Once Upon a Time
'These things I remember'
by Bob Johnston

August 18, 2016


Once Upon a Time

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Postcard published by F. H. Leslie (1939)
provided by Bruce County Museum & Cultural Centre Archives

by Pauline MacInnes

Bruce Beach, which now extends from the 6th to the 10th concession of Huron Township, (between Kincardine and Point Clark) had its origin in 1897.

That year, the annual Sunday School Picnic of Huron Presbyterian Church was held on the 24th of May at Tout’s Grove. During the afternoon, a few of the school officials took a southerly stroll along the shore. They came to a most attractive opening in the woods, surrounded by cedar, maple and pine trees and not too far from the shoreline. My sister, Margaret MacInnes, on seeing this delightful spot, exclaimed, “Wouldn’t this be an ideal camping grounds?” And so was born the historic Bruce Beach.

The following summer, my family bought a house in Kincardine, dismantled it and had it moved to a site not far from the present Bruce Beach Club house. Originally, the home was twenty feet square. The carpenters who were contracted to rebuild it wondered why we needed such a large cottage. So they cut it down to 15’ x 15’. This was just for sleeping and a cover for a rainy day. We cooked outdoors. Someone held an umbrella over my mother while she made porridge.

Many of the cottages built in subsequent years were owned by members of the clergy, who did much to provide enjoyment for all, by way of Regattas and Field Days. They did insist on a reverent regard for the Sabbath day and religious worship. Anything that might commercialize the beach was nipped in the bud. At one time the camp got the name, “The Holy City.” Religious services were held each Sunday evening in a tent furnished by James Anderson.

One Sunday, a number of these first fathers attended an afternoon service at Lurgan Church. It was a very warm day and, by the time they were returning to their respective cottages, they were carrying their socks and shoes and, with trouser legs rolled up, were wading along the edge of the water. This may have been the beginning of Sunday bathing.

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In the early days, we and our belongings reached the cottage in a carry-all, driven by horses. When the carry-all was unpacked, it was returned to the livery stable in Ripley, and there at the beach we stayed for three or four weeks until it returned to take us home. But now almost every cottager owns his or her own automobile.

Year after year, as the camping season drew to a close, a day was set aside for sports. In the evening, an excellent concert of singing and recitations by the cottagers was enjoyed by all present. This program continues to bring the season to a close with the rousing familiar chorus:

Bruce beach shall shine tonight, Bruce Beach shall shine,

When the sun goes down and the moon comes up, Bruce Beach shall shine.


Adapted by Bob Johnston from an article published in the 1968 Bruce County Historical Society Yearbook

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Thursday, August 18, 2016