Happy Memories of Rowntree Beach from 1931 to 1942

By Edith Bowden

Such a time we had getting there - no trunks to the cars, so blankets were wrapped in awnings and laid between the fenders and the engine hood, and suitcases sat on the running board with a collapsible fence to hold them on. The rest of the car was packed carefully as every inch counted, and finally we were off!

Via Yonge St., Hwy. 11, through Barrie, we finally reached Perkinsfield where we made a last stop to purchase milk and a 5 gal. can of coal oil for the stove and lamps (where we put these items, Heaven knows). Soon after Perkinsfield joyous cries from the children announced the sighting of the Bay. Turning in the gate we entered the cool, quite narrow road, with trees and ferns brushing the sides of the car. Suddenly we were there, with Fred and Hilda Rowntree on hand to welcome us.

The cottage was in apple pie order, thanks to Hilda, but settling in was quite a chore. Perishables, milk, meat, etc., had to be lowered in baskets to a platform about 10" down in the well. Try raising and lowering 4 qts. of milk or a watermelon, and see how your muscles develop! And if something fell out, one of the children had to be lowered to retrieve it! Later on, it was easier when Dick, the handy man, brought us ice for our iceboxes. We used coal oil stoves for cooking and when the spirit moved them, we had delicious meals. Fred tested the wells every year and ours was always excellent.

One spring, after taking a long drink from his own well, he then sent the samples in, only to find that his tested "D". Needless to say, he immediately fell ill! Mail came in with the milkman from Midland, but all other supplies came up on the weekends with the Fathers. Weekends in those days were shorter, from Saturday afternoon to Sunday night, and at 40 miles an hour, it took far longer to get there.

The best corn I ever tasted was grown by Fred in his garden in Weston. One Saturday it was picked at noon, arrived at 6 p.m. when all the cottagers got busy husking it so it could be cooked in a large boiler over a fire on the beach. Boy, it tasted wonderful, as we rolled our cobs on pounds of butter and ate it around the bonfire.

During the early years, there were only a few cottagers on the beach, and we watched with interest as more were added as the years went by.

For a time it was the established custom to go to the cottage each year, and the key arrived with our Christmas card from our landlord. Then the war intervened and the pattern of our lives was changed, with some joining the Armed Forces, and some younger ones working on farms to help the war effort.

My family is now grown up and married, with children of their own, but they often look back to the happy times at Rowntree Beach and the kindness of Hilda and Fred. Hilda always had a treat whenever the children called and was the envy of all the Mothers with her immaculate hairdo and quiet assurance. Fred had a big motor boat and was always generous with rides although I could have brained him the Sunday morning he started the boat at 6.00 a.m. just to wake all the children! Then, as now, he loved his little joke.

Jim, my eldest, is with North American Life, and has a family of 3, one a teenager. Jane has 5, including 14 year old twin girls. Norris, the youngest, is with Great West Life and has 2 youngsters, with another expected shortly. After graduating in Engineering, he and Frances Dafoe, also a Rowntree resident, captured Canadian, North American, World, and Olympic titles in Pair Figure Skating.

Some of the names which come to mind from my era are Elliotts, Schofields, Smiths, Dafoes, Morris', Glennies, Norris', as well as Gills and Bowdens.

My happy memories include fathers pitching horseshoes, families playing deck tennis, children building huts in the woods, and rafts, and playing with little cars on the sand, and everyone enjoying the clean, safe beach and the crystal clear water.

These happy memories were shared with close friends and I thank you, Hilda and Fred, for your part in them.