The Canal Garage was a garage located in Canal Street, Weatherfield, owned and run primarily by Billy Walker in the early 1970s. Alan Howard, Billy's junior mechanic, managed and later owned the garage during the same period before selling it back to Billy.
The Canal Street garage was already a well-oiled machine by the time owner Bert Whitehead sold up to Billy Walker in September 1970. Billy had just returned to his home town of Weatherfield after nine years in London following the death of his father Jack and planned to stay for a while to support Annie. Billy hired his own staff to crew the garage, including Alan Howard as a mechanic. Alan had recently avoided being declared bankrupt, and needed work to pay off his debts. Used to being in charge, he was reprimanded on his first week for repairing Ken Barlow's mini as a favour without asking Billy. The resulting dispute nearly caused Alan to re-consider working there, until he realised that his pride was the issue rather than Billy.
Later that year, Billy agreed to let Frank Bradley work on his car at the garage at night. When he caught Frank and Judd Johnson fixing the car with false number plates and log book, he surmised that the car was stolen and threw them out but was persuaded not to call the police by Bet Lynch, Frank's girlfriend.
Billy left the area to buy into a self-service bay in Chiswick in July 1971 and appointed Alan manager in his absence. Alan accepted the promotion and got a 15% cut of the profits from Billy. Once Billy was gone, Alan took on Colin Harvey as a mechanic. Colin was with the garage for at least a year.
The following January, Billy came back from London to sell the garage, as the self-service bay had left him £3,000 in debt. At the time, Alan was dossing in the garage after separating from Elsie. When Billy told him that he already had a buyer who wouldn't be keeping him on, Alan borrowed £2,500 from his ex-wife Laura to meet Billy's asking price and save his job. Alan had also reconciled with Elsie, but didn't reveal the source of his loan. The garage was re-opened with Elsie performing the opening ceremony with cans of beer.
Later in the year, Alan fell behind with his loan repayments and went into partnership with Jimmy Frazer, selling used motors. Alan dissolved the union after a few months after the routine of hard work mixed with "business meetings" with Jimmy in local clubs drove Alan to drink.
Alan continued to run the garage successfully, and in May 1973 he secured a twelve-month contract to service the fleet from the Town Hall. Eight months later, the Howards moved to Newcastle where Elsie was starting a new job and Alan gave Billy first refusal on the garage, returning the favour of two years ago. Billy accepted and paid Alan off using the money he made from selling Stuart Draper a written-off Alfa Romeo for £1,100, £700 more than it was worth. Having been robbed of his life savings, Draper followed Billy to Weatherfield and demanded his money back. Met with indifference and intimidation, Draper parked his vehicle outside the garage - blocking the entrance - and attached a note to the windscreen warning passers-by that Billy was crooked. Billy had the car towed away, and when the police got involved he was cleared of any wrongdoing, legal if not moral.
From an inauspicious start, Billy worked hard at the garage and in March he hired a new mechanic, Danny Burrows. Danny was living with Lucille Hewitt at the time but was revealed to be a married man when Billy saw his P45. He got on well enough with Billy but left the garage after Lucille finished with him. Idris Hopkins also worked there part-time that November.
Further trouble came Billy's way when Paul Meggitt put his van into the garage for a service containing a load of stolen jackets from the Mark Brittain Warehouse. Paul was waiting for a contact to collect the jackets and thought they would be safe at the garage, however Billy found them while working on the car. Paul managed to pin the crime on him by tipping off the police about the jackets and, when questioned, claiming that the van had been empty when he dropped it off. Billy spent the night in the cells before warehouse storeman Fred Bolton, father of Paul's accomplice Tony, told the police that the boys had duplicated his storeroom key and Billy was innocent, grassing up his own son in the hope that it would teach him a valuable lesson.
- The garage's exterior in Episode 1368 (25th February 1974) (see gallery below) was recorded on Lower Byrom Street in Manchester. It was also seen in Episode 1003 (31st August 1970). The garage's interior was a studio set.
- Bert Whitehead (Owner [until 1970])
- Billy Walker (Owner [1970-1972, 1974-1975])
- Alan Howard (Mechanic [1970-1971], Manager [1971-1972], Owner [1972-1974])
- Kev (Mechanic )
- Colin Harvey (Mechanic [1971-1972])
- Danny Burrows (Mechanic )
- Idris Hopkins (Mechanic )
List of appearances