The Way We Were

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the June 24, 2009 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Living under canvas at 'The Grove' in Low

by Joan Bruce-Nibogie

Alf Day (1878-1969), brother to Edith and Minnie, was the first of the family to discover the much loved grove of towering pines at the foot of the Paugan Falls.

One summer during his teens, Alf worked at the Smith farm in Low and fell in love with this peaceful place alongside the Gatineau River. In the fall of the year after all the crops were in, Mr. Smith took his team of horses into the lumber camp to work for the winter and thus it was that Alf was hired to stay on at the farm so that Mrs. Smith would not be alone.

Years later he found his way back to the shores of the Gatineau River and he encouraged his brother-in-law, Charles Cooke, and some other Ottawa South families to join forces together to camp during the summer months and they leased the land from Mr. James Smith.

The Way We Were
The 'human ladder' of the Day family which shows the author's grandmother, Edith, her sister, Minnie, and her brothers at 'The Grove at Low' in 1914. Photo courtesy Joan Bruce Nibogie.

The families would take the train up to Low the first weekend in July. Throughout the summer months the women and children stayed in camp and their husbands and fathers would travel by train each Saturday noon and back Monday morning. The husbands took turns taking their annual vacation leaves in order that the remaining families would not be without a man in camp.

Mr. Smith would meet them with the wagon at the station. The original families were as follows: the Alf Day family, the Cooke family; the Bell family; the Howarth family; the Bob Martin family; the Putnam family and the Campbell family. Subsequent families were the Hoeys, Meldrums (closest to the farm). In subsequent years, a group of some of these families became known as, "The Paugan Club" or "the Syndicate". They were well organized by Alf, the treasurer.

They lived under canvas enjoying long hot summers at the foot of the mountain and nestled under the majestic pines overlooking a beautiful sandy beach at the foot of Paugan Falls. The men would take the train up each weekend and Mr. Smith would pick them all uP with one of the hay wagons, watermelons, corn, etc under their arms.

The women and children would walk daily to the Smith farm to collect milk in their china pitchers. We have a lovely photograph of Grandma Edith resting along the farm road holding her white pitcher which we are fortunate to cherish today. There was a "post-office" tree where the children would leave notes to one another. It stands there still.

The sand bars were magnificent. The boys would dig out "racing cars" in the fine sand. They would usually enjoy a large bonfire on Saturday nights and sometimes the men would row over to Daddy Witch Island to capture "Daddy Witch" who would then escape from his hiding place under a blanket in the row boat and chase the screaming children around their mothers' skirts. (Daddy Witch was Grandpa!) The "dance hall" was the only so-called covered building in the grove as it was used for winter storage.

Though Mr. Smith was the landowner; a Mr. Douglas had built a cedar log cabin on the top of the mountain many years before. He was not part of the camping families, mother remembers it as being very old.

In approx. 1924 the families approached Mr. Smith and offered to purchase the land in the pine grove and he was most agreeable that the group as a whole should purchase for all to enjoy their designated areas.

Joan Bruce-Nibogie lives in Ottawa and still summers at her cabin "Nanojo" on Paugan Bay.

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