Property Location: 81 West Clear Bay
Baxter’s Store was the first store on Clear Bay. It operated during the summer months in the 1950s and into the early ‘60s. The store itself was a two-storey frame building with red rolled insulbrick siding on the outside. Near the store was a small cottage. It was a rental cottage and had the sign “Janetville” located on its lakefront side. Behind the store, on the other side of the driveway leading to the store, was a building that held blocks of ice. Also behind the main building were storage tanks for gasoline and kerosene.
The Baxter store operated for many years prior to the arrival of electricity to Clear Bay circa 1957. The ice house was filled with blocks of ice cut from the lake ice by some of the locals. These blocks were covered in sawdust to help insulate the blocks throughout the summer months. The sawdust would have come from Horsley’s sawmill. This mill was located in the same small bay as was the store.
Before the electricity arrived, the cottages on Clear Bay were lit by kerosene oil lamps and lanterns. To keep food cool, many cottages had a wooden ice chest that was usually lined. The top part of the chest held one block of ice. Since cold air falls, this is how perishable foods were kept cool.
Earl and Blanche Baxter ran the store from May until September (Labour Day). From most accounts, Earl was quite the character. However, he would also do anything for you if he could. Considering the time period, their store was well- stocked. It had boxes of cereal, canned goods, bread, milk, and a candy selection for the kids. Earl was known to take ‘road trips’ to the area farmers to get fresh produce for his store. He sometimes invited some of the lake kids to go with him on these outings. The store also had matches, candles, and some hardware supplies. If the store did not have an item, Earl would try his best to make arrangements to get it.
Earl’s wife, Blanche, was short in stature. To reach items that were on the upper shelves, she had a stick with a nail in one end. With this tool, Blanche was able to get things like the boxes of cereal for her customers.
The lake front part of the building was the living quarters. Not only did the Baxters have a great view of Clear Bay, they also could see when visitors and customers were coming by boat. The store proper was located in the middle of the building. Access to the store was through a door on the side of the building. There were also rooms located at the rear of the building, behind the store and its shelves. Card games were known to have been played in one of the back rooms. The other room was used for storage. The rooms at the front and at the back were separated from the store by heavy, dark curtains. The only door was the entrance door to the store.
The Baxters also had a rental cottage out in “The Narrows”. The only way to access this property (back in the day) was by water. With this cottage rental, one had access to a flat- bottomed punt with oars and up to a 5 h.p. motor. In the fifties, Earl had the biggest motor on Clear Bay. It was a 25 h.p. Johnson which was on a very large, heavy wooden boat. Earl used this boat to deliver goods to his customers. As a side note, this boat and motor was stored in the off-season in the barn of Austin Jackson, located at Ewan. Unfortunately, one year, the Jackson barn was struck by lightning, destroying the barn and its contents including Earl’s boat and motor.
Baxter’s store was an important part of the early cottage life on Clear Bay. Earl and Blanche Baxter had many friends on Crystal Lake. They also made connections with many of the local residents in Galway including the Jacksons, the Whites, and the Curtains to name a few. Baxter’s store was one of the several stores that operated within Galway Township. In the mid-sixties, this store was sold to the Vic and Kaye Ouellette. They ran it as a business under the name “Pine Haven” which will be another storey to be told.