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HomeNewsMemories Of Rosedale  With Paul Arkwright, Jim Hopkins And Judy Beall

Memories Of Rosedale  With Paul Arkwright, Jim Hopkins And Judy Beall

This story is part of our partnership with Maryboro Lodge The Fenelon Falls Museum and was written by Glenn Walker.

KAWARTHA LAKES-In the Upper Trent Valley, Rosedale is one of many villages that formed at a cataract on the waterway. But unlike most of the other potential mill sites, this rapid was not developed as a centre of processing either farm or forest produce. As the log drives came down the Gull and Burnt River systems, countless sawlogs passed through or near Rosedale on their way to mills further downstream. “Before there were locks, there was not much water where the bridge is now,” Paul explains. “You could take a canoe through it, but you had to be damn careful.” There are significant wetlands in the area, and from this site north, agriculture is practical only in certain pockets of land.

Though Rosedale was never connected to a railway network, transportation was very important to the community’s development. In part, because it was one of the easier cataracts to overcome, the Rosedale lock was built between 1869 and 1873—long before the necessary locks were added at Fenelon Falls and between Balsam Lake and Lake Simcoe. Rosedale was also located on the Cameron Colonization Road (similar in route to Highway 35), which the government constructed to open up the townships to the north for settlement.

For generations, Rosedale evolved as this intersection of the road and the waterway, and by the late nineteenth century, it was becoming a destination for summer recreation. Notable among its early cottagers was James Dickson, a Fenelon Falls land surveyor whose ideas helped shape the creation of Algonquin Park, hence Ontario Parks. In that period, steamboats connecting with railways at Fenelon Falls, Coboconk or Lindsay were the fastest routes for visitors from a distance. There were competing integrated steamship networks. 

In the early twentieth century, the advent of automobiles and motor boats created new possibilities for visitors to the region. Rather than bringing the scheduled steamship (or a team of horses) to visit the village, motorists had the convenience of driving themselves, and the opportunity to take a motor boat anywhere on adjacent lakes. Lots on Rosedale’s waterfront and main street developed, with many cottages or lodges, gas stations and marinas. Looking back, Judy recalls that it grew into being “the cottage capital of the Kawarthas.”

Cedar Villa Lodge as seen from Balsam Lake

Jim recalls that in the 1940s, “the shoreline of Balsam Lake was mostly forested. There were not many cottages there when I was young. They had started building cottages at the Cedars, and there were perhaps 20 or more there, then those on both sides of the Royal Motel were built in the late 1940s and 1950s. Back then, many people would drive to Rosedale and stay at the Cedars, the Royal Motel, Cedar Villa, Burroughes’ and Shannondoah—along the canal in Rosedale or the shore of Balsam Lake. People would rent a boat and there was great pickerel fishing in Balsam Lake for many years.”

An Aerial View of Royal Resort

“Starting in the 1950s, Dad [Harold Hopkins] was busy with Don Phillips building cottages at Driftwood Village and Lightning Point. That boom in cottage construction started in the 1950s. A lot more people were building private cottages, which allowed them to come up for the summer, instead of staying for a week or two. Since then, many have changed into permanent homes, which has created the dilemmas of today—septic, roads, education and snowplowing. Many of them were not built as year round dwellings, at the time there was no planning for winter maintenance, but then people started staying year round.”

Paul’s father, Wilfrid, also helped build accommodations on Balsam Lake. “In the winter, Dad worked for a relative who owned the Royal Motel. He also helped build six cottages up there at the Cedars. At the time, Storm Construction was putting in the road from Rosedale to Coboconk. They had a lot of fill from the highway that they did not want to use themselves, so my Dad and my Uncle Percy Ellis went out and told they crew putting the road in that they could use some of the fill that was not wanted for the road. It had been marsh where the cottages were built, and they said they could not back in to dump, so they went to the guy in the bulldozer to have him level the ground at the cottages—they did it for nothing, just to get rid of the fill.”

“The cottages they were building just sat on blocks, and one was made out of logs,” Paul explains. “There were trees growing there and they just cut them down, and stacked the logs to build it. It’s in pretty rough shape now, but it is still there.”

“Rosedale did not have any significant productive industry,” Jim says. “It tourism, tourism and more tourism. Frank Shannon built Shannondoah Lodge. It catered to elite visitors, he knew them from his business connections. He looked after them really well and could charge a premium rate.” Paul continues, “My dad did quite a bit of gardening for him.”

On the north shore, just west of the Bridge, Bert Bennett started Bennetts cabins, a business that later passed to Bob and Connie Burroughs, then Mel Davies who turned it into Twin Spruce Villa. “They had quite a few cottages for people to stay there, and people would come to stay for one night or a few days,” Paul recalls. “The cabins were not big—there was room to lay down in bed, but that was about all. There was a bed to sleep in and a chair. When Burroughs bought it, most people did not have a television, and there were no radios in the cabins.” Over the years, Rosedale was home to many other accommodations, including: Shorelea Resort, Rosedale Marine and Tourist Court, the Balsam Resort, Whispering Pines, Arkadia Trailer Park, Cedar Villa, Sylvan Lodge and Belvedere Lodge. 

The Balsam Resort started out as Club Balsam. Hugo and Lucille Beall operated this restaurant and gas station. They served hamburgers, French fries, and club sandwiches. “Lucille made a lot of pies over the years,” Judy recalls. “The restaurant’s banana burger had peanut butter on it, but no bananas. It was named after Lucille’s daughter Nan.” In the 1960s the business became the Balsam Motel and Cottages, the motel was the building closest to the water. It was renamed the Balsam Resort in the 1980s. “By then, the former restaurant building was used as a games room, then an antique store. It was torn down several years ago.”

In the 1940s, just down the main street on the opposite side of the Presbyterian Church was Bert and Betty’s Tuck Shop, operated by the Bennetts, who also rented cabins on the other side of the bridge. Paul recounts, “later on it became Fred and Dot’s Restaurant. They served hamburgers, hot dogs, French fries, grilled cheese sandwiches, milk shakes and ice cream. At that time, most of the restaurants had that on the menu.”

In between these two restaurants, Hazel Miller operated a general store. “She was a pretty good lady,” Paul remembers. “She was a lovely person, friendly and outgoing. She had the basic groceries—bread, sliced meat and cheese. I often went over with my dad. He would ask her if her cheese was good, and she would reply ‘yes.’ Then he would say that that ‘You have to try it before you can say it is good.’ So she would usually give him a piece of cheese. One day, she wouldn’t give Dad a piece of cheese, so then he said that ‘you can leave it there.’ Hazel also operated the post office out of the store.” She had several helpers over the years, including Alva Goodhand, the Potter sisters and Elmer Irwin. “After buying the store, the next owner, Maria continued to sell groceries until about the year 2000.” 

In its earlier days, Miller’s also operated a service station—one of many on the main thoroughfare. For a few years, Bob Conkwright’s gas station and convenience store was an unforgettable place to visit—located at the corner of Goodman Road, just across the river. “He had a black bear in a cage as a tourist attraction,” Jim explains. “People were told not to feed the bear, because it would reach out to grab food… Don’t feed the bear, don’t poke the bear.” Paul continues, “If you gave a pop to the bear he would just guzzle it down and many people did feed the bear. He was a very friendly bear.”

“The bear was there for a number of summers, and Bob had it so it could hibernate right in the cage,” Jim explains. “The cage was about the size of a room in a house. The bear was there for a few summers, but then it got crusty.” 

“In summertime, everyone was busy, so there was not much time for social activities,” Jim explains. But the annual regatta was one of the most popular and anticipated events in Rosedale. Hosted from the 1940s to the 1960s, it consisted of swimming and canoe races in the canal, with motorized races around Balsam Lake. In the 1950s, sea flea racing was a popular event, and Al Lytle was a memorable competitor. Other events included canoe jousting, where pairs of participants would stand in canoes, with a padded wooden pole, trying to dunk their opponent, while remaining upright themselves. 

Tilting contest at the Rosedale Regatta

“The river was very busy when I was in high school in the early 1950s,” Jim remembers. “There were all kinds of boats going through. A lot of the visitors were Americans, who would drive up for a vacation, rent a boat and tour the lakes. Since our dollar was cheaper, they would get a lot more for their money. There would be people fishing all over Pigeon, Sturgeon, Cameron and Balsam Lake. Balsam was the largest, and well known for its Muskie and Pickerel.”

Rosedale fishing guide Wilfrid Arkwright with a Muskie caught by his customer Gurlie Ponger

“People would fish right off the piers on the river,” Jim articulates. “They would also fish right off the dam. This area was advertised as one of the key fishing areas, and it was a lot busier after the Second World War.” Paul continues: “When I was young, a lot of people fished off the dam. But then I can remember four people who drowned falling off the dram, so they put up gates to stop people from falling off. This year they put in the markers to stop people from even going up to the dam.”

“My father did a lot of guiding,” Paul recounts. “He spent a lot of time at Cedar Villa Lodge and would take people out in their boats. There were some pretty good fish in Balsam and Cameron Lake—people were mostly fishing for bass. We had some pickerel then, but not as many as would come later. Today there are pike in Balsam and Cameron Lake, but there were none back then. They came in here maybe 10 years go.” 

“I don’t know how Dad got into guiding,” Paul says. “Aub Phillips had the marina at Cedar Villa. He would draw his people from the States, and asked Dad [Wilfrid Arkwright] to be there in July and August. One couple came up from Pennsylvania, Lee and Freda Fry. They would book Dad for the first two weeks of July every year. When they were done their two weeks, then the next customer would be Gurlie Ponger.”

“When I was young, you could drive right up to the lock,” Paul explains. “I used to go over there and catch little green frogs. I would come back with 4 or 5 dozen, and then I sold them for a nickel a piece. I would sell them to the fishermen on the dock, or on the dam here. Sylvester Sawyer used to sell bait on the dock. He had a box full of minnows and frogs.”

“When I was 12 or 14, the bridge master would get in the wobby pop and pass out, then the boats would be in the canal blowing their whistles. The bridge had to be turned manually. There was a big wheel under the bridge, and you would turn steel handle to make the bridge swing. The bridgemaster’s house was on the north shore, beside the bridge.”

The Lockmasters House, Rosedale


“The lockmaster’s house was located on the island between the canal and the dam,” Paul continues. “There was not road access, so they would have to carry in everything that they needed across the locks or dam. I can remember when the lockmaster lived there—Merv Long was one and he was also the deputy game warden. He would just stay there in the summer time. He had a Dispro boat, with a rudder at the back, that would shoot water out the side. You could hear it go, ‘put, put, put, put, put, put. Afterwards, the lockmaster’s house sat vacant for many years, then it burned down in the 1980s.”

In winter, Rosedale was home to an outdoor hockey rink, that was on Tartan Street, right beside Hazel Miller’s store. “It was built right on the roadway, with boards around it,” Jim observes. “They had cabins for the teams to get changed. The home team was on the north side and the visiting team on the south. Bill Graham had a water truck, and pumped water from the canal to flood the rink—it was natural ice. We played there for several years. There was a hockey league, and we travelled to play against other small communities, like the Red Rock Roosters, Cameron, Cambray and Zion (which was located where Zehr’s bakery is today). All of the teams were fairly close by, because otherwise it would be too far to travel. We only played against other communities with outdoor rinks—those big enough to have an indoor rink, like Coboconk, Fenelon Falls and Bobcaygeon had their own league. After the rink closed beside Mrs. Millers, then a few hockey games were held in the field beside my dad’s [Harold Hopkin’s] house, which is now a treed area beside my son Dwayne’s house.”

“The league did not have a name,” Jim continues. “There would be a few spectators at the games. But there was no great number. You would throw all the snow off the ice over the boards, and the crowd would just stand on the snowbanks that were made by throwing the ice over the side. Back then, there were no helmets and you made your own stick, often from ash lumber. It had a natural curl in it. When boughten sticks came in, you could choose a left hand or right handed stick. There were also neutral sticks. If your stick did have a curve on it, it would only be a slight curve—sticks with big curves were not part of hockey back then.”

“Hockey was contact,” Jim notes. “But it was not as significant as it would become. We had shoulder pads, elbow pads, shin pads, gloves, pants and skates—all of them boughten. The equipment was fairly heavy, leather and a bit awkward. The shoulder pads had hard tops on them. You got your skates fit, so they fit pretty well. They had a leather boot, and blades with a rocker.”

“You would just pick one of the players, and say you are the referee tonight,” Paul notes. “We had a ref jersey for him. One night we played until there was so much snow on the ice that you couldn’t see the puck any more as it slid across. When we played over at Zion, the lighting was not so good—it was about half a dozen 200 watt bulbs strung around the rink. One night we played until 10 or 11 o’clock, and after everybody left the ice we heard a big boom. The arena was behind the gas station, and air had formed under the ice and a big chunk blew out.”

“The hockey was competitive,” Jim explains. “The teams were made up mostly of younger men and the Rosedale team had guys who were in their 30s. Shirley Wilson kept stats for the team, as her husband Ross was playing. In Coboconk, the team was part of Ontario Rural Hockey—they were in the ‘D’ League. Haliburton, Cannington and many other communities also iced a team.”

Rosedale’s Presbyterian Church was right beside Hazel Miller’s store. It had an aisle running down the centre with pews on either side. “Mrs. Mary Halliday played the organ,” Paul recalls. She was also the teacher at Baddow’s S.S. #4 Somerville. “Her boys looked after the church, and made sure the heat was on. When I was a boy, it was heated with wood, but later on they put in an oil furnace. My mother, Alzena (McGregor) used to sing in the church and she had a really beautiful voice. She would often sing a solo for the congregation. The church closed about 12 years ago.” 

Because Rosedale did not have a school of its own, village children would walk south on the Cameron Road (later Highway 35) to S.S. #8 Fenelon Falls, while those north of town would walk to Baddow. “It might take an hour to walk down. When you went into the school and up the stairs, there was a boys’ room on the left side (seen from the road), and the girls on the right. When you went past the cloak rooms, you were in the school. Downstairs there was a playroom, and a wood furnace, with the wood stacked inside. Freda Bulmer (Kelly) was my teacher. Later it was Marlene Sedgewick, who came from the Gelert or Lochlin area. Every year, we had a Christmas concert, and once we tried to do gymnastics, but it did not turn out so good. When I went to high school, I had to walk out to the highway to meet the bus.” 

In 1962, the swing bridge over Rosedale’s river was replaced by a higher, fixed, concrete span, which was located a little further to the east. What had once been the main street through the community became Bridge Street, which did not have nearly the traffic that it once did. Rosedale would never be quite the same again. As the many gas stations and stores found themselves off the beaten path, it was harder for them to survive. At the same time, more and more families owned their own cottage. Though short-term rentals would continue for generations to come, there would not be as many as there were 1950s and 1960s. “All those properties along the water have changed hands many times,” Jim notes. And with them the community has changed too. While the canal used to be home to tourist lodges, today the lots have been consolidated into marinas, private homes and cottages. Rosedale is a community that continues to evolve with changing perceptions of summer recreation.

This story is a memory and nobody’s memory is perfect. Sometimes details get a little mixed up, things get forgotten or overlooked, and the perspective is inevitably subjective. If you notice something that not right, have something you would like to tell us, or a memory to share the museum would be happy to hear from you: [email protected]

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