One of my earliest childhood memories is of travelling from the west end of Toronto with members of our church group aboard a gaggle of orange school buses, en route to a place in the country for our Sunday school picnic.
For all the seven and eight-year-olds on those buses, it seemed we would never arrive at our destination. Eventually of course we landed on the shores of that faraway haven: Cedar Beach, Musselman’s Lake, located north of a place called Stouffville. That kettle lake was the destination of many such convoys in the 1940s.
Who would have thought that years later, I would be living here and writing about that very place? A place where you would not only be able to swim, but also to enjoy the amenities next to the pavilion built in 1929 by George Davies.
Mr. Davies decided to build a cottage on acreage he owned along the north shore of the lake on land which he had been farming. Without a firm set of blueprints, his cottage soon turned into his pavilion.
I wonder if he ever imagined that what he built in that summer of ’29 would become the focal point of a very large recreation business. Or that his pavilion, in the waterfront park, would one day be surrounded by mobile summer homes, pass its 85th anniversary and be operated by four successive generations.
During the 1930 and 1940s the pavilion became the place to play and to dance the nights away. Most nights of the week you could dance on the sprung hardwood floor to music provided by the big bands of the day such as Bobby Gimby, Jack Crawford or Bert Niosi. If you could not make it to “the lake” on a Saturday night, you could tune into a Toronto radio station and hear live broadcasts from the pavilion.
In the 1960s, George’s son Vern and Vern’s daughter, Janet, expanded the trailer park portion onto the east side of Ninth Line. This area was formerly an apple orchard and Evans Drive, the street going into the trailer park, is named after the original owner of that orchard.
Another aspect of the Davies’s business was the renting of boats for an afternoon paddle around the lake. When they realized that the boats were not being rented after dark, because it was cooler – so I have been told – they came up with the idea of providing pillows and blankets for those moonlight trips.
On most summer Sundays the parking lots were overflowing with vehicles by 10 a.m. During the week kids would simply ride their bikes up to spend a day at the beach. In those days the entrance fee to the private beach was ten cents. However, Vern would waive the fee for those who had come on their bikes. As he often observed, “If kids ride all this way just for a swim, they deserve to have it for free.”
During the 1960s, after the big band era had passed, a country and western music theme was introduced to the pavilion’s repertoire and once again the building came alive. On average 400 patrons were squeezed in every weekend.
The store across from the pavilion was built in the early 1930s. It housed a grocery and butcher store for many years. Today it is operated by Mr. George Karpouzis as an ice cream and variety store catering to the needs of tourists and trailer park residents.
Although Fishbone by the Lake restaurant now occupies the waterfront area of the property during the summer months, today the pavilion itself sits dormant.
Maurice Smith can also be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos from the MLRA Photo Library.