In the spring of 1949 I applied for a summer job, posted in a Winnipeg Newspaper, and went for an interview along with a school chum of mine. The owner of Tall Timbers Lodge was a widow named Lil Hayes. Her husband had died a few years back so she managed the tourist camp by herself. It was the first time I had gone for a job interview so it was a new experience.
I was thirteen at the time but was tall for my age. Later, that July I turned fourteen. My pal Bill Lutz was not as big but he was strong and wiry. The job entailed lots of physical labor needed to operate a tourist camp. We tended to the rental and maintenance of a number of fishing boats but our biggest task was to travel down the lake two or three miles to the Railway station at Ingolf and pickup all the supplies needed to sustain the camp all summer long. It required a trip once or twice a week, depending on how many guests needed to be fed.
Bill and I got the jobs and were suppose to start work as soon as school was out. We were in grade nine and for some strange reason I did very well in that grade and was exempt from exams. I was able to start work before Bill.
Ingolf was located in North Western Ontario a few miles east of the Manitoba border. It did not have any road access but was limited to regular travel by train. Lil got me a ride with a couple of guys who had a cabin nearby. We were able to drive to within about a half mile of the lake and then had to hike in. The boys had a boat and motor at the end of the trail and were able to haul me right to the camp dock.
A arrived before any guests were at the camp so I was put to work right away cleaning the dust and dirt that had accumulated in the various cottages spread around the property. There were lots of trees and branches that came down during the winter and they all had to be cut up and hauled away for firewood or burned on the brush pile.
I got a crash course on the maintenance of all the boats and motors stored in the big boat house. Lil was a very capable woman and quickly taught me all I needed to know. The guests rented the equipment to go fishing or just joy riding on the lake. The smaller fishing boats were flat bottomed and strongly built in order to haul all the supplies from the railway station.
In time Bill arrived and helped ease the load on me. We slept together in a big old bed on the second floor of the lodge. No matter the weather, there was no heat on the second floor. Once the weather improved we spent the summer wearing a bathing suit and rarely wore shoes. We were soon tanned a dark brown and people were amazed that even when it got chilly we never wore a shirt. Later in the summer a former guest sent the camp photos she had taken of people grouped in front of the lodge. Bill and I were burned so dark we looked like a pair of Indians.
At least once a week Bill and I would each take a boat and motor down the lake to a small dock and then walk up the trail to the train station. When the train arrived they unloaded all the food and supplies on the platform, along with 25 gallon steel drums of gasoline. We had to wait for the train to leave before we could cross the tracks and start hauling items.
The trail between the station and the dock was at least five or six hundred feet in length and consisted mainly of bed rock along with sand and gravel. It was too steep to use a wheel barrow and too rough for any kind of wagon. Bill and I would spend a couple of hours hauling boxes and cartons down the hill and loaded them in our boats.
The worst items were the barrels of gasoline. They were far too heavy to lift so we had to roll them carefully down the hill. As the weeks went by we began to hate the gasoline drums as they left us exhausted after each one was manhandled down to the dock. Eventually, if we picked the right route, we could let go of the barrel and watch it roll down the slope until it was stopped by a rock or a depression in the ground. We then walked down the hill, rolled it to an open spot and kicked it on its way. We tested our method many times and soon learned the barrels could take a very solid blow on a rock with out blowing up or even leaking.
We learned to move the barrels last because that way most people at the train station or at the docks were long gone and we had no witnesses to our methods of moving heavy gasoline drums. By the end of the summer we would simply kick the barrels over the edge of the hill and head back to the depot for another one. On a few occasions the damn things took off on a new route and we would waste time hunting for them on the hillside or even in the lake. Fortunately they floated like a cork.
Because of the size and weight of the barrels they were very difficult to roll off the dock and into the boat. Depending on whether we each had three or four barrels, their positioning in the boat was critical.
Another curse was cases of bottled pop. Sweating in the sun and carrying a large case of pop caused us to break out in a sweat and almost die of thirst. Only once did we fall to temptation and slosh down a pop. We of course replaced the tops and everything looked normal as seen from above. When someone was served a fresh cold empty pop from the cooler we were ratted out and the pop was deducted from our slim pay.
Once the boats were loaded, we pushed off from the dock and the fear factor kicked in. The old flat bottom boats sat so low in the water no more than two inches of the boat side sat above the water. Early in the summer we learned that if we loaded the boat lightly, it meant we had to go all the way back down the lake for another load.
Boat travelers on the lake use to be amazed to see us plod by with groceries piled high on the boats. They learned that we had so little free board they had to slow down or their wake could sink us. In calmer moments they claimed they could not see any part of the boat as we went by.
Each boat was equipped with a little four horse power motor so we moved at a snails pace with our over loaded boats. We traveled together just in case a boat went under. Before we went to the train station we always checked out the wind and waves on the lake.
On one occasion, when about half way home, the wind picked up and we knew the waves it created would sink us for sure. We motored close to a little bay in the shore and each tossed out a barrel of gas and safely made it back to the lodge. That evening when Lil was busy serving her guests we went down to the boat house and took the large launch that was used to haul guest to the station. We drove away from the boathouse at slow speed and then once far enough away, where we could not be heard, we raced off at high speed. Our barrels were still floating hidden in the bay. We carefuly loaded each one so we did not damage the fancy launch. Once home and in the boat house, we unloaded the last two drums of gasoline and no one was the wiser
The summer just flew by and by the end of August we knew we would soon have to return home to school. In our free time we were allowed to use the rental canoes and it was at this time in my life that I began a lifelong association with canoes and canoeing.