All that’s left of holiday cottages, a dance pavilion, and refreshment booths that once graced the traditional lands of the people of Mississaugas of Scugog Island First Nation, a branch of the greater Anishinaabeg Nation, land that’s part of the Williams Treaties, aka, the Whitby shoreline of Lake Ontario.
The holiday resort was there from about 1900 to the 1960s, with steamboats bringing travellers from Toronto for weeks-long holidays, and locals coming by horse and buggy.
I interviewed an elderly man many years ago, who told me he lived near the lake (the old wooden houses of ‘Port Whitby’ are still there) and how as a boy he would be sent to the pier when the fishing boats came in. He’d bring a bucket and a few coins and the fishermen would toss in a couple fish, enough for supper. He said the horses and buggies from town would be lined up and down the street to do the same.
I would love to hear stories also of when the Mississaugas lived on the land, and how it was they (were) ‘moved along’. No dance pavilion for them…
A friend of mine has lived here much longer than I have and remembers things being quite wild and woody. Much building since I arrived, but I also remember fields and woodlands running either side of main streets. Many of those fields are gone, but loads are still intact. For now. We’re lucky in that the countryside is still just a spit away, that the town is built around parks and ravines and has a river called Lynde Creek that runs through it, complete with salmon. I feel lucky to be surrounded by farms and (honest to goodness) farmers’ markets and that the lake shore remains mostly unsullied and the downtown, all leafy streets of Victorian era homes and shops, is walkable from where I live and takes me backwards through a century of neighbourhoods, from the 1970s to the 1870s. If you pay attention you can see how the town was layered, neighbourhood by neighbourhood.
It’s funny that we complain about the layering that continues. It’s nothing new, it’s been going on since we built towns and cities. It happens in cities too. It’s called condos. Still, it feels annoying, and whether here or there, the problem is the same, when there’s an imbalance of ‘building’, when too many houses/condos are built without thought to building neighbourhoods.
I have a thing about neighbourhoods.
I’m fascinated by how people live in them, how they make them home, how they adapt, how they’re different, and the same.
I have a thing about small and middle-sized towns, factory towns a lot of them, and those that appear, on the surface ‘to be not much’. Nothing against cities. I had to be dragged away from one. But even in cities, it’s always the less travelled side of the tracks, not the shabby chic side, but the authentically, downright seemingly dull side, the places where crowds don’t go, that I always discover the sweetest surprises.
But isn’t that what lazy summer days and postcards… and the sight of old concrete stairs at the beach… are for…
It’s too hot to overthink a postcard. Mostly just writing to say hello.
And happy summer. (happy rambling too!)
Other (not always) wordless friends: