Monday, February 28, 2011


I don’t know how I got to thinking about “treasures” the other day.

It reminded though of a time, long ago, when I was a kid living down on Victoria Crescent- right on Lake Simcoe. One blisteringly hot summer day, I had found a treasure in the most unexpected of places.

We lived in a cottage that was not built for the purpose of being inhabited as a year-round home. Several small homes had been built along the Lake Simcoe water front where Victoria Crescent turned into a dead end. Some were nothing more than sparsely insulated summer cottages with no cozy central heating, running water or in the case of our little house- indoor facilities.

Our family home at 176 Victoria Crescent, no longer stands. It was bulldozed years ago. In its place today stands a new, large, solid brick, waterfront home. When I drive by today, all I see that reminds me of my childhood summers at the lake is the iconic waterfront and the same pair of huge trees that at one time stood on each side of our dock.

It’s funny when I think about it, over a decade most of my memories are of the summertime- with the exception of a few Christmasses and a Hallowe’en or two.

In the 1950’s, summer was just the best.
Days were filled with swimming and boating and just playing around.
Making play forts in the bush.
Riding my bike along the Crescent and Forest Avenue.
Looking for bullfrogs under the dock and along the shore.
Watching the big boats cruise their way to the narrows and under the Atherley Bridge which opened up to allow the boats to pass through. You see, when a huge boat came along going from Simcoe into Lake Couchiching- or vice versa, vehicular traffic had to be stopped in both directions along Highway Twelve.

Back then, there were a few weeks every summer when our neighbours Mae and Stan Trodd would have their grandkids visit. I always referred to the Trodds as Auntie Mae and Uncle Stan- with good reason. They always treated me so well and they were good friends to my parents. Their grandchildren- Wayne and Warren, would come to the Lake from Orillia, which seemed like a huge distance when you were a kid. Driving into Orillia in the 50’s was always known as “going into town”.

“Are you going in to town for milk?”

“I have to go in to town to see Gramma Reid today.”

“I’m going in to town to pick up a paper.”
It always seemed like a big deal.
I would never have thought to ride my bicycle in to town back in those days. It just seemed too far. My life revolved around the lake and Victoria Crescent in those times.
Today, it seems like such a short distance to ride.

Some days- when we were told that we had to stay out of the water for a couple of hours and find something else to do, we would go looking for stuff to do.
Things to do.

One particular day- when there weren’t too many city people around at their cottages- it was mid-week, we decided to explore, clad only in our bathing suits and nothing else as was the norm in the summertime. After all, we were told to “find something to do”.

It was a very warm summer afternoon as Wayne, Warren and I strolled up the dusty, dirt road along back of our houses looking for an adventure. There was no breeze this mid-July day, not even off the lake. We felt so hot as we walked up the street past the Staffords, raising a cloud of dust with our bare feet. We stopped and burned up a bit of time feeding plantain weeds to the chickens in Grandma Rutherford’s Chicken Coup. After tiring of that we continued walking up the small grassy hill past the Rutherford’s House to the Dunn Cottage- stopping only long enough to gaze into the silver witch’s ball in Grandma Rutherford’s English Garden. The roundness of the mirrored ball distorted our faces.
We laughed.

The Dunn Cottage stood just on the top of the small, grassy hill. Next door was the Scott Cottage but they appeared to be not at home. Probably they were “in town.”

The Dunn’s cottage was hunter green in colour and when they weren’t “in residence” the windows were closed and covered with shutters. That’s how we found the cottage this particularly hot summer day. Stinking hot as my parents would say!

The cottage sat on concrete blocks placed a couple of feet high at each corner of the structure with support from several piles of brick at various points underneath the frame of the floor. You see the cottage had no basement. It was totally open underneath. In fact, if you layed down on your stomach on the grass on the lake side you could see right through to the back of the cottage and the road side.

This particular day we sat on the Dunn’s front steps and looked out at the Lake. As we did, Mr. and Mrs. Burnett were paddling by in their cedar canoe.
We waved.
They waved back.
Their son Greg sat in the middle seat of the canoe. He was so brown from the summer sun we called him little black Sambo.
Not to his face of course.

He was much bigger and stronger than any of the three of us and we figured he wouldn’t like being called “‘Sambo” let alone little or black!

As the Burnett’s canoe paddled out of sight, Wayne suddenly broke the quiet stillness of the humid summer day.
“Look! What’s that laying there?” He was pointing underneath the edge of the cottage.

Warren and I looked and could instantly see the object what Wayne was pointing at.

It was something shiny sticking out from under a few dried leaves at the corner of the cottage. We all scrambled off the steps and got down on our bare stomachs and rummaged in the leaves. It was a spoon. A silver spoon and next to it was another and another. As we shuffled more leaves around we found a half dozen forks and knives as well- even a large, shiny silver platter that when held up reflected our hot, sweaty faces.

“What the heck is this stuff doing here?”- cried Warren.

“Beats me”- says Wayne.

“Gee, I wonder if there’s more neat stuff under here”- I added.

We stared at one another briefly, wide-eyed with the treasures we found, then, set to work crawling around under the cottage. In a few minutes we found teacups and saucers. Some with small chips out of them.
An eggbeater with a red wooden handle.
An old coffee tin.
A pair of pliers and a wrench.
A bicycle rim.
A picture of a bowl of fruit in a brown, wooden frame. The glass covering the picture was in near-perfect condition. Wayne liked it.
Then. I came across the piece de resistance.
An alarm clock.
It was turquoise in colour. Not a mark on it. I wound it up and it ticked away- like new.

“Hey a clock like this must be worth a whole dollar!” I was dumbfounded, “and it’s just laying here for nothing!”

“Wow!”- said Warren and Wayne in unison.

We all crawled out from under the cottage and headed home.

I couldn’t wait to show my Mum what I had found! I ran into the kitchen absolutely beside myself at the treasure I had found. However, my Mum didn’t quite feel the same way as I did. I showed her my turquoise clock. I was beaming.

“You have to take that back, Rob. The Dunn’s just probably store some things down there. You guys had no business being over there.”

“But it was under the house Mum!”- I cried. “They were probably throwing it away-weren’t they?”

“Maybe they don’t have room for everything inside the cottage, so they store some stuff underneath Rob. Now, be sure to take it back and tell Warren and Wayne to take everything back they took as well!”

“Take it back? Now?”

“Yes”- Mum said. “Now.”

Some treasure hunt!
I did as I was told and Warren and Wayne took the picture as well as the red-handled eggbeater too even though I really loved the look of that little clock.

As a matter of fact, even today I would snatch up a clock like that- if I found one.