I realized this past month at the cottage with my mother that I, and others my age, were truly blessed in the era we grew up in.
I was born in the 1950s and somehow my parents, who had very little money, managed to buy a piece of property way up in the Parry Sound District on the same lake as Mom’s sister. It took thirteen hours to get there from Windsor before the 401 was built. My Dad had Addison’s Disease and was never really well, but somehow he’d drive us to the lake before he would pass out. We would a launch boat in the middle of the night, get Dad in, and go across in the pitch black to find our point of land. What an adventure it was.
This was a rustic cottage, with electricity, an outhouse and no running water. There was a fridge, stove and a wood stove for heat but no other appliances or television. But it was the time period that made the whole thing so special. Most mothers stayed at home back then which meant, with a bit of finagling, Dad could arrange his holidays so that he could get us to the cottage, leave us and bring us home at the end of the summer.
It was the 60s and everyone had one car, so Dad would spend hours on a bus or train to get back to Windsor, where he could then use the local transit to go to work. It was certainly very inconvenient for him, but it was his gift to us, for he knew that living with a chronically ill person is not easy and we needed the breaks to handle his disease.
My brother Rob and I were blessed to have whole summers at the cottage with our cousins. When young, we played only on our point of land. Games like cowboys and Indians and hide and seek which took hours to play in the bush. The sandy beach was small but perfect to excavate and create Dinosaur Island, where all my brother's dinosaurs could roam. Channels were made through the sand to allow the beautiful boats our grandfather made to sail right up to the castle I would build. Whole days were spent there, creating new worlds.
As we grew older a second boat was purchased and we could tour the lake looking for other kids to play with. There were many other children our age there as well because of the baby boom, and we formed life-lasting friendships
Most of families did what ours did, with Mom and kids up north and the Dads coming to and fro, although some of course were there only for two to four weeks.
One bread-winner meant there was only one car, home sewn clothes and the cottages were cottages – not homes – and had no insulation and well-used furniture. Pennies were saved to buy enough gas for the outboard motor. Slowly, as father's salary increased, luxuries like running water were added, and years later an indoor bathroom. And eventually a road.
Dad would pay us two cents for each crab we caught so he could go fishing and we could get three black balls at the village store for a penny. Ruby the owner hated it when we came in with a whole dollar!
A group of the boys got jobs pruning Christmas trees and I was paid to ferry them to and from the village. That meant my brother and the other boys could buy canoes which then allowed us to take special trips down the Sequin River where we could pick berries, jump off a small cliff into the water, and saw a beaver dam about eight feet tall.
The adults had the Bear Lake Association and we formed the Junior BLA. We’d boat around the lake looking for new teenagers to invite them to our Saturday night parties, held at different cottages, with pop, chips and dancing. Annie had a battery-operated record player as her cottage had no hydro (and still does not). We had Sadie Hawkin’s dances (where the girls chased the guys) and Reversal parties where boys dressed as girls and girls as boys. We were always busy and always having fun.
It is very different today. Kids come to the cottage for a week or two and maybe a few weekends in the summer. There just doesn’t seem to be many kids around any more, so unless they have siblings or bring a friend, there is no one about to play with. What a difference two generations has made. I am so amazed and thankful that I experienced those by-gone days.