EMAIL mj.morris@live.ca


Friday, June 6, 2014

Swimming at Pig Pen, Mulligan's Bay, Lake Windermere, Florida to Cranbrook Aquatic Centre

Lifeguards Dane, Jessica, Zach
The swimming pool in Cranbrook, now called an aquatic centre is a long way from the cold waters of the Kebsquasheshing River and Lake Windermere where I learned to swim in the  1940s.
I have no recollection of swimming at the 'Pig Pen' which was located behind the old curling rink on Pine Street, but someone, likely one of my cousins, Betty, Anne or Joan Zufelt took a photo of me there when I was maybe three or so. However, I do recall swimming at the beach, created by Dr. G.E. Young, complete with bath houses, wading pools, dock and diving boards, with fresh sand dumped on it yearly, and the adjacent band stand, canteen, swings and other play things.
The beach was the place to be in the summer months when I was a kid, unless of course, we were down the lake at Mulligan's Bay or environs, which was reached by boat going down either the "front" or "back" river to reach the bay. It has always intrigued me that we went "down the lake" by rivers. Coming home though, we went "up" one of the rivers to town, or simply "up to town".
Chapleau beach Bob Lewis collection
My earliest memory of a trip to Mulligan's Bay was shortly after the end of World War II in 1945. One morning while playing in the back yard at our house on Grey Street, I heard loud voices coming from somewhere "up the lane", which meant along Birch Street.
Me at the Pig Pen
Although I was supposed to get permission to leave the yard, I could not resist the temptation to find out what was happening so off I went. On the front porch of the Crichton home the big brick house at Birch and Aberdeen, a group of folks were chatting, laughing and singing.
I joined them --- Joe, Charlie, Rita, and Edith (Babe) Crichton; Doug and Don Jardine, and Alcide Small for sure -- all veterans and just home from serving in Canada's forces in World War II and they were heading to Mulligan's Bay to the Crichton camp.
They invited me to join them, and off we went, stopping along the way to ask Edith Hunt, my grandmother, if I could go with them.  Nanny agreed, after all she was the aunt of the Crichton's. Their mother Helen and my grandmother were sisters.
We travelled down the back river by canoe and out of the mothballs of memory I had a wonderful time.
Over the years, I had super times down the lake with Harry 'Butch' Pellow, and even helped with the construction of the first of Pellow's cottages after I was taught to hammer a nail properly -- really ending any career thoughts of being a carpenter at a young age.  I also had great fun at the Goldstein camp with Anne Marie, Dawn and Merrick, and with Betty. Anne and Joan Zufelt at their camp. Of course, the Old Fort was a popular spot.
In my teenage years, there were parties at many different camps which are a story for another day.
In my teens, I was able to swim across the river from the town dock to Dr. Young's boathouse and return as well as from the dock to the Forestry point.
Chapleau's most famous swimmer may well have been Dr. Young who swam from town to his family's camp at Mulligan's Bay. When I asked him about it, he simply shrugged and said it really wasn't such a big deal to him. "I just started swimming and ended up at the camp".
My grandfather Harry Morris, with my mother's help built a camp at Healy, 17 CPR miles west of Chapleau, on Lake Windermere, where I really improved my swimming. During the summers we spent time there with the Wedge, Green, Hands, and Evans families, and friends and family members from Chapleau and elsewhere.
Bessie (Woodard) Charette, Mom, Dawn Goldstein, June-Marie, Me and Rex, Healy
Back in the day, Mulligan's Bay was only reachable by boat and Healy by train, and they were "camps" in the real sense of the word.
Anyway, I got all growed up and as so often happens, swimming wasn't really part of my life for many years.The swimming pool in Cranbrook became part of my life three years ago now . It really all started when I was in Orlando, Florida, visiting my friend Michael Pelzer, and going to the pool every day. 
As I was leaving Orlando, Michael asked me if there was a swimming pool in Cranbrook, and when I said there was, he suggested I start using it.  So, immediately  upon my return, I threw my swim trunks and towel in a bag and off I went. After proving I lived in Cranbrook, I paid for a month, and as I headed to the pool entrance, the lady at the leisure desk asked, "Are you going to start right now?"
When I replied yes, she said, "Okay but I should tell you there are 175 elementary school children in there." 
I knew there was no turning back even though I had never seen 175 people at one time swimming at the Chapleau beach or anywhere else for that matter in my life. On my first day I started in the wave pool, had never been in one of those before, and for an hour, I managed to dodge and avoid crashing into the kids.

The lifeguards are exceptional people and I have felt safe and secure since day one.
I graduated to the main pool and now, three years later it is also a social experience. I particularly enjoy seeing parents and children there, and sometimes grandparents too.
Lifeguards at Cranbrook Aquatic Centre
One night I watched two young fellows about 12 on the diving board. One was a pretty good diver, but his buddy not so. The better diver spent an hour patiently working with his friend -- and at the end, high fives!  I also really enjoy watching good divers. I never was one. I don't think I ever dove off the high board at the Chapleau beach.
 Perhaps my favourite activity to watch, and way down deep I would like to try it, is the rope swing into the pool. It brings back memories of swinging out over the Humber River in Toronto on a rope tied to a tree and dropping into the muddy water, as a kid, a la Tom Sawyer!. At the pool when they are rope swinging, I hold contests, picking the male and female winner -- of course nobody knows until now that I do it.
I have spoken to some lifeguards about swinging into the pool, but so far no definite plan has been made.
Last year to mark my two years at the pool, the lifeguards, who are truly great people, presented me with a certificate of congratulations on my two years of swimming, "Thank you for your cheerful spirit. We enjoy seeing you every day. The Lifeguards".
I mentioned doing a column on swimming and my friends the lifeguards agreed to photos to share with you to mark my three years of swimming almost every day.

Meet my friends Dane, Jessica and Zach who have guided me from Day One along with all the other lifeguards at the Cranbrook Aquatic Centre, They say "HELLO" to Chapleau.

Dane, Jessica and Zach seem to have been on duty when I was making moves from wave pool to main pool and to lanes. But all the lifeguards are super.

Special thanks to Louis for providing lifeguard photo.
Thanks to all of you and to Michael my friend in Orlando, and all my friends and family who shared great moments at Healy and/or "down the lake".
I should mention in the interests of full disclosure -- I use a "noodle" now for safety reasons while swimming. My email is mj.morris@live.ca

Michael J Morris

Michael J Morris
MJ with Buckwheat (1989-2009) Photo by Leo Ouimet


click on image


Following the American Dream from Chapleau. CLICK ON IMAGE