Posts Tagged ‘Percy Wakeford’

You Can Never Go Back

Percy and Edythe Wakeford’s farm today. Once a lively place with typical farm critters, and a warm welcome from the childless couple who loved summer visitors and sold eggs and vegetables to them.

Prepare for disappointments when you return to a place that meant a lot to you as a kid. In your absence, progress advances, disguising your landmark memories with modernity or neglect.

For the current residents of Washburn Island, the narrow dusty tracks that rimmed Lake Scugog now have metal signposts with designated street names and house numbers: paved and wide enough for two cars to pass. It’s comforting to know that three of the street names honour the farming families that lived on the island from the beginning of cottage-ing in the early 1900s until today (Wakeford, Bowen & Grill).

The island is about 300 acres, with some of its land-locked centre under cultivation still. When I was a baby in ’47 (first visit at 3 weeks old), there were probably about 30 cottages on the sunny west side facing the larger Scugog Island where the Blue Heron Casino attracts visitors today. Farmer Percy Wakeford parcelled off 50-ft. lots during the ’30s depression, perhaps because he made more money selling land than he made for low-priced yields in a desperate rural economy.

Within weeks of building basic structures, most clad with Manitoba maple, cottagers cut down cedars trees, constructing branch fences as barricades against Percy’s wandering cows and horses. My parents told stories of four-legged creatures nosing up against their screened windows. I recall brown horses hanging their heads over the cedar fence at my grandparents’ cottage. Mum taught us to hold sugar cubes on our palms and let the horses squeeze them off our palms with rubbery lips.

Looking south from my Humphries grandparents’ cottage to the fronts of my Burrows grandparents’ and aunt and uncle’s waterfront beside The Point. High water in the Trent System ate up the beach and eroded some of the property at the shore.

Often when swimming in the soupy waters we’d look a hundred feet south at The Point. Percy’s cows cooled themselves ankle-deep in the lake beside the last remnant of unsold pasture at the water’s edge.

Before the Trent System raised water levels, a 20-foot sandy beach stretched around the west side, anchored by large boulders cleared to make way for crops in pioneer times. The sandy beach below a shallow bluff was our playground, a place of sand castles and moats, a rocky ledge for sun-baking ashtrays molded from clay found close to shore, a place for a narrow wooden dock and a cumbersome rowboat Gran ordered from Eaton’s catalogue .

In the early ’50s, I had two sets of grandparents with cottages one lot apart, a great-aunt and uncle with a cottage “down the line,” and an aunt and uncle’s cottage beside The Point. Each unique cottage was a place for me to visit, to get a drink of water, a biscuit, to celebrate with a fire at night, marshmallows on a stick, a place to find an outhouse, a place to pump a well. Each cottage had clusters of relatives and their visiting friends. Each parent knew they were providing something special for their kids, something they couldn’t have dreamed of in England from where they came.

Every cottager had a well and pump. This is all that remains of Farmer Wakeford’s pump. I remember swinging on the gate that opened to their property from the narrow dusty road.

It’s gone now. Other peoples’ memories are progressing at Washburn Island. Percy and Edythe Wakeford moved and shortly after died nearly 40 years ago. Gran Humphries died in 1970, and Gramp hung on for a few years, but the loneliness and upkeep overwhelmed him and he sold. My aunt took over Grandma Burrows’ cottage, but her husband died and with uninterested teenagers, she sold. Her sister who’d owned the cottage beside The Point reconsidered the long drive from Toronto’s west end, and the tragedy that affected them personally on the island, and sold too. By the early 70s, the only cottage left was the lot my parents bought from Farmer Bowen in ’56. They sold it in ’91, preferring travel to cottage maintenance. Sixty years of memories ended with my own children barely able to recollect our rare visits.

There are hundreds of homes on the island now. New roads with names like Sugar Bush Trail. I took pictures of the old cottages two weeks ago, transformed though they are, some in good ways, some by neglect.

You can never go back. You feel like you’ve been robbed of something precious.

Legend for Old Washburn Island

Legend for Old Washburn Island

 

Readers comments and stories are welcome.

Or, contact by email: marye@bell.net

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Bill Duncan’s Washburn Island Memories

Bill Duncan is 92 years old. That alone is a great accomplishment. Bill shared a couple of Washburn Island stories with me. He’d been a friend to my dad in Toronto in the ’30s, and it’s because my grandfather helped his father build their Washburn Island cottage that my grandparents located there later in 1936. When the Duncan family sold their cottage on the island after the war, the families gradually lost touch. I wish my dad could know that we’ve reunited two families through our interest in Washburn Island. Read Bill’s funny stories below, stories I happily shared with my dad’s sisters, May and Sheila, who have fond memories of the relationship between of the two families.

Bill Duncan Bio:

  • Born Jan 18, 1920
  • Grew up in Beach District in Toronto
  • Attended Adam Beck Public School
  • Attended Malvern Collegiate, where he played football and hockey
  • Graduated from U of T in Mining Engineering
  • While at U of T, played more football and hockey
  • In early war years played football for Balmy Beach, which was a member of the Big Four and which had won the Grey Cup a couple of times
  • He and his wife, Marion, are members of the Peterborough Golf and Country Club where he still plays golf and has shot his age about thirty-five times – several times this year
  • For several years he was a director with the Ontario Cottagers Association
  • Has a cottage in the Kawarthas, built 1972, is a Past President of the Eels Lake Cottagers Association and was a director for many years
  • Spent 4 years in the Canadian Army with Service in Canada, Great Britain, Italy, France and Germany
  • Checkered Engineering career and retired in 1985
  • He and Marion play duplicate bridge and have many friends in that field
  • They have two children, a son and a daughter, and two grandsons

Read Bill’s entertaining stories below the legend. The Duncan Cottage was on Wakeford Road between # 13 and #14.

Legend for Old Washburn Island

Canada Geese

Hiding the Evidence, by Bill Duncan

Long ago, on Washburn Island in the land of Scugog, the Duncan cottage had a cedar strip boat equipped with a 4.7 Muncie outboard motor. The captain of the craft was Billy Duncan, the oldest teenaged son. Because he owned the boat, Bill Duncan Senior, with Billy at the helm, had prior rights for fishing in Starr’s Bay or at Bowen’s Seven acres.

Otherwise, the boat’s use was for recreational purposes: incidental trips to Caesarea where there was an ice-cream parlor and pinball machines, and even a dance hall. The boat was in demand to carry people to the annual regatta at Caesarea, to take part in swimming races and watch the sea fleas charge around. The passengers were usually Ken, Don and Fred (The Joker).

In the middle of Lake Scugog is a huge island composed of farms and an Indian Reservation [Scugog Island]. In recent years the natives have built themselves a large money-making casino.

One day in late August the usual gang made a trip across the lake to Scugog Island and landed in a clearing. After beaching the boat, the gang traipsed ashore, and confronted a gaggle of domestic geese led by a bad-tempered gander who visciously hissed and pecked Bill on the leg. In self-defense Bill picked up a handy stick and wacked the gander on the neck. The gander did not enjoy this treatment and promptly collapsed in a heap.

Panic!! Panic! What to do? What to do?

We held a hasty conference. Afraid of being confronted by angry natives or furious farmers, the gang picked up the carcass and returned at full throttle to the Duncan cottage. But their problems were not over. Mrs. Duncan would not cook a goose for a gang of thieves – the word would get out – what would the neighbours think? – it was against the law, etc. However, the silver-tongued Billy convinced his mother that the evidence needed destroying, and eating the bird would be very efficient. The bird was plucked, drawn, made ready for the oven and a feast was laid on for the following day.

The next day the gang of thieves, with a few special guests, assembled at the Duncan cottage while the goose was cooking. With the table set, a pleasant aroma filled the room as the bird sizzled in the oven.

Suddenly there was a pounding on the back door of the cottage.

“Open up! Open up! This is the O.P.P. We have received a complaint from farmer Jones.”

Mrs. Duncan, the chief cook, turned pale and clutched her throat. There was a sudden silence throughout the room. About 30 second later, Fred (the Joker) appeared at the back door with a big smile on his face. There was a joint sigh-of-relief from the feasters who then set about destroying the evidence. However, Fred (The Joker) dropped steeply on Mrs. Duncan’s popularity list.

All the above is true.

 

My dad, Bob Burrows and Len Hamlett with homemade sailboat on Washburn Island, 1940s

A Second Life for the White Punt, by Bill Duncan

Long ago on Washburn Island in the Land of Scugog, the Duncans owned a white punt, which had been built to receive a sail – but had no sail. 

Bill Duncan, the oldest son at 15, accepted this challenge. Percy Wakeford, the local farmer, had a huge cedar bush only steps away. Thus, armed with a blunt hatchet, Billy cut down and trimmed two trees of the proper size, and using canvas from an old tent, fashioned a sail of sorts.

Shortly afterwards it was clear that sailing the white punt without a centre board did not work satisfactorily. Under sail the boat did not go where intended.

Billy resorted to rowing the punt to mid lake, hoisting the sail, and charging with the wind back to harbour.  As this practice consumed much energy the white punt resumed its normal function for fishing, etc.

However, the Duncans were a careless lot and did not look after the punt. The bottom began to rot.  It became a leaky punt, pulled up on the shore to await a natural death.

At some point,  a smiling May Burrows [Mary E. McIntyre’s aunt and daughter of her grandparents who had a cottage on the island] approached us and asked if she could have the punt for a flower box. Of course she could.  With difficulty and much bailing the boat was rowed to the Burrows cottage at the point.  A few days later, what appeared on the horizon but a buoyant white punt rowed by a smiling May Burrows. The Burrows boys [Mary E. McIntyre’s father Bob, grandfather Sam, and uncle Syd] had been busy. The bottom was removed, the sides planed down to remove the rot, and the bottom replaced with new lumber. Voila – a new boat.

I will cherish forever the saga of the white punt and have only exaggerated a little.

 

Map Photo

Readers comments and stories are welcome.

Or, contact by email: marye@bell.net


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