The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the May 31, 2001 issue. Reprinted with permission.
27 years and Up the Gatineau! still flies high
by Nikki Mantell
When was the last time you flew the length of the Gatineau River in a Vickers Vedette flying boat?
The Historical Society of the Gatineau bets that it hasn't been any time recently, and it invites local history lovers to take the trip in one of its featured articles in the latest version of Up the Gatineau!.
The local organization of amateur historians has just announced its 27th volume of the yearly publication, and whether you are from Kazabazua or Chelsea, this year's annual volume promises a story for just about every region of the Gatineau Hills.
Perhaps the most detailed and researched of the total eight articles is Duncan Marshall's well-told history of aerial photography at the Gatineau River Valley. After WWI, Canada was leading the world in pioneering peacetime development of aerial photography - and much of those first photographs were taken of the Gatineau Hills. The Royal Canadian Air Force took over 540 photographs of a 14 mile long strip along the lower Gatineau River dating from topographical landscape when the river was flooded in 1926. Included are photos of the river as most readers never knew it: narrow with fast-flowing cascades and chutes and stretches of farmland and roads now long-submerged. All to make way for the three massive hydroelectric dams. His fascination with aerial photography dates back to his university student days working at the National Air Photo Library.
Personal anecdotes of day-to-day life way back when make up a number of the other articles in this edition of Up the Gatineau!, and George Wattsford's story of his growing up in Kingsmere Lodge is an especially delightful read. Wattsford gives the reader his view of life as a boy growing up in one of the only rural guesthouses in the area in the 1920s. He describes the little details of mowing the tennis lawns with the manually propelled rotary mower, taking the train from Ottawa to Chelsea to be able to attend school, and the time he actually got to meet his neighbour Prime Minister William Lyon MacKenzie King who gave him a ten cent tip.
The lodge, and its tennis court, golf course and gardens all created by Wattsford's parents, are now long gone, after the federal government expropriated the land in 1948. But Wattsford, now living in Kingston, paints a warm, intimate portrait of one local gem which otherwise goes unrecognized by newer generations of Chelseaites.
And for those who are looking for an excuse for a short road trip up the line, Archie Pennie lets readers in on one of his favourite "intriguing features of the Gatineau highway" - the waterfall and natural bridge carved out of limestone rock by the Kazabazua River. Pennie has been contributing to Up the Gatineaul for a decade, and his natural curiosity and excitement over the hidden treasures of the region spill over into writing. This one is just "a stone's throw" from the road, will then lead the local adventurer to the Bender's Grist Mill, but you can read about that one, and then visit it yourself.
Other short pieces include Ernie Mahoney's "You Never Told Me Who Your Bootlegger is" which chronicles the history of prohibition in the area, and even quotes a Wakefield bootlegger. Carol Martin retells the history of the Cascades Club, Janet McDiarmid revisits Poltimore, Al Richens tells of the early years of the Gatineau River Yacht Club, and the late Ed Ryan relates his own "Chelsea Reflections".
Up the Gatineau! is available in local stores for $6 or can be ordered by calling 827-2077.
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