The Way We Were

The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the August 31, 2005 issue. Reprinted with permission.

We made our own fun in Tenaga cottageland

by Catherine Joyce

The following is a condensed version of the memoirs of 81-yearold Eileen Sametz, who has lived summers in Tenaga since 1927.

Staying at my cottage in Tenaga brings back a lot of memories. My family has been in this small cottage community since 1927, when my grandparents moved to higher ground with the other Chelsea cottagers displaced by the dam.

Three incidents stand out.

I was seven. My father and I were walking across the front lawn near the rosebushes planted by Grandpa.

Mom called out, "Paul, where are you going with that child?" "I'm taking her to the river to teach her to swim." he replied.

"Over my dead body!" my mother, a non-swimmer, shouted.

Daddy, a mild-mannered man, quietly responded. "Well then, Mollie, you'll just have to expire. This child is going to know the joy of swimming."

When Mom reminded me of this story, she concluded ruefully, "You know, that's the only time he ever defied me!"

The Way We Were
'The Flappers' perform at one of Tenaga's skit nights in the 1950s. From left: Fran Clarkin, Eileen Sametz, Betty Watson (with cigarette holders cut from curtain rods).

I'm so glad he did because even today, at eighty-one, swimming in the Gatineau River is still one of my chief joys.

Oh the fun we had - rowing boats, singing songs, picking berries, running the booms, making up skits in the clubhouse, and playing tennis on the old clay courts.

One summer when I was about fourteen, it had rained for weeks. This caused a landslide about a mile up the tracks. A complete hill slid down and buried the railway. In those days the steam train took passengers into the city to work in the mornings and home at night. So those tracks had to be cleared.

Every day for two weeks a work train with empty cars came up from the city with a load of workmen who shovelled the dirt off the tracks. Then the train backed down to the sandpits - about 3 miles - and dumped the dirt,

Every morning five of my frtends and I - boys and girl - gathered at our station platform. The train stopped for us, we clambered aboard and climbed to the roofs of the enclosed cars. All morning we rode those roofs, jumping from car to car as the train chugged slowly back and forth. It was thrilling! (I would never let any of my five children do such a thing!) But Grandma never said "no" or "you can't". She simply sat on the porch in her ladder-back rocking chair, saying her rosary as we shouted and waved as we passed by. No one got hurt. Ah, the power of prayer!

When I was fifteen, my friends and I liked to row across the river - almost a mile wide at that point - to a sandy beach. There were five of us and three younger girls, so we had to take two rowboats. We had to take the younger sisters - no choice!

One very hot day, we older girls decided to go "skinny-dipping". We stripped off our bathing-suits and handed them to one of the youngest to hold. We were having a glorious time, shouting, "Don't look!" when we spied a rowboat of boys coming toward us. Hastily we grabbed the bathing-suits but Joan Shore's was missing. The youngest had lost it in the current.

I wrapped Joan in my chenille beach robe and hurriedly rowed her near home, to an isolated cove where she could sneak up the hill the back way. Of course it took only one day for Mrs. Shore to notice Joan had only one bathing-suit. Word spread among the mothers and there were many comments, "We thought you could be trusted!" "You will have to earn our trust again." The girls were in the doghouse for sure.

Not me! If Grandma ever heard of our escapade, she never mentioned it.

Return to list.