Huronia Museum – Looking Back 60 Years Ago in North Simcoe – March 23rd to 31st, 1959

Only one newspaper this week due to the timing of Good Friday in 1959.Successful dance step skaters at Midland Arena Gardens Sunday afternoon, the group includes Jane Edwards, Sharon Stelter, Donna Cramm, Judy Lumsden, Margaret Lockhart, June Lumsden, Nancy Playfair, Louise Parker, Lynda Duggan, Selma Wensveen, Mary Lynn Boyd, Lynda Stewart, Dawn Annand, Judy Hack, John Svoboda, Maureen Mohan, Suzanne Ball, Barbara Spence, Jane Campbell, Angela Magnus and Beth Boyd. 

This happy sextet had received word from the judges that they had passed their compulsory figure tests at Midland arena Sunday afternoon. They are Jane Campbell, Judy Hack, Dawn Annand, Donna Cramm, Angela Magnus, and John Svoboda. 

Only four of the 34 horses which started in Saturday’s running of the Grand National steeplechase in Aintree, England, got back to the finish line and Golden Strong wasn’t one of them. That’s the horse Mrs. Mary Dodgson and friend, 2-year-old Johnny Kinnear, had their hopes pinned on for one of the big Irish sweepstake prizes. However, there will be a consolation prize for Mrs. Dodgson, who resides in Midland but works at the Ontario Hospital in Penetang. 

“Uschi”, who also carries the letters “Sch. H. 2” after her name, is a female German shepherd, imported from Germany a few months ago by Hans Albrecht. She made an auspicious debut to her new homeland recently by practically sweeping her class at the Canadian Sportsman’s Show in Toronto. 

Winners of the Graham Swales competition, bottom row, were Jim Clark, Bill Kennedy, Bill Bourrie and skip Ossie Downer. Top rink, which included Murray Yorke, Cecil Merkley, Harold Wilcox, skip, and Dave Milner, won the Adams Trophy. 

Inter-club competitions for male members of Midland Curling Club have been wound up for another year. Bottom row, won the Cumming-Nicholson Trophy, left to right are Graydon Rogers, Phil Fuller, Ross Hastings and Jim Lennox, skip. Top, a rink including Norman Shill, Armand Robillard, Stan Burton skip, and Frank Powell won the O’Keefe Trophy. 

First event of the season, the “Early Bird” bonspiel, was won by Dave Milner, Aaron Shulman, skip Al Steer and Jim Clark, seated. Industrial League winners were, at rear, Murray Yorke, Les Barber, skip Armand Robillard and Jack Duggan. 

These two lads, who will be moving up to Scouts in about two weeks time, have obtained the greatest number of Wolf Cub proficiency badges of any boys in South Georgian Bay District. On the left is Colin Williamson 11, and Fred Hacker 11, members of 3rd Midland (Knox Presbyterian Church) A Pack. Both have 12 badges. Cubmaster is George Williamson and his assistants are Catherine Williamson and Don Pringle. 

After this long hard winter, the flowers in Mac Perrin’s greenhouse were an even more welcome sight than usual during an open house sponsored by the Ladies’ Auxiliary of Midland YMCA Sunday. In the top picture Pat Cowden shows an eye-catching red emperor tulip to Mrs. E. Goldberg. Lower, Mrs. J. E. Lawlor couldn’t resist smelling the polyantha roses while Mrs. Charles Vent, Mrs. K. Huvers and her daughter, Debby Lawlor, await their turn. 

Every winter CPR Bridge and Building gangs go over the long trestle at Port McNicoll, keeping the near-mile-long bridge up to strength to handle the huge grain trains that pass over it almost daily. Similar care on other edifices around Ontario would have saved many dollars and lives this past winter. (Reference to the arena roof failure in Listowel) 

Dressings used in the operating room are first sterilized in this autoclave. St. Andrews nursing assistant Doreen Dupuis removes dressings from one of two autoclaves in the central supply room at the Midland hospital. 

An important part of our hospital is the laboratory. Hospital accountant Clarence Day watches lab technician Ronald Hamelin make a blood test in the centrifuge. 

Nursing assistant Kathryn McMillan demonstrates the use of the Gomco suction pump, right foreground. It was donated to St. Andrews by the Nurses’ Alumnae in 1958. 

Twenty-six head of cattle, 16 pigs and a Shetland pony perished Saturday night when a fire completely destroyed the large barn on the farm of Bert Desroches, Con. 4, Tay. Also lost was a quantity of hay and grain and considerable machinery, including dairy equipment. The loss, which will run into thousands of dollars, was covered by insurance in part at least. 

(I’m not believing that the wind did this!)

  • The Free Press Herald headline of March 25, 1959; New Municipal Building Proposed for Penetang. Discussion at Monday night’s meeting of Penetang council indicates strongly that Penetang will have a new town hall to replace the present 68-year-old building damaged by fire earlier this year. Three proposed plans for a new building were inspected without any being accepted as shown. Council did vote in favor of a building to be constructed on one level, with a basement.
  • A new business, Florence’s Tots-&-Teens was opened recently at 229 King Street, Midland, just two doors south of the Bank of Montreal. The proprietor of the shop is Miss Florence Gignac who is no stranger to North Simcoe. Born in Penetang, Miss Gignac received her early education in her home town and then enrolled at St. Michael’s Hospital where she graduated as a registered nurse. Following graduation, Miss Gignac nursed in Kapuskasing for eight years and then her travels took her to California, Michigan and finally Peoria, Illinois, where she has been for the past year and a half. “We have been fortunate in making arrangements to handle a number of the leading brands in our complete range from infants to fourteen,” the new shop owner told the Free Press Herald. Miss Gignac is a sister of Penetang’s Mayor Jerome Gignac.
  • Penetang Police were a bit unhappy Friday night when their cruiser disappeared as they were quelling a disturbance on the Main Street. As a result, two young men will appear in court Thursday on charges of car theft. According to Chief Jack Arbour, Constables Marcel Dorion and W. Lacroix were called to settle a disturbance on the Main Street around midnight Friday. Rather than making an attempt to get an inebriated man into the cruiser, they walked him the short distance to the cells. On their return, the cruiser, which had been parked with the keys in the ignition, had disappeared.
  • JACK STEWART —a member of the Penetang Volunteer Fire Department for more than 25 years died Tuesday morning following an illness of two years. Funeral Service will be held at St. Ann’s Memorial Church, Penetang, Thursday morning.
  • COLDWATER — A number of farmers in Coldwater district stand to benefit by a federal-provincial Simcoe County plan to compensate them for the loss of cattle by rabies since April 1, 1958. The latest count of deaths by rabies among wild, domestic and farm animals in Simcoe County is; 112 foxes; 8 dogs; 17 cats; 95 cattle; 3 horses; 12 sheep; 2 hogs; 2 raccoons; 22 skunks and one groundhog. The total is 274, the second worst-hit county in Ontario.
  • The committee which recently picked the most valuable players in Midland’s Little NHL has now completed its job by naming the most valuable goalies in the six divisions. They are as follows: Junior “B”, Lloyd Graham; junior “A”, Laurie Thomas; AHL “B”, Jurgen Baumann; AHL “A”, Gregory Somers; NHL “B”, Bill Black; NHL “A”, Bill Silvey.
  • 25 Years Ago This Week – Third Street, Midland, was lined with cars and trucks as district motorists sought to obtain their 1934 licence plates and drivers’ permits on deadline day. Licence issuer Joseph O’Shea reported it was the busiest day he had had in years. * * * Tay Township had entered suit against the town of Midland for $2,500 allegedly owed to the township in an adjustment of county levy made in 1931, plus interest of five percent per year from the date of the adjustment. * * * Inspector MacGregor of the Department of Game and Fisheries, whose patrol areas were in Simcoe County, reported that 62 dogs had been shot chasing deer. Sixteen of the dogs were hounds. The remainder comprised various other breeds. * * * Balmy spring weather which had encouraged district farmers to commence plowing their fields, ended abruptly with a storm that blanketed North Simcoe with several inches of snow. Snowplows were required to clear the roads and sidewalks after the two-day blow. * * * Penetang’s public health nurse reported that she had found 24 cases of defective teeth, 12 cases of enlarged glands but only one case of malnutrition among the town’s school children. * * * Capt. Reg Belcher of Victoria Harbour, master of the S. S. Collier, sailed the first ship out of Toronto harbor to officially open the 1934 navigation season for that port. The previous November Capt. Belcher brought the ice-coated Collier into Toronto and safety after bucking a severe storm on the lakes. She was the last ship to lay up in the fall. * * * Midland council and citizens were attempting to have the provincial government complete Highways 27 and 12 as a means of encouraging more tourists to visit the district.
  • Obituaries – MRS. EDMOND LACROIX A heart seizure suffered as she sat in a hair dresser’s chair, Wednesday, March 4, resulted in the unexpected death of Mrs. Edmond Lacroix, Penetang. Born in Penetang Nov. 14, 1899, she had spent her entire life in this community, marrying Edmond Lacroix there in 1916. A Roman Catholic, Mrs. Lacroix was a valued member of the General Hospital Ladies’ Auxiliary, Catholic Women’s League, and the Extension Society of the Roman Catholic Church. Besides her husband, Mrs. Lacroix leaves three daughters, Mrs. J. Fournier (Sylvia) and Mrs. H. J. Lefaive (Laivie) of Oshawa and Mrs. L. E. Quinn (Mona), Midland. There is also one sister, Mrs. Theo. Moreau, Penetang. Funeral services were held Saturday, March 7, from her Maria Street home to St. Ann’s Memorial Church, where Father L. Ramsperger, Father J. Marchand and Father J. Kelly officiated. Interment was in St. Ann’s Cemetery. Pallbearers were Alfred Beauchamp, Gordon Beauchamp, John and Wallace Lacroix, Henry and Bernard Deschamps. * * * CHARLES M. FLEMING A member of Midland Lions Club and Caledonian Lodge No. 249 AF and AM, Midland, Charles Morris Fleming died in St. Andrews Hospital March 14. Funeral service was held March 16, at Nicholls funeral home with Rev. J. L. Self officiating. Pallbearers were John Mackie, Lloyd Murday, Don Argue, Elmer Belfry, Bill Scott and Bob Bath. Born in Midland, Nov. I, l903, Mr. Fleming was a wholesale distributor of hardware and garage tools. He lived in Toronto for 12 years and in Montreal for four years and returned to Midland in 1948. Prior to going to Toronto, he had sailed on the Great Lakes out of Midland. Mr. Fleming was an ardent golfer and a member of Knox Presbyterian Church. On Oct. 31, 1931, he married the former Helen McKenzie of Jarvis, Ont., at Toronto. Besides his wife, he is survived by three brothers: Keith of Midland, Leslie of Cincinnati and Gerald of Toronto, and four sisters, Mrs. J. Lang (Jessie), Scarborough; Mrs. C. A. Ferguson (Jeanne), Toronto; Mrs. A. Kenyon (Edythe), New Liskeard and Lena, Toronto. 

Looking further back we find this article in the July 12th, 1944 Free Press describing a shrine that is familiar to many who boat on the Bay. I was probably 14 or 15 when I first saw the Madonna high up on a rock ledge at the entrance to McRae’s Lake and had always wondered about its story. There is another version circulating in which a trapper is mauled by a bear but this one seems more plausible.


On a craggy cliff overlooking Georgian Bay a statue of the Virgin Mother may be seen, a mighty sentinel, watching the wild beauty of the realm below her. Justly may she claim the title, for, in the ten years of her guardianship, she has served as a beacon light to countless tourists, guiding their steps over the treacherous passes of the bay to safety, not once has there been an accident reported since. My own escape from death was a miraculous event 11 years ago.

Early in 1930, my six-year-old daughter Marjorie was stricken with severe whooping cough. Her condition was a cause of great worry to the family. Our family physician advised us to move near a body of fresh water. We had been in northern Canada before and remembered the beautiful sur­roundings and invigorating climate of the Georgian Bay where thirty thousand (30,000) islands of all sizes and shapes procure a beauti­ful treat for the human eye. It was there we decided to take Mar­jorie. The thought of going to this paradise raised the hopes and am­bitions of the entire family. Even Marjorie, weak from constant whooping, showed signs of bright hopes. We left Buffalo May 28, 1930, and travelled 200 miles by auto Midland Ont., where a chartered launch was ready to take us 20 miles north on the shore of Georgian Bay, where the Thirty Thousand Islands make their first appearance. With us came Dr. Weider and his wife; our party of six Ted Jr., Marjorie, my wife and I accompanied by our English setter Sporty.

The pilot of the launch took us to McRae’s Lake where it’s fresh spring waters flow into Georgian Bay. Here, on a huge almost bare rock, we unloaded our baggage and supplies with two small boats; from this point, we had to portage 300 feet to the higher lake with our entire needs for the trip. Being late in the day, we only took what was needed, leaving the balance for an early trip in the morning. We traveled about three miles on this peaceful and beautiful lake to the shore where an abandoned log cabin was ready to house us for an indefinite period of time. We were soon set up for the night and ready for bed. The ever calling Whippoorwill whipped us to sleep, being very tired from eighteen hours of travel.

Morning came with a delightful warm breeze and the sun out of a clear sky. The doctor, Ted Jr. and I, traveled by boat to the portage for the rest of our supplies and equipment. It was there, as we had left it. Just about noon of the first day we were well settled and ready to enjoy the camp. For three days our party enjoyed nature and outdoor meals. On the fourth day, Dr. Wieder, his wife, and Ted Jr. had to leave for Buffalo. With my small boat and motor, I took them to Midland where they used the car to drive to Buffalo. I returned safely in time to enjoy another fine, day at the camp. Now, we three with our dog “Sporty”, made plans to spend at least a month in this little paradise. Life went on peacefully until the eventful night of June 3rd. We retired about 10.30 p.m. Shortly after I was awakened by my daughter who heard something eating its way into one corner of the cabin. Taking my 22 rifle by the barrel I opened the door to locate the noise. Stepping out in the dark, a large animal came towards me. It was so close I could only strike for defense. When I hit this animal with the stock, the butt of my gun, the bullet in the chamber discharged, striking me in the abdomen, passing through the stomach and the liver, hitting the spine and finally lodging in the right thigh where it is still embedded. The shock and the terrific pain made me unconscious. Having regained consciousness I found myself lying on a rock, my whole right side paralyzed and causing great pain in my stomach. The blood rushed to my stomach producing frequent vomiting. I gathered all my strength and called my wife to come out of the cabin. I told her what had happened and begged her to be brave and to be prepared to see me die. Death I did not fear, knowing my family would be provided for after my death. I told my wife of my critical position and of the uselessness to seek help,  for a stretch of several miles separated us from any place where help could be obtained. Moreover, she did not know the outlet of our lake nor the treacherous rapids – one hundred yards long – we had to cross to get out. Normally we portage our boat over this point, but that means manpower which we could not muster at the present time.

Undaunted by the dismal situation, my faithful wife dragged my disabled body to our frail motorboat. Taking our six-year-old daughter and our English Setter pet with us we pushed offshore and by an act of divine help I cranked the motor and up the lake we started for the portage and rapids I feared most.

It was now 11 p.m. The darkness was relieved by the bright rays of a crescent moon, and by its light, we guided the boat to an unknown destiny. After 30 minutes of dodging rocks and shoals, our worst fears were realized as we entered a course that was leading us directly into this disastrous channel. Our little daughter was calm and useful. When peril was greatest she knelt down and prayed to the Blessed Mother, asking Her help a where no mortal help could be found.  Now we were but twenty-feet distance from the madly dashing waters which spelled death unless we change our course. The rocks threatened the safety of our boat. I had been continually vomiting much blood and my strength was ebbing away. Placed as it were between Scylla and Charybdis, in an imminent grasp of death, I made one superhuman effort to adjust the boat and the motor for a direct shoot into the rapids. At this moment I called on Marjorie to hold fast on to the dog-which would get her to shore should we capsize. The wise English Setter sensed the danger and gave a warning howl which still echoes in my ears when I think of this moment of a close call to a watery grave. Weakened by agonizing pain, and in view of impending danger, I prayed and waited for the outcome, trusting in Divine Providence. After what seemed to me a long time I opened my eyes. Our little boat passed the treacherous waters and we were floating safely to the other side in Georgian Bay. Once more I put my feeble strength to the task. I placed the outboard motor in position and the little boat was once again tugging along a channel in the direction of the nearest settlement where locals lived the year round. The greatest menace, the rapids, were behind us, but dangers still ahead of us. The shoals under water, rock, and shadows were like many hideous ghosts looming everywhere, ready to cripple the fragile boat. In ten minutes we were around Weber’s Island and could see Mrs. Herdman’s cottage on her island. All was dark, but I knew she was there so I headed for her shore. About two hundred yards from this island, I ran our boat on a shoal or underwater rock and there we stuck. We felt strangled, helpless. I collapsed from pain and exhaustion, little caring for the future. It was midnight. No light pierced the distance gloom on the shore. As the last resort, my wife and daughter began frantically calling for help, their voices echoing in the darkness deadened by the swishing water lapping the side of our boat. It was to our great joy that the shouts were answered from the cottage. Very soon Mrs. Herdman and her caretaker came with a boat and pulled us off the shoals and towed us to Fred Vasseur, about three miles down the Bay. I was transferred to a speed boat made ready for a 15 mile trip to the nearest hospital in the town of Midland. Mr. Fred Vasseur, a very capable guide and boatman, chose a short but dangerous course direct to the town. His task perfectly executed, we arrived at Midland dock at 1.30 am. Still vomiting blood and experiencing terrible pain, I was constantly fighting for my life.

    It was June 30th, 1.30 a.m. and the town was dark. No street lights only that crescent moon that played a great part to get us so far, gave aid to a guide messenger who leaped quickly to the dock and ran two miles for a doctor. Dr.  Johnston, a learned surgeon from the world war responded in his auto in less than fifteen minutes. He felt my pulse and encouragingly said: “Keep courage young man, you have a good pulse. I will arrange everything to save your life.”  He rushed to St. Andrew’s Hospital, aroused four nurses and two more doctors, sent for me and made ready to care for me.

The town clock struck two and soon an undertaker ready for any kind of service appeared at the dock. I was lifted from the boat into a long narrow basket that was hard and uncomfortable. Did this man get to the right scene? It happened he was the only service available, although not the best. They slid me in his worn out  Ford truck. He cranked the motor, jumped in and started for the hospital. The way led up an incline to get over the railroad tracks and before we got over the car stalled. Being an experienced undertaker, he took his time to get going. He got out and cranked, and cranked, but no start. At intervals, he would come to the back of the truck and say, “Are you still alive?” My pain was so intense that I could only groan. Fortunately, I could groan to have him try again. About ten minutes passed and the car started. It was a rough ride but we arrived safely. The doctors and nurses were anxiously waiting. Dr. Johnston inquired about the delay. An encouraging sight for me to see. Four doctors, six nurses and a modern hospital ready to serve and save a stranger! Not one person had seen or heard of me before this early hour of the morning. Out of the basket and on the X-ray table to locate the bullet— it was in a good place—to the operating room and soon I was in “paradise”. No more pain and in good care. The doctors and nurses did a fine job repairing the damage and leaving the bullet where it was and perhaps still is. The report reads that I made a good shot; the bullet missing all the vital parts, shooting through the stomach and the liver, striking the spine and grazing the right thigh and embedding itself in the tissue.

For three long weeks following the accident I hovered between life and death at this hospital. My right side and entire right leg was paralyzed. The fourth week I showed marked improvement and on the seventh week left the hospital. During the seven long weeks at the hospital, I had ample time to think of the past. I knew that my life was spared me by the miraculous help of God. I recalled my daughter’s kneeling figure in the boat, her praying to the Blessed Mother. Realizing the goodness of God and the protection of the Blessed Virgin, I made a promise that I will make a pilgrimage to the place where the miracle occurred and somewhere in a secluded spot erect a little shrine of our Blessed Mother and Her Divine Son in thanksgiving for having saved our lives.

In May 1931, this little shrine was erected high upon the above the rapids. Upon a crude foundation rises a statue of the Madonna and the Child Jesus, hidden in a natural cove behind birch and pine trees. My private place of adoration and thanksgiving to God.    Very soon after the shrine was made known by the guides who soon found it a treasure and encouraged others to visit it. In telling the story the locals have added fictitious tales. I found notes asking for the true story of the shrine, whenever I visited the place. Prior to this, I felt no necessity to disclose the secret which I guarded carefully. But upon the pressure of my friends, I hereby acknowledge in public the great favors received through the Divine Providence and loving care of the Blessed Mother Mary, the Madonna of Georgian Bay.

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