Earliest Pioneers

12 Aug

Memories Wright

Joanne Wright – 1473 Champlain Road

Joanne Wright and her husband, Wayne Yetman are the current owners of the cottage at 1473 Champlain Road developed by Norman Wright and his wife Isobel in the early 1950s. As such Norman and Isobel were among the earliest pioneers in Clearwater Beach. Norman was an accountant and fortunately for us, kept detailed records of expenditures and transactions which capture much of what beach-life was like at that time. Joanne has recently studied these documents and the following is a summary of what she uncovered.

        Isobel Ross, her sister Bobbie (later wife of Alex Jarlette – who purchased 1469 Champlain Road from The Fords) and her mother, Hetty Ross had moved from Canada to England in the early 1940s. Norman Wright, a native of England, met Isobel at a dance shortly after the end of the Second World War and they became engaged to be married. Isobel, Bobbie and her mother returned to Canada in February 1948, and Norm followed 18 months later in June 1949. Isobel and Norm were married in Long Branch in May 5, 1951.

        Mrs. Ross (known as ‘Ted’ to her grandchildren) was apparently a driving force in the desire to have a summer home in the Ontario wilderness and so the four of them, Norm and the 3 Ross women, embarked on a search for their dream place in the woods.

        They travelled around the southern end of Georgian Bay and we know that they visited lots on Farlain Lake but were not so keen when they waded into the lake and sank in the muck. So they continued with their search.

        A letter of May 16, 1950 from Marcel F. Bellehumeur, General Insurance, 100 Fox St., Penetanguishene seems to represent the first major step forward:

Following our meeting in the bush at Pinery Point last Sunday, I contacted Mrs. Smith and learned that she has four fifty foot lots for sale along the beach north and west of our meeting place. That is as the cottagers told you, and not meaning the section she has built up for herself.

I have also confirmed the general selling price of lots in this area as being $6 a foot, that is $300 a lot. I have also given your name to Mr. John McIntaggart, Postmaster, Penetang, who has lots to sell farther up the shore. This morning I met, in town, Mr. Charles Simpson, 106 Main St. S. Weston, Ontario. He owns the last cottage in the group where we met, and wishes to sell it to buy another lot with deeper water for his speed launch. It is just newly finished, and worth looking into. Hoping this information may be of service to you, I remain,

Sincerely yours,

M.F. Bellehumeur

Almost simultaneously to the above Norm received a letter from the J. McIntaggart, mentioned above. Here we find the first real reference to Clearwater Beach and its attractions.

Mr. Marcel Bellehumeur, Insurance Agent, of Penetang, kindly gave me your name, at the same time, stating that you are interested in beach property.

I am taking the liberty of enclosing some particulars of beach property, which I have to sell. There is a rough plan of the beach, or rather part of it, taken from the original registered plan, as well as a sketch of the district.

The property is located about one half mile North of where I judge you met Mr. Bellehumeur. It is called ‘Clear-Water Beach.”

It is hoped that I may have the priviledge of showing you the sub-division. You can write me, or phone me at Penetang 438. I would probably be free to take you over the property at any time, providing I know that you are coming, and when. Yours sincerely, J. McIntaggart, Postmaster.

In addition to a hand drawn map of the lots McIntaggart enclosed a sheet describing the ‘Particulars of Building Lots at Clear-Water Beach” which, along with descriptions of its location, bathing, boating, fishing, view, privacy, hydro, survey and cost included:

Historical Lore: Clear-Water Beach is situated in the heart of Huronia, where Etienne Brule, Champlaign [sic], the Recollect Father LeCaron travelled and lived over three hundred years ago; where the Hurons and Iroquois Indians fought their deadly and mortal battles; and where the Jesuit missionaries were martyred.

And

Roads: It is admitted that the road (last mile and a half) to the sub-division is not a present advantage. It is rough, narrow and winding. This is only a temporary situation, however which will shortly be overcome. The township has promised to eliminate this disadvantage this Summer. Cars, or course, can travel to the sub-division easily.

In the Woods at 1473 Champlain

(In the woods at Clearwater Beach, Norm Wright, Ricki (the dog), Bobbie and Ted Ross, 1950)

Things apparently progressed very rapidly from there because later in May of the same year Eugene Mailloux writes:

Dear Madame,

I am including a sketch of a plan for your summer cottage along with this specification. This price will consist as follows: to sit on 16 Cement piers; 4×6 beams; 2×6 joists two foot centres; pine floor 2×4 studdings; 2×4 inch log siding; outside trim, windows; outside doors; rafters 2×4; roof sheating shiplap; 3 in 1 asphalt roofing; cement or wood steps; partition sheated 1 side with plywood or knotty pine for the summer of thirteen hundred and eighty dollars ($1380.00).

The letter is addressed, as one can see, to ‘Madame’, and this seems to reinforce the notion that Mrs. Ross was a significant driver in this whole enterprise.

Mrs Ross Bobbie Norm Isobel Mrs Ross Bobbie

Mrs. Ross, Bobbie Ross and Norm Wright on the left, Isobel Wright, Mrs. Ross and Bobbie Ross on the right)

In June 1950 Norm started keeping the books on the cottage showing what each owner paid for including the building, fixtures/fittings, furniture, utensils, expenses and total. He kept this going until 1958.

It appears that Mrs. Ross paid off the cottage building in June (her balance shows $700.00 and she also contributed $100.00 for the Land as well as $0.29 for Match Box, $4.83 for sink taps, $0.60 for a frying pan, $3.00 for screws and a Screen Door $5.95 in July and wiring of $136.38 and a sledge hammer $5.00 in August 1953. She paid $42.50 for Bulldozing in 1958.

Isobel’s column shows that she contributed to the building in June 1951 ($300.00) and 3 beds ($18.95, $24.95, $5.85). In 1953 she bought a Deck Chair, canvas ($5.00). But the major purchase between 1950 and 1959 was a stove in 1958 for $50.00.

Norm seemed to focus his purchases on the building, fixtures, fittings and furniture –

Cabinet                 $15.00

Saw                         $1.95

Lumber re Toilet         $7.68

Table                         $2.00

Kitchen chairs                 $6.00

Car top carriers        $7.95

Oil lamp                 $0.75

Cement Blocks         $1.76

Snow removal                 $10.00

Stove piping                 $6.00

Stove stand                 $1.65

Wood re Shutters         $40.30

Knotty pine                 $43.50

And in August 1953, finally a  –

Fridge                         $50.00

Money was tight in those days and being an auditor, Norm produced hand written columns of the finances, measurements, and items to be purchased and items purchased beginning in June 1950 up until 1958.

One sheet describes:

Financial arrangements re: cottage

Commencing June 15, 1950 Isobel, Ted and Norman will contribute $4.86 per pay i.e. $154.31 of each month.

These are the pays to Feb. 28, 1951 – $4.86x3x16 – $700.00 = balance of cottage purchase price

Household Expenses 1951

                                            Isobel               Self

April 1        Rent                                        $20.00

                      Food           $10.00             $15.00

15                 Rent                                        $20.00

                     Food            $10.00             $15.00

Another sheet describes cottage measurements of the rooms, floors and windows. It indicates the dimensions of three separate rooms Isobel’s, Mrs. Ross’ and Norman’s. And they were shopping in the Halliday catalogue for storm doors $5.49, four sizes were available.

Two sheets itemize ‘Cottage Essentials’ and ‘Cottage Requisites’, including prices from the Eaton and Simpson catalogues  –

For the kitchen,

Heating Stove, wood heater (Quebec heater), 24 long 27 high $16.00, single room $13.50, med $15.50, large $19.80

Cooking ring ($2.98)

Plastic Plates ($1.75)

Electric Plate, 2 burners ($4.95)

Buckets, galvanized ($1.20), enamel ($1.79)

Kettle, aluminium ($2.00)

BedRooms, Continental Beds, ¾ size ($21.00)

Matts

Always interested in saving money, Isobel’s handwriting indicates that –

Bed with Back ($24.95), Bed without ($19.95) Cheaper at Simpsons

Norm’s list continues,

Living Room, Rocking Chairs with arms ($7.75), without arms ($4.95)

Chair ($2.59)

Verandah chairs ($8.00)

Kitchen table ($15.00)

Stove Pipe and asbestos sheet ($3.00)

Lamps ($1.50)

Ice Box ($7.50)

Tea Pot ($1.50)

Ted wanted:

Ash trays ($1.00)

Isobel wanted:

Flashlight ($1.29)

Portable Hotblast Oil Stove 9 1/8’ high ($2.98), same with 3 burners ($11.89)

Camp cot ($5.85)

By September 1950 Norm has already calculated the cost of the land, buildings, fixtures, fittings, furniture and sundry and Mrs. Ross, Isobel’s, Bobbie’s and Norman’s share of each of these. He’s listed the cost of insurance on the building and furniture. He’s already calculating on what the cottage might sell for –

Assuming the cottage was sold for $2000.00

Isobel                                $483.00

Mrs. Ross and Bobbie                $952.00

Norman                        $565.00

He calculated the same items and everyone’s share in September, 1951, June 15, 1952 and July 31, 1952.

By July 31, 1952, he figured:

Isobel                                 $470.85

Mrs. Ross                         $1014.54

Bobbie                                 $96.37

Norman                         $686.91

For a total of                         $2268.67

The bureaucracy must have been a little less complicated back in those days because it took until December 27, 1950 before we find Norm writing to apparently make the purchase official. He wrote to a Mrs. Morin, who we assume was a township official:

‘Dear Sir,

In June of this year we purchased some land in Tiny Township and erected a summer cottage. I should be glad if you would review this property and assess me for the taxes.

The land was purchased from Mr. Eugene Mailloux of North West Basin for $300 and he also erected the cottage at a cost of $1000.

The property is situated at Pinery Point and almost opposite Gin Rocks.

It may help to locate it if I give the property holders names immediately north from our cottage.

N

Simpson

Dean

Townsend

Metcalf

Self

Barber

Ford

S

I should be grateful if your files have the information for the Toronto addresses of Mr. Metcalfe, Mr. Barber and Mr. Ford.

Yours faithfully,

Norman Wright

In May 1951 the Wright/Ross enterprise grew as they purchased half of the Burt Metcalfe property to their north, enlarging their lakefront to seventy-five feet. Norm hand wrote a receipt for this:

Received from N. Wright. Two hundred dollars ($200) in consideration for one half of the lots (#42) situated between the cottages of A. Metcalfe and Mrs. Ross at Pinery Point, Penetang.

This is signed by A. Metcalfe, ‘Pappy’, who was Les Metcalfe’s father. Apparently Les Metcalfe’s brother Burt, who had bought this property earlier, did not want to build and so sold it, splitting it between Norm to the south and Pappy to the north. Burt, incidentally, then went on to buy another property farther up the beach south of his brother.

Pappy Metcalfe and Joanne 1957

Pappy and Joanne, summer 1957

Norm’s records show that in 1951 the Township of Tiny assessed the cottage at $600 and levied $27.96 in taxes with $10.92 going to ‘Roads General’ and $1.80 to ‘Roads Special’.

The next year, 1952, the Township of Tiny assessed the cottage at $650. Taxes were $31.66. One can see that inflation was already taking its deadly toll on the Wright and Ross family’s pockets.

The Township was clearly on top of its tax rolls but there seemed to be a different attitude towards others aspects, as it is not until April 10th, 1953

that we find Norm endeavouring to have the deed for the cottage transferred. He seemed to start the ball rolling to get the deed by writing to Eugene Mailloux (who sold him the property):

Dear Eugene,

Mrs. Ross was telling me that when you were talking to her last week you mentioned that a receipt was needed for the purpose of arranging the transfer of the deed re the cottage lot. Well we don’t have a receipt for the land or the building, but we have cancelled checks. I don’t think you will require any thing regarding the building which were [sic] erected but I am enclosing a letter from the bank regarding the check they have sent me. I am retaining the cancelled check. The $300 check relates to the sale of the land. We also have a receipt from Alf Metcalfe for the purchase of half of the lot formerly owned by his son. If it is any help here are the lot no.

L # 41         Block Plan G Concession 17

Lot  S½ 42         Block Plan G Concession 17

The deed should be registered in the names of

Mrs. Hettie G. Ross #8 37th St. Long Branch. Ont. Housewife

Isobel M. Wright. 1252 The Queensway, Toronto 14, Ont. Housewife

Norman S. Wright. 1252 The Queensway, Toronto 14, Ont. Accountant

Holding as tenants in common.

Isobel and I don’t anticipate being up until around the beginning of June, thus this letter.

Our kind regards to Mrs. Mailloux and yourself.

In July 1953 the records show that Norm made an application for ‘Rural Electrical Service and Energy’ to the Township of Tiny and prepared for that installation by purchasing wires, outlets, stove cables, point racks, and square washers and installation services from Harold Townes $136.38. and from Williamson Radio and Electric Supplies a used McLarry Range $19.00

Isobel Wright before electricity and running water

Isobel Wright before electricity and before running water

There is a confusing record of July 24, 1953 which says:

73.5 ft lot bought by Hetty G. Ross and Norman S. Wright from Eugene and Cecile Mailloux for $300 (Ted, Isobel and Norm living at 8-37th St., 1252 The Queensway, Long Branch).

We are not sure what this really means. It seems to bring the original purchase and the later half lot purchase from A. Metcalfe together in one transaction, at the original first purchase price of $300. Perhaps this was just a paper trail to confirm the final arrangement.

All these facts and figures do little to illuminate what life was really like on Clearwater Beach in those early days. However  in August 1953 Norm’s father and mother, Mr. and Mrs. F. A. Wright wrote a letter in England to their local paper the Bingley Guardian that was published on Friday, November 6th, 1953 about their adventures on a trip to Canada.

The newspaper article is titled

Adventures in Canada: Interesting letter from Eldwick couple

the Guardian has received an interesting letter from Mr. and Mrs. F.A. Wright, of Eldwick, who are visiting their son in Ontario, Canada’.

The article describes how Norm’s parents travelled by car from their home in Eldwick to Liverpool where they boarded a ship for Montreal. After four days and five nights …

‘… of nothing but water, we sighted land Sunday morning. We had a lovely sail up the river St. Lawrence till Wednesday lunch-time (nearly as long as coming across).  We stayed at Quebec on Tuesday night for about three hours … Getting into Montreal … when we saw our son, his wife and his wife’s mother waiting for us we were very pleased indeed.

They travelled by car from Montreal to Toronto to Norm and Isobel’s and set off a few days later for the cottage…

… for 16 days. It is about 100 miles from the city. We had the heat-wave there. We thought we should miss it in the shade, and close to the lake, but no; it was 102 degrees. 2 September was the hottest day for five years and thousands had to leave work. It is now much cooler and more like weather in England. We have been going up to the cottage every week-end. They cannot use the cottage for six months of the year because of snow and ice, so they try to make the most of it.

I should just mention about what takes place up at the cottage during the weekends. They had two corn roasts for our benefit. There was a big bonfire in the middle with seats all round, a smaller fire to boil the corn in, Indian corn in a cluster, sandwiches, plenty to drink, and music; all in the open air and a real jolly evening. It was morning when we all went to our separate cottages. There were about a dozen of us, all very friendly. They even wanted me to stay up for the winter to keep an eye on them all and offered to give me 10 dollars each, but the nearest house was about five miles away and the nearest shop 8 miles away. They said we should see a few bears, but they would only come through the window, not the door; Mrs. Wright looked across at me and we both seemed to decide at once that it hardly appealed to us. A few of the cottages had motor boats and they did enjoy seeing anyone wanting to surf ride behind their boat for then they could give a sharp turn and in the lake you went. Anyone of our party who stayed on received a special cheer. Six boys next door, the life of our weekend at the cottage, all had a go, and so did our family here, all but me and Mrs. Wright. They could all swim and we could not, just the difference.

Grandparents and Mom in Canvas Deck Chairs

(Mrs. F. A. Wright, Myra McFarquar, Ted Ross, Mr. F. A. Wright and Isobel Wright in those $5 canvas deck chairs, summer 1953)

Joanne is sure that the Six Boys next door must include many of the Barber Brothers and Cousin Bob (the Barber family own Ron and Anita Barber’s cottage at 1471 Champlain Road) and Charlie Sanderson (Terry and Randy Sanderson own their parents place at 1395 Champlain Road). And they must be pulling an old fella’s leg about the winter and the bears!

Which was all fine and good but it didn’t take long for Norm to get back to his money matters.

For on August 1953 Norm records that he bought ‘the kitchen door and wood for the stoop from The Tessier Planing Mill $8.60.’

And in 1955 The Township of Tiny is again on the prowl, assessing the cottage at $650 and levying total taxes of $33.41 for the year. This is up from $31.66 just a few years before. Exhorbitant.

By January 10, 1955 the transfer of deed was apparently still up in the air as we find Norm writing to the Land Titles Office in Barrie explaining that he had ‘two deeds evidencing the transfer of a parcel of land at Penetang to myself and one other.’

It seems as if a survey was needed to bring things together as on August 1956 Norm wrote to the tax collector in Perkinsfield to get the names of surveyors.  One of the surveyors, Charles P. O’Dale, Midland wrote to him and said he’d …

‘… try to work your survey into my schedule .. everything depends on the weather. The cost of the survey will be between forty and sixty dollars. Please send a retaining fee of $25 which will be credited to your account.’

In 1960, an indoor toilet finally arrives at the cottage and Norm produced an itemized list of parts he purchased from Midland Planing Mill, St. Amant Plumbing & Heating, Beaver Lumber, and Canadian Tire including a toilet tank for $21.50 and a breather for the septic tank for $2.50. Total cost $93.60

To again diverge from the world of money and deeds Joanne gives us another picture of cottage life in winter in the late 1960s.

In the late 60s, our family used to stay at the cottage during the winter time. We enjoyed ski doo-ing and going to the Penetang Winter Carnival in February. My Auntie Bobbie, Uncle Alex and family were living at the cottage (1469 Champlain Road) during this time because they were developing their nursing home business in Midland.

During the winter, we had heat from a wood burning Quebec stove but no running water. We melted snow and flushed the toilet with buckets of water. When we finally had the cottage warm, the snow used to melt from the roof until it reached the area over the soffit and then it would freeze into an ‘ice dam’ and back up under the shingles, leaking into the cottage. My father and I used to spend a lot of time on ladders hacking at the ice to allow the water to run off the roof. I’m sure this wasn’t great for the roof shingles.

Dorothy T and Joanne W

(Dorothy Townsend and Joanne Wright, winter 1960)

After a couple of winters dealing with the Quebec stove, and later a stove oil furnace, an oil burning furnace must have been installed because in November 1972, Norm wrote to Stewart’s Gulf Gas Distributor in Penetang,

‘… would you please fill our 40 gallon gas tank with regular gas … this fall I replaced a stove oil space heater with a regular oil fired furnace. Your serviceman suggested I continue with stove oil since the flame would require adjustment. I had thought we could have changed over to furnace oil. I would like 100 gallons of fuel oil in the rank which is up against the cottage and will go along with whatever you think should be used i.e. stove oil or furnace oil. You will require entry to the cottage and Mrs. Jarlette will provide this if you would phone her at 549-8633.”

But he wrote again in December 1972 to Ozzie at St. Amant & Sons, Penetang

“… last fall we had a chalet type furnace installed, it was a do it yourself project and we are having problems with an oil smell in the cottage. It seems the leak is either in the pump or where the oil line joins the pump. Since we expect to be up at Xmas could you have someone call in at our cottage this coming week to rectify the problem?” 

The cottage numbering system was different in the 70s and in his letter, Norm explained the location of the cottage this way “… cottage #37 Clearwater Beach, about 6 cottages N. of Pinery Point and 2 cottages South of George Townsend where you installed a furnace in October.”

In March 1987 water levels were going through one of their periodic up periods and cottagers were seriously worried. MNR, Richmond Hill recommended Keith Philpott Consulting to provide technical advice regarding the erosion caused by the rising water levels. They did an inspection, for free, and Norm wrote to Pam Metcalfe, who was now the owner of Pappy Metcalfe’s cottage and probably spoke to Anita Barber encouraging everyone to do similar revetments. This approach was encouraged by MNR. In April 1987 Keith Philpott submitted his report on shoreline erosion at 1473 Champlain Road to MNR, Richmond Hill.

In September 1987 the new revetment was completed by Eric Pauze Construction, Perkinsfield. Norm and Isobel visited other rock wall revetments being built in this area to see what they looked like. They made their application to construct a rock break wall to Ministry of Natural Resources in Midhurst.

It is fascinating (and instructive) to see that MNR had written to all shore property owners along Georgian Bay in May 1986:

“… the level of Georgian Bay is now setting all-time records … this has resulted from long term cumulative effects of recent climatic conditions affecting the entire Great Lakes Basin. The amount of water in the system … indicates that it is unlikely that water levels in your area will drop in the near future and in fact, they could well exceed the levels we are presently experiencing. The end result of this … is the potential for increased damage to your shore property.”

And of course, in 2013, the water levels once again reached a low mark, and then decisively rebounded in 2014 when this is written.

Isobel Wright died in June of 2003 and Norm passed on in June 2006. Their children Andrew and Joanne shared the cottage for several years before Andrew and his wife Silvy purchased their own place on Midland Point and Joanne and Wayne assumed full ownership.

It is hard to imagine the trials which Norm and Isobel must have endured to make their dream cottage come true. But the records above attest to their persistence. We all feel a debt to them and an obligation to keep having as much fun as possible in their memory.

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