The Georgina Island Storytelling Project

Our stories celebrate our heritage and identity as Chippewa people. They preserve and teach our Indigenous ways of knowing and knowledge for the future generations of Georgina Island. In the tradition of oral history over generations, our youth - in their turn - will carry on this legacy to protect and share our proud history and who we are as the Chippewas of Georgina Island.

Personal Journal by Richard Charles

Monday June 22, 1998

I want to start my story when I was a little boy.  I was born on Georgina Island on the 19th of August 1935.  On the day I was born my neighbor’s barn, belonging to Lorenzo Big Canoe burned down.  My first word was “cakie” so that became my nickname.  My sister-in-law’s uncle Ross used to tease me about it whenever I called him “Uncle”.  I was about two years old at that time.  I don’t remember much after that until I was about 4 or 5 years old.  I remember the cold winters we sued to have – we used to get snow about 20 feet deep.   I had a dog, named Judge.  It was a collie.  He used to prevent me from wandering too far away from my house.  If I started to go too far he would step in front of me to stop me from going away.

I lived in a big log house, about 30ft x 40ft. there were three oroms downstairs; a kitchen, living room and a bathroom as well as two bedrooms upstairs.  There was   a pantry downstairs.  The basement was used for apples ad storage of food for the winter.

My immediate family included my mother, Annie and my father, Wellington and my older brother, Clayton.

July 17, 1998

I went to school when I was seven years old.  Lorenzo, my neighbour was my first teacher.  There was an old school there, on the island built in 1885, I think.  The old school was torn down about forty years ago. I think it was called Georgina Island Indian Day School. Lorenzo taught me to about grade 3 or 4, then my teacher was Mr. Frank Joblin, he was bout 75 years old.  He used to come to our place every Sunday night, with his wife Maude to listen to the radio. Charlie McCarty and Ed Sullivan, He had a son, Ronald, called Bud for short, but he was going to high school in Sutton at the time.  He was boarding in Sutton someplace.  Getting back and forth from the island was hard in those days, so that’s why Bud boarded out when he was going to school.  You used to only be able to get across by rowboat.

My last teacher on the island was Mr. Haris, for one or two years.

Later Lorenzo had a couple of motorboats, called Dispro, because of the disappearing propeller in the middle of the boat.  You got at the propeller by lifting it with a lever.  The motor was a the front end, and the rudder was at the back.

We used to haul grain over to Sutton to the mill for my father.  I was about 10 then. He was a farmer.  He had about 50 acres and he had 4 horses and 5 or 6, sometimes 8 cows.  He’d kill the steers in the fall for food for over the winter.  He and my  brother clayton used to plow the fields with a single horse plow.

When I was about 13-14, around break-up time (of the ice), which was April, Charlie Warren, who was bout the same age had an accident, a pitchfork into his eye. He was cleaning out his grandfather’s stable.  He lost sight in his left eye.  My Dad, Les McCue and Angus Selbie had a helluva time getting him over for medical help.  They had to take him on rowboats.  I think they went down to Newmarket or Toronto.  Dr. Beatie was his doctor.  He was the doctor for the island at that time.  Charlie ended up disabled.  He was out of school for about two weeks, but did come back. He wore a patch for a while, a couple of weeks.  After that he was all right and came back to school.  He had three brothers and three sisters (Harry, Fred, Billy, Connie, Mary and Jean).  The two older brothers both served in the army in WWII, Harry was a corporal in the Provo Corps.  Connie died about for or five years ago.  Neither Jean nor Mary never married.  Harry died when he was about 62, about ten years ago. Freddy, he’s gone.

I went to public school with Connie, Charlie and Billy.  Jean was just starting when I was quitting.  When I was 13 I moved up to high school.  MY father moved to Jacksons Point.  You had to be on the mainland to get to school.  I used to walk to school every day.  I got a ride with Paul and Peter Beatie, the Doctor’s sons, once in a while.  I went tot Sutton High for one year.  I took the mumps ad was quarantined for 14 days.

My father build the dock in October 1949 ( I was 14).  It was the same year in the winter, just a few days before Christmas that Tom Porte and George McCue drowned. They were going over in the nighttime.  My father told them to stay at our place for the night, but they didn’t want to.  George had the house warming party that’s why they wanted to leave. George McCue was skating and Tom was on a sleigh.  They both went through.  Somebody found the sleigh the next day, some people walking over from the island.  They looked and saw the top of George’s head.  My father was a veterinarian. Every fall he’d kill 2 or 3 pigs. I used to help him.

September 14, 1998

Back to the dock my father built at Jackson’s Point, I saw it just recently (September, 1998) and it is still standing and in good shape.  It had two “L” shaped cedar log spans that are about 50 feet long and 20 feet across with an opening in the middle for the boats to come in and  out.  My father, my brother, Clayton and my cousin, Lionel Taylor built the dock by themselves.

After I quit high school (at age 14) I got a job at Duclos Point for a fellow named Don Sheppard.  I used to cut lawns and all kinds of work like putting in septic tanks and painting cottages.  We used to deliver ice on Friday nights after we cut it, me and Jim  Johnson (nicknamed Tex).  I worked there for five years and Tex worked there for seven years.  The ice was cut and delivered for use in the fridges.  They were in 200 pound blocks, and we had to cut them into four pieces each.  Most houses took one 50 pound block and other ones took two. A block of ice lasted one weekend, the deliveries were to cottagers who were only up for the weekend.  We used to work from 6pm to 10pm we continued working for Don Sheppard (cutting lawns, etc) until noon on Saturday. Then we’d have the rest of Saturday and all day Sunday off.

Each year I used to take two or three weeks off to cut my own hay and bring it in because I had 10 horses.  I worked for Don from April to October each year for five years.  During this time I traded a gun for a mare, named May (a nice big, black mare, about 2 years old)  In august every year I took 3 weeks off to do the haying.  Then, through the winter I sued to cut and haul wood from my bush with my horse, May and my dad’s horses an sell it mostly to Mr. Alan O’ Neill.  This wood was for firewood.  He used to cove over to the island with an old trailer and an old Model A ford to pick up the wood that we’d cut into 14 inch pieces.  We used a buzz saw after bringing it out of the bush to cut it down to size.

I also used to cut logs with Lionel Taylor on the Island and sell them to Jim Neilon.  We brought him 26,000 feet of logs in one day, that was the biggest load and one of the last loads I ever sold to him.  I used to get $40.00 for every 1,000 feet (from Jim Neilon ) Jim would drive over on the ice with his truck to pick up the logs.  These logs were cut up for lumber.

I had two teams of horses working all the time.  I drove one team and Lionel drove the other.

September 28, 1998

After those five years I worked in a provincial park, Sibbald Point Provincial Park.  I started off as a jack of all trades, in 1956 I guess. I cleared bush to create new campsites for a year. Then after that year Doug, the administrator of the park called me into the office.  I asked him “What for?” because I thought I was getting the sack, getting fired. Then, he said, No, you’re getting a promotion to foremen.? I told him that I didn’t want the job, because I was working with my brother, Clayton ad my friend, Stu McCue and Steven Ashquabe as handymen for the park.  I didn’t want to be their boss but I had no choice.  As foreman I had a gang of guys working for me, about 20 of them.  We continued to clear the park for campsites.  As the foreman I wasn’t supposed to do the work, just supervise the men.  A couple of times I got caught working with the men and caught hell for it!  I was working for a nice man, the superintendent, Doug Coutts.  Andrew Big Canoe used to work with us in the summer time. He had a ’55 black Ford that was in very good shape.

At about this time when I was 20-21, I was made Chief by acclamation.  It was just two days after my birthday.  My father and my neighbour, Mr.s Porte were counsellors.  It was like the mayor’s job in Sutton, I just looked after everything.  I got the hydro in.

I worked for Hydro, so did my brother.  Actually there were quire a few of us from the island that worked there.  I took time off from the park to work for Hydro.  This was the first time hydro was on the island.  We had to dig the holes for the posts.  They had to be four feet deep.  The ground was mostly rock so we had to blast the rock for the holes.

My niece, Lisa got married this weekend in Sutton.

To go back…
For two months in 1957, I took two months off from working at the park to work with Hydro.  The foreman did the blasting and we did the digging.  I did the hydro work starting in September through to November.  This was a very busy time because I was going the haying as well.  It was a good job. The pay was pretty good, it was $8.00 per hour.  That was good pay for those times…top wages in them days.

After November I went back to working at the park.  As foreman I also got $8.00 an hour, but before that I got paid $5.00 for being a Labourer.  I worked in the park all year long.  During the winter we cleared off the parking lot and made4 new campsites.  We had carpenters there doing work like making the comfort stations.  They were about four feet high in stonework and the rest was clapboard (rough lumber).

Around this time I had several girlfriends, seven as a matter of fact.  I saw a different girl each night of the week.  One girlfriend was Mary Blair, she used to come up every weekend from Toronto for two months in the summertime. Id see her every night on the weekends.  We sued to go out to a dance or go for a few beers at the hotel (about once a month). She was a very nice looking girl, she was beautiful.  She was 22 and I was 21.

I also used to go around with another girl from Toronto named Cathy.  Her father was C.O> Bick, a metropolitan police commissioner.  I would see her during the week.  There were two or three other girls, Mary Warren, she lived on the island. She never did marry. She moved up north about twenty years ago.  I never did get married myself.  I was too busy chasing girls.

I worked at the park until 1965.

My brother, Clayton got married in 1947.  His wife’s name was Virginia Marks from Christina Island (the other side of Penetang in Georgina Bay).  Altogether he had five kids, two boys and three girls. Eric was the first one, Myrtle was next, Georgia (she called herself Georgina) Roderick and Mavis (the youngest).  Myrtle works here, at River Glen Haven for seven years now. Virginia died about 5 years ago in October of a respiratory problem.  She was in hospital in Newmarket.  Eric died three years ago of cancer. Clayton is living with Myrtle on Park Road. The rest live on the Island. Rod has his own business, he has about 16 cows. He sells a couple of young cows (2 year olds) in the fall for meat.  He keeps most of the cows for himself for meat. Georgia is married to Wolski and lives in Pefferlaw.  H works for Hydro with boilers.  Mavis is married to a cop whose name is Paul Trivett, and they live on the Island.  He’s a cop in Orillia.  He started off as a cop on the island for two years, then he moved up North for a few years, then transferred to Orillia.  He’s a desk sergeant now.  He’s interested in the history of native culture an Indian medicine.  He knows quite a bit about it.

I ran the ice-house renting business for about five years until I was about 35 years old.  I can’t remember what I did after that.

When I was about 21  I ran my own taxi business on the Island.  In the summer I used to take people from their cottages to the ferry.  Most of the business in the summer wa son the weekends.  It was a 24 hour business through those times.  A friend of mine from the city, Jack Nichols, used to run the taxi for me on the weekends when I needed a drink. He spent about 10 or 12 years visiting my place every weekend throught the summer.  His two kids, Jackie and Georgia, and his wife Pauline used to stay on the idland at my place fo th ehwole summer from the end of June to the first of September. I agve up my bedroom for the summer and slept on the pullout couch.  Pauline and my dad used to go to Sutton, up the Black River to get a case of beer and a bottle of whiskey (Canadian Club) for me.  They’d tie the boat at the shore of the Black River and walk up to the beer store.  It w3as provate property but nobody minded.

I remember a time when my friend, Lionel Taylor and I drove up the river with my girlfriend, Mary Blair and Pauline to pick up tow or three cases of beer.  That was for our weekend drinking.  When we were pushing out, after we go the beer, Lionel pushed the boat out and fell in the water.  He was all green when he came up, covered with moss.  He was a nice blue suit too…and we hadn’t even started drinking yet!!  Did I ever laugh, and Mary and Pauline were upset because they thought he was drowning.  He got in by himself because I was too busy laughing, I couldn’t help him. He was always with me because he helped do the haying with me in the summer.

The taxi business operated all year round.  The difference in the winter was that I drove the customers across the ice to Sutton. Lionel used to drive taxi for me when I got tired.  I’d just give him a phone call and I’d go pick him up if he wanted to.  He was always willing to help, he never said no to me.  Lionel was my father’s nephew. So he’s my cousin. Lionel still lives on the island with his wife and his two sons who have stayed at home.  His three daughters live on their own on the island.  Lionel had a third son, Timmy who died in a three-wheeler accident about three years ago.  His oldest daughter, Lynn got married about three weeks ago, about a week before my niece.

Before I started working that e provincial Park, I worked as a carpenter on the Island, building houses.  I as a finisher and also did all kinds of work.  I dug the holes for the trenches to pour the cement in for the foundations.  They didn’t put in basements in them days.  I was about 21 years old in those days.  I can’t remember the guy’s name that I worked for , he was a contractor from Sutton.

When I was working in the park and 21 years old I became chief.  I was the youngest chief on record of the Chippewa Band for Georgina Island. My birthday was on the Saturday and I was nominated on Monday, the 21st of august.  I got in by acclamation the same as my father and my neighbour, Mrs. Porte when they were chiefs.  I threw a party for myself but the ladies brought the food.  I bought all the booze.

Once a month on the first Monday we had a council meeting.  The Indian affairs office was located in  Sutton, then in about 1962 it was moved up to Orillia.  Sometimes I went to Orillia on business for the band. I was the chief for about 6 and half years.  after that I gave it up because it was too much stress.  Can’t please everybody.  The hydro came on the island while I was chief.

I continued with the carpentry work for about five or six year.  After that when I was getting close to thirty years old, I started my own ice-house renting business fro friends of mine.  I was also doing a fishing business. I was a guide. Sometime the fishermen would call me out at midnight to pick them up from Virginia beach to come over to the island.  My fishing business covered the whole thing, renting boats, fishing equipment, bait, etc.  I operated the fishing business seven days a week so I was busy.  I didn’t have much time to take out the girls in them days.

Ever since I can remember my father used to get us our Christmas tree from his own bush.  We had some nice Christmas trees.  Many times the trees still had their own cones still on them.  They were beautiful trees. My dad had about 50 acres of wild land.  From it we would get our trees, but also we gathered sap in the spring to make our own maple syrup.  I was about 10 or 12 years old when I started helping my dad gather the sap.  There were about 75 to 100 maple trees.  We just made it for ourselves and used to give some of it away to family and neighbors.

We used to make maple syrup candy too.  We boiled the sap until it got gooey, then poured it into moulds.

The old lady beside us, we called  aunt Maggie.  Maggie Big Canoe, her name was.  George McCue, the fellow that drowned, used to help her gather sap from her trees.  She made enough to keep all through the summer.

Starting when I was about five or six, my mother and father used to make and sell baskets out of black ash trees from our woodlands.  My father used to get the black ash and then we used to pound it with  the back of the axe until strips came loose.  They had to be a certain thickness too.  We used to have an old fellow, named Roger Ashquabe, who helped to pound the black ash. Me and my brother used to get him drunk just for hellery cause we didn’t have anything to do.  My mother used to get a knife and peel it to a certain thickness and she’d run it through some sort of sharp thing toshred it to a certain width.  Then she dyed the black ash with a special dye from the drug store.  My mother used to weave the bsakets.  I did a few too.  I used to weave the little candy baskets and and got about $.50 to a dollar for each one.  After she made so many, she and my dad  and Viola Johnson used to take them to Beverton by boat to sell them along the way.  They had to stop on the way sometimes because the water got so rough.  The basket business was filling orders for cottagers along the waterway.  It’d take about a day to make a big  hamper basket, or two or three small baskets.  You could weave about five or six baskets from as ingle tree.  Mom did this weaving only in the summer time.  She also made model birch bark canoes and covered “jewellry cases” with quillwork woven on the top in different designs.



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