Posts Tagged ‘farmers’

Meet Matt Vardy

Former Washburn Island Resident, Matt Vardy.

Former five-year resident of Washburn Island, Matt Vardy has created waves in the photography world. Some of his most recognized achievements are photography for the music industry. He’s young, fresh, talented and attracting a strong client base in his career.

Matt Vardy, View from Washburn Island Lake Scugog, looking west

Matt shares a special Lake Scugog sunset he photographed  from his former home on Washburn Island. I’m familiar with the expansive blue skies reflected in calm evening waters; the horizon glimmering with the remnants of golden pink sunsets.

I asked Matt a few questions about growing up on Washburn Island. As a more recent resident, the memory of place is different for him than me because he lived in a permanent home. Only cottages and three farmhouses were on the island when I was his age.

What years did you live on Washburn Island?

I moved there when I was thirteen around 2000. I took a school bus to George Hall Public School in Little Britain for one year, and went to LCVI in Lindsay for high school. When I was eighteen, I moved out on my own to Toronto when I was offered a full-time job as a graphic designer for a large cosmetics company.

What did kids do for entertainment on Washburn Island?

If you were a resourceful outdoor person the island had lots to offer for recreation. I liked to go kayaking, boating, fishing, biking and snowmobiling in winter. On the flip side, I definitely felt a sense of isolation on the island. There’s very little for a young adult in terms of culture and social life. Your options are limited.

What was it like to live in a community mix of cottages and permanent homes?

The area I lived in had mostly permanent homes – out of the dozen or so homes on my street, only three were cottages. It was a tight-knit community, everybody knew everybody, and in times of crisis (for example: after a major wind storm when trees and homes were damaged), it seemed that there was always a neighbour standing by, willing to help.

Did you interact with the farmers?

No. Never had the opportunity to, or was never invited to.

Did you have a favourite place on the island?

My favourite place was my back yard. My family had a beautiful corner lot on Helen Crescent with mature trees and tons of space to play and explore. My favourite fishing spot was on the northeast side of the island along the marshes.

Did you know any of the history of the island?

I didn’t know very much about it except that (I had been told) at one time there were very few houses on it, and it was mostly farmland. The road connecting the island to the mainland was either non-existent or much smaller than it is today.

Are you in touch with anyone living there now?

My parents are in touch with a few of the neighbours that were close friends.

How did photography become such an important part of your life?

I took my first photography class in Grade 10 in Lindsay. My love for the art has grown steadily ever since, and now I’m proud to say it is my career.

Thank you Matt for giving us a new perspective of growing up on Washburn Island.

Readers comments and stories are welcome.

Or, contact by email: marye@bell.net

The Way We Were

Early Days 1930s to mid-50s

In the time of the 1930s Depression, Farmer Wakeford’s most lucrative crop on Washburn Island was the sale of 50-ft lakefront lots. On weekends British immigrants drove along bone-rattling Mariposa Township’s washboard roads to trade industrial Toronto for cottage country. By crossing a narrow dusty strip of causeway threading the shallow gray waters of the north end of Lake Scugog, cottagers anticipated the promise of fresh air, warm breezes and a change from work-day routines.

Before building simple cottage structures, they lived rough – sleeping in tents, used outdoor privies, conducted water-witching (dousing) to find well water, and lit the night with oil lamps – minor inconveniences compared to carefree roaming, wind-up gramophones on the beach and swimming contests to a tiny resort town, Caesarea. They built rowboats, or bought them from Eaton’s catalog and rowed to prime fishing spots that dotted the reedy shoreline.

The island was a summer playground for four generations of my family. Our story weaves a tale of cautious interdependence between land-loving farmers and sea-loving Brits. Old-timers whispered about a murder on the island and hinted at Indian wars, exaggerations that seemed true from the number of arrowheads picked out of the topsoil. Little stores opened, vegetable sellers appeared, newspapers delivered and electricity fueled lights and appliances.

Most of my family was working class, British immigrants steeped in Empire. They melded with their hosts, cautious hardworking farmers of rural Canada. Those innocent times were altered for my family by a tragic accident in ’57.  Our loss was a watershed event for us.

The regional geography and climate are typical four-seasons Southern Ontario; snowy winters, spring rains, hot summers, and cool colourful autumns. In wintertime, the three farming families living on the island traversed narrow icy roads that wound around snow banked fields and frozen woodlots. Winter was a quiet time for farmers before the spring invasion of summer-folk, two social groups dependent on each other. The farmers sold us their land and their vegetables. They delivered our newspapers and chopped down our trees for us. We bought their lakefront lots and their produce. We bought their eggs and their chickens. We swapped stories and argued politics and sniggered at each other’s differences. Island revelations were incremental, tedious at times, but lasting.

Map Photo

Readers comments and stories are welcome.

Or, contact by email: marye@bell.net

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