Wednesday, June 15, 2011

More on Damsite Lodge

More Canadian memories;

Mom and Dad
 When I wrote about the bears and cabins in the other post it brought up more memories, especially for my daughters. They remember spending time up there with their mother and Grandma  when the were about 7 or 8 years old. I think at that time the main lodge slept about 16 guests. Mother did all of the cooking for the guests plus kids and guides and whoever else was around. They built huge round tables probably about 10 foot in diameter with a lazy susan in the middle where all of the foods would be put on and turned around for easy access for the diners. She also did all of the housework but she did hire a one of my sisters or a woman from across the Montreal to come in and help her for a few hours every day when there were guests in the lodge. Also remember that all of the groceries came in by train.
 The train stopped at mi 92 for the first couple of years. That meant all freight and passengers got off before the dam. Then we had to carry everything down the to the river put it in boats and cross the river and carry everything up on the other side.
There was a lot of celebrating when dad got the RR to put us on the map and we became MI marker Number 93 for freight and passengers.
 Of course there was no TV and very little radio reception so things were very quiet after sundown. With a few hotly contested card games and board games such as Monopoly and etc. And on a cool night it was done in front of the fireplace.
  One of the things the girls mentioned was the boat house. And also the smell, as it was where fuel and oil was stored. It was a building about 24 X 24 built on top of some stumps down on the water's edge next to the floating docks.
 One of the guides, by the name of Bill Roach, basically built the boat house and I was there to help him. Me being a kid I knew absolutely nothing about building (still don't really). Bill was a native American and very woods wise and really handy with a axe. He not only trimmed boards, pounded nails but he used it to sight along the handle to make sure post and timbers were perpendicular to the world. We used a large gallon jug with water in it for a level for the floor. I was so naive at the time I thought everybody did it that way.
The boathouse and docks as seen from the lodge
notice the log booms on the outside perimeter

It took us almost a month to build it(we had guests to take care of also) and dad would check it out on each one of his trips up from MI. (He owned Pontiac Refrigeration and made the trip to Ontario on weekends).
 When it was finished we then had a place to put and work on the outboard motors, life jackets, parts and the cans of gasoline and oils. All of the gasoline came in by train and was in 55 gallon (US) 50 gal (IMP measure) barrels. We spent a lot of time mixing gas and oil for the motors and running all of the gas through the very fine screen filters to keep out water. Brass shear pins were used on the propellers because of all of the "deadheads" floating in the river. Many a brass shear pin saved the expensive props and lower units from damage.
 For the life of me I cannot remember what the floatation was on the floating docks (probably styrofoam). The water level could fluctuate quite a bit, depending on the season and the requirements at the hydroelectric dam. I do remember the dock went straight out about 25 or 30 feet with more dock on the end so that it was a T type. In the morning we'd get the boats ready with fuel, jackets and whatever and tie them up at the T. When the boats were not in use they were kept inside on the straight dock. At the top ends of the T we had log booms run out (a chain of logs tied end to end) probably about 50 ft and anchored out to help keep the floating logs away from the boats and doing damage.
 Another one of the morning duties was to make sure the fishermen that were staying out all day had their lunches. If they were using guides, they would be getting a shore lunch. One of the favorite shore lunches was fish. In their lunch would be bread, butter, frying pan, grease, a metal can with a wire handle to make tea, and a couple of pieces of silverware and  maybe, fruit or candy. Now you haven't lived until you tried the native tea. The tea itself was pretty good but I think the natives put in about a pound of sugar so that it tasted like tea syrup.  All in all with the freshly caught fish over a nice little campfire and it was all very tasty. I do not remember ever hearing about anybody not having caught fish for lunch as fishing was really good in those days.
 Bill Roach was probably in his late 50's or early 60's and had done a heap of living in his years. I loved traipsing after him when we were brushing out trails and clearing out some portages at the different lakes. His stories were numerous and I was all ears. Up there there were as mentioned moose, bear, wolves and partridge of the ruffed grouse type. Several times when I was with Bill we had partridge for lunch. The birds would be in the trees and bill would take his ax or hatchet and get one or two before the rest flew away. He used to laugh at me because I missed. We'd build a fire and he make a spit (can't remember what wood he used) and we would roast the birds. Tell you it was better than cornish game hens at any 5 star restaurant. He would deftly peel a little birch bark and make a cup or even a cooking utensil. He never peeled enough bark from the tree to "girdle" the tree and kill it over time. We never carried firearms unless we were hunting and I knew we were safe as long as Bill had his axe. I think he even slept with it at night. One of the first things I learned was DO NOT USE HIS AX!
  One night it was getting dark and we still had a long walk before us when a Lynx did its scream. I just about had an accident in my pants. A Lynx lets out a yell not unlike a woman in dire distress and it was close. I asked Bill what should we do he said and I'll never forget, "whistling dixie helps". He admitted later that it just about did him in that night also. Up until that night I never knew you could walk ahead and look behind you at the same time, I was almost like an owl before we got back to the boat.
 That reminds me of another story.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

WOW! Great job, Dad! You sure have a knack for writing! I was right there with you in the canoe, the boat house, the lodge…remember the chairs that looked like barrels? We thought that was so cool! Remember the bear rug? The guests. Grandma cooking up a storm. The boat house…I love the smell of the boat house….dark, damp, grease, oil, sturdy and solid, orange heavy life jackets. The hill from the boat house up to the lodge. The train tracks. Hearing the train coming and going. Grandpa picking us up in the jeep…all packed in the back with the luggage being jarred and jostled and jerked around as he made his way down the trail to the lodge. I remember 10 mile falls. 10 miles down river if I remember. The powerful beautiful brown tinged water foaming like root beer. The river cut right through the rocks. Climbing on rocks as big as Volkswagens. Putting pennies on the railroad tracks and being scared to death that Grandma and Grandpa would have our hides for defacing American currency! I remember the old telephone. It now hangs in my home. Grandma would crank it up and talk to the operator. Planes landing on the Montreal River bringing guests.
I remember the long, long car ride to Sault St. Marie to get on the train. We always stopped at one of those roadside souvenir shops. I remember getting a stuffed black bear and an Indian doll. Of course that was before we were all politically correct!
If we only knew then what we know now. How fortunate we all were to be a part of it all. I had no idea you helped build the boathouse or any of the other stuff that you did. What people wouldn’t give to have that lifestyle!
I remember when Grandpa offered the Lodge to anyone in the family because he was ready to be done with it. I regret not taking him up on that offer, but at the time with jobs and kids and debt it seemed impossible. What a great place and life it would be for a family as you know! You got to experience it first hand. Wonderful memories.
In 1994 (I think) when Jim and Jeff and their kids and Bill and I and our kids went back up there for a week. It just wasn’t the same. The fishing was terrible! How I had bragged up to Bill how wonderful the fishing was and nobody caught a thing. I remember catching big pike all the time when we were little. Also the water level was down significantly from the last time I’d been there. Probably 25 years had passed.

Anyway, thanks for writing your stories. I sure do like to read them.