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The Way We Were

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the October 05, 2005 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Free to be kids in Larrimac

by Catherine Joyce

Two sets of sisters got together last week to reminisce about the 'old days' at the Larrimac Golf Club in the early sixties - Shirley (Grant) Brown and Betty (Grant) Lidington with Barbara (Beattie) Swedlove and me, Catherine (Beattie) Joyce.

A glorious fall afternoon on the deck of the Brown homestead overlooking the river - even after two hours of talk, no one wanted to say goodbye. Our voices mingled, interweaving and embellishing memories that sparked instant recognition of a time of innocence and immense freedom. The river was our road in those days. We all lived on the water in summer cottages - the Grants at Kirk's Ferry and the Beatties at Burnett.

The river and the tracks doubled as our traveling lanes at an age when we were not allowed on the highway. The only time we ever crossed the road (the old Hwy 11, now the 105) was to get a fivecent ice cream cone from Winnie up at Ardell's General Store, just north of the golf course. There we would sit on the front stoop, licking our cones as fast as the hot sun would melt them.

The Way We Were
Larrimac golf course: still fun to young and old alike today.

Every Tuesday we would converge on Larrimac for Junior golf lessons (our ages roughly 11 to 14) - or on Wednesdays for tennis after the new RaeMac courts were built by my MacRae grandfather in the early sixties. (The old courts on the edge of the Fifth Tee had finally given up the ghost.) We all came by water, setting out in our small, wooden rowboats with their three and a half horsepower motors - no life jackets, often no oars - old cloth golf-bags or tennis racquets stashed along the floorboards. Putt-putt-putting our way to Larrimac, we would tie up our boats without a thought of theft, and climb up the footpaths to the clubhouse, dragging our gear and lunch packs.

To earn a locker at the clubhouse you had to prove to your parents you were serious - a real contender. For most of us, the games were just fun.

Monkey Matches where kids had to play the whole course with whatever club they drew - be it a putter to tee off or a driver to negotiate the greens - became exercises in hilarity. The boys loved to torment the girls, throwing apples, or burrs in our hair, once even leaving a memento of chopped-up dead snakes in the flag holes for us to find. Some days only Ed, the golf pro we all had a crush on, could make up for the opposite sex!

Tennis lessons with Mr. Woods. Resplendent even on the hottest days in his long, white woolen trousers, he would stand in one spot on the court, placing each shot across the net and making us run like hell. There were junior tournaments - singles, doubles, mixed - with some fierce competitive spirits winning the trophies year after year. Some of us preferred playing barefoot, our feet turned leather from running the tracks. Others loved sitting in the Big Chair - an adirondack up on stilts - calling out the points as referee. Passing golfers might yell at us for being too noisy but we didn't care. We were soaking up the magic of Larrimac summers for years to come.

And then there were the dances. Every Saturday night they were a given, as long as we left the clubhouse neat and clean. Masquerades, Sadie Hawkins, heady nights singing backup for local boys in bands, dance marathons to win 45s (records), walking home miles by moonlight along the tracks - no need of a flashlight -we were young, free and unafraid. As long as we were in the neighbourhood - and the neighbourhood stretched from Chelsea to Cascades - our parents never worried. We could be out in boats late - with one, lone lookout straddling the bow in search of logs (how many sheer pins we lost') - or staggering up the tracks laughing and carrying on, but always the world felt safe, familiar.

Come Labour Day we hated to leave. Our wild country feet wouldn't fit in our prim city shoes. Our minds couldn't face the prospect of a whole school year before we returned. To our secret hearts the Gatineau Hills would always spell 'Home'.


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