We were very fortunate to own a family cottage north of Toronto, near Minden, on South Lake. Our parents bought it the year I was born, and we spent every summer there with our mother – leaving Toronto the afternoon of last day of school in June and not returning until Labour Day, and just in time for school to begin the next day. Dad would drive back and forth to the city every weekend, and spend his two-week’s vacation with us. It was a great place to grow up and spend the summer months – I have the home movies to prove it!
We all learned to swim like fish from about 3 months-of-age, I think, and we ran free-range over the back yards of our cottage area, Whispering Pines, like packs of wild dogs, and then took just as easily to water-skiing as soon as one of the neighbours bought a motor for their boat that had enough pulling speed. My pride of possession became the slalom ski I was given as a birthday present. One of the kids in the family next-door was my age. Dave and I would each stick a ski under an arm and ski-vest under the other, and go off looking for people with boats who would take us out for a turn around the lake. Our top number of skis in one day was twelve, I think.
It’s easy to entertain children at a cottage, but not so teenagers who miss the bright lights and big city, thinking that there must be so much going on that they’re missing. Lucky for us there was a dance hall in Minden called Medley’s. Our older siblings had told us great stories (some of those stories whispered behind hands and out of our parents’ earshot) about the place, so once I got my driver’s licence (Dave didn’t get his for some time after that), Dad let me use the Rambler on Saturday nights so Dave and I could attend dances. There were usually live bands – and why do I suddenly have this vision of a hole in the floor that was the woman’s toilet…? Definitely, it was not a flush system. We were too young then to drink alcohol (ummm, legally), but the place was always crowded with as many people out in the parking lot (probably drinking alcohol) as there were on the dance floor. Dave and I had a deal – we would drive there together then split up. If neither of us had met anyone by the end of the evening, we’d dance the last song together then drive home. It worked.
There was one evening when I met a group of kids at Medley’s and had a great time. I can’t remember now if Dave was with me that night. These kids had cottages on other lakes, so it was great to meet some new people. They all skied, too, so bonus! I invited a couple of the guys over to our cottage for the next day, Sunday, and gave them directions on how to find our place.
They showed up the next afternoon, and I was introducing them to my parents, when my Dad said, “You look like a couple of strong and healthy boys. I need to dig a new septic hole for the toilet. How about giving me a hand?”
Nice guys that they were, they did help my Dad, and we all went skiing afterward, but they gave me this look when they left, and I never saw them again.
After that first time, he would often offer me the use of the car on Saturday nights. “Go on,” he’d say, “I’ve got some more work to be done around here tomorrow, Bring home some more boys.”