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Belanger's Auto Electric and it's Founder

Written in most part by James P. Belanger,
number 3, of Gerald's 7 boys.

"Belanger's Auto Electric" was founded in 1955 by Gerald Belanger (1910-1976).

Gerald, back row right, along with his brothers and sisters.

   Gerald was born in Grand Falls New Brunswick, Canada, the 12th child of Lucien and Leda Belanger. Lucien was a blacksmith and several of his sons were following in his footsteps. However the times were changing and the need for this trade was declining. In 1931 there were close to 1500 horses in the Grand Falls area. By 1941 the numbers had declined to a mere 500. It was during this period that tractors were taking over with no tractors in the area in 1931, about 75 in 1947 and by 1958 they outnumbered the horses three to one.

   Gerald always looked to the future, so when he was only 15 years old he left Grand Falls N.B. to go to Van Buren, Maine to work for his older brother, Emile, who owned and operated Bakers Machine Shop. Emile had anglicized his surname to Baker for business purposes. This may have been the loose interpretation of the name Bélanger that was close to Boulanger, that is the French word for Baker. At that time, about 1925, Gerald was earning $3.00 per week plus room and board repairing automobiles and farm equipment.

A Maine Woods Camp

   During the early winter of 1934 Gerald was laid off because Emile's business was slow in the winter as the town rolled the roads in the winter instead of plowing. Horses had much better traction on rolled snow so automobiles were not used much. Gerald went to work that winter in Portage, Maine driving a Log hauler for John Cormier until the spring of 1935 when he returned to work in Van Buren.

Gerald's Esso in Van Buren

   In 1940 Gerald started his own business at Cities Services in Van Buren. He built an addition to the small service station with a high door to allow farmers to bring in their tractors to be repaired without removing them from the truck. In 1941 Gerald had the chance to move to an Esso station located at a better location in town. "Belanger's Service" did more than pump gas, they repaired magnetos, starters, generators, chain saws, outboard motors as well as auto electrical systems. Because of his specialized services his business thrived in spite of heavy competition.

The "Shop" in Caribou.

   In 1955 Gerald moved his business along with his family to Caribou, Maine where he built a new building and thus the "Belanger's Auto Electric" name was born.

Gerald, his wife Irene and their family.
Back to front: Mike, Pete, Phyllis, Dick, Jim,
Bill, Irene, Stevie, Gerald, and John

A later photo of Gerald's kids.
Back to front: Pete, Phyllis, Dick, Jim,
Steve, John, Bill, and Mike

   Gerald with only one daughter but seven sons most always had help in his shop. In 1959 Gerald, always looking ahead, began rebuilding diesel pumps as well as magnetos etc. Although all seven sons worked with their father and gained from his knowledge and experience it was the last two, John and Steve, who were to continue to operate their father's business.

   In 1975, at the age of 65, while Steve was just graduating from high school, Gerald suffered a heart attack and was unable to continue to work. John, the older of the two sons, was finishing trade school and the two of them began running the business for their dad. Gerald could not tear himself away from the work he had come to know and love and stayed on as an advisor. In July, 1976 Gerald suffered another heart attack and died while at the shop. Steve and John continued operating the shop with Steve doing the electrical work and John the diesel.

John's "Belanger Diesel" on South Main Street, Caribou, Maine.

   In the fall of 1981 John bought an unoccupied service station a few hundred yards south of "Belanger's Auto Electric" and moved the diesel business there calling it "Belanger Diesel". John continues to rebuild diesel pumps and injectors today at the same location in Caribou, Maine. You can visit his web site at: http://www.BelangerDiesel.com

Steve on a Timberjack 225 that he owned with his best friend Tom, (Tommy) Lapointe.

   Steve operated "Belanger's Auto Electric" until February of 1987 when he closed the doors and went to work in the woods with his friend as a skidder operator. He sold the building but the Belanger name was kept as well as the tools, equipment and inventory. Everything was moved to the farm but Steve did not do much customer work for the next couple of years.

An aerial photo of Steve's farm in North Caribou.

Steve with his older brother Pete in front of part of the shop in North Caribou

   A couple of years later Steve left woods work and reopened "Belanger Auto Electric" at his farm in North Caribou. He ran the shop here and raised cattle, horses, and a little bit of everything else, including the family, until 1996.

Steve and wife, Debbie.

   1996 found Steve with a full time position with the Aroostook County Sheriff's Department but this also required Steve to move both his shop and family to the "Saint John Valley" as that was his patrol district. With 2 children left to raise he couldn't refuse the health insurance benefits. Besides, Steve always loved being able to "help" people. There is the story of him stopping a car because it had no tail lights and fixing it for them on the spot so they could continue on their way! That's Steve alright!

Welcome to the Beautiful "Saint John Valley"

   Relocated in The Saint John Valley of northern Maine, "Belanger's Auto Electric" continues today. With the knowledge and experience inherited from his father, Gerald, along with a new vision, he continues to rebuild magnetos, generators, and starters but only for vintage tractors, vintage autos, and vintage farm equipment. This is where "Belanger's Auto Electric" is today. He really seems to enjoy rebuilding magnetos and says it keeps him out of trouble!

Steve and Debbie's daughter Bobbie and her horse "Dutchess"

Bobbie curently lives in Caribou and has two boys, Alex and Austin.

Jesse and Joshua at a technology fair at UMPI 2000.

   They also have two sons, Jesse and Joshua, but they seem to be more interested in computer related fields than mechanics although both of them seem to have an inherited mechanical ability. Jesse is currently attending UMPI studying art and education. Joshua is still attending high school in Saint Agatha.

Joshua along with one of the grandsons, Alex "playing" with their '56 "Cub".

   The youngest, Joshua, also shares Steve's love for vintage machinery. Who knows, the "Belanger Auto Electric" legacy may continue well into the future. I know our father, Gerald, would be proud of that.

   November '04 Steve was promoted to Sergeant and took over the Limestone District. 2005 finds Joshua in collage studying computers and networking. Jesse works full time with disabled adults and seems to love it. Steve, well in November of '05 Steve resigned from the Sheriff's Office to devote all of his time to the magneto business. This is an artical that was in a local newpaper.

Veteran Limestone officer steps down
Saturday, December 10, 2005 - Bangor Daily News

LIMESTONE - Aroostook County and especially Limestone are losing an experienced law enforcement officer to private enterprise.

Sgt. Stephen Belanger, a 10-year veteran of the Aroostook County Sheriff's Department and supervisor of the county force that polices Limestone, tendered his resignation to the Aroostook County commissioners Wednesday.

Belanger is starting his own business rebuilding magnetos, formerly a hobby of his. It is a craft he learned from his father, Gerald Belanger, who owned Belanger's Auto Electric in Caribou.

"We are very sad that he is leaving," Aroostook County Administrator Douglas Beaulieu said Friday morning. "He has worked for us about 10 years and he's done a great job.

"His last stint was overseeing the Limestone department and he did that well there where he had good rapport," Beaulieu said. "He was at a crossroads in his life and we accepted his resignation with regret.

"I am particularly sad to see him go," he said. "His kind of talent is gone."

Belanger said working full time in law enforcement and on his hobby-turned-business had started to "get a little bit overwhelming."

"I've had this in the back of my mind for some time," he said. "Changes were being made, like asking me to work night shifts, and that helped me make my decision.

"Working with magnetos is something I enjoy very much," he said Friday. "It's not something everyone can do."

   That's the history of "Belanger's Auto Electric" up till now. The future is yet to be written.


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