The Jefferson Canadian Club in the 1930’s
By Jack Wakeman
I made my first visit to Camp in 1931 at the age of 4. I have assembled a co11ection of those early memories. Most of those early trips started with a drive from Orchard Park to Oswego (150 miles) to spend the night at my grandparents, A.J. & Elizabeth King. A.J. King was one of the founding members of the Club. At the crack of dawn we would pile into my grandfather’s car, a 1932 Buick touring car, to make the 12 hour drive to Camp (today if would be a 5 hour drive from Oswego to Camp). We wound our way along narrow but paved roads to Ogdensburg where we would cross into Canada – there was no bridge at the time.
The roads were paved but narrow into Ottawa. My grandfather liked to stop at Lalon’s Grocery in Ottawa to get dry goods and beer. From Hu11 into Gracefield the road was gravel and the ride was rough. The Gatineau River was often so fu11 of logs that you could walk from one side of the river to the other. After crossing the Pickinok (Picanoc) River (just short of Gracefield) we would stop at Stevenson’s Grocery at the top of the hi11 in Wright. At Stevenson’s we would buy meat, cheese and eggs.
The final leg of the trip began when we crossed over the Gatineau River on the long single lane wooden covered bridge at Gracefle1d. The road into camp was a basic narrow dirt road with sharp turns, steep hills, large rocks in the road, mud after a rain and dust when it was dry. After driving through Duffyvi11e there was often one more stop before arriving in Camp. If Duffy Lafrenier, owner of Victoria Lodge, saw us coming, he would flag us down, grab his bottle of whiskey and insist that my father and grandfather join him in a drink. When we fina11y reached Camp 12 hours later we were exhausted.
[/caption]The view down the lake today is surprisingly the same as I remember it in the 1930’s. The main difference then was that you could see no other cottages from our shoreline. All cooking was done on the wood burning cast iron stove in Main Camp.
We kept our food cold in the ice boxes and after dark we lit the kerosene lamps. The ice for the iceboxes was cut from the lake in the winter and stored under layers of sawdust in the original icehouse, a rustic building made of rough sawn lumber. Between Main Camp and the icehouse (towards the ravine) was the outhouse. lt was a “three-holer” and you often had company while taking care of business. Bath time was a short row boat ride down the lake to the “bathtub”, a shallow rock basin that today is located directly under the porch of the Priest’s cottage!
[/caption]Once at Camp it wasn’t practical to drive into Gracefield to get supplies. Several times a week the bakery truck, dairy truck and meat truck would stop by. In the meat truck there would be a side of beef hanging on a hook. The butcher would slice off pieces of meat to order. There was another way to get milk if the dairy truck didn’t come by. lt would be my job to row one of the wooden boats into what we now call “Ottawa Club Bay”. On the far side of the bay was a farmhouse where you could buy raw milk in a can.
Community meals were always a given at Camp. Everyone brought something to the table and fish was usually the main course.