Port Carling authors remember the 1950s

With such a background, it is little wonder Duke considers the river "the real main street of Port Carling," or that she chose to entitle her compiled stories, letters, and photos about the village of Port Carling Indian River Tales.

The boat-builder's daughter superbly captures Port Carling's pivotal place in the evolution of water transportation in Muskoka's development. From Indian canoes through successive eras of steamboats and motor-craft, the Indian River village was the only passageway for boats between upper and lower lakes and the only crossing point for road traffic. That nexus gave rise to many river-based businesses and required the periodic rebuilding and expansion of locks, bridges, and buildings over the decades.

The many photographs in Indian River Tales were taken in summer, winter, spring and fall, lending strong visual support to Anne Duke's belief that "the Indian River means something special to anyone who has grown up in Port Carling – or visited in any season."

The second book, Sparkling Waters, also feasts off generally happy "Memories of a Muskoka Childhood." Judging from the adventures Christine Bennett recaptures in this impressionistic account, Port Carling in the years following the Second World War was an idyllic place for coming-of-age.

Details of village life tumble out randomly: pungent nasturtiums that edged a path's stepping stones and were spicy to eat; curling up with the latest National Geographic to escape via its glossy pictures to faraway places; floating lazily in a sun-warmed black inner tube atop the "bottomless" dark water; church bells ringing out over the village; goats bleating; the soft mullein leaves substituting for toilet paper in the woods; playing with the garbage dump's ever-burning fires; the raiser board Mel Wallace put across the arms of his big brass and red-leather barber's chair for small children like Christine to sit on for her "Dutch-boy" haircut; "real Italian" spaghetti made with brilliant yellow shredded cheddar, the only cheese in town.

Christine read books constantly, though they seemed to provoke little questioning beyond such childhood curiosity as, "Daddy, why is the moon following me?" when watched out the car window on a night drive into Bracebridge.

Jim Bartleman, growing up in the same Port Carling village which his contemporaries Anne Duke and Christine Bennett recount in their memoirs Indian River Tales and Sparkling Waters, portrays "a different Muskoka" in his autobiography Out of Muskoka.

One difference was that he was called a "dirty half-breed" because his mother is an Aboriginal Canadian. Another was that, interacting with sneering summer cottagers around the dockside gas pumps where he filled their boat tanks, he was disdainfully dismissed by the rich brats from the city as "a local."

Unlike Duke and Bennett, Bartleman was a kid with a lot of resentments, even if he did share their youthful sense of awe about nature and joy in the adventures of life.

Jim had a summer hide-away under his verandah where he, Christine Bennett, and a couple other kids played long-running games of monopoly. She and Jim were both avid readers. She sometime stayed over with the Bartlemans. Anne, like Christine, was constantly on the water for pleasure. Jim's time on the water included fishing.

— Review by J. Patrick Boyer

Copyright © 2023 || Website Development by E-griculture.com