Rustic Culture in a Canadian Province
When I was 17 and after high school, Gretchen and I planned to spend the summer and the winter of ~1925 with her parents in Allenford, Ontario. I think we had already spent time there before. Gretchen drove us up in her new red Chrysler Roadster that her father had given her for graduation. Those were the years when the roadster was a very popular car and she always had to drive it barefoot.
Allenford is a little town south of Owen Sound and north of Port Huron, Ontario, Canada, about 5 miles from the Canadian edge of lake Huron; which means that we were close enough to lake Huron to have beach picnics sometimes. This was more than just an ordinary picnic. We would buy fresh fish right from the fishing boats and have a “fish boil” with new potatoes in a big kettle over a big hot fire.
Aunt Gretchen and Mr. Haveman had gone there earlier in the spring and were working on the remodeling of an old farm house and added a big huge barn and garage that had room for 4 cars and 3 horses. It was so spectacular that people came from all over the neighborhood to see it. The farm house had 4 bedrooms, a large remodeled kitchen. And if you can imagine, in those days, remodeled and it still only had a wood burning cook stove. We kept that big stove clean and polished shiny black.
Gretchen and I were both paid $4.00 per week to share the duties of maid and cook. We took turns with the maid’s duties which were house cleaning, making beds, etc. One of our cook’s duties was learning how to use the big wood cooking stove. The Haveman’s hired a groom to take care of the 3 horses. He lived in the huge garage/barn and he took his meals in the house, that we cooked for him. He took care of the horses and kept them and the garage clean. With the money that we earned, we bought ourselves shoes and stockings and little gifts when they were needed.
There must have also been some kind of ice box or cooler in the kitchen, because Mr. Haveman would spend part of the winter storing ice for it. The farm was very close to a little lake, Chesley Lake where there was a natural cave to keep the ice in. Mr. Haveman would take his ice cutter and when the lake was frozen just right he’d cut these big uniform blocks of ice and store them just down the road in the ice house he had on the edge of the lake. He’d cut and store enough ice in there to last us the whole hot summer.
The family did a great deal of riding. Even I had a few rides. One of the horses was very tall and I think Mr. Havemann rode him most of the time. He stood 17 hands high and that was considered a really tall horse.
Mr. Havemann was a marvelous cook and the village butcher was a personal friend of his and supplied him with very excellent cuts of meat, so he was able to teach us how they should be cooked. The village baker was also an excellent baker and during the summer when we took our lunch to the baseball games, we roasted a whole calves liver and sliced it for sandwiches using the baker’s fresh bread. Cooking it in the wood burning stove was exactly right for these cuts of meat and we really learned how to cook them.
I don’t remember just when it was that Gretchen and I got in her car and drove to Toronto. Probably early on in the summer before we got so socially involved. Gretchen decided we were going, we got in the car and she drove all the way without her shoes on. We must have stayed about two days seeing the sights. When we got there, she went into a hotel and later I went in to visit her, sort of, and just never left. So that’s how we only had to pay for one.