Chapter 8 Ontario: Sudbury to Ridgetown



Thursday 12 June Sudbury


Richard was up by 6.30 to shower and pack.  We joined Bill and Sue for a breakfast of fried eggs.  Sue kissed me, said goodbye and left for school at 7.30 am.  Bill said, “I really appreciated having Richard and you stay, Don. I feel I’ve taken things from you that have become part of my character such as your perseverance in the face of odds, your love for adventure and travel and your happy outlook.  Sue and I are looking forward to visiting you in Perth in eighteen months.” I thought, “Very nice speech Bill and very moving.” Bill can never sit still long and must always be doing something.  Farm life with its numerous chores suits him perfectly. Before I was out of the house, he had disassembled my bed and tidied the room. The ramps he had built were packed away before we were out of the driveway. I teased him.  “You can’t wait to see us go, Bill.”


I drove the first three hundred kilometres, Highways 41, 401 through Toronto and Highway 400 north.  I felt a little scared as I sat between trucks on the sixteen lane freeway in Toronto as cars zipped between lanes around us, but maintained ninety kilometres an hour, stayed fixed in my lane, managed the merges with grace and demonstrated courtesy to other drivers.  Richard took over in Orelia and somehow put us on Highway 11 to North Bay rather than 69 to Sudbury. We rectified that by cutting back through the Muskoka cottage country to Parry Sound on Highway 141, a secondary road meandering past lakes and small farms. I’d forgotten that Canadian road improvement and repairs are all done during the summer months and we waited for four blasting crews, who were drilling, blasting and widening this road, adding hours to the trip.


I felt good seeing the typically northern landscape of Canada, blue sparkling sun-fected waters, loons, birch, black spruce and fir trees and stretches of grey glaciated Precambrian shield covered in lichen.  We passed French River, a wide scenic river, which was once the principal fur trade route between Montreal and western Canada.  Then we reached the turn off to the village of Killarney.


That reminded me of the summer of 1970 when I worked in Toronto but flew Air Canada up to Sudbury to spend ten days paddling canoe routes in Killarney Provincial Park.  The Park, boasting of the glaciated, rounded LaCloche Mountains, which seem to be constructed of scenic white quartz, is studded with beautiful lakes with white quartz bottoms that reflect the sunshine through crystal waters. I had vowed at the time one day to return to canoe this park again because of its exceptional beauty, but that is not to be. Reflecting on thoughts like that is depressing and I quickly refocussed.


 By 5.30 pm we reached Sudbury, a city of 150,000 people and centre for Canada’s largest nickel mine and refinery, with the tallest smoke stack in America.  We tried checking into five large hotels and all were booked out. “What’s going on?” I wondered. I found out that there were both a rock concert and a Seventh Day Adventist national convention with four or five thousand visitors. Richard phoned Janina Walf, a close friend of his mother’s whom had migrated from Poland to Sudbury fifty years ago.  Janina Walf is seventy but looks forty, with no grey hair and an unlined face.  She has worked for the same Florist in Sudbury for fifty years. She met us with her daughter Christina Bedoya, a beautiful twenty-eight year old junior primary teacher, who spoke fluent Polish and Spanish as well as Canadian accented English.  “I’ll phone hotels for you,” she offered and I gratefully accepted, as it was 8.30 pm and I had sat in the car for eleven hours without a break. I had not used my Roho Cushion in the car, a very big mistake, and my bottom felt on fire. I had to get out of that car seat and back on my Roho quickly. After four tries she scored a cancellation at Day’s Inn for $92.00 and I confirmed by Visa.


Janina Walf invited us to dinner at the Chinese Buffet. The buffet was extensive and I really enjoyed the meal, washed down by a glass of red wine. I learned that Christina had graduated from Queen’s Macarthur College in 1997, after finishing Guelph University, and had accepted a teaching job in an International School in Columbia, South America, where she taught for five years, learned Spanish and married a Columbian engineer, Jorge.  She had returned to Sudbury with her husband, who is fluent in English, to be with her mother.  “I really miss that warm 25 degree temperature, and the upper middle class children,” she said.  “It’s hard to adjust to Canadian winters and a class of economically deprived children.  However, it’s not very safe in Columbia.” 


Christina guided us to Days Inn, and Richard assisted me to bed at 11.00 pm commenting on red areas on my derriere. “Oh, oh,” I thought.  “I’ll sleep on my side tonight, cancel driving tomorrow and take an afternoon break on my side.  You can’t travel now continuously like you did before your accident.”  Richard went out until 3.00 am with Janina Walf, Jorge and Christiana.  “Janina Walf phoned my mum in Poland and we all talked with her,” Richard later told me.  “We discussed my troubled youth and I ended up feeling really sad, thinking about those awful days.  My dad abandoned my mum who lived in a tiny one room flat with me; my first step-dad hated me, and bossed me like I was only a dog, though the second step-dad was good.  My mum never knew or lived with my dad and I never knew him other than one meeting, but I’d like to meet him again to see what he’s like now.  It’s all water under the bridge now and I don’t like remembering it.”


Friday 13 June Sudbury


We were up by 7.00 am, although Richard only arrived in bed at 3.00 am. The day was dark grey and cold, about ten degrees Celsius.  We expected Janina Walf and Jorge, Christina’s husband at 10.00 pm.  I decided to remain in Sudbury another night, as Richard found a continued red area from yesterday’s trip.  We contacted reception hourly.  “All booked,” they said. “We can’t promise you a room tonight.”  We got lucky at 10.30 and obtained room 321, smoking.  We’d take anything.


Janina Walf and Jorge had arrived.  Jorge is a large burley two-metre person who has played rugby for five years. I asked him about himself.  “I studied English all through school, and could read it but learned to speak it confidently in New York City in 1995 for a year.  It took a while to build my confidence.  I met Christiana through a rugby friend who taught at her school and introduced us at a party. We hit it off.  I was trained in automated instrumentation, the process of automating industrial processes through instrumentation.  My degree is not recognised here in Canada so I’m doing telephone customer support for a New York cable company.  I love the cold weather and like the size of Sudbury after living in a city with three million people. I like travelling and would love to visit Australia.  Columbian passports require expensive visas for every country, even Spain, five star hotel reservations, return tickets and hassles.  I’m looking forward to a Canadian passport.”


Jorge’s engineering skills became apparent when he fixed our Buick passenger seat, which Richard had jammed forward.  “You’ve broken one of the control cables,” he explained, “but I pulled the cable by hand to release the seat to slide back.”  Janina Walf told us, “We are going to INCO’s Dynamic Earth, an excellent interpretative site about Sudbury, home to the Big Nickel.”  We arrived at the interpretative site, with a hundred-metre Canadian five-cent coin called a nickel, which was created in the 1950’s.  Jorge got us into the centre, wavering the $40.00 a person admission fee. 


I was stunned at the modern interactive quality of the displays which outlined how this area was hit by a ten kilometre asteroid about 1.8 billion years ago, causing a nickel formation.  Human history was traced out in a unique, exciting AV show for thirty minutes, involving a projected movie of a barber looking almost real telling stories he had heard from his customers about the railway, timber trade, and prospectors of the area.  Copper had been discovered in 1883 with the CPR construction, but only with the roasting process in the early 1900’s could nickel be separated from “devil’s copper.”  Roasting or burning the ore released huge amounts of sulphur, which combined with rain to make acid rain, which killed all vegetation around Sudbury creating a lunar landscape.  Sudbury produced ninety percent of the world’s nickel until after the Second World War. Nickel as an alloy created stainless steel, which became popular from the 1930’s for kitchen sinks and other domestic appliances. The 375 meter smoke stack, highest in the world, has diluted the pollution, making possible the reforestation of Sudbury today.


Finally, at 1.00 am we joined a one-hour under-ground tour through the Sudbury chasm, a series of twelve degree, dripping wet tunnels illustrating mining in 1900, 1970 and today.  Jorge pushed my wheelchair through gravel, mud and puddles along the gloomy tunnels, studded with rock bolts and wire mesh.  There would be no rock falls here.  The work was back breaking for him, but he was very large and strong.  ”Thank you, god that I didn’t have to push you,” Richard said.  “It would have been like pushing up those hills in old Quebec City.”  We passed a J drill, rock excavator and other mining machines, watched blasting patterns and stood on a wooden platform that roared and vibrated to simulate an explosion.  By 2.30 pm, we have had enough and were glad to move on.  I was sad not to have seen information on the refining of nickel. I was really beginning to like Jorge.


We then visited the Science Centre located overlooking Austin Airways and a beautiful northern lake and yacht club. We ate lunch at “Landings,” a restaurant celebrating the north with a northern float equipped plane, admiring  the  view and returned to the hotel at 4.30 pm.  Jorge started work at the City Centre nearby, talking to irate cable customers in New York State and organising technicians.


We talked to the hotel receptionist because our room was sixteen degree Celsius and felt freezing. She told me, “Things are frantic down here.  They are booked out in North Bay and Perry Sound.  There are four thousand people in hotels at the moment.  I told one old fatigued fellow that he’d have to drive two hours to Parry Sound and he nearly fainted.”  I hit the hay at 9.00 pm, while Richard visited Janina Walf until 2.00 AM.  “I watched a videotape of their wedding,” Richard told me.  “They had beautiful accommodation and a lovely school in Columbia. Jorge was fully employed. Things are really tough in Sudbury for them.  I wonder if they will eventually go back there.”  Janina Walf suggested visiting the casino and at 2.00 am she was prepared to go all night, a seventy-year-old lady of amazing energy and vitality. “I start work at 8.00 am, you leave and drive at 8.00 am, we stay up until then,” she suggested.  Richard was bushed.


Saturday 14 June Sault Ste Marie


Richard awoke at 9.30, showered for forty-five minutes, then dressed me and packed the car.  “Still red marks on your ass,” he crudely informed me to my dismay.  He shared irately, “I feel like shit.    I want to be in bed at 7.00 pm tonight.”  I paid $212.00 for two nights and transferred into the car.  “No way am I letting Richard drive today after two late nights.  I’ll drive the 300 kilometres to Sault Ste Marie.  I need to look after my backside, so I’ll sit on my Roho aircushion.”  I transferred to the passenger seat, Richard moved my cushion from the wheelchair to the driver’s seat and I transferred across onto the cushion.  I was four centimetres above the driver’s seat.  By lowering the electric seat and raising the steering wheel, I slid my long legs underneath the wheel and hand control.  “Feels funny, but I’m here and it might work.  I drive around the car park a few times.

“You’re crazy, Don,” I told myself.  “At home you use a racing harness.  Here you have no support to the left.  You could topple left doing a right corner.”  I felt anxious.  “You’ve done ok so far,” I told myself, ‘You’ll be fine on the Highway.  Richard can prop some stuff on the elbow rest for extra support.  It always takes awhile to feel comfortable with changes.”  I felt confident, and manoeuvred the parking lot ok.  I got on 17 east, stopped for a coffee and doughnut breakfast at Tim Horton’s, reoriented to Highway 17 west and drove 300 kilometres through to the Sault.  Richard photographed the numerous Pre-Cambrian rock cuts, then towards Blind River we drove through flatter farmland with numerous abandoned farms of an earlier farming era.


I pointed out the broad Mississauga River, which I had canoed to Blind River from its headwaters for the Ministry of Natural Resources in 1970.  We stopped at Iron Bridge to photograph the broad River at the site of the old Iron Bridge Hotel, which burned many years ago.  Alan and myself twice ate lunch there below an old Ross Rifle, Canada’s infamous World War I weapon that jammed in the mud and caused many soldiers’ untimely deaths.  From Iron Bridge we drove on through the Ojibwa Reservation, posted, “this is Indian Lands,” but graffiti in the gas station toilet, “I hate dirty Indians,” suggested some racial tension. 


The view to the South over Georgian Bay was scenic, with pine trees lining the road. We arrived in the Sault at 5.00 pm and pulled into the Casswell Motor Inn, the site of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation meetings in the 1970’s.  I was the Michipicoten High School Union President and did the four hour return drive Wawa-Sault monthly to attend district meetings, leaving school at 4.00 pm and returning home at 1.00 am.  I never missed a meeting although winter snows made the drive difficult and dangerous, driving through wind blown or falling snow on icy roads.  On one trip the front wheel of my Ford 100 half-ton truck rolled off, from broken bearings from hitting a pothole on a back trail the day before. I left the truck; I hitch hiked on and made the Sault meeting on time.


The hotel looked more run down than the 1970’s and a sign indicated that it was to be renovated to become part of the Howard Johnson chain.  We enjoyed a drink, and then I ate the pork chop $8.00 special in the hotel restaurant, with chicken noodle soup, peas and mashed potatoes, a typically Canadian meal under  northern theme paintings. Richard tried liver and onions, another Canadian dish.  I made phone calls, typed and went to bed at 8.30 pm.  I organised a morning meeting tomorrow from one return call from the Gallo family at 10.00 pm.


I slept on my side until 1.00 am to reduce pressure on my bottom, an uncomfortable posture for me that results in little sleep.  My bladder failed to drain, resulting in sweating and increased blood pressure, climaxing with a headache, so I wakened Richard for help and slept on my back more comfortably.


Sunday June 15 Wawa


We were packed by 9.45 and Richard had indicated that the red areas on my backside had mostly disappeared, welcome news indeed.  I checked out at the cheapest rate this trip, $48.00, after a breakfast special of bacon, eggs and toast for $2.95.  We drove over to Steelton near the Algoma Steel Plant to catch up with Joe and Dory Gallo, on Laura Street in their big brand new home, and their three lively, lovely children.


We arrived about 11.30 and Dory was blonde as ever and keeping a slim figure.  We chatted until 1.00 sitting outside the garage door under a cloudless blue sky and hot sun, drinking coffee and eating chocolate chip cookies.  “We’re pleased with the house,” Joe told me after shaking hands.  “The turf goes in tomorrow.”   Dory had edited a high school yearbook with me as teacher supervisor in 1973, and had taken grade 12 sociology or grade 13 history with me as her teacher in 1974/5. My last visit with her was with Lily in 1993.  Dory was single then and a RN nurse at Wawa Hospital.  She had worked in Sydney, Australia in 1978 for a year in Reich’s Brewery with Linda Perkins, another ex-student and my Junior Ranger sub-foreman in 1975. 


Dory reminisced, “I really enjoyed my holiday and wonder sometimes if I should have remained there after my Visa expired.  All my children have done school projects on Australia and I encourage them with my stories, photos, boomerang, kangaroo skin and postcards.  I dream of taking the children there one day.”  I asked Joe how they met.  He recalled, “I work for the phone company and spent twelve years in Wawa where we were introduced and things went from there.”  Dory currently works part-time looking after aged folk, but her family keeps her busy.  It was a pleasure to talk to the children, particularly the eldest, who politely introduced herself, shook my hand and told me about her various computer games.  “The kids love computers and I’ve networked the house for them, but I really want them outside playing,” Joe informed me.


At 1.00 pm we set out on the two hundred kilometre drive to Wawa, along Highway 17 west, one of the most scenic Highways in Ontario.  This Highway, broadened and improved since the 1970’s, and first opened in 1964, clings to Lake Superior, climbing hill and cliff after hill to give sweeping vistas of Superior, northern lakes, conifers, large rocks cuts and grey Pre-Cambrian Shield.  There are two stopping points, the Agawa Indian Store in Agawa Bay and Young’s General Store in Wawa.

Owners of the Indian store scour the continent each winter for genuine Indian handicrafts including Apache and Navaho rugs and Heidi woodcarvings.  The Canadian wood carver next door offers a wide range of woodcarvings.  I like the fresh smoked Lake Superior Lake Trout best and Richard purchased three fish and six Canadian beers.  After leaving Agawa, we passed our first wild moose.  Joe had told me that the spring moose hunt had been cancelled and numbers of wild moose and bear had increased dramatically.


We crossed the Michipicoten, a broad fast flowing stream, which is now dammed and used to generate hydro-electricity.  “This water is really clear and clean,” Richard commented.  “Yes,” I replied.  “This river has no cottages or settlements located along its length.  It flows through wilderness.”  The headwaters of this River reach northward to the height of land and from these headwaters Missinaibi Lake and River flow north into James Bay.  These connecting rivers provided the fur trade with an important and heavily used eighteenth and nineteenth century artery for the transport of furs and trade goods between Hudson Bay and the Great Lakes. In 1970 and 1971 I had canoed the Missinaibi River from the lake to Moose Factory, a wilderness experience of magnitude portaging past huge untamed waterfalls and negotiating rapids, feeling like a modern day coureur du bois.


Reaching Wawa, we dropped into Anne May’s ESSO station and Cedarhof German Restaurant.  Stuart May, her deceased husband, had been a fellow teacher and English Head of Department at Michipicoten High School.  During the mid-1980’s he built a massive alpine style restaurant on Highway 17 with a gas station and motel.  I arrived in September 1988 to find that the restaurant, under-insured, had burned and tragically Stuart had died of an aneurism six weeks later while swimming at Sandy Beach on Lake Superior. Anne had rebuilt a much smaller restaurant and operated the gas station and restaurant for the last fifteen years. “I’m still here,’ she told me.  “Every year I think of quitting.   I broke both legs and now I’m in pain if I stand too long.  I’m still angry with the insurance companies.  I sold the motel next door for a song, as I couldn’t manage everything.  I’ve added the patio on the concrete pad of my original restaurant because I got depressed looking at it.  My sons Gary and Perry both work in town.” I wished her well, as she had to get back to work.


We drove down to the Mission, on Lake Superior, once site of a church, fur trading post and fishery and location of Silver Falls, a small easily accessible waterfall.  We drove on over a bridge,  along a gravel road, passed an old cemetary, viewing scenic vistas  and  Sandy Beach, to Michipicoten Harbour, now disused, but once a terminal for the Algoma Central Railway, and a major lumber and ore shipping port.  From there, I showed Richard High Falls, a major forty-metre waterfall of the Magpie River.  The fall spans a width of fifty metres and has been considerably developed for tourism since my last 1975 visit.  I took Richard into Wawa to photograph the large famous steel goose, erected by Algoma Steel, visit the tourist cabin, admire the view, and to visit Young’s General Store with its vast collection of discarded antiques  and oddities.   It was now 7.30 pm, and we checked into the Wawa Motor Inn at $92.00 a night, Wawa’s best accommodation.  We consumed smoked trout and beer for supper and J I read an interesting web site on Wawa. Then Joe Buckell dropped around to the hotel room at 9.00 pm unexpectedly as I thought he was in Niagara Falls.


[1991 Letter from Joe]  Joe looked tired, but still energetic and dynamic, his sixty-one years not evident.  His black hair remained thick with only a touch of grey and he had added only a little weight. “I finished driving 1,100 kilometres from Niagara Falls to Wawa about two hours ago, non-stop.” Joe told me.  “I’ve been elected as chief of First Nation, a group of six hundred Ojibwa, scattered around the Province.  We’re First Nation, not Indians as that term is now viewed as derogatory.  I’m being kept very busy travelling.”  I remembered Joe as my landlord for two years, as I rented his three-room basement flat. He was a clerk with Algoma Ore Division and occasionally we went fishing together on a northern lake.  His son Chris and daughter Pam were in primary school.   I sold Joe the Black Pig, my Ford half-ton truck when I left Wawa for $200.00.  Chris continues to work in Wawa, Pam teaches in Richmond Hill and has a child.


Joe took eight months absence from his job annually for five years and completed a BA, and then a Masters in Business Administration.  He learned the concept of ‘value added’ by processing his fifteen dollar muskrat skins from his hobby trap line as five forty dollar fur trimmed gloves. “The ‘opportunity cost’ of studying,” Joe told me, “Was tremendous.  I gave up a hundred thousand in salary.”  Joe moved on to retire, but became increasing interested in his Indian heritage.  He was elected as Indian representative on the school board, a position involving considerable travel. He ran for first nation chief and lost by six votes.  Two years later in 2003 he ran and was elected, with a federal government salary, office and secretary.  “After my election I was endorsed by the local medicine man, whom was dying of kidney failure.  He told a public gathering that, ‘I was a good choice, would help set the young people on the proper path.’ I was touched,” Joe said.  “I’ve got some big projects in mind, a hydro-electric generating plant on our river, and land claims for a tourist industry on Highway 17.  I’m also concerned about the use of pesticides on Indian lands such as on blueberries.  I believe keeping Indian couples together as a cohesive family unit is the best way to assist our children grow into responsible adults.  If I can help first nation people with employment, I feel I am succeeding.”  Joe refused a beer.  “It’ll make me more tired.  I’ve got a full day of work tomorrow.”  Joe left at 11.00 pm and I went to bed at midnight very tired thinking that Joe had come along way and was developing an exciting new career of public service.  I wished him every success in his new venture.  Not may adults choose to go to university in their late 40’s.


Monday, 16 June, Sault Ste Marie


Today was a late start with the two-hour BT routine thrown in as well.  With delay in mind, I organised to have breakfast with Willard and Gail Smith at 11.00 am.  However, Richard had me dressed and was packed by 10.00 am, so we checked out, dropped off our laundry at the $5.00 Laundromat on Mackey and Third Street and went on a photograph shoot on Wawa Beach’s wide sandy shore.  Willard has a five million dollar location, a lovely small bungalow directly overlooking Wawa Lake.  We arrived at 11.00 am and followed their car to Kinniwabi Restaurant on Highway 17, a highly scenic location on a high bluff overlooking an oxbow of the Michipicoten River.


The day was sunny, about 22 Celsius, the view beautiful and breakfast, purchased by Willard, tasty and filling.  Thanks Will.  Will had been my head of department at Michipicoten High School from 1972 to 1975 and had retired in 1995 as a guidance officer.  He presented me with a copy of his autobiography, tracing his life to the age of twelve in the upper Ottawa River valley.  “I had to learn to type and use a word processor to write it,” he said.  “I’ve retired from flying,” he added, “But I went to Michigan yesterday to help a friend transport a plane.  I really enjoyed my Sunday flights around this area.”  We shared stories about ex-students and teachers and local politics in town.  Gail said, “Local businesses are angry.  A new power company doubled the rates and some businesses found themselves with a $10,000. bill and closed down.  Since the closing of the Algoma Iron Ore Mine, town numbers have dropped from five thousand to three thousand eight hundred people.  American tariffs on Canadian lumber have also caused the Dubruiville brothers to lay off one hundred and fifty timber workers.  There’s also a dispute over reviving the harbour by setting up a rock and gravel crushing plant.  Many people want to limit economic development.”  “I don’t worry too much about Wawa," Will said.  “It’s a regional service centre and has a strong tourist trade.  It will never become a ghost town.”  I asked Will if he would ever leave Wawa.   “When I first came, I planned to stay two years,” Will reflected.  “I would like to return to Renfrew County where the winters are not quite so severe and long.”  Gail indicated that she loved Wawa and was happy there.  “I guess it would be hard to find an equivalent view from your home or leave thirty years of friends,” I said diplomatically.


As we finished eating Richard went to talk with a Polish motel owner of the White Fang Inn.  “The owner came from Poland to Toronto fifteen years ago and moved here and renovated the motel two years ago.  He thinks Wawa is paradise,” Richard related.  “He closes the motel for the winter and goes south.  He’s making a pot of money.”  I thought, “If there are thirty motels in Wawa and he’s open only half a year, I think he struggles like everyone else.”


We said goodbye to Will and Gail.  I decided to take a newly opened mining road through the old sinter plant burn called the badlands west of Wawa Lake.  These roads were private and the entire region had been sealed off from access.  Now with the Ore Company closed, gateways had been opened.  The gravel roads had been blasted through granite and at times built ten or more metres above lakes, clearly an expensive exercise designed to support multiple ore trucks.  This was not your average four wheel drive and winch mining road.  We drove through kilometres of land once totally devastated by acid rain and now slowly making a come back.  Plant emissions had killed all the trees and rain had then stripped soil from the Precambrian rocks leaving the hilltops bare. The old railway had been closed.  Now a few poplar trees and bushes were struggling back into life and grass was flourishing since the closure of the plant. After two hours of driving, I was lost and decided I had enough exploring this man made wasteland. I worried what would happen if we got stuck or broke down, concern that never bothered me in the old days.  “There’s no-one here at all,” Richard said. “If we have a problem, I can’t push your wheelchair twenty kilometres back to the Highway.”  Things now are not like they used to be and this environment chAlanges even the young and hardy.  It was 3.00 pm and time to drive back to Sault Ste Marie, so we retraced our route to Highway 101 and headed east on Highway 17 past Lake Superior Provincial Park and Agawa Bay. The scenery was wonderful, particularly at Old Woman Bay. 


I was now using my roho pressure cushion as a passenger as well as a driver.  Although my head was uncomfortably close to the car roof, I could detect the difference on long rides, particularly those exceeding six hours, as I do not develop pain and red areas in my bottom.  I should have commenced this practice much earlier. We drove through downtown Sault and saw the American bridge, locks to the lower great lakes, the hydro generation station, bush pilot museum and the casino.  We booked into the Caswell Motor Inn again for another $48.00 night.


Tuesday 17 June Huntsville


I was dressed by 9.00 am, and we enjoyed a cheap $5.00 bacon and two egg breakfast with coffee, prior to departure.  We left at 11.00 am, a late start, to travel five hundred kilometres to Huntsville, via TransCanada Highway 17 east and Highway 11 south from North Bay.  We passed logging trucks and enjoyed the rolling farmland to Sudbury with granite rock cuts, weathered old barns, and occasional views to Georgian Bay and the Lake Huron shoreline.  At Coniston, near Sudbury, Richard phoned his Polish friend Janina Walf, who had taken a day off work to greet us again, but I told Richard, we must press on to Huntsville, a hundred kilometres South.  “This landscape is all the same.  Nothing to take photos of like Wawa,” Richard complained as we headed south along Lake Nipissing from North Bay through gently rolling farm lands on Highway 11.  “At least the road is excellent, four lane and recently constructed,” Richard added. 


We reach Highway 60 running to Barry’s Bay and Ottawa about 7.00 pm.  “We’ll go down 60 and stay at Hidden Valley,” I suggested.  I recalled attending dances at the ski resort in Hidden Valley each week on our day off from 1964 to 1966 as a camp counsellor at Camp Comak.  The councillors would kick in a few dollars to buy a rusty old $200.00 camp vehicle each summer to drive on our days off to Huntsville or Bracebridge.  Usually we chose to go to attend a dance at the Hidden Valley Ski Resort. We’d leave the dance about 1.00 am, drive back forty kilometres to the Lake Saint Nora Landing, then faced a thirty minute canoe paddle back to the island where the camp was located. The paddle was memorable with moonlit nights and mist off the water, but other paddles were in dark, windy or rainy weather.  At least in those days, there was no problem with drinking or drug use.


The resort had expanded into luxurious apartments, but the ski lift remained. We checked into the Holiday Inn at $134.00, overlooking a beautiful lake.  After a relaxing outdoor meal on the hotel’s patio overlooking the lake, I went to bed at 11.00 pm.  I was pleased that the pressure areas on my derriere had continued to fade.


Wed 18 June Aurora


Richard got up at 6.00 am to swim in the hotel’s luxurious pools. He had me dressed and packed by 10.00 am.  Our plan today is to visit the old Camp Comak, located on Lake Saint Nora, and then continue on, two hours drive south to Aurora, Ontario to visit Peter Bougadis.  We took Highway 60 to Highway 35, and then drove south to Dorset and the Ministry of Natural Resources training facilities on Lake Saint Nora.  To the south of the ministry buildings still stands an old log cabin, the gatehouse for a Camp Comak boat service to the island and the camp. I wondered what had happened to the old Camp Comak buildings.


Then I discovered Comak crescent, a new road filled with wall-to-wall tiny cottages that circumnavigates the lake.  By driving along it, I received a clear view of the site for the camp’s former main landing dock.  Canadian flags and docks there announced that the camp building had joined the twenty-first century and were now an integral portion of ‘cottage-country.’  In 1966, there had been no cottages on this lake.


I remembered back to my cottage days at Oak Lake, the freedom to wander, swim and relax unfettered by structure or timetables.  However, my three years as a camp counsellor during the summers of grade eleven, twelve and thirteen were enormously rewarding for me.  I looked after six nine year old boys and responded to their fears, needs and problems.  I learned to take them for midnight walks to the outdoor toilet to deal with enuresis and worse problems.  I took them on three-day canoe trips and vivaciously enjoyed watching them learn to face chAlanges, to portage and cook their meals over open campfires.  I organised Y Games like Capture the Flag that were played across the island.  We put on skits, told ghost stories, and regularly sang the favourite camp songs that everyone knew.


I also appreciated learning the technical skills of camp life.  I became a Red Cross swimming instructor, and earned all my Royal Life Saving awards from bronze medallion, to bronze cross, and award of merit.  I practised my canoeing skills daily and earned my Canadian Camping Association master canoeist award.  I taught photography, sailing and swimming, enjoying my contact with the young Comak campers.  My experience at camp influenced my later life, as a teacher and psychologist, and I recommend a camp experience to anyone.


Richard and I moved on.  I enjoyed driving the windy Highway 35 as it meandered past old farms, and climbed steep hills, through large rock cuts and passed numerous small lakes with rocky shorelines and studded with small islands.  Many of these lakes are still free from summer cottages.  We returned to Highway 60, then Highway 11, and bypassed Huntsville. Richard took over the monotonous freeway driving south of Orelia.  We passed the Orelia casino Rama, run by the first nation, which Lily and I had visited in 1999.  Then we were amazed at its huge size and the line of buses all ferrying retired people to gamble away their savings.  We passed Barrie and noted the improvement in the gently rolling farmland.  There were no weathered barns here as everything was large, new and expensive.  Turning on to Highway 9, we drove to Newmarket, and then south to Aurora, with a population of nearly fifty thousand people   to check in at Howard Johnson hotel.


I telephoned my friend Peter Bougadis, left a message on his answer machine, and he phoned me back ten minutes later. Peter had taught History with me for two years in Wawa and had travelled for a month through Greece, Turkey and taken the Orient Express train with me to Paris.  I had accommodated him for three months in my apartment in Joe Buckell’s house.  I had also attended his wedding to Betty in New York City in 1975.  “Why don’t I come over to your hotel, with a bottle of Canadian Club whiskey,” he suggested.  “Betty’s gone to work at Toronto Dominion Trust and Kathy is going out.” I replied that I looked forward to seeing him.  Peter arrived an hour later and we poured drinks.  I asked about the family.  “Betty works full time and I stay home as house keeper, and chauffeur.  I still invest in the stock market but things have been poor lately.  Kathy is going into fourth year Honours English and wants to teach high school.  I try to discourage her, without success.  She’s even thinking of doing a MA in English.”  I suggested, “You must have influenced her to teach, since you taught ten years yourself.  What made you give it up?” Peter frowned. “We operated a Baskin and Robbins Ice-cream store, and I taught all day, then sold ice-cream all evening.  It was exhausting work, and I even slept in the back of the shop a few nights.  I sold out in a large boom period and made enough money to invest in the stock market and retire from teaching.  I’ve had enough!  We then retired to my estate in Sparta for ten years but came back to give my children an English education.  I’d like to retire back there soon.  Toronto has changed with the huge migration of Asians and blacks into the city.” A early letter from Peter 1977.


I took him down a memory lane trip by showing him old and the new Wawa photographs that we had taken two days earlier. Peter said, “I sold you my sixteen gauge shotgun and taught you how to hunt partridge.  The first bird you saw, you blew to pieces with that shotgun, but you learned to aim high and decapitate the birds without hitting the breast. We used to go out after school and on weekends walking through the bush near a gravel road. I drove my Firebird the first year then you bought Stu May’s old black truck, the Black Pig.  We really hammered that through those old bush trails. I enjoyed cooking and eating those birds, with whiskey sours, sometimes spitting out lead pellets. Remember when we went moose hunting and camped overnight.  It was bitterly cold and I nearly froze.”  I replied, “I remember ice fishing on the ice on Wawa Lake.  We built a fire, put a hole through the ice with an auger, and then froze our asses in minus twenty-degree weather with gusts of wind blowing down the lake from the North Pole.  We did that nearly every winter weekend.  I wouldn’t want to do it now.”


Peter added, “And you took groups of students to the old Josephine Iron Ore Mine, near Hawk Junction and the Big Bear Hotel on the Algoma Central Railway.  I went along to help.  We also took them to that ghost gold mining town of Goudreau and camped in the old hotel.  I think you and I also took the ACR to the Sault and up to Hearst.  We had some good adventures.” I replied, “Yes, I recall one of the girl students Sheila Boucher took an illicit bottle of whiskey, and I confiscated it.  I recall that girl was pregnant a year later in grade ten.  I took some risks running those overnight field trips to dangerous abandoned mining sites. Imagine the scandal if a girl fell pregnant on our field trip.”   


I told Peter, ‘I really enjoyed that trip to Athens and Sparta with you.  You showed me the family estate in Sparta and we explored the old Greek ruins, pillars, walls and mounds dating back to the first and second century BC.  After taking an Honours Greek history course in Third Year University and reading Herodotus, it was a wonderful experience to be there. And you picked up that American girl in Athens….” I shouldn’t have mentioned that as Peter replied, “Yes, and we flew to Istanbul together, went through a little gate with an armed guard, and found ourselves on a street of brothels.  You paid 25 lira, or $2.00 to be with that girl.”  Alan Armit had already teased me about that adventure but Peter had been there.  “I was so nervous, nothing happened,” I confessed and added, “We took the train to Salzburg, Austria, toured the castle and on to Munich and visited that huge technological museum, which gave me insight into the impact of the telegraph and undersea cables on world history.” Peter recalled, “We got to Paris, saw Notre Dame and the Eiffel Tower and totally by accident ran into Gail Emerson from Wawa.  We had dinner with her.  What a coincidence.”  I recalled, “I remember flying from the Sault to attend your wedding.  It was my second New York visit, but I was excited being in the downtown core, visiting Times Square and the Empire State Building.  Your Greek Orthodox Church wedding was the longest and strangest that I’ve attended, all in Greek of course.  Since then, I took Lily to New York City in the 1970’s.”


By this time both Richard and I had consumed a couple of stiff drinks and were getting tipsy.  Peter excused himself at 9.00 pm and Richard and I went out for dinner at Charlie’s Subs across the busy six lane road from Howard Johnson’s.  I’m now ordering a glass of red wine with all my evening meals and this practice has prevented my allergy from playing up.  We survived the jay walking and went to bed at 11.00 pm.


Thursday 19 May Brampton, Ontario.


I awoke around 8.00 am a little tired from the drinks with Peter the night before.  Richard packed the car and I paid the $85.00 bill.  We breakfasted at Charlie’s, without the wine antidote, causing a major food allergy coughing fit.  Perhaps I need a very small glass of red wine with breakfast too.  Richard drove, as I coughed, to Highway 9 to Orangeville, then south on Highway 10 to Main Street in Brampton.  I liked the scenery, with displays of luxuriant trees and flora, and prosperous farms.  “This area is really wealthy,” was Richard’s reaction. We turned east on Queen Street and checked into the Rosetown Inn on the corner of Queen and Kennedy at 2.30 pm surrounded  by high rise apartments.  In the past couple of days driving Richard had emerged from his fog of geographical vacuity and had started to recognize Highway exit numbers, rather than blissfully driving by them.  In recent days, I’ve been, in Richard’s word, ‘rude’ at his frequent errors of navigation.  Richard asked directions to Casper Street in the hotel reception and was told it was a five-minute drive south on Kennedy.  We set out and found David Williamson’s home, our next visit, with no difficulty by 2.45 pm.  We waited for him to arrive home from his High School chemistry teaching.  He arrived at 3.30 pm and gave me a warm welcome.


Dave attended Queen Mary Primary, but I don’t remember him there. I was in Dave’s split year 7/8 class at Avondale Primary, and then went on to high school and Queen’s University with him, though a year behind.   Dave lived on Selina Street, a street behind my home on Palmer Road, and we rode the three kilometres to and from school together for four years.  We were also in the Avondale First Boy Scout Troop under scoutmaster Len Ferney and Norm Wilcox, attending many camps and outings.


“We’ll have you in, in no time,” Dave said.  “I’ve got two large planks to ramp those three steep steps up the front.”  The ramp worked well and I soon inside the roomy brick house that overlooked a golf course.  “These are my daughters Andrea and Gillian.  Andrea is a second year chemistry teacher like me, while Gillian is working in Burlington and studying this autumn to be a nurse.  My oldest daughter, Natalie may be here later, with my wife Karen and her son David.  Natalie’s been in England two years and just returned two weeks ago.  Would you stay for dinner?”  We happily consented. I was introduced to Andrea who had just finished teaching and was living with Dave and Karen to save money for her own house.  I told Andrea that I belonged to a square dance club that met weekly with David in high school.  Andrea’s granddad, Dave’s dad, originally called the dances, but by year eleven Dave was calling all the dances.  I enjoyed this activity until the end of grade 13.  “I didn’t know dad did that at such a young age,” Andrea marvelled.


“I still call dances, twice or three times a week,” Dave said.  “I quit for the summer though, and paint houses with a friend of mine instead.”  The daughters shook their heads and mouthed the word, “Weird.”  “Do you square dance, Andrea?” I asked.  “No,” she said,  “We all did competitive gymnastics.  I think square dancing is an old person’s activity.  I did play golf with the teachers yesterday and would like to learn more about the game.”  Dave took exception to Andrea’s comments, disputing them, and I got talking about old times.  Dave boasted to his daughters, “We rode our bikes three kilometres to school and rode back for lunch on the old Highway 2, before the 401.  We had no helmets and all the big trucks used that road.  I still had my old green bike until recently.”  “Yes,” I said, “I’m glad we survived.  I still feel bad about hitting a little girl, on my bike and giving her concussion as I left the BCI car park one lunch.  I later bought a ten-speed bike and rode it through Ireland and Scandinavia.”


I mentioned how much I enjoyed Scouts.  “I still see Norm Wilcox while square dancing, and discovered my old boy scout hat recently.  I’ll show you.”  Dave put on the hat and we took a photo.  Karen and her son David arrived home.  David is working to save money for further study by packing embalming fluid in a warehouse and the fluid inflames his eyes.  “You must wear goggles,” Dave, the chemistry teacher advised.  “I’d love to live in Australia,” David said. “I have the right qualities. I love hot weather, women, relaxing, beer and BBQ’s.”  Andrea joined in, “I want to go SCUBA diving there on the reefs. Count me in for a trip.”  “Lasagne, for dinner.  Would you like a glass of red wine?” Karen asked. I did. “How did you meet Dave?” I asked Karen.  “We taught opposite each other for ten years in the same school.  After Dave divorced, and my husband died, I asked him out for a golf game. Things went from there.” 


Natalie, the oldest daughter arrived, making the family complete.  Natalie had returned a fortnight ago from two years of overseas work in England.  “I loved it,” Natalie said.  “Every month I travelled and covered most of Europe backpacking and youth hostelling.  I went all over Turkey, Greece and Italy.  We all travelled together last summer for two weeks in Portugal.”  Natalie reeled off a considerable list of place names revealing a considerable first hand knowledge of Europe.  Natalie was clearly a traveller. I asked about Capri where I had taken a group of students from Wawa and what motivated her.  “I always wanted to travel but a sour relationship with a boyfriend motivated me.  I got a working visa for England and went to explore the world. I’ve been to Capri and went swimming with nothing on in the Blue Grotto.  Sorry, dad.  I’d love to visit Australia but need to make some more money first.”


We retired indoors to eat Lasagne, taking our glasses of red wine from the back patio, which overlooks the verdant golf course. “I enjoy teaching very much,” Dave said, “but Karen has retired and I may retire in a year or two.  We do want to see Australia and will all come over for a visit then.”  We chatted until 10.30.  Karen had switched to special education at the end of her long teaching career and enjoyed the children. Individual education plans and the morass of paperwork involved in special education eventually frustrated her. The system lost another skilled teacher. We then headed back to the Rosetown Hotel.  I got to bed at midnight.


Saturday June 20 Hanover, Ontario


I got up at 10.00 and we ate breakfast next door at a Taco Bell; a chilli roll and diet Pepsi but no red wine.  I coughed and blew my nose for a couple of hours afterward as my body reacted to some chemical.  Nevertheless, I elected to drive, north on 10 through Orangeville to Shelburne, past farms, north again on Highway 89 and 6 through Forest Hill and west on Highway 4 to the small town of Hanover.  Hanover was settled by German farmers and is a small, well laid out, prosperous and beautiful village.  We arrived about 2.30 pm after travelling through fertile gently rolling countryside, viewing large wooden barns, and grazing cattle.  Houses here in the small towns were those prosperous roomy multi-story large brick buildings erected in Queen Victoria’s time.  We checked in at the Travellers Inn on Seventh Street across from the racetrack and Slots, and my friend Don Watch lived on Fourth Street. Convenient!


We dropped over to visit Don and his wife Jane, a slim; attractive looking lady, greeted us.  I didn’t remember her, as I had only met Don’s previous wife, Mary Beth.  Don had remarried about fifteen years ago.  Don and I attended Prince Charles and Queen Mary Primary Schools together and he was my best friend for some years.  Don lived at 62 1/2 Catherine Street, Belleville, Ontario, a small row-housing block of early nineteenth century limestone buildings, a block from our house, overlooking Queen Mary Primary.  Don came home, greatly me warmly, and assisted me around his large beautiful house to the back patio. 


We started reminiscing.  Don comes from a period in my life that I’ve forgotten.  It was a time before I started to achieve. Don poured beers round the table.  “I came from what today, we’d call a dysfunctional family,” Don said.  “My dad was a bartender and never home.  I never knew him.  Mum was a waitress.  My parents were very poor and fought, and I tried to stay away from home as much as I could.  My parents warned me against the Pugh’s.  ‘They’ve got a silver spoon in their mouths.  They aren’t our type. There’re too wealthy and educated.’ I think we were in the same class in year 4 at Prince Charles.  You were in Ireland and wrote letters back that were read aloud to the class. Do you remember getting doughnuts from the bakery next to the school for two cents?  I never had money so I looked for coke bottles to trade in.  In years six and seven we hung out together on the weekends, seeing movies, wandering around town, and building forts.  Your parents were always nice to me and regularly asked me to stay for lunch or dinner many weekends and I always accepted. I even had your mum as a relief or substitute teacher, and she said, ‘I know Don Watch.’  We were together in year 7 at Queen Mary's with our teacher Mrs Shields.  You were always reading, and she’d always catch you with a novel behind your textbook.   None of us worked, we were always annoying the teacher by pulling up our collars and pretending to be Elvis Presley but you were smart and passed while I repeated years.  I remember that George always wanted to play with us.  Once we ran away from him, lost him and he sat down and cried on the grass.  We let him join us.  I recall doing meccano together at your house and George was much better than you and I.  I recall that Margaret was much older and didn’t get along very well with you.” 


I responded to that saying, “When I was moved from Queen Mary to Avondale, my parents made me repeat year 7 to improve my grades.”   Don continued, “We hung around with Mike Follwell and Raymond Boyle, until he stole some of your dad’s stamps.  He lived with his grand mum, his mum was always in bed, and I heard that he ended up on the railway and retired as a foreman. Do you remember smoking sawdust in corn pipes in your dad’s garage and we started a fire.  Your dad put it out but wasn’t happy.  We rode twenty kilometres on our bikes out to Oak Lake together.”


“After I moved, we lost contact,” I said. “We both went to BCI but you did vocational.  I was hanging out with the ‘nerdy’ academic types, John Bateman, and David Williamson. What happened in your life later?”  “Our apartment on Front Street burned down and one of my sisters died in the fire. I did years eight to ten at Belleville Collegiate Institute, and then my parents separated.  One sister went with my mum, one with my dad and I elected to be free at fifteen.  I did go with my dad to Saskatchewan for three months, and then when I told my dad I was leaving for Ontario with no money, he laughed at me, said I’d never do it.  I left him that day; hitch hiked back and never saw him again except at his funeral. I joined the Coburg Police Department as a cadet and served thirty years, finishing as a detective.  I put a lot of lowlife behind bars and got very good in the courtroom under cross examination.”


I reflected, “Yes, I saw you for a meal in 1972 when I was a student teacher at Coburg High School.  You dropped around to visit me in 1988 in Belleville, and then you moved and we lost contact.  I found you on the Internet last year.  Tell me the story about becoming an Anglican minister.”  Don continued, “By 1988, I was tired of the long hours, and harsh life in the police force. I drank and got divorced. I’ve seen more than my fair share of car crashes, mutilated people, and nasty types who beat their wives or abuse their children. You’ve got to perform to stay a detective, and that means continuous unrelenting work, university study in forensics and criminology, and very long hours to find and outwit criminals.  The unrelenting stress and my continual absence led to Mary Beth and my break-up.


I had proved myself as a clever, competent detective, and I was wondering, ‘how could someone like myself have come from such a ‘nothing’ family?’  My dad never referred to his roots.  I began to research the Watch genealogy and lineage and found my Great Granddad Watch was an Anglican Minister in Belleville into his 90’s, had started the Children’s Aid Society and was on the Board of Albert College.  Further back, a Watch had died saving soldiers from a Barrack Fire in England and his son gained the privilege to attend Sandhurst and became a Rear Admiral in the British navy.  My dad never referred to our background.  I think he was ashamed of his failures.  I was interviewed and accepted into the Anglican Training College Wickliffe, in Toronto but changed my mind about the wisdom of four full-time years of heavy university study.  I’m glad of my decision now.”


“How did you get into the retail business?” I asked.  “I retired in 1995, and ran a restaurant and Chip Truck with Jane.”  I started making money, culminating in $11,000.00 for a day’s gross takings from the Chip Truck in one day at the Coburg Festival.  I gained instruction in investing money in the stock market, particularly favouring Nortel stock.  Then, I began retailing ‘Stop Stick,’ a device that flattens car tires slowly, to Police Departments and found I had a flare for sales, contacts and the necessary police talk and background.  I expanded to Police Uniforms, Fireman Gear and other products.  Business began to grow as I established credibility over time.  With September 11, it took off in a bang.  I was selling truckloads of Kevlar Armour.  Now with SARS I’m selling truckloads of protective masks.  I now have five men buying exclusively from me and retailing themselves.  I’m doing very well.  I travel 100,000 kilometres annually in my Lexis selling and stay in Hilton Suites now.  Thirty percent of my business is in the United States and I love the American capitalist approach to business. I’m annoyed Canada refused to support the US over Iraq like Australia did.”


Don showed us through the house, with its new kitchen.  Don has taken up painting and I was impressed with the quality of his work.  I met Andrew, Don and Jane’s twelve-year-old son in year seven, who played a solo perfectly on the bagpipes for us.

He bought out his sketches, mainly of cartoon characters, showing more talent than I ever possessed.  “They’re very good.  Can we photograph a few?” I asked.  “How did you meet Jane?” I asked.  “I saw her at a dance and thought she looked beautiful,” Don said, “So I asked her to dance.  It happened from there.”  Don put on the BBQ, Peel grain fed cattle, with four pieces of tenderloin meat for $40.00.  Jane made a special trip to buy a cabinet sauvignon red for me, to offset my allergy. The Watch family sure are nice people.  The meal was delicious with Hanover German rhubarb pie.  “We want you to stay the night,” Don insisted but I explained that we were checked in at the Traveller’s Inn.  Don phoned the hotel and placed my bill on his Visa Card. Thanks Don.  “What bought you from Coburg to Hanover?” I asked.  “Too many ex-crims knew me from my days on the Police in Coburg,” Don said.  “Jane’s parents live on Lake Huron near here and they are getting elderly.  We wanted to be close.  We saw this house for sale and loved it.  The snake fence at the back is original and its 150 years old.”


At 10.30 we said goodnight and headed back to the hotel.  I was in bed by midnight.


Saturday 21 June Ridgetown Ontario


Our target today was Ridgetown via London, Ontario.  We arose at 9.00 am, and appreciated the warm, sunny day, with a high around twenty-eight Celsius.  We checked out of the Traveller’s Inn, a clean, modern, pleasant motel, around 10.30, I drove, and I dropped around to say a goodbye to the Watch family.  Taking Highway 10 south, we passed through some picturesque German tourist towns, particularly Neustadt with alpine restaurants and antique shops. We then took Highway 4 to Highway 23, which runs through North Perth where we stopped at the ubiquitous Tim Horton’s for a coffee and doughnut for breakfast.  Unfortunately, even this light repass caused an allergy, which left me, coughing and blowing my nose for the next two hours.  We rejoined Highway 4 through the centre of London past the Labatt’s Brewery and got lost on a wrong turn only once. Ten minutes of retracing our steps and we continued south across the 401 to the Ford Car Assembly Plant near Saint Thomas and avoided the boring 401 freeway by taking Highways 18, and 2 to Ridgetown.  London, with 350,000 people is a substantial city, with the University of Western Ontario.  It also has the regional cancer treatment hospital, which Margaret and I attended regularly for my bone marrow transplant and Margaret’s leukaemia treatment in 1999. 


The entire trip to Ridgetown was on two-lane Highway through richly foliaged rolling farming country, with red barns and burgeoning crops growing under the intensity of the summer sun.  In Ridgetown we drove first to Dixie Lee and we were greeted warmly by Ken in his red and white Dixie Lee uniform and given free ice cream.  As we drove to the Ken and Margaret’s Ridgetown home around 4.30 pm, I noticed changes from a month ago, winter wheat a metre high in the backfield, trees in the woodlot behind the field now in full summer foliage, and grass in the yards demanding weekly mowing.  Yellow and orange-breasted orioles were visiting the backyard feeding station.  Flowers bloomed around the house.  Margaret was delighted to see us again and took us back to Ken’s Dixie Lee franchise for a dinner. We ate chicken, coleslaw and a potato salad dinner with cranberry juice and for me a glass of red wine in an unobtrusive coffee mug. I had no coughing reaction.  Ken remained at work after joining us for the meal while Richard and I turned in for an early night.


Sunday 22 June Ridgetown


Richard dressed me at 9.00 am and after chatting with Ken and Margaret, I typed for three hours.  At 2.00 PM I rang a fellow teacher from Wawa, Perry Ferns whom I taught with in 1974/1975 for one year.  Perry replaced Peter Bougadis as a geography teacher and immediately fitted into the Wawa milieu.  He fascinated me with his tales of two years post-graduate studies in Mombassa, Kenya completing a Masters Degree in Geography.  He rented a considerably more tasteful flat than my basement hideaway in Joe Buckell’s house and filled it with African prints, paintings, teak African carvings, and played some beautiful African music.  He had a motorcycle that worked, unlike my Suzuki 250cc in terminal decline and dated numerous girls successfully, an area in which I lacked confidence. I was so impressed.  Perry and I, continued Peter’s tradition, hunted partridge, fished, drank and explored the entire region in the ‘Black Pig’ half ton Ford truck.  It was a wonderful year.


I heard occasionally from Perry while in Australia.  He went on to teach in an International School in Tripoli, Libya, but left after the American Air force bombed Tripoli and himself.  He returned to Canada and taught in Ignace, Ontario, a small iron ore-mining town located West of Lake Superior on Highway 17.  I visited him in September 1988, in my bus camper with James, my attendant and driver.  His large modern home overlooked a sweeping northern lake panorama, and his house was filled with costly paintings and his own art.  He gave me one of the paintings he had executed, the gravel pit in the Mission in winter, which hangs in our house today.  We stayed a weekend and then Perry visited Lily and myself in Amherstview in the middle of a huge December snowstorm, stopping for lunch.


Today, I spoke with Perry.  “I’ve thought a lot about you lately,” he said.  “Two years ago I got a streptococci flesh eating infection in my arm beginning from a small scratch and in spite of antibiotics it spread to my heart and destroyed a valve.  I was rushed to Saint Boniface Hospital in Winnipeg for open-heart surgery.  I survived and recovered.  Then on March 9th this year I suffered a series of strokes, which paralysed my left arm, destroyed much of my eyesight and made me partially deaf.  I spent two more months in hospital.  Now I can’t teach or drive.  I’ve got two girls aged 7 and 8 and think about you and your enthusiastic attitude to life. You can see a glass as half empty or half full, and I find myself thinking about not being able to drive or teach. I love teaching and really like my high school here in Sioux Lookout. I tried riding a bike, but I fell off heavily and went back to hospital.  I can’t ride a snow mobile well. My whole life has changed.  I think about the extent of your disabilities and how you keep going.”  “What a tragic event,” I empathised. “I’m glad your right arm is ok and you now have time to paint like the old days and write. Sometimes, disabilities grant us the time to reflect on life and do the things we never had time for.”


I spoke with Elizabeth, the elder eight-year-old daughter and she was confident, articulate and talkative on the telephone.  “I really want to visit Australia one day and see the kangaroos,” she told me and I asked her to visit me.  I hope I’m around when she arrives.  I said goodbye to Perry and promised to phone him from Australia.


My friend Alan Armit phoned and I promised to see him at Oak Lake Saturday.  “No, I won’t have my weapon of mass destruction,” I replied to his enquiry.  Jonathon and Andrea Crowther phoned from England expressing their pleasure to see us in High Wycombe, next Monday night.  “Richard and you can stay with us,” Andrea asserted. “Richard can have his own room.  I’ve taken the whole week off to be with you.  We’ll have a wonderful time.”  I phoned the Dunlop’s in Ireland to announce my arrival July 6th.  It was a pleasure to hear Robert and Daphne’s voices and enthusiasm to see us as my last visit had been on a bicycle in 1974.


Margaret cooked a chicken dinner with rice and talked about the big party tomorrow night.  “We have thirty people coming the celebrate Ken’s birthday on July 7th,” Margaret warned. “Plan for a late night.”  I made tonight an early one, in bed at 8.00 pm but woke up feeling cold.


Monday 23 June Ridgetown


The weather was sunny and warm. I was awake at 9.00, involved in Bts for two hours, and then enjoyed my first shower since Bill and Sue’s using buckets of warm water in the garage.  This was a great improvement from my garage shower a month ago when it was still cold outside and I shivered and froze.   Breakfast without any wine set off my allergy leaving me coughing for two hours.


I phoned David McDonald, in Petersburg, Ontario whom has retired three years ago after thirty years of teaching science in lower socio-economic classes in downtown Kitchener.  David was in my Cub group and in my Avondale year 7 and 8 class.  We were in different classes in high school, and then David moved to Montreal at the end of year ten.  I met him in 1970 in the Queen’s library when he attended McArthur College of Education while I was in fourth year Honours History.  David and I maintained Christmas letter contact for twenty-five years, but I missed seeing him in 1995 when he visited Perth on a three month round the world trip. 


“I have a few acres of farm land, surrounded by city buildings, now,” David said.  “I grow hay and keep horses.  My parents are unwell and now it’s my payback time, to help them.  Dad has cancer, but they insist on living in their own house.  It’s a big responsibility for me and I’m not doing any travelling now. It’s not what I envisaged for my retirement. I’m still a bachelor and live alone here in a bungalow.”  We talked some more and I gave David my best wishes. David’s sister, Sharon, still lives in Belleville and is friends with the house decorators who bought my parents, Palmer Street home.  Consequently, amazingly, I had received a letter, addressed to my mother three years after her death mailed to Palmer Road, from a blacksmith in Salt Lake City who was related to Mr Fuller, mum’s dad.


Now it is party time.  Ken had lined up six bottles of liquor, beer and wine in the garage.  “This puts me to shame,” I thought.  “My party guests are always bringing their own booze.”  Guests were arriving and we sat out on the back patio overlooking the wheat fields and woodlot in 25-Celsius weather and wall-to-wall blue skies. “Australian weather,” I thought.  Groups were obvious, all people Ken and Marg interact with, local church aficionados, business friends, Kiwanis Club members, neighbours, teacher friends and so on, about twenty friends in all. I sat next to Bill Johnson, who runs the Chrysler dealership and whom had rented me the Buick Century.  “We took good care of your car, no dents, only a new battery and tailpipe,” I told him smiling.  “Wait ‘til you receive Richard’s two hundred dollar speeding ticket.” I teased.  “Perhaps you better chat to him and tell him you have an infringement notice with his picture on it.  That’ll get him going.”  Bill passed on my little joke.   Chatting got around to blunders.  Bill recalled, “I remember Margaret setting fire to her front lawn.  It burned the Christmas wiring and front bushes.  I gave you a ‘Burning Bush’ as a replacement, and joked,  ‘don’t set fire to this.  It’ll turn red in the autumn all by itself.’”  I heard too that Margie, Bill’s wife, also started a bush fire that burned to their sand beach.  Bush fires apparently aren’t restricted to Australia.


Scott, a chef, now employed as a salesperson at Johnson Motors, catered dinner, and dressed in a traditional chef’s outfit.  The meal was wonderful, tender New York Strip Loin Steak with glazed carrots, grilled tomatoes, double stuffed baked potatoes, raspberry cheesecake or carrot cake and Lindeman Australian Shiraz. “Margaret’s not in her usual panic,” the ladies commented.  The toast was to Ken’s sixtieth birthday on July 7th, and to Don and Richard’s visit. Margaret made an emotional speech about me saving her life, and I was embarrassed.  I showed Kathy, a local teacher who grew up in Malone Bay, Nova Scotia, my laptop computer and she identified most of our Malone Bay and Lunenburg photographs, naming the houses and who lived in them, and telling us about the shops and industries.  She was most knowledgeable.  “Some photos are really good,” she complemented Richard. I went to bed at 11.00 pm.


Tuesday 24 June Ridgetown


I got up around 10.00 am and enjoyed coffee and a cornflake breakfast, which once again set off coughing. “Wheat intolerance,” I thought.  I phoned John Ferguson in Sault Ste Marie, whom I had failed to contact when visiting there. John and I met in 1969 when I paddled canoe routes in Dryden and John lived with his parents.  I remember vividly watching Neil Armstrong do the first moonwalk on John’s black and white television at their summer cottage near Dryden.  John did Honours English at Queen’s, went to McArthur College with Al Armit and shared a flat with him that year.  I bussed down from Carleton University in Ottawa to attend some of their parties. He taught in the Sault and I visited him while I taught in Wawa.


“I was in Dryden visiting my dad,” John told me.  “We had a raft of answer phone messages from you.  Marlene and I retired a year ago to our winterised log cabin on St Joseph Island, overlooking the water but I taught communication skills at Sault College last September for a semester on contract.  In January we travelled through Florida and the Southern States for a few months. I last saw Lily and you here in 1993 and before that you stopped by in your bus in 1988. Since then, I worked as an English Department Head, Vice Principal, and High School Principal.  My last year, I opted to be the librarian, a job I always wanted to try and I really enjoyed the work.  Both children have excellent jobs in Toronto and things are going well for us.”


Ken joined us at lunch, having attended a medical appointment for a cat scan, for some small strokes, he’d experienced. “I’d loose my licence if they happened while I drove,” he said.  He looked tired and fell asleep, complaining, “Roy forgot to lock the door last night, and the cleaners found customers walking in.  I must double check everything.”.  Ken was working all afternoon today, after last night’s late party, from 2.30 to 8.30 pm tonight. Last Friday, he had worked all morning, and Richard heard him saying how tired he was.  He returned for the afternoon, and stayed for the 8.30 pm staff party until late at night.  On Sunday, he took part of the day off, and I intercepted two phone calls about problems at the shop.  “He’s going to kill himself with a heart attack soon,” Richard unkindly predicted.  “Some people thrive on work,” I replied.


In the afternoon, I enjoyed the blue skies and heat from the open garage door, reminding me of times I had spent here in July 1999, with my daily visits to see my mother in the nursing home, at 37 Myrtle Street, about three hundred metres down the street.  I thought, “Isn’t it sad that Hazel, my mum died in April 10th, 2001, a day short of her ninth birthday party and isn’t here to see me. I remember her promising to survive another four years until my next visit.   We used to push up the road and she was bright, alert and keen to see us.”  I found myself feeling melancholy.  “Get a grip,” I told myself.  ‘She was ninety and smoked fifty years.  She did very well and died peacefully, while asleep, without a medical intervention.  Pray that you be so lucky.  She had excellent innings, but life ends.”  I felt happier thinking about her long life and achievements, rather than regretting her passing.


Then I watched a wall poster showing a setting sun over a church in Newfoundland/Labrador.  The inscription read, “Newfoundland.  Where’s there room to breathe. Room to roam. Room to expand your mind. Room for the biggest Caribou herd in the world.  An ancient Moravian mission and early Basque whaling station.  A land with room for one of the last true wilderness areas in the world.  Imagine that.”  I thought, “Margaret Richmond and Pat Pugh visited there together recently.  Bill and Sue Van Wart painted there for two summers and Bill’s going back. He loves the place and offered me one of his fishing outpost paintings.  Why didn’t I include Newfoundland in my trip, as it’s the only Province I’ve missed visiting.  What a disaster.”  Again, I felt a little sad, perhaps twenty percent sad forcing me to reconsider my thoughts.  “Don’t be ridiculous,” I counselled myself.  “People who live there hate it, and seek to escape.  Those places have the highest gasoline sniffing, drug and alcohol abuse in Canada.  You can’t go everywhere, it’s expensive and time consuming to take the long ferry trip, and you’ve done well already.  Save a new place for your next visit.”  My new belief was that I’d include Newfoundland in my next visit and I was convinced and felt better.


Richard served leftovers from last night as both Ken and Margaret were away, working until 10.00 pm.  Richard and I both went to bed early.


Wednesday 25 June London, Ontario


Today’s plan is to get up at 7.00 am, finish BT’s by 9.00, copy my laptop photos and files onto a cd-rom at Mike’s house at 9.30, then drive an hour to London, Ontario to meet Margaret Stray by 1.00 pm.


We kept our 9.30 appointment at Mike’s house and he was away. Annoyed, I decided to bypass him and go to a commercial computer store. Ken had said, “He didn’t make a go of his computer shop downtown,” and I understood the reason for his failure. We left Ridgetown at 11.00 with me behind the wheel and I followed Highway 3 from Morpeth to St Thomas, on a pleasant two-lane highway through green farming country, skirting Lake Erie.  Numerous small villages with fifty kilometre speed limits slow the trip but add interest to the drive.  I’m struck by the standardized design of many farmhouses; square two storey brick, with a large wooden loft adding a large attic.  We view some derelict farmhouses, cedar singles falling off the roof, and broken windows admitting the birds. I was able to navigate to Margaret Stray’s high rise apartment off Cherryhill Road and Oxford Street on the North side of London, Ontario, without difficulty. 


Margaret had worked in the Queen’s library and knew most of the Honours History students and I.  She contacted me in Australia and I maintained periodical contact since then by letter, visiting her house in London, Ontario with my parents, perhaps in 1993. She grew up in Picton, with Ken’s dad, Dr. Richmond, her family doctor, and was a year behind Ken at Picton High School. She dated Alan Armit. She married and raised three children, all of whom are doing well, but her husband, womanised and left her.  She welcomed us warmly.  “Thanks for coming to visit. I’m working caring for older people, but I’ve developed very bad arthritis in my knees and can hardly walk.  I suffer acute pain, but I have to walk, and wait for up to six buses a day.  I can’t afford a car anymore.”  I nibbled on some carrots, and admired a view of a woodlot from her eighth story single bedroom flat. 


Margaret continued, “Since my husband Al left, things have been very tough financially, with the kids, and I was forced to sell the house.  I moved into a noisy central city apartment for two years, and then moved here.  This place is small, but affordable, scenic and quiet, so I’m happy. Besides working, I draw, read, watch TV and have a circle of girl friends I visit.  I’m slowly paying off some debts I’ve incurred.”  I felt a little sorry for Margaret, being forced to work with crippling arthritis at the age of 61.  Ninety minutes passed quickly, I said goodbye and we headed to Bob’s Computer Store to back up our two gigabytes of photographs. 


Marg rang us there to say Richard had forgotten his hat.  “No I haven’t” said Richard. “Please, go over and check,” I said.  He drove over to discover that he had left his hat, and then put on my cap instead claiming it was his. Richard insisted on eating a $4.00 take away meal.  “I’m going to eat in a restaurant where I can order red wine to stop me coughing,” I told him. I drove Highway 4, York and Wellington Streets to stop at the Mandarin Buffet; London’s best Chinese Restaurant, near the cancer hospital. I had eaten there with Ken in 1999 and knew it had a vast buffet. The price was $15.95 with a Chilean Merlot red wine.  I ate a large meal with great enjoyment, and no allergic effects, while Richard waited.


After two glasses of red, I asked Richard to drive. Lately, Richard’s looked at maps and taken some responsibility in knowing where he is and where he is going. Tonight was a relapse, to my annoyance, as he didn’t have a clue whether he was going to Toronto or Windsor.  I thought, “He’s driven through Toronto twice and knows its east, for goodness sakes.” At least, he put his foot to the floor and merged gracefully at 110 kilometres an hour.  Early in the trip, he’d creep at fifty or sixty kilometres and be shocked at the speed of the cars passing and say, “don’t tell me how to drive,” when I urged him to speed up.  Alan Armit had confessed that he’d passed on going to Wawa because he was terrified of Richard’s freeway practices.  In fairness, Richard’s freeway driving lately has been excellent, with five thousand kilometres of daily practice.  Richard drove us back to Ridgetown without any further guidance.


Ken and Margaret were at Sarah Richmond’s (Ken’s brother, Dick Richmond’s daughter in Chatham, Ontario) graduation. She attended a French Immersion School, earning a ninety seven percent average from year 12, entitling her to awards in French, English and History for the highest marks and the Governor General Award for her overall average.  Sarah is attending Ottawa University in September and hopes to do law.  She is doubly blessed with good looks as well as intelligence.


I hit the sack at 10.00 pm, grateful that Ken and Marg had left their garage door unlocked.


Thursday 26 June Ridgetown


I hadn’t made travel plans for today as I wished simply to do some reading of the new Harry Potter novel, the Order of the Phoenix, released June 21st, that Margaret had given me.  I was up by 8.00 am and joined Margaret for a small breakfast of an orange and peach, with orange juice and coffee.  Even the fruit started a small coughing problem.  The morning was hot outside, so I sat in the airy but air-conditioned sunroom and caught up on my travel diary, while Richard packed unused trip items including his pyjamas and three pairs of shoes to ship back to Australia.  I also mailed Lily my three cd-rom backup of my journal and photographs.  Margaret arrived back from her golf lesson with $3,500.00 in American twenty dollar bills for me, part of my mother’s legacy. 


I thought about having phoned my mother shortly before she died in April 2001, suggesting a travel loan from her to me so I could see her in 2001 rather than 2003 while she was alive.  My mother was always very careful with her money and said I could pay my own way if I wanted to travel. “That’s our mum,” Margaret said. “She was terribly tight with her money and wouldn’t give a cent away.”  The plan failed anyway as my mother died peacefully while asleep two days after delivering her no trip edict to me, at nearly ninety years of age. At least, I had seen her regularly during my month in Ridgetown in 1999.


Margaret had bought home a Dixie Lee lunch of coleslaw, potato salad and a chicken burger.  After a small glass of red wine, I enjoyed lunch symptom free.  Richard and I visited the Beer Store to fetch a case of Labatt’s Blue Beer, twenty-eight bottles advertised at the price of twenty-four, for Dave, the mechanic who took care of my hand controls.  Then we stopped to see Bill Johnston at the Chrysler Dealership to pay the nearly seven weeks of rental for the Buick and to give Dave the beer.  The total bill including ten thousand kilometres of driving was around $2,200.00 Australian including full insurance coverage during the period.  Richard went into the shop looking for Bill.  “He’s asleep in some hole, somewhere,” his brother Bob said cheerfully.  Bill and Bob look very similar.  Their dad and mum, whom passed on the business, are ninety-two and ninety respectively, with the mother still playing golf. We have returned all our rental cars totally undamaged, thankfully, including Bill’s.


We will use the car for a final trip to Oak Lake, a five hours drive, one thousand kilometre return trip, east on Saturday and on Monday, we catch a Toronto 9.30 AM Air Canada Boeing A321 flight to London, England.  Monday morning. Margaret will return the car to Ridgetown and salvage my hand controls that Bill had generously installed and he will remove the controls free of charge. I caught up with Bill, at last, not asleep in a hole, but out in a truck. 


“I loved your photographs, taken when you visited Evan in Mexico,” I said.  “If I’d known it was so scenic down there, I’d have flown down to visit as well.  Those churches and mountains are beautiful.” Bill replied, “It’s 42 Celsius there now, and there are power cuts, so the air-conditioners don’t work.  You might like to reconsider.”  Evan, who visited us in Perth in year 10, and ate only MacDonald’s, had completed university and a Bachelor of Education.  He’d had trouble at first getting work locally.  He’d accepted a job in an International School in Mexico and seemed to be enjoying the experience.


“I’m bored,” Richard admitted, after we returned to the empty house at 5.00 pm after fetching me two more bottles of Australian Lindeman’s Bin 45, cabinet sauvignon, at $14.00 (Australian) each.  Both Margaret and Ken worked the afternoon and evening shift at Dixie Lee until 10.00 pm.  On Friday, they are catering for two hundred people, so they are very busy.  Dixie Lee really keeps Ken busy seven days a week until nearly ten o’clock nightly.  Richard dislikes TV and doesn’t read, so I wasn’t particularly surprised that he was unable to entertain himself.  This was, after all, meant to be a rest and recuperation period for Richard and myself. I went to bed by 8.30 pm.


Friday 27 June Ridgetown


I ate breakfast at 11.00, trying a soybean cereal with milk, which caused an allergic coughing response.  Richard packed unused belongings to ship, while I typed.  Ken and Marg had borrowed the Buick station wagon and left to cater at 7.00 am.  At 2.00 pm, Evan and his girl friend Denise Helmer visited in a red van, they had driven from Monterrey, Mexico. 


Denise has a native Indian mother, and is a very intelligent person, who indicated in year twelve that she wanted to be a teacher.  She attended Queen’s, and then studied in England, returned to teach in Ridgetown. She then taught in Chile for two years, returned to Ridgetown. Then Evan and her decided to teach in Mexico for two years.


I reminded Evan of eating McDonald hamburgers all the time in Perth, when he visited.  He laughed. “I don’t touch them now,” he said. I asked how they met.  “We were in the same class all through Ridgetown High School,” Evan said.  “Denise was too scared to ask me out.  I went to Western, in London, did my teaching degree in the US, and then supply taught for a year in the areas of history and business education.  After a year, I got a job in Blenheim, for a year, and then taught for two years in Ridgetown High School. There’s very little demand for history anymore as it’s not compulsory after year 9. Denise got a job through the Queen’s job fair in an International School in Mexico.  In 2002 we both taught together in Monterrey.  I’m teaching Mexican and World History, two new courses for me.  Denise is teaching English in the same school.  The school has rich, English speaking children, is fully equipped, wealthy and air-conditioned.  Monterrey has nearly three million people and we avoid the city. Look as these photographs.”


I looked at the classrooms photos; very large brightly painted rooms, with individual temperature controls and lots of AV equipment. I thought Evan and Denise’s apartment, in the Mexican section near the school seemed comfortable and was impressed by the steep stark canyons and ravines, backed by mountains near the school.  This country was harsh, arid, very hot and desolate, much like Australia.  The photos of churches were grandiose, indicating the amount of wealth and power exercised by the Roman Catholic Church in Mexico. “I’m learning, some Spanish,” Evan said, “like Dos cervezas, Dos Equii, por favour.” 


I told Evan and Denise about our Maritime adventure.  “We’re driving out to Quebec City, around the Gaspe Bay to Shelburne, Nova Scotia in a couple of days,” Evan said.  “I bought four acres of ocean frontage there and a house for $40,000.00 dollars.  I’ve also bought a house near dads on Lake Erie. I’ve not been impressed with the stock market lately.  Ocean front land in the Maritimes was going for $10,000 but I got in late.”  I mentioned Mahone Bay.  “There’s a causeway to Oak Island in the middle of the bay, but its private land and the road is barricaded. I read about pirates burying their booty there, and a constant stream of prospectors has been digging everywhere and mining the island to find the treasure.  It’s a fascinating legend.  I hear some of the mining leases are up for sale for huge amounts.”


“Evan and Denise are good teachers,” Ken, former principal of Ridgetown High School said.  “I hired Evan before I left.  He’s like his mum, a former English Department Head. He has the ability to interest kids, and exercises good discipline.  Denise is intelligent, hard-working, energetic and does a great teaching job.”


We had a quiet evening and an early night for a 7.00 am start tomorrow.  Ken as usual was working at Dixie Lee Chicken.


Saturday 28 June, Oak Lake


Richard and I plan to join Margaret in a five-hour, five hundred kilometre drive east to Oak Lake today to visit George and Pat Pugh, whom had flown in from Vancouver yesterday.  George and Pat have owned the cottage for about ten years, allowing their three children to summer there, after purchasing it from Ken and Margaret, who had bought it from my parents around 1973.  Richard drove the first few hours, and then I drove through stop and go traffic on the 401 in Toronto.  Finally Margaret drove from Port Hope and we arrived at 5.00 pm by way of the Trent River with its dams and locks and Frankford. 


As kids our parents took us regularly to Kaladar or Frankford for ice cream and to see caged black bears.  I remember George pointing his finger through the cage mesh, looking at my parents, while the bear badly bit his finger.  George and Pat were waiting with Alan and Carol Armit.  Alan had bought two magnums of red and white wines, which I helped him consume, overlooking the beautiful lake. Richard walked around the lake by himself.  “I was frightened of large unleased dogs,” he said, “And some people asked what I was doing.  I didn’t really enjoy my walk.”


 Dale and Marnie Hicks arrived from Napanee.  With Jim Mason, Dale had been George’s roommate for two years, before graduating in 1970 as a mechanical engineer, and manufacturing nylon for thirty years with Dupont.  He retired a year ago.  “I’m raising horses and bees,” Dale said.  “I have twenty-two hives.  I’m also enjoying golf.”  Marnie, Dale’s wife, trained as a nurse at Belleville General Hospital and worked for thirty years in Kingston’s high security penitentiaries


Sheila, Pat’s sister, who owns a cottage nearby also arrived and we compared notes when we last met. Alan began to warm up on the wine, giving his favourite toast, ‘I’ll raise the glass, feel the ass, and make the lass feel better.” “Did you bring your red dog, your whopper?” Alan was giggling and carrying on, to Carol’s annoyance. Carol blames me for encouraging him.  “He’s only behaving like that when you’re around,” Carol asserted. Carol Armit and Pat Pugh had been roommates in Kingston and welcomed the opportunity to chat.  George started up the gas BBQ and did an excellent job on large beef and chicken shish kabobs.  Margaret also served a tasty lasagne that she had baked last night.  Everyone was soon feeling well fed and satisfied, and we retired indoors as the sunset glowed. 


I felt strange seeing items preserved from my 1950’s childhood, here, thirty years later at the cottage, fifteen cent classic comics, my old microscope, games, and so on.  George’s 1965 Camp Comak paddle was there with ten notches indicating ten canoe trips.  “I hate the date painted on the blade, as I feel so old,” George commented. Some of our Palmer Road household possessions had come to the cottage, including mum’s peddled operated 1930’s sewing machine, chairs, and a bureau.  “Mum ordered everything to go to auction,” Margaret explained, “but we snuck a few things we were attached to out here.  Mum was stubborn and refused to let us take anything, so we did it later, outwitting her.”


At 9.30 pm the Armits left for Campbellford, and we followed, as they offered to give us rooms for the night. Richard drove as he had passed on drinking, and he braked as he approached the headlights of every oncoming car. Accelerate, brake, accelerate, brake but I kept quiet after becoming annoyed when he drove with the footbrake, a handbrake, pushed on with the right foot, fully engaged, set by Margaret, whom had driven last.  Richard didn’t know about American foot operated brakes, though he had driven the car for six weeks.  We reached our destination safely, chatted an hour and were in bed by midnight.  Alan was leaving for Vermont tomorrow at 5.00 am so we said final goodbyes.


Sunday 29 June Toronto


Richard and I were up at 7.00 am at Alan’s place, said goodbye to Carol, and I drove thirty kilometres back to Oak Lake.  George jogged up as I parked at 9.30 am.  “Just jogged around the lake and it took me forty minutes, a terrible time,” he panted. I later chatted with Dr George, my brother, about my allergy.  “It’s not an allergy,” George asserted. “It’s aspiration, a common problem facing older people.  You are inhaling small particles of food, and then coughing and secreting them out with mucus. The food triggers the vagus excretion nerves, explaining the mucus in the lungs and nose. Red wine or the decongestant Sudafed, are smooth muscle constrictors, speed up the system and tighten up the throat muscles, preventing the food inhalation problem.  Try drinking coffee, or drinking water first before eating for a similar prevention.  There’s no cure but you could see a gastroenterologist or respirologist, or someone with a specialist interest.  Antihistamines have nothing to do with this question.”  The advice seemed reasonable and I hoped it would help me.


Margaret Bird, who lives permanently, next door to the cottage, in a large house, visited us and recalled, “I’m from Trenton, and I met Alan Bird at a dance in 1955.  We were married when I was eighteen, and I remember Alan and you playing, pushing each other off the float into the water.  We caught up with you in 1988 in your bus and you talked about your travels.  In 1992, Alan cut himself and suffered acute septicaemia.  Within two days he had died after his toes, legs, fingers and arms had turned black from poor circulation. I’m still here and love living on the Lake.  You are one of the few original cottagers from the early 1950’s and it’s always lovely to see you.”


I spent a quiet afternoon in the cottage, reading and chatting with George, as Pat and Margaret had departed for a baby shower.  The weather was rainy and windy, chAlanging George when he paddled the yellow canoe.  I gave him Flight Simulator 2002.  “I really appreciate it,” George said.  “I’m still using FS95, and it’s dated. I need to update my old machine to run this though.”  I changed the topic to ham radio. “Why don’t you get on two meters?” I enquired.  “I’ve ridden my bike to work every day since November,” George boasted.  “I race to stay ahead of the cars and can’t talk on a radio at the same time.”  George told me a cruise ship Company, called Holland America Company, and has hired him as a doctor in October, travelling from Acalpulco through the Panama Canal to the Caribbean. “I’m a bit worried about this adventure and have reservations,” George said.  “I might be overworked 24, 7 or overeat or get bored. I’ll be fourth in command of the ship too with two stripes.”  “Perhaps, you’ll go to Australia,” I suggested.   “Now the kids have left home I will have more free time and perhaps we’ll get to Australia,” George replied. Bill and Harry, two cottagers, joined us.  “With your connections, you can get us a cruise as well,” they teased George.


Debbie, a young pretty 44 year old sister of Pat’s, divorced and resident in Belleville, dropped in.  “Last time I saw you, Don, George and yourself were dressed to make a parachute jump at Gananoque.  “Yes, I jumped first,” I said.  “Yes, Don disappeared from sight and I was looking for a red splotch on the ground,” George added. “It was very hard for me to follow him and jump. But we were probably more at risk riding back o0n Don’s 250cc Suzuki motorcycle.”


Kam Tom, whom I met at the BCI Reunion, also turned up.  His wife had been diagnosed with bowel cancer in January and died in May of this year.  Kam had been in George’s class through high school, had worked twenty years as a professional photographer, and now worked for a movie company.  He had driven from Oakville near Toronto, bringing his two large poodles, Leo and Jessica.  “Last time I was here was 1986,” he told us.  “I think my last visit was 1962,” I commented, “as after that I was never around in the summer.”  George, Pat and Kam discussed what had happened to students in their class.  Two had killed themselves, issues of alcoholism and unemployment.  “That’s a major cause of death,” George noted.  It was 5.00 pm and time for Margaret, Richard and I to head off to Toronto.


Richard elected to drive and the ride was uneventful until a heavy rain and lightning storm struck as we neared Toronto.  Visibility dropped to a few metres, but three lanes of traffic surrounded us, still driving suicidally fast.  Finally, we elected to pull off the road, but Richard interpreted this as stopping with the car overhanging the main freeway, packed with rapidly moving cars in low visibility, leaving two metres of the shoulder unoccupied.  “Pull over, get off the freeway,” Margaret and I shouted in unison.  “He was frozen, like a rabbit in a search light,” Margaret later said.  He didn’t seem to know what was wrong so he did nothing.  But every driver knows you don’t park on a freeway.  Good luck, Don in England.”  I reached over and twisted the wheel right.  “What are you doing?” Richard shouted.  “Get right off the freeway and onto the shoulder,” I shouted.  At last, Richard complied.


We reached our Holiday Inn Express on Markham Road, with the best roll-in shower in Toronto about 8.30 pm.  We all needed a Canadian Club and ginger ale to unwind.


End Chapter 8