June 30, 1917
It was a busy day at the train stations today. Canoe Lake, Joe Lake and Algonquin Park Stations. The No, 52 First Class East Bound arrived at 12:23pm and the passenger coach was full. Shannon Fraser was there with his hearse. Martin Blecher was there with his putt-putt boat and I went up too, mainly for curiosity, but also to see if any mail came in.
Six guests for Mowat Lodge disembarked. Two guests from Toronto and four from Buffalo, New York. The Howland family got off too. The Dr., his wife and young daughter. They were staying on Little Wap Island at the Statten cabin. Mark Robinson was on the train too with his family, but he’d be getting off a Joe Lake Station, another three minutes journey. Mark stepped out for a moment.”Good to see you, Tom,” Mark smiled as he greeted me. “I got the whole family in the car, got to get back in, see you soon.”
“Hello, Mark,” I replied, “Good to see you too. By the way your berm is done. Your daughters won’t roll into the lake now.”
Mark smiled, tipped his had and got back on the train. After the hubbub of unloading the luggage, it started to steam forward again. Judging by the remaining passengers, it looked like a good twenty passengers or so were heading to Algonquin Hotel or to the Highland Inn.
There was no sign of the Trainors. They might be coming on the Third Class later in the afternoon, but somehow I doubted that they’d be coming at all after what happened in Huntsville. I had written a letter to Winnie, and I would give it to Lowrie to deliver when I was doubly sure they weren’t coming.
Shannon quickly determined that he could not carry all of the passengers with their luggage so he enlisted the aid of Martin Blecher to bring the luggage down Potter Creek. Martin had expected this to happen, so he was ready. It was quite a spectacle to see the luggage go sliding down the chute towards the water. One guest shrieked as she saw her trunk disappear into what appeared to be deep water. The chute was steep and you couldn’t see the dock and Martin’s boat unless you peered over the edge. Shannon liked to shock his guests by tossing their luggage down the chute. It made for a good laugh on his part but I was never sure if it was a wise thing to do with first time guests. First impressions, good or bad always stick. Despite my good and bad dealings with Shannon, I always remember that first time I was in Algonquin back in 1912 with my friend Ben Jackson. We had just arrived, keen and eager and ready to canoe into a late afternoon storm. Shannon advised that we stay the night and we did. And I’m glad we did. The storm turned out to be minor gale and we would have been in deep trouble, if not in dire distress. Instead, we spent the night with a fine dinner from Annie, and stories from Shannon. We set off the next day in good weather. It was this initial hospitality that I always gave Shannon the benefit of the doubt – on his good days and his bad days.
Martin loaded the luggage into his boat. He also took the Howlands. He’d ferry them over to Little Wap Island after he dropped the luggage off at Mowat Dock. He brought the Stattens over yesterday morning, so their canoe was still on the island. I must admit, that despite his unpleasant character and mannerisms, Martin was always willing to help out when needed. I think that comes from his father’s side, certainly not from his mother’s.
The infusion of the new guests into Mowat Lodge put the whole place into good cheer. There was a general excitement as tomorrow was Dominion Day and it was Canada’s Fiftieth Birthday. Some were saying that we were now becoming a real country, not just another British colony. After the success of Vimy Ridge and Borden’s trip to England, Canada was starting to have some say in the War Effort. Until now, Canada had nothing to say in the War except to fulfil its obligations for men and material. Most of us who were born here thought of ourselves as nothing more than distant British subjects. It was Lismer who made me appreciate that we were different than the British, not simply inferior as they would have us to believe. Lismer said that harshness of the seasons and climate made Canadians more part of nature and its landscape. This wasn’t the case in Britain, where the landscape was secondary to traditions and culture built up over the millennia. Unlike the British, Canadians had more opportunity to be honest with who they are and did not have to hemmed in by dead movements or dead traditions. Unfortunately, Lismer said that most Canadians were unaware of the opportunities they had and were more worried about making a dollar.
So spirits were up at Mowat Lodge. The weather had turned toward the better and the sun came out for the afternoon. The good weather gave me a chance to dry out my canvas tent. I decided to set myself up for a challenge. After catching no fish with Charlie yesterday, I decided to up the ante and try to catch the big one down below Joe Lake Dam. We knew it was down there – at least a twenty-pounder. If I could catch the big trout on Dominion Day, it would be cause for a real celebration.