July 1, 1917
It’s the 50th anniversary of Confederation and Shannon thought it would be a good idea to have a celebration on the dock by the lake. Normally, the big celebrations only happened on Victoria Day, but Shannon read in the papers that Ottawa was marking Dominion Day as a special occasion and celebrations were happening in Ottawa. Not be outdone by the capital, Shannon decided to have another go at his pageant, which had been a bust on Sovereign’s Day.
The plan was simple, but the burden of the plan fell on Annie. First, an outdoor dinner at noon on the dock, followed by a canoe regatta. Initially, the dinner was to be held on the verandah of Mowat Lodge, but since there were no screens, and the horse stable was close by, there would be a problem with the flies. So the decision was made to relocate down at the dock. This meant hauling down tables and chairs over 200 yards, so we loaded up Shannon’s wagon and brought them all down at once. We set up the dining for about twenty.
Down at the lake, Mowat Lodge dock is a rustic affair, pretty much in keeping with the rest of the Mowat Lodge concept. It’s about six feet wide and twenty feet long. I helped Shannon put it out in early May. To get better depth beside the dock we lined it up to to be parallel with a rocky outcropping. To easily access the the dock we had to put down two pine planks that connected it to the shore. It had to be accessible by women in dresses – you can’t have them clambering over rocks. There’s a primitive shed just up on the shore. It’s where the paddles and outfitting equipment is stored along with the canoes. Back in 1915, I help Shannon to build this too. It was only after we built it, that we discovered it was poorly placed. It obstructed the view of the dock from the verandah back at Mowat Lodge. All that you could see from the verandah was the shed, it blocked the view of the dock and only the most southerly tip was visible. As such, you couldn’t see if anyone was on the dock itself. This made for some inconvenience because it was difficult to signal back up to the Lodge to indicate if you needed something. Shannon didn’t think this was much of a problem. He had heard that wireless radios were coming soon. Maybe he could install one by the dock.
We brought down two fireless cookers. Shannon had procured these devices earlier in the spring. Fireless cookers had become the fashion since the rise in fuel costs. Early in the morning, Annie had heated beans on the stove (soaked overnight) and started a large pot roast. When these were well on their way about (about 10am) she transferred the contents to the cookers and we brought them down to the dock. The principle of the fireless cooker is simple and elegant. The pots are inside an insulated box of fire stone and asbestos. The box is then filled with hot cinders from the stove, and the cooking continues. The best thing about the cookers is that we can retrieve the hot food without traversing the 200 yards back to the Lodge. In addition to the hot menu, Annie had prepared rhubarb sauce, bread and butter sandwiches and rice pudding with raisins for for dessert. It was going to be a fine dinner.
The sun was out, it was cool and the wind was brisk, but not so brisk as to blow everything off the table. The wind was also strong enough for a regatta. We planned to use the canvas canoes that were outfitted with sails.
To start the dinner, Shannon had asked a favour of me. Earlier in the week, the papers had published a song that was to become the new national anthem. It was titled ‘O Canada’ and was going to be used to officially open the Golden Jubilee celebrations in Ottawa. It was also going to be performed at the Westminster Abbey religious service to honour Canada’s contribution to the war. So Shannon asked me to practice the song. I didn’t have my mandolin, so I borrowed a guest’s Gibson. The melody isn’t hard to learn. I found it rather plodding, but I guess it is an appropriate difficulty level for those who don’t sing. Similar to Amazing Grace – not the most beautiful song on its own, but when sung together as a group, it has power. I asked Charlie Scrim to make copies of the lyrics. He wrote out ten copies.
O Canada, our heritage, our love
Thy worth we praise all other lands above
From sea to sea throughout their length
From Pole to borderland
At Britain’s side, whate’er betide
Unflinchingly we’ll stand
With hearts we sing, “God save the King”
Guide then one Empire, do we implore
And prosper Canada from shore to shore.
We sang the song at the start of the dinner. The effect was not only powerful, it was magical. I played through the melody two times, then I sang it solo for everyone to get comfortable with the lyrics. Then we sang it together. We looked at each other and realized that this was to be the song of Canada. The after silence was a golden moment. Shannon began to unload the fireless cookers and the ones with baked beans fell off the side of the dock into the water. We had the pot roast for Dominion Day and the shore minnows had baked beans for the rest of the week.