Planning for the Sovereign’s Birthday

June 1, 1917

It was Annie’s idea, but it was Shannon who took credit for it. Annie would still do all of the planning and work in the end. Sovereign’s Birthday was coming up on June 3rd. Since it  fell on a Sunday, the holiday was supposed to be observed on Monday. It didn’t really make much difference – until Park Superintendent George Bartlett heard about the pageant plans.

“Nothing on the Sabbath. All celebrations must be held on Sovereign’s Day, Observed, June 4th”

The King’s birthday fell on a Sunday this year, so the holiday would be observed on the following day, Monday. It didn’t really make much of a difference in the Park. It’s mostly a bank Holiday. So the banks were closed on that day, most everybody worked that day. To my knowledge  there are no banks that would crimp activities in the Park, but George made sure that Mark Robinson we knew the edict – no celebrations on Sunday, or there will be consequences.

To observe the day (Monday, that is), Shannon was thinking about having day-long pageant. He had read about these affairs in the US papers. It was a popular thing with the American, as they sent their boys off to war. A pageant consisted of parade, a sporting event, a contest, a musical performance and picnic or a banquet to wrap things up. A pageant was usually presided over by a local dignitary and Shannon could think of no better dignitary than himself. His regatta was a bust on Victoria Day, so this was a chance to redeem himself. Monday was only a few days away, so Shannon had a chance of putting something together. He was thinking about log rolling contest for the women, but I reminded him that a fully drenched women’s dress amounted to her death warrant in the still cold waters of Canoe Lake.

That’s when Annie hit on the solution for Sunday – an “Ecumenical Service”. Shannon was puzzled at first, he thought he heard “Economical Service” and began talking about Mowat Lodge being the most economical place in the Park. Annie corrected him graciously by saying it was a movement to promote greater Christian unity. In more practical terms it was Catholics, Protestants and Anglicans worshipping together in the same place.

I could see Shannon’s eyes light up. He finally put it together. Now he understood why Annie didn’t mind going up to the Algonquin Hotel for the Sunday lay service that Ed Colson  held. It was an “economical” thing. But then, just as quickly as his eyes lit, they began to glower. There was no way in hell that he could see himself worshipping with Protestants and Anglicans. I couldn’t see him either. Indeed, I’ve never seen him attend a service or perform an act of worship the whole time I’ve known him, so this new non-possibility was not a stretch for me to imagine. The closest thing I ever saw him perform as a religious rite was hen he tripped over the axe and fell into the woodpile out back.

A ecumenical service would be a challenge. Mowat Lodge, Canoe Lake  and its precursor, Mowat Village, was the finest collection specimens that demonstrated a failed religious mission. At the village’s height before the 1900s there was a Presbyterian Mission, and that’s how the Trainor Cottage, the Manse got its nickname. As I understand, they tried to set up a church  but the lumber men were more interested in sleeping on their day off, than going to church. The men didn’t have to account to anyone that they went to church and unlike the Catholics, the Protestants didn’t need a pastor for confessions or to receive dispensations. Then there was some sort of scandal. Nobody would talk about it, but the missionaries suddenly high-tailed out of the Park, and out the Province as I last heard.

As for establishing a church, Catholics were few in the Park. The Frasers were in good company, they were the only Catholics around, so a church was a complete non-starter.Shannon would say, “The pines in the Park are my cathedral”.

I replied that Park was just like Rome after the Visigoths got through with it. Shannon didn’t get the joke, so I moved on.

The non-Catholics counldn’t get their act together either. The Methodists, Anglicans, Presbyterians and the occasional Fundamentalist could never get along to establish a church. The age-old rule applied: “Two can make a congregation, but three makes a schism”

At least a school was established, but it was pretty anaemic  with the few children it had, and the main competing priority – child labour. Even establishing an Orange Lodge was difficult going. The only one left in the Park was the one in Rainy Lake. (Little did anyone know that a  Sam Hughes variant of an Orange Lodge would sooon be established at Cache Lake)

So Ed Colson’s lay service at the Algonquin Hotel was the closest thing to a regular service. Annie thought it would be a good idea, for the Soverign’s Birthday, to make this into an Ecumenical Service. The least it would do is get a few more people out. I told Annie, I would put the word out tomorrow. I would go over to the Statten family on Little Wap Island. I’m sure they would come. Taylor Statten is a big proponent of the YMCA and is strong believer. Besides, I could call in a favour because I helped him build his fireplace by hauling the stones from Sims Pit a couple of summers back. I may even pay a visit to the Blechers for entertainment’s sake.

Despite Annie’s excitement, I could tell that Shannon wasn’t too warm to the idea. That was OK. I would help her out.  Shannon preferred to give appearances being in charge of whatever event he was participating in and that wouldn’t be at an economical service. And there was no way in hell that he was going to be caught kneeling at the Hotel Algonquin. He was going to expending his efforts and planning skills on the day after, Sovereign’s Day Observed. Shannon would stay out of the way. That was a blessing for us.

I got a letter from Dr. MacCallum today. I looked at the postmark and it looked like it was a day longer than usual in the mail. I’ll need to keep an eye when the mail comes in as I am expecting a letter from Winnie.  I have a feeling the Mowat Lodge tea kettle gets a workout steaming and opening letters.

I’ve been sketching the seal for George Bartlett. I’m basing it on and Orange Lodge seal and have incorporated a few elements of the Park. I’m also trying to squeeze in a Catholic symbol, but that’s for George to find it.

Letter from Dr James MacCallum

Toronto 28/V/17

Dear Tom.

We got home all right – made a good connection at Scotia Junction having only to wait for half an hour. I have deposited to your credit a cheque for $25.00 given me by Bill Beatty for a sketch of yours which he had sold to some chap from South River. All the fellows backed down and I had to go up to the Georgian Bay alone, returning last Saturday. Had a rotten time of it – snow, rain, sleet, more snow and only two decent days the whole week. Vegetation is not nearly so far advanced as in the Park – I quite understood why you prefer to paint up there – the two places are so different. In the Georgian Bay there is in the spring practically none of the brilliant colour from the vegetation of the Park – There were really only two soft maples in bud while I was there – The birches have not even begun to change – all day the water was beautiful a fresh wind and a good sea into clear sky – I have not seen any of the chaps yet to find out what the news is. You had better send down a lot of those sketches of yours as soon as you start in guiding and see if I cannot sell some of them and increase your bank account – remember me to the Frasers and their guests. Must close and get to work.

James MacCallum