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The Mad Hatter of Newfoundland

by Jim Park

Springdale is pretty well halfway between Port aux Basques and St. John's, Nfld. A little out of the way, you might say, but that hasn't been a problem for Tom Jackman. He's a regular contributor to highwaySTAR's Can't Get There From Here contest, and over the past year, he's correctly identified every one of our monthly photo contests. We cruelly decided to cut him off after four hats, but he retains the distinction of having guessed, and correctly too, more of our mystery locations than anyone.

At age 25, Tom is a truck driver in waiting. He earned his Class 1 licence in December 1998 through the Atlantic Transport Training Academy in Apohaqui, N.B., but has yet to find work. Too young, or too inexperienced, the carriers keep telling him.

Tom maintains his links to the industry through the magazine and the Internet. He's familiar with what's going on in trucking, perhaps more so than many drivers, largely because he's able to spend more time on-line keeping up with the news. He'd prefer to be out on the road, but that would probably compromise his record with the contest.

Tom's first win, and one of the few locations he's actually seen with his own eyes, was the June 2001 photo of the Dover Flour Mill at the Port of Halifax. He's managed to uncover the rest of our mystery photos by doing a little on-line research. And he's darned good at it, too. He might have missed his calling in wanting to truck. He'd likely make a great investigative reporter, using his research skills and his out-of-the-box way of thinking through a problem.

In one particularly ingenious bit of investigation, he correctly identified Marshall, Sask., as the location of two grain elevators we featured in the October 2001 issue.

"I recalled, from my grade six social studies textbook, a picture of yellow grain elevators," Tom says. "A search for the seed company that used yellow elevators led me to James Richardson Inc., where I e-mailed looking for information. An engineer at JRI helped me identify locations where there were both colours of elevators, and before long I had the answer." Pretty clever, eh?

Another brilliant bit of work came with the photo of the Watershed Restaurant in Gogama, Ont. (March 2002 issue). He e-mailed a fellow at a branch of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources to ask what a watershed was, included a copy of the photo, and lo and behold, he had his answer. The guy happened to know where the restaurant was, and Tom had another hat.

But he doesn't stop there. Along with his answers, he sends us links to various related websites and Internet photos. He even sent along the menu from the Watershed Restaurant. And he e-mailed the restaurant and asked why the breakfast special was called Jim's Breakfast. Talk about going above and beyond the call. Tom is a font of information, and what's more, he knows where to go to find stuff.

He's a bright young chap, obviously, having graduated high school with honours, and friendly too. He attended Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S., for a year in the recreation program, but he was too modest to tell us that. That's why we make follow-up calls to family members. We're after the whole story.

We're going to stump Tom some day, but he has lots of resources, starting with his Internet contacts. Then there's the able help of Jen, his mother and a registered nurse working at the local senior citizen's complex in Springdale, and his father Barry, a computer technician and former school teacher. His network of expert assistants might simply be too broad for us to beat him.

Tom is still hoping to find work as a driver, but says he'd welcome some other kind of work in the industry if the right opportunity came along. Either way, he'll remain a good friend of highwaySTAR. It's always nice to get out and meet people like Tom and his family. They are, after all, what this magazine is all about.

If you want to contact Tom, feel free to send him an e-mail at tom.jackman@superweb.ca.

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