When I was growing up, my parents and siblings frequently spoke of long summer days at Elsie and Jim Downes’ in Sprucedale, Ontario. I did not share in these experiences, but enjoyed hearing the stories of North Ontario in the 1940’s. Everyone had a story. Diane spoke of pig rock, Mary Lou fondly remembered a night’s sleep on Elsie’s porch under one of her beautiful hand sewn quilts.
It was a time of World War and childhood diseases like polio. Mom and Dad loved to retreat to the safety of the northern woods for peace and quiet and away from large population centers in the summer. North Ontario was and still is a place of peace and solitude and is remembered in these photos of a time past but not forgotten.
These few photos are an attempt to capture some of that charm, with stories from my siblings to fill in the many blanks.
Sunporch at Elsie’s, overgrown, summer 2008.
The place has been abandoned and although numerous changes were made to the house the property is still recognizable. After many years of thinking about family stories, I made a concerted effort to find the farm in Sprucedale. Some is recognizable when compared to old photos. I hope to get one of my siblings to come next time.
Compare shot of Diane on stairs taken in August, 1945 with below taken August, 2008
Note that clapboard siding was placed over the raw pine underframe seen in the black & white photo. The steps seen in the black & white are obscured by the over growth of brush.
Dorothy & Dick in the tall pines
Timber was a mainstay of the Sprucedale economy
Pigs in the farm yard. Not sure where “Pig Rock” is though!
Dick on work horses
Bob, Dick Mary Lou & Diane
Sprucedale, Ontario- August 1945
Several years ago I showed this picture to Bob. He remembered that it was taken in August 1945. He was certain of it because Dad had shown him a newspaper that had front page news on the bombing of Hiroshima, Japan on August 6th, 1945. This would make Bob 7 years old.
Bob also remarked that he’d seen that face on his boys a few times over the years
another shot of Diane, August, 1945
Mary Lou & Diane at Elsie’s
note car on right of frame
Eloise Herrmann at Elsies
Buckboard and passengers, Sprucedale Depot
Jim Downes in Bowler hat
Woods in Sprucedale
Dorothy, Grandma Herrmann, Elsie & Jim Downes
I am unsure as to man on extreme left
Elsies in a recent satellite photo- note Lake on right, house on left
Bob says the lake has been increased in size over the years.
James Downes [Parents] was born in 1875 in Flos Twp, Simcoe, Ontario, Canada. He died in 1948 in Sprucedale, Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada. He was buried in Sprucedale, Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada. He married Elsie M. Fischer on 5 Jun 1905 in McMurrich Twp., Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada.
Elsie M. Fischer was born in 1884. She died in 1969 in Sprucedale, Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada. She was buried in Sprucedale, Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada. She married James Downes on 5 Jun 1905 in McMurrich Twp., Parry Sound, Ontario, Canada.
Dorothy, Elsie, Jim Downes