trucks, excavators, a grader and whatever else we need. We’re the only company in the area taking on large contracts, although there are small contractors in housebuilding and landscaping. I prefer to buy everything if I can see far enough ahead.”

Will the new government policy of advance tender notices help Josh?

“It will, but bidding on contracts is a far cry from getting them,” he points out. “Business is getting to be a ‘dog-eat-dog’ situation and people are running themselves into the ground bidding too low to ensure their survival. It’s expensive to maintain machinery and make sure your equipment is in good running order. Just putting an undercarriage on one of the big tractors is $15,000, but it has to be done if you want it to last. I tell the boys it’s no good taking on a contract if you can’t make enough to cover your expenses.”

Josh’s face appeared on the news when the Come by Chance oil refinery first hit the headlines this summer. He was the man behind the wheel of the tractor hired by Petro-Canada to start dismantling the mothballed refinery.  

“In my opinion, Petro-Canada meant business,” Josh comments after a quiet moment of reflection. “When you’re paying out that much money just to keep it mothballed, you get to wondering if it’s worthwhile no matter who you are. It wasn’t an overnight decision on their part as many people think — we were told six weeks in advance to have a couple of tractors standing by. When the call came to get them down to the site for 8.00 a.m. I wasn’t too surprised.  

“The pipes were all cut off except for the main ones which were to be let go at the last minute. We were told to hook up a cable ready to give a final tug and we were set to go until the provincial government said hold everything until the Toronto office opened. Then we had to wait until noon when the Calgary office opened, and that’s when the word came for us to release the cables. We did and we haven’t been called back since.”  

We get the impression that Josh is just as delighted as everyone else in the area that the dismantling was averted. The job would have been a lucrative one for his company, but the recent announcement of the sale and reopening of the refinery will spread its benefits much more widely. He also doesn’t believe the new company was formed overnight like some people want us to believe.  

“Those negotiations have been going on for a long while,” Josh suggests. “When you’ve been told to keep quiet about something for six weeks because negotiations are ongoing, you get to realize there’s a lot going on that people never get to hear about.

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Transcribed by Wanda Garrett, February 2019

These transcriptions may contain human errors. As always, confirm these as you would any other source material.