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The beauty and prime recreational aspects of the Gatineau region provided many fond memories for vacationers, commuters and locals alike. Some personal accounts transport us back, and give us impressions of a bygone way of life in these communities along the river.

On Sundays we either had lunch at home before we left or took it with us to the "Lookout." It overlooked the river where we were fascinated by the logs tumbling and jumping over the rocks like matchsticks. During the spring and early summer the sound of the falls was deafening. We were often asked how we stood the noise, but we hardly heard it after a while.

As an alternative, we would take lunch to the "Grove"; a lovely grassed clearing on the way up to the railway station. It was a popular spot for Sunday school, school and other group picnics, often being used by people from Hull or Ottawa. They came on the Sunday morning train for a day's outing, visiting the chute and enjoying what the area had to offer. Sundays were always busy days on the island and we had lots of company. Sometimes we arranged visits to Meech Lake where a rowboat was rented to take us on exploratory voyages.

There were many activities to keep us busy. My brother liked to cross the bridge to watch the big glass jars carboys, being filled with pure spring water at the bottling plant and loaded on wagons for shipment to Hull and Ottawa. The water coming out of the rock amazed us.

Geggie, Stuart, from "Memories of Life in Wakefield" Up the Gatineau!, Vol. 17, 10–14.   See more...

Horse and sleigh
Catch a ride on this open sleigh c.1880.

All these sleighs provided great opportunities for the village children to hitchhike a ride for fun. And fun it was, as well as a challenge to run after Orme's van going like the wind and managing to get a footing, perhaps with only one foot, on the back end of one of the runners. Most sleighs had 7 or 8 inches upon which to perch–room for one foot at least. Of course if one should miss there was a roll in the snow to look forward to. Injuries were few and never severe. Chamberlin's small sleigh was also fast but it had a flat bed upon which one could sit. The driver was often Charlie Chamberlin, a great fisherman and every young lad's pal.

Wakefield beach
Swimmers at the beach in Wakefield c. 1900

Swimming in the Gatineau River was always fun and the clear, cold, brown water, flowing around one while holding onto a log or the boom was, and still is, most refreshing. Everyone learned to swim at an early age and the many logs were really a safety feature since one could hold onto a convenient log as it went by. To swim out into the current, choose a log, straddle it and float down river a half a mile to the level of the Hospital, to swim towards shore until the reverse current or eddy took over and went back up river to the beach, was heaven on a hot day. It could take all afternoon perhaps, but what a lazy way to spend a hazy summer day.   See more...

Stacked grain
Stacked grain in the field c.1930.

Farming is a pretty lonely job as you are usually doing something like cutting hay or plowing by yourself. For certain farm activities, several farmers would join together and help each other, and throughout the year there would be several bees at each farm. There was sawing in late winter or early spring, then there were the grain and the corn to bring in at harvest time, and every so often a new barn or building would bring everyone together again.

..... At noontime there were eight or nine hungry men. The noon meal was actually called dinner and consisted of meat, potatoes, root vegetables and the ever-present apple or lemon pie. My mother and Aunt Maud never found it a problem to cook for these gangs. The men smelled of fresh' sawdust and green wood. Mixed with the food, the smells were wonderful...

Brown, Jim, Memories of Work Bees Up the Gatineau, Vol. 2, 18-12.   See more...

Farm work-bee
Farming, working together c.1920.

After many trips to the bush, the pile of poles would grow big enough for our future needs. Hard work! There were still all the other chores to do before day's end, too. When the "bee" day arrived, my Dad would arrange for the man with the sawing machine to come and word would go out to the neighbours, the Ditchfield wood bee was on. Each neighbour who came had the favour returned when he was ready for his bee.

A day after Mother left, my father decided to have the bee for the thrashing, as the thrashing machine was in the area doing all the thrashing for the farmers in the Meech Creek Valley. My father announced to me that we would have fifteen extra men to feed the next day. I was all of nineteen and had been taught by my mother to cook, but for a small family!

Ditchfield Ravenscroft, Helen from "Two Bees in Meech Creek Valley " Up the Gatineau!, Vol. 21, 13–15.   See more...

As well as providing carding services, fleece was no doubt shipped to the mill from far and near for sale and perhaps at times, for barter. The end products were wool blankets and fabric for clothing. Woven goods need to be fulled (the process of shrinking and thickening cloth after weaving) and in the case of the blankets, possibly brushed. Dyeing may have taken place at any of three stages: in the fleece stage prior to spinning, after having been spun into yarn, or after having been woven into goods. A race, or long tunnel-like structure, which ran parallel to the road, was where the fabric could be stretched onto tenter-hooks to dry.

Excerpt from "Weaving and Spinning in Days Gone By" Up the Gatineau!, Volume 20, pp.5–11 by Norma Geggie.   See more...

Picnic on the Gatieau river
Picnic on the Gatineau river at Eaton's chutes c. 1920.

The Gatineau was the natural place to plan a day's outing to get away from the heat of the city. It was so convenient, so beautiful. Sunday night was the climax of the busy weekend, as we gathered at the railway station, mingling with the crowds, as they awaited the train to Ottawa. Often we would hop on the train and go to the next stop, for 15 cents, and walk home in the soft, balmy, moonlit night. The day of the automobile and paved roads had not yet arrived.

We all learned to swim at an early age in this treacherous river. We knew of the dangers and always respected the river for what it was. The logs floating downstream added to our enjoyment. Logrolling until we were flung into the water, swimming to sandbars and timidly looking into black swirling waters where the eddies had eaten away the sand and there was a sheer drop into the bottomless river—these sights put fear into us.

Excerpt "Up the Gatineau 1966", Mrs. C. R. Holt.   See more...

The alter in the Church at Cascades
The alter in the Church at Cascades

My mother, Alice Cross Wilson, was Church Organist for over 40 years at Cascades. This included both United and Anglican services. After we children went to bed at night, she would practice her hymns for Sunday. Through a stovepipe hole in the large dining room of the 30-room Peerless Hotel, the music, and heat, wafted up to the bedroom above, where at least four of the younger children slept in wintertime. To the sounds of the organ, and the many hymns we knew by heart, we drifted off to sleep.

We children had our own interpretation of the words of some hymns. "Shall we gather at the river, the beautiful, beautiful river," was to us none other than our beautiful Gatineau River'. Another hymn "Jesus loves me," with one verse ending "When at last I come to die, He will take me home on high" was interpreted as going to Heaven in "high gear!" There were few automobiles in those days, and when men gathered in the general store much of their conversation was about cars. To make some of those steep Gatineau hills "in high gear" was quite a feat. "Home on high" meant just that to us.

Walton, Lillian (Wilson), from "The Little White Church at Cascades" Up the Gatineau!, Vol. 3, 23.   See more...

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