Otter Lake Cottagers Association

Memories of Cottaging Alongside Camp Otter: By Su Penny

Our family built a cottage on Otter Lake 55 years ago and we rented a cottage for the year before this from the Shephards who owned a store on the lake. As a hobby, my dad built the rock wall along the beach at the Shephards that is still there today.

Or cottage is situated on the large open bay of Otter Lake and our view was the Camp including everything that happened there. I was personally an extremely active child who was outside from sunrise to sunset, living on the lake. I have lots of memories of Camp Otter. Here are some.

The Camp had a large dock with a diving board made from a large thick plank of wood. Kids would line up on the dock, climb up the few steps and dive into the water that was about ten feet deep.

At night, they would sit like silhouettes on the dock. My best friend at the time, Chris Pohran, masked and snorkeled around the dock and Rocky Island where the campers often had overnight camping experiences. We found tubes of toothpaste, oil lamps and pop and beer bottles, left overs from some of the campers who accidentally lost their steps in the night.

The Shephards had a store at the end of the lake that operated every summer while the Camp was open. At our cottage, each of us children were required to either catch a fish or pick a cup of berries before we could go out to play each day and we earned five cents per week for this ‘job’ that really became our passion. The thrill of the week’s efforts was our visit to Shephards store.

The Saturday event was really thrilling. It was always full of campers who were the same ages as my older brother and sister. There was a wall of penny candies, and five cents could fill a small paper bag, which would keep me going for a week. Blackballs, strawberry marshmallows, pixie sticks, licorice cigars. I could go on.

In the 50’s and 60’s, Jack Crewson and his family lived in a farmhouse on the property where the Greenaway’s now lives. Jack worked with the Camp and the Crewson’s were our neighbours. We enjoyed visiting the Crewson’s in the winter when we walked in to our cottage, and Mrs. Crewson would make us hot chocolate to warm us up before our climb through the deep snow and after our dig out when we were going home. There was one winter when it was so cold the Crewson’s built a stall in their living room beside the pot belly wood stove so their horse could stay warm as well. It was a wonderfully warm memory for me and helped me to truly fall in love with Dorset and the people who live there. Many of these ‘locals’ became my best friends although several are not living anymore.

As we became teenagers on the lake, our paddling skills became strong and our curiosity with the campers became stronger.

For fun one night, a large group of us from the lake and Dorset (I won’t implicate anyone other than myself here) paddled quietly over to the Camp point where the Acker’s live today, and camped overnight while the Camp was quite active. It was fun when the canoes started to arrive from the Camp in the morning, and there was a really fun chase on the water with us in our canoes and they in theirs. They just could not paddle fast enough to reach us but it was fun watching them try.

Around the time the song American Woman came out and our Canadian patriotism became strong, there was a July 1st celebration by the campers that night. A few of us, paddled to the bay about 100 yards from the beach and, when they were all standing at attention singing the Star Spangled Banner, we stood up in our canoes and sang Oh Canada as loud as we could. A wall of canoes left their beach toward us, but they couldn’t paddle fast enough. Just fun stuff that teenagers do.

The Camp was eventually sold and divided into lots where many cottages are today. There are times when I miss watching the Camp regatta that took place on a large beach, that is still there today, and the annual canoe race that started at the beach and went around the Blueberry to Teachers Island chain, back to the beach, paddles splashing everywhere.

The lake was active then when there were no roads to two thirds of the cottages and boats travelled back and forth from cottage to store with people yelling “Hello the Penny’s” when they drove by.

Great memories from Otter Lake.