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Can’t Get Enough …

July 15, 2018
1960sSugarCrispBox

1960s-era cereal box

Every summer I buy myself a box of Post “Sugar Crisp”. It’s one of those cereals with absolutely no nutritional value. The ingredients list reads: “SUGAR, WHEAT, GLUCOSE SYRUP, SALT, HONEY, CANOLA OIL, COLOUR”; a ¾ cup serving has 120 calories and 17 grams of sugar (63% of the recommended daily allowance for an adult). It’s so sweet it makes your teeth ache. It’s clearly not a healthy breakfast choice. So why do I buy it, year after year? Because – together with Ontario strawberries, freshly shelled green peas, corn on the cob, and banana, grape and cream soda flavoured popsicles – Sugar Crisp is, for me, the quintessential taste of summers at the cottage (1959 through 1963).

My family, 1960

The family (except eldest brother) in 1960

For the first ten years of my life (1953 – 1963) our family lived in a house in downtown Oakville, Ontario (Canada) that my father had converted into a triplex. My parents, two brothers, two sisters and I lived on the ground floor, my grandmothers lived in two apartments on the upper levels, and my father ran his own business from a converted single car garage out back. It was a very busy, crowded household to say the least. As the summer of 1959 approached, my mother told my father she needed a break from the demands of looking after two teenagers (17 and 15), two school-aged girls (8 and 5½ ), and a baby (not yet 1), as well as two grandmothers who could pop downstairs (and did), unannounced, at any moment during the day (generally in response to the sound of a crying baby or bickering children). She knew of a cottage for rent on the lakefront (near friends) a mere 5.5K (3.5 miles) away. Dad rented it for the summer (and for four more afterwards).

Considering the cottage was barely outside of town and only steps from fully serviced homes, it was rather primitive. The main room was divided (roughly) into a kitchen with antiquated appliances, an eating area (an old table set below a “flip up” panel that allowed a view, through the screened-in porch, of the lake), and a living space with a musty trundle bed and a worn carpet (we added a fold down couch, a table and a TV to make it more “homey”). The two bedrooms were separated from the living space by six foot partitions (vs. true “walls”); they were “furnished” with double-sized metal bed frames with sagging mattresses on them. The screened in porch ran across the back on the lake side with doors on each end and two single metal bar/spring bed frames against the inner and outer walls (this is where my sister and I slept most nights, in sleeping bags). There was no running water, so we had an outhouse for “doing our business” in; my sister and I regularly collected water for cooking and cleaning in 3 gallon milk jugs filled from spigots in nearby Coronation Park. The yard was large, with lots of trees and space for hammocks and a trapeze; there was a wooded area at the back where I would take my suitcase full of Barbies and their clothes and play happily for hours on end.

Cottage1959

My sister and I in the lake by the cottage, 1959

 

Cottage1960

Playing in the yard at the cottage, 1960

Cottage1961

Plenty of room for hammocks and playing dress-up (1961)

Cottage1962

The only actual photograph I have of the cottage (from the rear); that’s my father sitting on the beach

We were hardly isolated. There was a cottage just beyond the woods on the east side (and houses beyond that) and our friends’ house was right next door (to the west) with several cottages just beyond it. A boat launching ramp sat adjacent to the (Coronation) park, and Hollydean Market was right next to the park. Across Highway 2 (a two-lane road that ran in front of the cottage) was a large wooded area that was surrounded on the other three sides by homes and a school. Still, when we were at the cottage, it was like being in a completely different world – one filled with the freedom to wear our bathing suits all day long, explore the beachfront and paddle in the lake, feed the ducks, or walk to Hollydean for groceries and popsicles (the popsicles being our reward for picking up whatever Mom had asked my sister and I to buy for her).

The teenagers chose to say “in town” (they had part time jobs in the summers) and Dad generally only came out on weekends. The grandmothers visited once or twice but never slept over.  Mom didn’t drive, so she and my sister, brother and I (along with the dog, cat, rabbit – and a chicken one year that my father “rescued” from a trucking accident and brought out thinking my mother would cook it – HA!) were pretty much on our own. Some of our friends had cottages “up north” in Muskoka or other areas of “cottage country” and they laughed at the fact our cottage was only fifteen minutes from our house. I didn’t care. Those were the best five summers of my young life!

Cottage1963

Our last summer at the cottage, 1963

In 1963, the owner of the cottage offered to sell it to my father; unfortunately (for me!), a house my mother had coveted for several years came on the market around the same time and my parents couldn’t afford to buy both properties. The house, naturally, won out. 1963 was our last summer in the cottage; we moved into our new house (four blocks up from the house we’d previously lived in) that fall. Summers were never quite the same after that and I have only the vaguest of memories of how I spent them. The summers at the cottage, however, are still sharp in my mind. (The cottage was sold and the building torn down a few years later; a large, lovely house now sits in its place. Hollydean Market has also disappeared and the property where it was located is now a cul-de-sac of ugly McMansions on tiny lots. The park remains, but has been modernized to include a splash pad, an open air theatre, and other amenities we never could have imagined back in the 1960s.)

And so, every summer I relive a few of those summer-time memories by indulging in a bowl or two of Sugar Crisp (the rest ends up in the garbage!), shelling peas on the deck, and wandering about in the woods (sans Barbies!) It’s just one way I’m holding on to the more precious aspects of my childhood as I rack up the years here on … the other side of 55.

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12 Comments leave one →
  1. Melody DeBlois permalink
    July 17, 2018 5:48 pm

    Delightful memories, Margo! The photos…priceless. Your story and the following comments brought back a flood of remembrances. We made popsicles in popsicle Tupperware during the summers in California, and we ate Paydays–humongous Payday candy bars by the side of the swimming pool. We could make a Payday last all afternoon by eating one peanut at a time. I remember church camp and the numbing chill of the melted snow in Clear Lake. The only thing that comes close to being that kind of cold is doing The Polar Bear Plunge on New Year’s Day.

    • July 17, 2018 6:00 pm

      I’m glad my post stirred some memories, Melody. I remember making popsicles in those Tupperware molds, too (using Kool-Aid!)

  2. Jane Watt permalink
    July 16, 2018 10:44 pm

    That was lovely, reminds me of my childhood in Oakville from 1948-1968.

    • July 17, 2018 10:25 am

      Things were certainly different (i.e., better) back then, weren’t they? So much simpler.

  3. July 16, 2018 3:11 pm

    Oh, those sweet memories of summer back then. Again, my story is similar (except for the lake). We spent a lot of time (especially in summer) at my parents’ “camp,” which actually was a small mobile home (sans running water and working bathroom, so the outhouse is very familiar to me). Our camp was north of our home in the “mountains” which was the Allegheny National Forest of Pennsylvania. We also would have meals of just corn on the cob. Walking to the little store nearby for popsicles, penny candy, and cold soda pop out of the cooler was just the treat!

    • July 16, 2018 4:36 pm

      Penny candy … WOW! I remember getting a full small paper bag for only 10 cents; items were mostly 3 for a penny. And popsicles were only a nickel. Such great memories. I wonder what our children will remember from their childhoods?

  4. Fassel permalink
    July 15, 2018 11:55 pm

    Loved it. So beautifully written.

  5. July 15, 2018 4:38 pm

    Such wonderful summertime memories, Margo!

  6. July 15, 2018 4:14 pm

    Wonderful story! I love the photos.
    I know exactly what you mean by the tastes of summer, though my vivid memories are much more recent – the five summers we had a cabin before it was lost in the flood. The grandchildren would all come out for various lengths of time. Those popsicles that were sticks – we bought them by the dozens and always had blue ones left over. Lunch was sometimes just a big bowl of popcorn! On Fridays the Hutterites would sell fresh vegetables and we’d eat fresh peas and carrots.

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