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Flashback to old-fashioned fun at Lakeshore Lodge

Park staff and students in an old-fashioned tug-o-war

Story and photos by Sharon Harrison
More than 120 years ago, summer picnics were conducted a little differently to those we enjoy today – but the spirit of gathering has not changed.

Games formed much of the fun back in the 1890s along with delicious, simple food. The Friends of Sandbanks hosted a second Lakeshore Lodge Day this month on the grounds beside the footprint of the once-grand Lakeshore Lodge, at West Point. Two events were held this year to help celebrate Ontario Parks’ 125th anniversary.

The afternoon’s events were inspired by the activities of the 1890s as many park staff dressed in appropriate-era clothing and hosted early 19th-century games.

Jak boils up the corn for hungry visitors

The old-fashioned picnic included fresh-cooked corn, prepared in a pot over an open flame, refreshing lemonade, music, face painting and horse-drawn wagon rides. It all took place under cooling shade trees on the property.

“Lakeshore Lodge Day is all put on by Natural Heritage Education (NHE) staff,” said Penny Sipkes, board member of the Friends of Sandbanks. “The naturalists and their students work here in the park during the summer and this is one of the fun days they put on. Kids get to dress up in old-fashioned clothing, they have face painting and it’s a fun day all around.”

Elle and Carrie from NPE were on face-painting duty and saw line-ups at their booth by mid-afternoon. County Museums employee Shannon Andrews was at the wooden games table explaining the old-fashioned wooden toys including dominoes, spinning tops, Jacobs ladder and more.

A good selection of period clothing was available for dress-up and proved popular for many – even on the hot summer day. A large painted background of the majestic Lakeshore Lodge was available for those who wanted to pose in their 19th-century attire.

Information panels with photographs on Lakeshore Lodge’s history through the ages were on display as well as information on the County’s five museums.

There was no shortage of willing participants for the potato sack, three-legged and potato and spoon races. There was rolling pin throwing, the over and under game, and for those over age 14, the nail driving game.

Tug-o-war proved to be one of the more exciting and challenging events. The first tug was mixed with girls and boys on each side; the next was girls versus boys (the girls won). Children versus parents came next with the kids easily winning. The fun tugs concluded with staff versus campers with the campers pulling the win – although they were outnumbered by at least five to one.
The shoe scramble was a popular 19th-century game. Girls traditionally stood on one side, boys on the other, while the girls removed one shoe and placed it in the centre between the two groups. The boys began the race by running to the middle to retrieve a shoe and then continued on to the group of girls to find the shoe’s owner. In years gone by, the ‘find a shoe, find a match’ game ensured a date with the girl whose shoe the boy held.

Ribbons were given out to all those who participated in the afternoon’s games and activities.

Friends of Sandbanks is a not-for-profit organization with the aim and object of supporting the park.

“There are a dozen or so friends groups within Ontario Parks and we are one of them,” said Sipkes. “Basically, our job is to support the park as much as we can and most of the things we do are on the NHE side of things. For example, we work on trails putting in the bind gravel. The park does all the work, we just provide the money and hence, everything we do is designed to make money so that we can put it back into the park. We are very keen on the education; we plant a lot of trees every year; for about the past eight years we have put about $5,000 worth of trees into the park.”

Shannon Andrews demonstrates old-fashioned wooden games and toys.

The potato sack races about to start

The three-legged race

The face painting table with painters Elle and Carrie.

The potato and spoon race begins.

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