The Way We Were
The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the October 12, 2005 issue. Reprinted with permission.
Messing about in boats at the GRYC, 1964
by Catherine Joyce
Talking to Rod Daugherty of Gleneagle about the beginnings of the Gatineau River Yacht Club (GRYC) brings back those days on the river when "messing about in boats" was a way of life. His grandfather, Bill Hicklin, bought the family cottage in 1947 and Rod came up by train every summer with his mother.
He remembers as a pre-teen how vast the river felt - paddling out on the water, it seemed the distances between communities flowed forever. Exploring Blackburn Creek became a major expedition. You would canoe in as far as you could go and then wade up to the cool, mysterious falls - climbing up through a magic jungle right, out of Humphrey Bogart's African Queen.
"Remember as a kid how huge the world seemed? Communities were strung out along the water and the rails - you often didn't get a chance to meet people from up or down the tracks. But the GRYC changed all that. It brought people together. For the first time those who had boats but no waterfront had a place on the river to call home."
Originally known as the Gatineau Boat Club, the GRYC gradually evolved into a sailing club under the direction of keen sailors. A group of trustees comprising Al Richens, Bill Hicklin, Pat Evans, John Winfield, Fraser Harris and Ivan Herbert got together to plan the club - eventually buying Bennett Island in 1963 with the help of realtor Frank Macintyre.
But initially the club operated out of a little white cottage on the mainland, rented from Mrs. Mitchell, at the bottom of the public road that ended at the water. This soon became junior headquarters where young sailors like Rod and his friend, Jim Brown, gathered to run the junior sailing program.
As one of the apprentice girl instructors, I remember Jim trying to teaach us vectors on a hot summer day while the view of the river out the front window glazed our eyes.
"Oh yeah! But things soon got political. You remember - we only had that cottage for a couple of years." Rod laughs. "I think the adults thought we were up to no good!"
Ahh, but Hazel kept us coming back. Just the thought of her island canteen - the best hamburgers in the world with her famous fried onions - brings back memories of sitting becalmed in junior prams, desperate for a breeze to carry us in for lunch. (For years Hazel and Bert Honeywell ran the General Store, Post Office and Telephone Exchange at what is now Les Fougeres Restaurant in Tenaga).
"The island belonged to the kids in those days." Rod shakes his head, "There weren't all these rules. The adults had their theme parties - I particularly remember the Hawaiian one where Mrs Jackson made those amazing Tikki masks. But the kids had their own life on the island and wonderful relationships with the older sailors. Fraser Harris with his passion for teaching, Pat Evans with his hilariously slow tub of a boat "Spray", and John Davies, the Welsh policeman, such a gentle giant always willing to help,
"In 1964 I worked for a buck an hour and free gas for my aluminum boat - I had the time of my life at the GRYC."
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