Summer Days

How we looked forward to summertime!

The earliest summers I remember, our next door neighbours, the Holloways, took us to the”Rockies’ to paddle in the water. The Rockies were below the dam and above Mason Falls. The water would be quite warm as it was shallow with rocks underneath the water. My brother Reggie and Frank Holloway, who were near in age, would roll up their pant legs and get stones from the bottom of the water. With these they made little dams for us to paddle in. I do not remember if we had bathing suits or not. I think we just kept our dresses on because the water was not deep enough to swim.

From the left: Frank Holloway, Reginald Copping behind his sister Helen, and Eileen Holloway.

The Holloways came to Rawdon only in the summer. There were five children, the youngest near my age, the oldest boy about my brother’s age. Like us, their property backed on a hill. They dug a sand pit into the hillside. Many long summer hours were spent there.

As the boys got older they started to build things. One year a little playhouse built under the cherry trees on our property was the project. Another time we ambitiously dug a hole to China expecting to see the people walking upside down! Somehow, we never got there.

Another year it was ‘cowboys and Indians’. The boys built a log cabin from slabs from the mill’.(Helen’s father owned a sawmill) One time I was the victim and was tied up and locked in the cabin.

Rawdon Train station

Mr. Holloway came out from Montreal on the Saturday afternoon train and returned to Montreal Sunday night. ( For many summer families, during the week the mother and children stayed at the ‘summer home’ while the husband and father went to work in the city returning on the weekend.)

Many times, Eileen Holloway and I ran to meet him as soon as we saw him coming up the street. He always had a pocketful of candy for the children which they shared with us. 

Sometimes he would bring a little box of cheese as a treat for the family. These were little triangles of cheese individually wrapped in tinfoil (la vache qui rit). To my mind it looked like a silver wheel. I had never seen cheese done up like that. The only cheese I ever saw cut from a huge, round block waxed and wrapped in cheese cloth.

One summer day Edith and I were playing over at the Holloways’ when a sudden storm came up. It rained so hard Mrs. Holloway told us to stay for supper. We were delighted they were invited to stay for supper.

Their home was much less structured than ours was. A long wooden bench ran along each side of the table. What fun it was to eat from a bench!

Food was passed down for everyone to help themselves. It was like a party with so many children at the table.

How we missed the Holloways when they bought a house up in The Pines! The two older girls wanted to be nearer other young folk from the city and it was more fashionable up there.

The Dam at 3rd Avenue

The dam! How many times Edith and I walked there for a swim on a hot summer afternoon. The clay banks made a wonderful slide when they got wet – you slid down whether you wanted to or not!

Most of the peope at the dam were summer people from ‘The Pines’.
We went most days but were not allowed to go on Sundays.

Somehow Daddy received a life belt. It was made from blocks of cork covered with heavy white cotton. It was cut into two pieces so we each had a lifebelt. There were wide woven cotton tapes to go over our shoulders and there were ties at the back. They kept us up in the water and we learned to swim with them on.

At the dam the hill to get to the water was small, but it was clay and very slippery. There was a small grassy area where we put our towels down. We could not go out very far before it took a steep drop into deep waters.

Sometimes there would be an old log to play with. There were loud squeals of excitement whenever someone was dumped off the log into the water.

The better swimmers would dive off the dam. I never did. It was a great
accomplishment for me just to swim across the lake and dive off the raft on the other side.

In August Regattas were held at the dam. There were swimming races, row boat races and wash tub races using paddles, as well as a greased log contest.

Many young ones from ‘The Pines’ came to swim at the dam. One little girl apparently had a heart problem and some one would say, “Your lips are blue” and she would have to get out of the water. Another little lad could swim like a fish – even under water. That was something I was always afraid to try. One of the older boys always brought his Spaniel dog with him while another brought his Labrador Retriever which kept trying to rescue his master. The dog had to be ordered to sit on the shore so he could swim.

Many walked up to the Sandy Beach about a mile away at the other end of the village. At the beach, the lake was sandy and you could walk out quite a piece before it got deep. We did not go there very often as it was usually crowded and we would be hot again by the time we walked home up the long sandy hill and through the village.

There were row boats for rent at the beach as well as at Reggie Purcell’s. There was a steep bank with wooden stairs to get down to the lake. Out on the lake was a different view than from shore.

When the carnival came to Rawdon it was a big event. Everyone just had to attend -the music of the calliope coming from the merry-go-round was like the call of a siren.

What excitement to get on the merry-go-round! At first it was scary away up high on the big, slippery horse as it went up and down, around and around. I held on tightly to the shiny pole. The rhythm of the horse got to me and I relaxed. The ride always ended too soon.

The ferris wheel was for the more daring ones. From the top it seemed you could almost reach and touch the stars.It felt so high up on top, then you would swing down the other side into nothing, or so it seemed.

I remember one year very well! Somehow I got separated from my family and found myself alone. I searched for my parents without success. How frightened I was! It was getting late and decided they must have left already.

I started out to make my way home on my own. How dark it was! There were no lights outside the carnaval area except on a couple blocks of Queen Street, and even they were not bright. What a long way to go! How frightened I was! Barely able to make my way on the long road home it was a long, scary, walk, particularly past the graveyard.

I never strayed from the family again!