Sunday, June 5, 2011

Damsite Lodge

This picture is from on top of the RR Trestle on the Montreal River
between mile markers 92 and 93

 In the above post I was talking about driving to Detroit. At that same time mom and dad bought the Canadian property.
In the 1950's my folks bought a hunting fishing lodge up on the Montreal River at mile 93 on the Algoma Railroad. Being within sight of the dam, hence the name, Damsite Lodge.
 The train was really the only way into the lodge for quite a few years, unless you came in by plane. But being so close to the dam there was electricity and even a phone, compliments of the railroad. The hydroelectric dam was being raised 30 ft. Now that meant that all of the land that was going to be flooded had to be logged off. After the loggers left in the mid 50's dad purchased a couple of their camps upstream.

 Back in the 1950's bears were treated as varmints as we were overrun with them, it seemed. The loggers used all of their garbage to attract bears. They could send a pair of ears back and get a bounty in Quebec of $25.00. They would bait them into camp and then surround them with their pike poles and axes. (Also any moose found swimming in the river was soon on the table.)We didn't need that many bears around and we had many problems with them breaking into the cabins looking for food and generally making a mess of things after the loggers left.
 The few cabins that were there were were made of logs and the walls were about 4 ft high. A canvas wall and roof (tent) were then put on top of the logs and that was where the horses were kept, they were big enough for 4 horses. The men slept in tents.
 So when we purchased the structures there were no roofs nor floors in them. So we took chainsaws one with an attachment where we could cut the logs length wise and make boards. I do not remember how long it took to do each cabin (we had three) but a chainsaw was running all of the time, it seemed. Glass was brought in from Sault St Marie (via train), as were the nails and hinges, tar paper for the outside and the roof and a wood stove for heat. A single type of sink for for the kitchen and we brought in gas refrigerators (almost 300 pounds apiece) and we did not have pontoon boats but we did make a barge of sorts so that we could bring up a lot of work with us as the cabins were better than 20 miles up stream.
 I remember one refrigerator that we took up to a cabin and it would not fit through the door. We did a lot of disassembling of the cabin to get that refrigerator inside. It was late at night when we got back to the lodge. A few weeks later, after renting out the cabin a few times, I took up propane for the refrigerator and cook stove only to find that a bear had broken into the cabin and the refrigerator was lying in the front yard, yet the door of the cabin was still working. I never heard my dad swear but I almost did that day when I went back and told him. From then on when somebody checked out we had to go up and make sure there was no garbage or food left behind.
 Most of the places were built on rock so we could not dig holes for outhouses so dad bought a gas toilet that used almost no water and burned up any solids. They seemed to work quite well.
 Water for the cabins was an ingenious device. We put up a small horse tank up on the roof or on a solid stand about 7 or 8 ft in the air and took a gasoline pump (I think that might be the second year as it was filled with a 5 gal can for awhile) and pumped water from the river, so there was running water. Some days it was even warm if the sun was out. We did learn to cover them as foreign objects seemed to end up in them.
When the loggers moved out in the late 50's they left quite a campsite "which we called the logging camp" up stream. It was somewhere near Indian River but across the Montreal. The main camp had what they called a "cookery" had eating accommodations for probably about 30 to 40 men. It also had one corner walled off where the "chef" (term used loosely) more or less lived. There were also a couple of smaller buildings  that were made into cabins. These buildings were made of rough cut lumber that was sawed right there at the camp. 
 Of course all of the cooking and heating was done with wood and there was a goodly supply outside the back door. There was a humongous cook stove and if I remember right it had about 10 or 12 burners and a grill. There also a heating stove in the cookery. And all water (even down at the lodge) came from the river and never caused any problems that I knew of. The loggers, as I mentioned before, were French Canadians and spoke no English and were a rough looking bunch to say the least. Me being 6 ft and 200 pds never had any problems with them and we used to laugh at each others antics as we tried to understand each other.
 You know I cannot believe half of the experiences that I've had and many of them were on the Montreal River, 60 years ago.


Lloyd said...

Great stories, Darrell, we didn't grow up that far apart, but it sounds like a world apart.

Darrell said...

Lloyd, it was a different world. Things were a lot slower back then and up north they were even slower. As I've told my daughter I can never go back, but I do have my memories.