As I sit here today, basking in 31C temperatures under the sun and my deck umbrella, I am thinking back to the wonderful times as a kid at our family cottage at Wasaga Beach.
Georgian Bay was almost drinkable in the 40s and 50s, and produced huge plankton-free waves we used to dive into. The beach was miles long and about 300′ wide, and clean as a whistle. My Dad and his brothers and several buddies from work, went smelt fishing every year just down where the trout stream entered the bay. It was exciting being able to stay up late by the bonfire, and watch them bring in the buckets of smelt caught in the 30′ seine net. My mother and my aunts would sort them for all four families, and wrap them in newspaper to be put in the fridge when we got back to the cottage. The next day, my Mom would clean them and I was given the task of taking the guts way back in the bush and dumping them. No wonder the odd bear showed up to freak out all the neighbours. And skunks. Lots of skunks. I remember one morning my parents banging the floor with the frying pan to scare the skunk out from underneath the porch. He or she ‘let go’ before waddling away and it took four days for the smell to disappear.
On weekends my parents would take my brother and I to the Elmvale Drive-In, to watch Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis movies, and the Bowery Boys too. And lots of Disney stuff.
In 1954 we would go to the stock-car races in Stayner to watch Ted Hogan (#42) race. He was my Dad’s racing hero. Well, one Friday night as we were sitting in the stands with my cousins too, one of the wheels came off a stock-car, hit the railing and bounced about 30′ in the air landing on a car in the parking lot behind us. In about 15 min later, an announcement came over the PA system asking for the owner of license plate #_ to come to the office. Well, of course it would be our 1953 Pontiac that got hit. Smashed in the roof and broke the back windows. Luckily my uncle drive us all back to the cottage after midnight, and my Dad had to leave the car in Styaner for it to be towed and repaired by a local body-shop. He had to phone his boss in Port Credit to ask for a few more holiday days from Anaconda American Brass in New Toronto where he was Mill Superintendent. I recall the tears my Mom shed when she first saw it was our car.
My brother and I used to hike down the beach to the mouth of the Notawasaga Ruver, carrying our fishing poles and lures. We would be lucky enough to catch the odd Pickerel but mostly Small-Mouth Bass, Pike and Sunfish. It was lots of fun. Then on Saturday afternoons we would go to the main drag of downtown Wasaga Beach and play in the penny arcades. That was where I looked into a tube for .25c and saw my first naked woman. At the age of 9. Wow! I’ll never forget it and told all my school buddies at Queen Elizabeth Public School when I got back. Their eyes were big as saucers.
The cottage was actually owned by my Step-Grandmother who inherited it in 1952 after the death of my Grandfather. All my Dad’s brothers and sister shared it during the summer on rotating schedules. If it was not our two-week turn to go there, my parents would take my brother and I camping all through the Kawarthas and up to Algonquin Park, or to my Uncle Frank’s (who really wasn’t my uncle) in Campbellford, near Peterboriugh. There we would go ‘coon and coyote hunting and fishing in the Trent River. I caught an ugly Dogfish and my Dad caught a huge catfish called a ‘Channel Cat’. And Uncle Frank’s favourite Blue-Tic Hound “June”, got into a porcupine and I had to watch while they pulled out all the quills. Yuk!
I went by where our Wasaga Beach cottage once was, about 10 years ago, but couldn’t find the exact lot, as it had all changed with new cottages built and subdivisions gone in where the forest behind us was. And the beach had become covered in seaweed everywhere it seemed. And empty pop cans.
Nonetheless, I have my memories of that place and time. Next came our cottage at Lake Dalrymple when I was a teenager, but that’s a completely different story. Until next time.