The suggestion to tell your lake story is to describe it like it was when you were a kid. If this is indeed the case, our story begins in the mid-fifties. Our cottage is located at what is now 97 West Clear Bay Road.
Although our story begins in the mid-fifties, our grandfather built a cabin on this property circa 1915. According to our Uncle Bob White, the cabin was built by our grandfather as a place to ‘get away’ from our grandmother. Grandpa White thought that he had built on a piece of property owned by his brothers, Will and Joe White. In actual fact, the White’s property ended at the public boat launch. Our Grandpa had built his cabin on Crown Land. It was not until 1946 that this was discovered. Our grandfather had built a cottage beside his cabin for our Mom and Dad as a wedding gift. It was then that our mother, Clara, suggested that a deed would be a good idea. Luckily, the Ontario government agreed to sell the lands along this part of the north shore of Clear Bay. Our property comprised 233 feet of shoreline and our Mom paid one dollar per foot and was given the deed.
Our property had three buildings on it: our grandfather’s cabin, our parents’ cottage, and a boathouse. It also had two outhouses. Our grandfather’s cabin still stands today. Our parent’s cottage was torn down in 2006 and our current lake house replaced it. The boathouse remains on the property and a second boathouse was added in 1969.
Our early memories of the cottage include the fact that there was neither hydro nor telephone. The Galway Road was not paved and in places, it was quite narrow. The closer we got to the Lake, the narrower the road became. There were ‘turn-off’ places along the route on the very rare chance that you may meet another vehicle. The bridge crossing Ironmine Creek was single-lane. There was an iron gate across Clear Bay Road which sometimes was closed. This gate belonged to the White Brothers. There were no cottages on the south shore of Clear Bay. The only access to Sandy Beach (now White’s Beach) was by boat or by a trail.
The earliest cottage families on Clear Bay included: The Sutherlands (Ralph, Don, and Gord), the Whites, Lees, Dupres, Halls, Joys, Ninds, Baxters, Levias, and Gillians. All these families had cottages on Clear Bay prior to 1960. Next on the bay came the Schells, Cornetts, Pearces, MacKays, Hicks, Pearts, and Hallidays. In the mid-sixties, the White Brothers sold the waterfront land to Phirick Development. They proceeded to sever the land into 64 properties and sold the lots with or without constructing the cottage. The ‘model cottage’ was located at what is now 364 East Clear Bay Road. This development went from where Eastview meets East Clear Bay Road out through ‘The Narrows’ all the way to end of Clearview Drive. The exception was Sandy Beach. Will and Joe White did not include this property in the deal. Instead, they had the foresight to donate this land to the Township so that everyone could access and enjoy this natural gem on Crystal Lake. What a legacy Will and Joe White left!
Cottage life on Clear Bay in the fifties and sixties was pretty simple as kids. Breakfast was at 8 a.m., lunch was at Noon, and supper was at 5 p.m. The rest of the time was spent outside until dark unless the weather was really bad. Days were spent swimming, fishing, canoeing, exploring, and playing. Many of the bays were filled with driftwood so hatchets and swede saws were needed to carve a path for the canoe to access and explore the inner reaches of these bays (Such as Black Duck Bay). My brother and I could only paddle alone in our canoe if we could pass our Dad’s swim test. This test was to swim to the island in front of our place and back.
Our family also had the ‘one hour rule’: No one could go swimming until one hour after eating. Supposedly, this was to avoid cramping and potential drowning. That was the dire warnings. Years later, we think it was to give our Mom and Dad a one hour rest period from watching/supervising us while we were in the water.
My brother and I were very fortunate to spend July and August at the Lake. Our Dad was a teacher. We so looked forward to this summer tradition. Prior to the building of the 401 highway, it would take between 7 and 8 hours to reach the cottage (depending on the number of stops that were made). If we forgot something at home, too bad!
We were lucky to have Baxter’s store nearby to us on Clear Bay. We were able to get some of the essentials (milk and bread) if we ran out. Our Grandmother lived in Kinmount so we would visit her weekly. Our family also went to Kinmount United Church regularly during the summer.
As mentioned, cottage life before hydro was basic cottage living. Inside lighting was from kerosene lanterns. Refrigeration was an ice chest. Each block of ice was purchased from Baxter’s store and placed in the top of the ice box. This block would usually last about a week or so. These blocks were cut from the lake ice on Clear Bay by the White brothers. The blocks were piled in the ice house which was located behind Baxter’s store, on the other side of the laneway. These blocks were covered with sawdust to help insulate them from the heat of the summer months.
Our Mom was a very good cook and baker. Also prior to hydro, our wood cook stove did the majority of the work. An outdoor fireplace with a grill was used occasionally.
In season, berry picking was mandatory. Our family rule was quite simple: “If you don’t help pick them, you can’t eat them!” Wild strawberries blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries were the types we picked as a family. Picking blueberries was a day outing. Lunches were made the night before and an early start in the morning was imperative. This family tradition continued for many years.
Fishing was an important part of our family life at the Lake. In 1965, my brother, Don, started recording our ‘catches’. This tradition has continued on to present day. Not only was it a record of the fish caught, this book is also a record of the people, either family or friends, that came to our cottage.
Our Dad once said that not everyone was lucky enough to have a cottage. Therefore, he encouraged all our family and friends to come to our place. We never knew who might show up since we did not get a telephone until the mid-eighties. We did have regular mail service during the summer. Some visitors might send a letter in advance, indicating when they were coming. Some selected dates prior to our departure for the summer. And others, they just appeared! No matter the arrangements, all were welcome, whether it was for the day or for a couple of weeks.
Our first boat was a sixteen foot cedar strip row boat which was brown in colour. Our next boat was another sixteen foot cedar strip, green in colour, with a 3.6 h.p. Firestone outboard motor. In 1960, we picked up a sixteen foot red fiberglass canoe. We upgraded to a heavy wooden white boat with a 10 h.p. Evinrude motor that same year. A few years later, we replaced both wooden boats with a sixteen foot aluminum fishing which we still have today (with a 2004 15 h.p. Johnson motor).
In 1970, we got our first speedboat/ski boat. It was a fourteen foot, Peterborough PrinceCraft, yellow in colour, with a 60 h.p. Evinrude. This boat experienced a lot of action- skiing, tubing, and touring!
In 1993, we purchased a 1989, sixteen foot FourWinns, with a 120 h.p. which is still our boat today. The PrinceCraft was retired at this time.
In 1970, a ten foot Mini-Fish sailboat was added to the fleet which still sails today. Brother Don and Dad bought a 12 foot wooden sailboat in 1975. In the early sixties, brother Don had a sea flea with a 5 h.p. Johnson motor. Son, Rob, had a nine foot race boat in the 1990s that had a 9.9 Evinrude. Neither of these boats is in our fleet today.
In the 1970s, we also had an eight foot plastic row boat purchased from Sears, which was used as a rowboat by our kids. The old 3.6 h.p. was occasionally used on this plastic boat. This boat lasted until the early nineties. We also have a sixteen foot Clearwater Design Kevlar canoe which is still in use. A green, sixteen foot York River fiberglass canoe is another canoe in use at our property. The old red canoe is no longer around.
In the late 1950s, our great uncles (Will and Joe) brought in three pick-up truck loads of sand to our property. Brother Don and I spent countless hours playing in these sand piles building roads, bridges, forts, and castles. We had harbours and lots and lots of toy boats. Our sand vehicles of choice were ‘Dinky’ toys. About once each summer, our family made a trip to Lindsay, Ontario to do some shopping. One of the stores at the top of our list was ‘Scott’s Paint and Decorating’. Within this store, there was a toy section, and, within this section, were the Dinky toys. Over the years, we amassed several trucks, a crane, a forklift, a jeep, several cars, and a bulldozer.
The sand piles remain today in the same location. These piles have been replenished a few times. These sand piles served my brother and I and our friends, our children and their friends, and now our grandchildren and their friends. No matter the age of the individuals, the sand piles remain a focal point of our property.
Our family connections and histories to Clear Bay/Crystal Lake can be traced over one hundred years. Our grandchildren represent the fifth generation to be at 97 West Clear Bay Road.