April 6, 1917
The news came yesterday by telegraph, but the papers that came in on the morning train made it real. The United States is going to War. The headlines showed that the Senate voted in favour of War against Germany and it’s expected that President Wilson will make the declaration today.
When news like that arrives, you still go about your day-to-day routine, but you know that everything is going to change. The War hadn’t affected the business in the Park that badly. The Canadians stopped coming, but most of the Visitors were American anyway, and they kept coming despite the War. On Georgian Bay, most folks, instead of holidaying, rented their cottages to Americans and donated the proceeds to the War effort. Last fall, after I did a trip in the Park with Dr. MacCallum and Lawren Harris, I went back to the Dr.’s cottage for a couple of weeks. It was mostly Americans around. By chance, I met a famous American. Orville Wright, the inventor of the aeroplane. I met him on the bay searching for blueberries along the shore. Wright told me that had just bought an island (Lambert Island I think it was called) and discovered it had a wealth of blueberries, which he was picking. It was nearing evening, he invited me to say the night, and I showed him how to make blueberry pie.
Now with the Americans going to war, they too would stop coming up and that would be bad for business in the Park. That means I might have to leave sooner in the summer.
I went out sketching in the mid-morning. Annie said I should be back by noon for the Good Friday meal. I took one of my smaller boards cut from the orange crates. Since Good Friday is supposed to be a day of sacrifice and humility, my observance of the occasion was to paint on a small board.
I was back by noon. Annie had made a meatless stew (but with beef broth). Since there’s here’s a meat shortage she’s thinking about making every Friday a meatless Friday. That’s what the papers are saying they’re doing that in England and there’s talk of doing the same in Toronto. There’s also talk of doing a deer-hunt in the Park to make up for the shortage.
Annie’s stew was delicious. I complimented Annie on its savoury taste. The other guests enjoyed it too, except for one who broke into an uncontrollable coughing fit, spitting blood on the table. Shannon, sprung into action and hauled him up to his room to recover. He was rolled out onto the verandah later in the afternoon to recuperate.
Once coughing episode was concluded (and the tablecloth changed) we talked about the War. Shannon said he had heard from the Canoe Lake station master that Mark Robinson was returning to the Park any day now. Mark Robinson and Bud Callighen had signed up with the Officer Co-Reserve and they both got called up in the fall of 1915. George Bartlett gave them both leave to go overseas. We knew that Mark had gotten shrapnel in the hip at Somme last September (I found out while I was stationed in Achray) but was going to be okay. I just assumed he’d be going back to the Front, but Bartlett said he was discharged and came back in December. No news on Bud Callighen though.
Shannon said that Bartlett needed Robinson back in the Park to keep an eye on suspicious activities. The War Department in Ottawa was warning that German saboteurs might take out the some of the rail lines. The Dominion Government had set up a camp by the rail sidings at Sims Pit, just east of Joe Lake. That’s where the sentries for the bridges and trestles were staying, but there was others there too. Nobody know exactly why they were there for, and questions were not encouraged.
Shannon was intrigued at the prospect of German saboteurs lurking in the Park. He liked the excitement it garnered. On days with the big storm clouds, Shannon would remark that you’d never know when a Zeppelin might appear from out of nowhere. He never could explain why and how a Zeppelin could ever make it up to Canoe Lake while remaining under the cover of clouds all the way from Buffalo. Now that the U.S. has declared war on Germany, the possibility of a Zeppelin arriving unannounced at Canoe Lake was even more reduced. Canoe Lake would be safe from Zeppelins for the time being.
During the conversation, I started to put two and two together, recalling the visit I had from that that fellow from the Corps of Guides, saying I might be needed in the Park. I kept that fact to myself, and decided that I would talk to Mark when appropriate.
My sketch was drying on the dining room table. It was small but I was pleased with the effects and the shadows. I spent the afternoon reading by the fireplace and, at intervals, amused myself with the stereoscope. Shannon had gotten some new pictures. There’s one of the Rockies at Emerald Lake. It’s breathtaking. The stereoscope makes it feel that you are there. If I can’t go out one day, I’ll make a sketch of this scene.
In the evening, being Good Friday, we had another humble meal. Annie baked some bread and we broke it after a Bible reading. Instead of dipping it into wine, we dipped it into re-heated stew- Communion, Mowat Lodge style. We were all very quiet. Of course, sadness of the death and sacrifice of Jesus, but it was the news of the Americans going to war that weighed heavily on everyone. Would this mean the nearing of end, or was this the next step toward Armageddon? None of us knew. Not even sure if Jesus could have foreseen the scale and horror of destruction that was happening before the proper end of times. Maybe this was the beginning of the end of times.
It was nearing a full moon tonight. The skies were clear and crisp. No clouds. On the calendar, tomorrow is full moon, but it could have just as easily been tonight.
Two new guests arrived today, but I didn’t see them. They retired to their rooms. Shannon told me their names. Lt. Robert Crombie and his wife, Miss Daphne Crombie. Lt. Crombie is a veteran and a consumptive.