Memories of Algonquin Park
Where do I get my inspiration? Read on and see…
I’ve made a few edits to the original blog.
Andy and Jessie Grant – a War, a Wedding, a Family, and a Park My grandfather, Andrew Martin Grant, joined the Canadian Overseas Expeditionary Force in World War I. He was injured by a shell explosion, left lying on the battlefield, and went on to serve in England’s 528th Forestry Battalion in England until the end of World War I.
During that time, he met, fell in love with, and married Jessie Beauchamp in December, 1917. After the war ended November 11, 1918, they decided to remain in England where Jessie had family.
Jessie’s first son, my Uncle Norman, was born in England in early 1919. By that time Andy was missing Canada, so Jessie and Andy decided that, with Britain’s economy in post-war economic chaos and jobs scarce, Andy should take his family home to Canada where he knew he could get work.
Jessie would stay in England until her second child, my father, was born.
My father, William Douglas Grant (Doug), was born September 12, 1920.
Five weeks later Jessie and her babies sailed from Liverpool, bound for Canada. After 21 days of rough water, she was grateful to meet her father-in-law and let him take over getting her to her new home with Andy in Algonquin Park.
Andy’s father came to Daventry to work in a sawmill there, and Andy followed him briefly before becoming a park ranger. For decades Andy provided licenses, watched for fires and poachers, and rescued lost campers. On several occasions he retrieved bodies of drowned victims. [On one occasion, …] The body of Damasse Pigeau, a section man who drowned late one fall when his canoe overturned, was not found until the following spring. [On another, two…] Americans were retrieved from the fast water of the Amable du Fond. [Andy and Jessie Grant are remembered in the following poem] “When you step from the train you’re sure to see Andy, the Mayor of Daventry; The man who handles the fishing school. When he shakes your hand he doesn’t fool.”***“Well, here you are at the end of the trail Mrs. Grant is sorting the mail She knows you’re starved by your hungry look And Boy! Does she ever know how to cook.”
A Tale of Two Homes Andy was assigned a Park Warden’s house located on a hill about a mile from the village of Daventry. The cabin was poorly insulated, with gaps between the floorboards that small boys loved to drop coins through— and by the summer of 1924, it was overflowing with four energetic small boys.
In 1924, a devastating fire forced Andy to put his wife and children on a raft on the lake while he soaked the house with water to save it. Andy was not allowed to build a larger than normal ranger’s cabin at Daventry to accommodate his family, so he built a home of his own nearby. It remains today as a Grant cottage. (Source: http://bit.ly/AndyAtDaventry)
The Algonquin Park home my grandfather built. Back Row: Andrew and Jessie Grant, the grandparents. Front Row: Norman and Helen Grant with their first two children, my cousins Douglas and Gary (Picture taken in 1949)
“The Big Fella” Bernice Cleator recounts the night Norman and Douglas Grant rescued Bernice and two of her teenage friends who were stranded in the Algonquin Park bush with a canoe. [They…] quickly assessed our predicament and came up with a solution. Norm took Toby in his canoe, and Doug took Aleda and me in ours. Their powerful strokes swept us down the lake through the darkness, and when the moon rose above the pointed tops of the pines the journey was perfect. They insisted on seeing us right to the door of our cabin, “Just in case ‘the ‘big fella’ is prowling around,” Norm said.
“Have you seen him yet?” asked Doug.
No, we hadn’t seen him, but we’d certainly heard him. The “big fella” was a bear who was never far from our cabin… We never came up the path from the lake, or set foot out the back to the outhouse without taking the axe. Source: Doug Mackey’s Algonquin Park Remembrances II.
Building an Airplane In addition to rescuing teenaged girls, Uncle Norm and my Dad helped Grandpa with work on the cabin. Once, they built an airplane out of wood, hauled it up onto the roof, and argued with each other about which of them should take the first flight off the roof in the airplane’s cockpit. In my father’s version of the story, my Uncle Norman was the one who foolishly piloted the airplane’s first (and last) flight, flying the wooden airplane straight into the ground below. Later I learned from my cousin Ken that in his father’s version, it was my father who crashed the wooden plane into the ground.
Just like a puppy dog … My mother tells me that she once took me on Algonquin Park train when I was still a toddler. As she tells the story, once the train was underway I pulled out my potty, set it in the aisle, and did what toddlers are supposed to do in their potties. I don’t remember any of it: not the train, not the potty, not my mother’s embarrassment at my public exhibition. But I do remember my father quoting a couple of lines from a poem about the Algonquin Park train: “Just like a puppy dog out for a stroll, it [the train] stops at every telephone pole”
Following the Grant Tradition ~ Telling Stories I’ve always been fascinated by the strong effect environment and setting can have on our lives. Isolated settings can be extraordinarily powerful, remotely beautiful, and filled with unknown hazards and opportunities. I’ve lived in and visited many remote places, several of which have made their way into my romance novels. Here are a couple of my favorites…
Stray Lady by Vanessa Grant
After three years Georgina still hadn’t adjusted to life without her husband. In an effort to fill in the time, she decided to sail their boat, the Lady Harriet, down the west coast of Canada, but foul weather resulted in the boat smashing up near Green Island I lived on Green Island Lighthouse for 2 years. It’s on British Columbia’s west coast, 6 miles south of the Alaska panhandle, isolated, treeless, and beautiful. Click the link for more about Stray Lady
Awakening Dreams by Vanessa Grant
A city tax auditor and a wilderness pilot… They were lucky to be alive! Crystal and Jesse were lucky to survive the seaplane crash, but trekking out of the wilderness was hardly a normal mode of travel for a late-to-work tax auditor like Crystal. Her pilot, Jesse, insisted that it was the only chance for survival. Trusting Jesse was Crystal’s only alternative, and in doing so she found the strength to face her past and commit to the future. This book is set among the islands on the North Pacific coast of British Columbia, which my husband Brian and I cruised for years on our sailboat. Click the link for more about Awakening Dreams