Mark and Ellen came to my house for the weekend. They were celebrating their wedding anniversary, the 29th if my math is right. Since they use my place as base for getting in touch with family and friends in the area, I enjoy sharing in the social whirl.
On Saturday we went to the park on Pitt Street in Port Burwell for a picnic supper. From the height we watched people enjoying the beach and the water. The younger folk may get a little bored as I talk about things seen only in memory. The Casino that stood against the foot of the cliff was a hive of activity. We could get hotdogs and hamburgers, rent a bathing suit, dance...
I was outfitted one time with a wool bathing suit. The garment was two pieces, trunks and a sort of bra top. Males were not permitted to go bare-breasted in those days even though Queen Victoria was only a memory in the older folks' minds. Her grandson, King George V, was on the throne. My rented garment had navy blue trunks and a sort of pearly grey top, very chic, very picky to my young skin. The top was attached to the trunks by some device, hooks and eyes I think. When were zippers invented? Navels were not to be exposed to innocent eyes.
The lake was calm Saturday evening, no white caps, just ripples washing the shore. I remembered going to photograph a capsized trimaran that had been towed to the shore for recovery. The apparently very stable craft was no match for an aroused Lake Erie, or maybe it was the skipper who mishandled it.
Mark surprised me by saying he was with me on that occasion. A kayak being paddled along the shore reminded me of building a plywood kayak for Ralph and Dorothy McQuiggan some sixty years ago. Dorothy had a soft ice cream booth on the beach and Ralph managed a fleet of pontoon floats for rent. The kayak was added to the fleet, and two dory-like rowboats also built be me.
Mark wasn't born yet and so these memories are my own.
"Where did you build the kayak?" he asked.
They were built in a garage that adjoined a store room that adjoined McQuiggan's Red and White Store on the corner of Talbot Street and Plank Road in Straffordville. Rose's Variety now occupies some of that property. The small stucco building on Talbot was the Bank of Commerce in its first incarnation, there when the general store occupied the corner. That building became the Canadian Bank of Commerce, then the office of the Bayham Township public school board. It served as a veterinary's office, open three days a week, and has been a private dwelling since then.
I used resorcinal glue to build the kayak and the rowboats. It came in tin cans, a syrupy brown liquid that stuck to my fingers like a second skin if my rubber gloves got torn. It was truly waterproof, not water resistant like some of the early glues. It has disappeared like the Casino and the Red and White Store.
I had forgotten the steel slide that stood at the water's edge near the soft ice cream booth until Mark, or maybe Doug mentioned how it burned one's backside during the heat of the day.
There were three other food booths on the beach, shaded by venerable giant willow trees. When the rock breakwater on the west side of the harbour mouth changed the currents, the waves began to wash the east beach away, taking the real estate and the willows into memory. The million dollar breakwall that protects the foot of the bluffs east of Burwell didn't solve the erosion problems. It just moved the action further eastward where it has removed long sections of the Lake Road.
Long ago there were farms and an earlier lakeshore road that disappeared into the waves.
Sunday night we wondered if a more violent action of the environment might send some of our municipality into chaos. I fell asleep with the occasional rumble of thunder reminding me I was lucky. It was coming from the east.