The Light of Other Days

Gravenhurst can match other towns in the disastrous fires category: its blaze of 1887 left the entire central section in ashes, 50 business places swept away and upwards of 45 families homeless.

Colourful personalities abound, from rugged Mrs. McCabe who prepared her unique brew "stirabout" for visitors at McCabe's Landing, as Gravenhurst was initially called, to kindly mayor Wanda Miller who welcomed Queen Elizabeth II and ran for the legislature in the 1950s when few women did.

A history book to record these highlights, and the many other features of Gravenhurst's dynamic years and difficult times, became a town project for Canada's Centennial Year back in 1967. The five members of the historical committee creating the volume were Cecil Porter (who chaired it), Claude Snider, Mrs. Jean Terelly, Cyril Fry, and Dr. Stanley White. The result was a 120-page richly illustrated large-format book entitled The Light of Other Days.

That title is surely appropriate for this feature in The Muskokan, which is drawing attention to important books about Muskoka that have become "vanished treasures" because they are out-of-print.

The Light of Other Days certainly is a treasure-chest, filled with information and evocative photographs of the eras through which Gravenhurst passed between mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth centuries. Contemporary readers might also think it a fine specimen of what a Sixties book, written by a committee and published by a municipality, would look like.

Although worn copies may still be found in some libraries and homes, this book has effectively vanished. With Susan Pryke's out-of-print Huntsville: With Spirit and Resolve republished this May by Muskoka Books, and Robert Boyer's history of Bracebridge, A Good Town Grew Here, now out in a revised second edition from Oxbow Press, and that book's sequel A Good Town Continues compiled by a Bracebridge History Committee still in abundant supply, it raises the question of when a local historian will give us a new book on Gravenhurst history. It's a great story just waiting to be told.

— Review by J. Patrick Boyer

Gravenhurst Historical Committee, 1967
128 pages


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