Insurance

The insurance world is changing. My wily brother Mike knows more about the background details of this — demutualization and the like — but here on the front lines you see everyone from banks to grocery stores to television commercials trying to sell you home and auto insurance.

Growing up in Ontario, my parents’ insurance company was State Farm and their agent was a man named Allan Bradley.

When I was really young, I got this confused with Allan Brady, Rob Petrie’s boss on the Dick Van Dyke Show. As you might imagine, I was very impressed, both by the fact that Mr. Brady could run a TV show (within a TV show) and also sell insurance, and also by the fact that my parents would contract with such a star for their insurance needs.

When I got older — driving age — I remember Allan Bradley always being the one my father held up as the reason that I couldn’t take the car out. “Oh, the car’s not licensed for travel to Toronto,” he would say, holding up the spectre of Allan Bradley’s wise judgement as proof. (Later, when I was more rebellious and wily myself, I actually phoned Allan Bradley myself and the jig was up).

When I moved away from home and bought my first car (a 1978 Datsun 510), I went first to State Farm for a quote, thinking that the long association of my family with the firm would give me a good rate. It didn’t. And so I ended up with an anonymous outfit called Dominion of Canada as my insurer, and I’ve been with them ever since. (I thought they were anonymous until I followed that link and found that their first President was Sir John A. Macdonald who, by sheer coincidence, helped to concoct Confederation of the actual Dominion of Canada just next door to where I write this).

When I moved to Prince Edward Island, I needed a new broker, and I found Gordon Full Insurance. I got 7 years of good service from them until Gordon decided to retire and merged the business into Hyndman and Company, of which it had been some sort of secret division for some time in any case.

Hyndman and Company was founded in 1872 by Fred Hyndman’s great-grandfather. Fred is now at the helm, two generations later. When I did a story on the history of the telephone number several years ago for CBC’s Island Morning, my research found that theirs was one of the first telephone numbers in Charlottetown, and every time the numbering system changed, they just tacked on an extra number or so. So the kernel of their phone number is very, very old too.

I’ve always gotten excellent service from Hyndman’s: they took us through a natural disaster (of sorts) this winter when the evil snow and ice infiltrated our house and made the walls fall off. And today, when I wanted to switch over car insurance (more on that later), they did the whole thing over the phone in about 3 minutes. And they knew who I was when they answered the phone.

Part of our responsibility, if we want the world to be less anonymous and big box evil, is to support local, long-standing businesses. Especially businesses that are firmly rooted in our downtown business district. You can’t go wrong buying insurance from Hyndman and Company in either regard.

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