Quesnel inventor is making ball-hitch history

Local machinist invents tower and tongue device that he says will save lives

At 72, machinist George Jennex has created a tower and tongue device that will save lives.

However, his journey to inventor began at a very early age.

As the oldest child in his family, George worked two paper routes and mowed lawns in his home town on Cape Breton Island.

Although outwardly poor, George was much like his father with a mind rich in mechanical creativity.

Tired of pedalling his bike for the paper route, George transformed a lawnmower engine into a bicycle propulsion system. He mounted the motor in the basket of his bike.

Although it only worked for a little while, it set in motion a lifetime of curiosity about how things work, how they could work better and how he could create a device, modification or other adaptation to improve functionality.

“I also drew inspiration from the Alexander Graham Bell Museum in Baddeck, which was close to us,” he says.

George also talks about a marine railway machine shop, which he passed every day on his way to school.

“I was fascinated to look through those windows and see the fabrication and innovation. It stuck in my head.”

In school, George excelled in the trades, and by Grade 9, school officials realized his true calling lay in those fields. At 17, he was accepted at the Institute of Technology in Halifax, completed his nine-month course and graduated in 1963.

From that time on, George was never unemployed and began his machinist career in Montreal at a huge machine shop. From there, he worked in Dartmouth, Prince George, Toronto and many other cities across the country – always soaking up every scrap of knowledge, trying new and innovative ideas and gaining skills, which kept him much in demand.

Over his 50 years in various machine shops, George worked in aeronautics, shipyards, pulp mills (including the two in Quesnel), mines, granaries and construction in various capacities. He finally retired in 2013 after 29 years at Quesnel Plywood, where he worked as a maintenance machinist.

During one of his moves from Edmonton to Quesnel in 1968, George was driving his restored 1956 Pontiac and, with a tow bar (which was legal at that time), he was towing a parts car.

“I hooked up the tow bar and the safety chains and double checked them because that’s what a machinist does.

“I was coming down a long, steep hill with a bend and a creek at the bottom. Partway down, the hitch popped off the ball, the car I was towing went sideways, and although the chains held, the towed car was out of control. It smashed into my fender and pushed it sideways almost over the embankment.

“That was quite a scare. From that day forward, I was fearful whenever I hooked up another ball hitch, all the while wondering what went wrong. Since then, I’ve had two more scares with heavily loaded trailers and that was enough to send me to the workshop.”

Since he was a child, George has always processed problems and projects in his brain long before he touches any metal.

“I go to bed and envision the problem or the project I was to fix or create and I look at it from every possible angle, looking for the solution.

“Once I figure it out, I sometimes get up in the middle of the night to put it into practice.”

George says it took about a week of imagining the solution to realize the fix had to be on the male part of the ball hitch.

“The vehicle towing is doing the bulk of the work, controlling the trailer, and a ball joint should never be separated; because regardless of any changes, if the ball joint separates, all hell breaks out and then no one is in control.”

In doing his research regarding possible existing solutions or other modifications, George discovered a frightening statistic coming out of the United States (he was unable to find any statistics in Canada for this).

Between 1975 and 2015 in the U.S., more than 17,000 people have been killed in accidents involving a passenger vehicle towing a trailer. Also since 1975, there have been more than 1.3 million such accidents. This article was found online at www.greenvillonline.com.

“My tower and tongue device would have prevented this tragic loss of lives.

“More often than not fatalities are innocent drivers coming toward a trailer failure.”

George spent about a month perfecting the device, making it easy to use and install. The modification changed the geometry.

Without his device, he says the pull on the ball hitch is on an angle allowing the hitch to pop off the ball.

With George’s device, he says it changes the geometry to create a vertical pull with a fail-safe downward pressure preventing the hitch from every popping off the ball.

George has a website which demonstrates the action and says he has stress-tested all the components of his device with total success.

He has also applied for patents worldwide and hopes that eventually his device will become mandatory on all ball hitches.

The Shur-Lok Safety Hitch comes in all hitch sizes and is also available for off-road vehicles.

Currently George and a couple of helpers are manufacturing the Shur-Lok Safety Hitch as orders come in.

Visit his website at https://georgejennex.wixsite.com/shur-locksafetyhitch

“When customers realize the security and safety aspects of my device, they want it.”