"" Writer's Wanderings: Best Past Vacations -- The French River

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Best Past Vacations -- The French River

Do you have a favorite childhood vacation memory? I do--many, as a matter of fact. But the memories surround the place that we always spent our two week vacation before my father built a vacation home. We went to Canada.

My father and grandfather were avid fishermen. So was my mother but since my brother and I were too young to be left on our own she didn't get to fish as often as she wanted. The place we went to was on the French River near Noelville, Ontario. I always thought it was somewhere near the northern Canadian border but it is actually situated east of Lake Huron about even with the top of the "mitten" of Michigan. To my child's mind, 12-14 hours of driving seemed enough to get me to the North Pole at least!

The cabins we stayed in were rustic to say the least. Fifty-five to sixty years ago, they had no electricity there yet since it was not a populated area. Our refrigerator was an icebox--literally. Every couple of days, the iceman would come and check to see if we needed a new block of ice. He would set about a foot square block into the metal compartment of the insulated cabinet that served as our "refrigerator."

Our lights at night were oil lamps that lent a warm glow and made everything cozy and at times mysterious.

The stove was wood-burning and I have fond memories of my grandfather getting up before dawn and banging around as he got a fire going in it to cook his famous pancakes. He would also make a morning trip to the community well and pump full a pail of water for us. In those days, that kind of well water was considered premium. I wouldn't be surprised if it was showing up in plastic bottles today.

Of course with all this rugged outdoor living, came the not-so-pleasant outhouse. During the day it was not so bad as we could see to get there and there were no critters of the night to be wary of. At night however, the outhouse was off limits to my younger brother and me. Mom preferred our safety and always came prepared with a bucket for our emergency needs. She would have loved our modern day portable chemical toilets.

My brother and I were always asleep early and missed out on some of the creepy adventures that took place after dark. Mom loved to tell stories and her favorite was one that made the cabin shake. . .

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