The Way We Were

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the July 27, 2005 issue. Reprinted with permission.

Summers in Tenaga - to the beach rain or shine

by Catherine Joyce

"We bought over 50 years ago - just a tiny cottage, no water, no plumbing, no sink! It's all about what you're willing to give up in order to be here. It's the land the loyalty to the land. We raised six kids here, and now their kids are coming back. Tenaga is in our bones."

At 86, Toddy Kehoe is rooted in the love of this place. Well known in Ottawa from her years as a city alderwoman and regional councilor (1974-1985) - the motto above her desk read "To govern is to love." - Toddy remembers coming to Tenaga with four kids, all under the age of six. "We were painting the cottage that first summer. Timmy was a newborn and I was up and down the ladder to nurse him. I look back and laugh. It didn't matter how big your cottage was - you were always out doing things, sharing time with other families."

The Way We Were
The Kehoe family (and friends) on the Gatineau, 1958. Photo courtesy T. Kehoe.


As one of the last cottage communities on the Gatineau, Tenaga is a special place for families who return over generations. Back in 1926 the area absorbed cottagers displaced from lower Chelsea when the dam raised the river. They moved up en masse, buying lots from the Chamberlain/Nankin family, who owned the surrounding farmland. Few have ever left.

"It was a great place to raise a family. We'd all pack a lunch and head to the beach. There was a little, narrow footpath winding down to the river - oh, it would get muddy when it rained! I remember the lightning storms, all of us rushing back up that hill, laughing and slipping in the mud.

"But we went to the beach, rain or shine. The big question was always, 'When can I swim to the boom, Mom?'. You'd watch the little ones imitate the bigger ones, eager to be running the booms. It was hair-raising but you had to let them do it - you had to let them grow. We all looked out for each other's kids. We were family, one big extended family."

Every Saturday night there would be a dance at the clubhouse. Before TV arrived, luring people indoors, community events drew everyone out. "We had a co-ordinator on every road. We took turns organizing games, dramatic plays, roundrobins on the clay courts or out on the bowling green - we'd always have music and lots of fDod. It was a simple life. We never went to town. We never wanted summer to end!"

Having a cottage in the Gatineau Hills had special meaning. "It was your little bit of heaven." Toddy's family had lost their summer cottage in Kingsmere during the Depression, so 'coming home' to Tenaga in the fifties was especially sweet.

"Luck plays such a large part in your destiny. To be here was all we needed - to become strong and rooted. That relation to the earth, to Nature, it is in you. It stays in you forever. You just have to pass it on."

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