Brickman on Crystal Lake

In the spring of 1961, Carl and Bunnie Brickman arrived at the Crystal Pier to take a boat ride up the lake after reading an ad in the Toronto paper for lots for sale on Peter’s Island, Crystal Lake.  They fell in love with the lake and Peter’s Island and bought a lot and a 3 bedroom cottage to be built for $3500.

Bunnie’s parents, Fred and Ethel Clark  bought the neighbouring lot and built a cottage as well.  Both properties remain in the family today.

There was some underhanded dealings and the entire island had to be resurveyed some 10 years later with everyone needing to repurchase their properties in order to make it all legal and proper.

As the lake had been created with the installation on a dam, all the surrounding trees had been cut down by the Federal Government, this resulted in most of the shoreline being covered in driftwood, many many bonfires were enjoyed clearing away the driftwood to create nice waterfront areas. There were lots of leeches (always a box of salt at the lake to get them off our feet) and big dock spiders.

Carl and Bunnie had 3 girls (Susan, Sharon and Chris) who grew up spending the whole summers at the cottage with their Mom, having a great old time with forts and rafts, old row boats fishing for sunfish and perch (with bamboo poles), water skiing (with big white waist belts), flutter boards, jumping off “Pink rock” frogs, tadpoles, mini bikes, and air rifles

Catching snakes to terrify Carl and hiding out in the crib of the Peter’s Island bridge dropping firecreackers in boats were also fun pasttimes. 

With the grandparents next door for tea parties, hot cocoa, games and candies and great neighbours (Powells and Bunkers with kids out ages), growing up on Crystal Lake meant being surrounded by lots of family and friends, many of the those folk became lifelong friends and are still close today.

Walks to Mrs. Dettman’s store for a brown bag full of penny candies, stopping at the dam cave to explore on the way home and maybe have a swim were pretty fun days. Sometimes getting home involved hitchhiking….can you imagine.

In those days the “big” boat, was a 35 red Johnson, the girls had a putt-putt, (2 hp on a big wooden scow) which had to be filled twice to get up the lake to the pier or Mrs. Dettman’s for ice cream after supper.  Everyone had to wear big red life jackets that would just float over you head if you fell.

In later years race tinners were all the rage (9.9 hps on aluminum boats).

The Pier was the main attraction for everything, it had a store, diving pier, pinball machines, dances, a grill and buffet suppers – everyone hung out there, being very very cool.  

Once every week or so, clothes got washed in a wringer washer in the yard and rinsed in big buckets and hung on the lines.  

Going to town in the Vauxhall Vista was a big event and didn’t happen often.  Carl did the shopping and showed up with food on Friday nights, there was always a watermelon and everyone was sick of watermelon so, on Sunday night the watermelon got buried out back.

Lots of the boys had seafleas and the girls would ride around on the front deck of the fleas.  No-one had lights on their boats and yet, everyone  went out at night ….seems crazy today.  Later on when there was access to trucks many evenings were spent at the dump (Galway or Crystal Lake, not in the same place as today) hanging out with the bears and having beverages (no set hours, no fences…ahhh). Curfews and parental supervision seemed to be almost non-existent.

There were big Regattas each summer with  boat races, swimming races across the lake, greased watermellon challenges and lots of games, corn roasts and dances.  These were held at the Pier or the Pinehaven in Clear Bay.  The Pinehaven also hosted square dances.

Telephones came to the cottages sometime in the late 1970’s, everyone had a party line and you had to know the right ring (ours was long short long) Before that, Mrs. Oullett (owner of Pinehaven) delivered messages by boat for a fee.

Before satellite TV and the internet you found out what was going on by listening in on the party lines or tuning in the CB radio

Each of the girls married boys on the lake  while the marriages didn’t survive, the families are all still here, including the next generation 🙂 

Through family connections, a good amount of time was spent at the old Dettman house and store (torn down and replaced) with Mrs. Dettman (Marg), she cooked on a wood cookstove and could bake anything in that stove, knowing exactly  what wood to put in for certain temperatures, what a skill…. Marg was an amazing women, raising a family, running a store and real estate business and cutting her own wood well into her senior years.

Carl became the Township Reeve for 3 terms and life around the cottage was very busy and very political.  

Carl had a bit of an obsession with building rock walls (they are still standing) and the girls spent most fall weekends gathering rocks up the head of the lake in an old flat bottom wooden boat.  That thing would be barely above the water, it is a wonder that the bottom didn’t just fall out of it.  Carl also had the brilliant idea that the family should hand dig a basement under the cottage, over the course of about 5 or 6 summers.  The girls had to haul a certain number of wheelbarrows each day before being set free to roam the lake.

Bunnie created the first numbering system on the lake, riding her 4-wheeler up and down all the roads recording all the cottages and lots and making a map and database.  Some people still have this old original number hanging on their driveways (don’t use it for 911).

The Galway Hall was also a bit of a hub for dances and community events.  The old hall was a classic old community building (the flooring is part of the walls on the original Brickman cottage) but, eventually it was torn down and the existing hall was constructed  in the 1980s.  Many many events were held at the hall and folks made hundreds of loaves of egg salad, peanut butter and ham sandwiches for the “midnight lunch”.

The Brickman family has been involved with the Crystal Lake Cottagers Association and other community organizations for 50 years and helped to organize dances and regattas and lots of other events  This was way before facebook so they went around the lake with a bullhorn to announce events and hand delivering flyers to every cottage on the lake.

Sharon worked at the old Pier and she and Chris and friends were hired for a few summers to clear the brush along the entire length of Spencers Trail by hand. 

Winters were lots of fun too with a fleet of Snowjets, a Skidaddler and a Snow Prince (what a pig).  As the Crystal Lake Road was not plowed past the store, we parked there and hauled everything up the lake on snowmobiles every weekend and Christmas holidays.  The cottage was heated (barely) with a coal fired pot belled stove. Water came from a hole in the ice and we used to have big cook out parties with wood fires – way before anyone had a propane bbq.

Carl and his friend Glen Gillham bought a 100 acre woodbush and had a fairly good wood business going for a number of years. Some wood is still sold but on a much much reduced scale.

With the help of Carl and Bunnie each of the girls, were able to purchase properties on the lake and the traditions continue with the next generations today.

Toronto was where we girls went to school and had a house but, this lake has always been our home.

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