I went to Hillcrest Public School and completed high school at Orillia District Collegiate and Vocational Institute (ODCVI) – both were only a few blocks from my house and that made it convenient especially in the midst of snowy winter day. School was enjoyable but nothing special for me. I had my friends and participated in school activities. Having spent the better part of 12 years in my early education there should be a lot more stories to tell, but I really don’t have much memory of notable events.
My grade 2 or 3 teacher was obviously a smoker as I recall that’s what I smelt every day from her – the other teachers didn’t leave any lasting memories. I was an average student, got along well with others but in high school I seemed to enjoy working at the family business more than doing school work as I recall but always passed my subjects without too much effort – I now understand that I could have done a lot better with a little more effort. After working and studying I graduated from year 12. I had planned to complete year 13 but decided to join the RCMP as an alternative and move on with my life – enough of the classroom. Some of my friends went on to university and others went into the workforce.
Living near central Ontario freshwater lakes couldn’t have been a better place to experience my youth. Swimming all summer, boating and fishing, water-skiing as my leisure activities was a wonderful pastime. Having a nice 18-foot power boat turned out to be a certain drawcard. With a boat, you have friends – that received plenty of outings on the lakes and up the Trent Severn waterway that was a route from Lake Ontario to Georgian Bay on Lake Superior. It offered endless miles of boating fun, fishing, swimming, waterskiing, and picnics on the lakes and rivers. Family outings, friends, and mates – we all had a great time on the water.
Horse riding features as a favorite hobby of mine for a number of years. A business friend of my dads who owned the local Canadian Tire store had a lovely property near the narrows at Atherly, just outside of town, where he and his wife kept horses. I learned to care for and ride horses, got to meet and hang out with local farmers and their kids – it provided a different perspective than living in town. They were a well-traveled couple and had seen the world and returned with odd souvenirs that they displayed around their home. I always liked the stories of trips to Egypt and Africa and what they saw. The place had its own barroom – very flash in those days. The couple didn’t have kids as I remember, so my visiting and staying with them from time to time, I was like a surrogate child I guess.
During some of my more youthful years, I would be shuffled off to summer camp with anticipation of fun and learning of great new things. Most years it was to the local YMCA camp Couch on the far side of Lake Couchiching where a group of boys would enjoy adventures and time away from the family. Playing and frolicking in the lake, woods or cabins under the watchful eyes of our camp counselors. There was games, crafts, sports, swimming, archery and night-time campfires with tales of old and ghosts.
Then as a young teen, I remember fondly going to the fashionable Taylor Stanton summer camp in Algonquin National Park where extensive outdoor activities, horse riding, and canoe trips were part of the busy activities. It was an amazing time and very enjoyable with other young boys as your mates. I had somehow found out about this camp and pestered my parents to let me attend – it wasn’t cheap either. Located on the mainland shore of Canoe Lake in Algonquin Park, a wilderness National Park, Camp Ahmek for boys offered adventurous summers to campers. It has been in operation since 1921 with a goal and mission to give campers an experience that will improve their lifestyle by developing an advanced harmony with nature, their peers, and themselves. I am sure it provided me with new insights into life and helped mold me in some small way.
This certainly was upmarket and the programs more extensive with horse riding training, water sports and sailing, canoe trips and camping out. I remember the canoe trip to be though very wild and native countryside. We were in a group paddling and doing portages between lakes all day and setting up tent camps by night for a week. Being exhausted from the long days the food around the campfire, a few stories and then everyone would be dead-tired and ready for sleep ahead of the next days’ grueling experience. It was good for your soul and taught me some outdoor ways of life that would be useful later in the NWT of Canada. I still have the brochure that got my attention and excited me all those years ago.
My Friends & Me
Like any normal youth, I had a number of friends from my younger playmate days through public and high school. There was Keith, Garry, Jim, Paul, Steve, Ron, Tom and more along with some girls once in high school. I remember one of my young friends being killed in an accident which was devastating. Playing as a youth I remember wanting to be a Policeman and would pretend to direct traffic while my friends rode their bikes – and I became one. Keith always wanted to spin records and make radio commentary as we all listened – I have found Keith who was a well-known radio personality in Canada. Riding bikes around the town, going to the lake to swim or skate in the winter kept us amused. In winter snow forts and tobogganing on the nearby golfcourse hills took up our time. There were early crushes on girls and teasing if you showed any interest in the opposite sex from your friends. We were a close bunch and enjoyed each others company.
Jim and I were good friends as teenagers and often visited his families wilderness cabin on Lake Kanasuta, in Quebec near Rouyan-Noranda. It was about 450 km north of our hometown, a long drive up Hwy 11 to North Bay, Ontario then on past such places as Temagami and Temiskaning, Ontario. In the summer it was boat ride to get to the cabin. It was in the wilderness of northern Quebec where treed forests, abundant lakes and heaps of mosquitoes were the environment. Oil lamps and wood stoves were the means of survival. I remember one winter making the trek and that required a walk across the frozen snow-covered lake with wolves howling and following us. I remember we were glad to arrive at the cabin and get the stove going – I thought it was cold but later in the NWT, I found out what cold really was. This time with nature was always a great escape and an adventure.
My dad for years used to go hunting and as I got older was taken along on some fishing and hunting trips to northern Ontario. I remember catching large fish and dealing with the deer meat that was salvaged from the animals shot. The fishing was fun but I must say the hunting aspect was not something that I took too. It was fun to go to the woods and rough it and I got to take friends along for company which was always way more fun. The other many stories of youth and teenage years will have to stay in my memory for now. I thought a few sample shots of me over the years might be enough to record the history.
Once I left my hometown and moved on in the world I didn’t keep in touch with any of these friends as our ways had parted with different lives. In checking out some of the names, as I was writing this, to see if I could locate any I found out that Steve had passed on early. Others just can’t be located. I did find a high school website dedicated to tracking classmates but that didn’t prove useful in making contact. You meet, interact and move on as you progress in your travels through life and friends become good memories.
Stock Car Fun
My dad sponsored a stock car that was driven and maintained by a mechanic that worked at our business. I was really interested in this sport for a time and participating in stock car racing provided lots of fun for a teenage boy. For a time I went along on weekend races when I could and not required to work to be support crew for the team. It was always lots of thrills and spills on the stock car track and learning to maintain the cars was fun. The car usually ended up getting damaged to some degree each race and there would be a weeks worth of repairs before the next race during the summer season.