You Can’t Go Back!

Here it is January and it’s -16 degrees C outside!  The 2oldguyswalking team are looking forward to Spring  when we can get into some real walking routes with descriptions and pictures relating to this blog.  But until then I would like a change of subject and get philosophical here to entertain you with this post.

They say you can’t go back and whoever “they” are, they seem to be right!  When I was a young rug-rat my parents informed me it was time I went to school and get educated.  No, I did not have to walk ten miles uphill both ways to get to school.  The quaint little one room school was next door to my home.  It was called Camborne SS #10 ½.  Sixty years later I am still bewildered where the ½ came from, no other school in Ontario seems to have the ½ designation!  This school had grade 1 to grade 8 all in one room!  We should have all been really well learned as we were exposed to a ton of info as the teacher went from grade to grade with lessons.

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Finally at grade 8 graduation (unlike today, there was no wild party attended by parents and friends to celebrate this great event!)  Guess what…they closed this little school the year I went to High School ten miles away and had to ride the big yellow bus to get there!  A new multi-room school complete with a large gymnasium was established that year.

Note:  This school still exists and is used as a community meeting place complete with a great new playground.

At about this time Camborne was blessed with a great Ski Club.  This club was owned by a wonderful couple named Mr & Mrs D who hired what seems like hundreds of neighborhood kids in their first time paid jobs.  I was lucky to get the best job there…the rope-tow operator!  The rope-tow was actually a ’48 Chev car with the body removed.  It was enclosed in a wooden shack at the top of the ski hill, and powered a rope that ran in a loop to the bottom of the hill.  To ski to the top of the hill, skiers had to get in the ‘groove’ with their skis and grab the moving rope under their arm and hang on for dear life with both hands to ascend the hill.  Here is the best part of the job, I could bring selected friends up the hill twice as fast as they would ever go down it simply by pressing down hard on the gas pedal!  Almost as much fun was to stop the rope when same friends were half way up and watch six people fall flat on the ground and then try to get back onto the moving rope!

Again in life, the year I had to leave for a real job, the Club installed a really swanky chair lift to replace the rope-tow!

NOTE:  The Ski Club was closed soon after as climate change prevented the needed snow cover on the south-east facing hill.

At this time, my father passed away and soon after my mother sold the beloved 120 acre farm where I was raised with my ten siblings.  The good news here was that Mr & Mrs D had bought from my dad about twenty-five acres of land for the ski hill expansion and their beautiful chalet home before the rest of the farm was sold.  It is still a joy for my sisters and I to visit with Mr & Mrs D.

Next to (almost) disappear was the Camborne United Church.  It was in need of plenty of restoration and the dwindling congregation forced it to close for many years.  The graveyard here is the final resting place for some of my family members and many old friends and neighbors.  I still like to explore here to check names and dates on the many tombstones.

NOTE:  Thanks to many Camborne residents and especially  Mr & Mrs D, the church has now been renovated, reopened and attended by many for church services, funerals, weddings and community events.

Another closure!!  The Emond General Store closed!!  This was where my parents could buy goods on credit (before credit cards) and all residents picked up their mail here (the first community mail boxes!)  Us kids collected empty pop bottles along the highway and turned them in to Albert Emond for a pop and a chocolate bar, all for twenty cents (and got two cents back on the pop bottle).

In the early seventies my grandmother passed away and my wife and I bought her old homestead in Coldsprings.  After twelve years of extensive renovations we sold this home to my sister and brother-in-law.  They then sold it to my cousin.  In the mean time we could still visit the old place, but it is now occupied by strangers.

About thirty years ago we bought my mother-in-laws house in uptown Port Hope, a rambling old 150 year old double brick house with an old barn (see the posting “Base Camp”)  and lots of old chestnut, black locust, maple, cedar and walnut trees.   My “Garden of Eden” was soon created with all my favorite plants and shrubs, flowers and lots of grass.  Many varmints also made this their home.  Squirrels, skunks, chipmunks, groundhogs, rabbits and racoons soon visited the one acre ‘zoo’.  We even had a one-time visit from a young deer!

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Four years ago the Ex and I sold the old home (Divorce) where my two sons spent most of their growing up years.  After sitting empty for a few years, the new owners decided to raze the old house and removed the old barn and cut down most of the old trees.  They have grand plans to construct a new four-thousand square foot mansion, multi-car garage and an artist’s studio.  The good news here is the construction crew was given permission to dismantle the home and to recycle almost all of the materials from it.  All metal went to the local scrap yard, patio paving stones & basement rocks will be used in future landscaping projects.  All lumber from the roof and pine floor boards will be re-milled and reused elsewhere.  Scrap wood will be turned into wood chips for the contractor’s wood-chip fueled boiler and all brick rubble is now a base for a new driveway.  The ornate front porch even has a new home somewhere in town.

The rare “Port Hope” bricks were likely produced from an old brick yard that once operated near the location of the apartment building in which I now reside!  Many local restorations will benefit from these bricks and most will go to a restoration project in the historic Distillery District in Toronto.

The General Foods/Kraft factory in Cobourg where I worked for almost forty years has now closed, and has gone from a state of the art food grade manufacturing building to a recycling depot!  This sprawling factory once employed over twelve-hundred employees when I was hired there in 1966 as a Quality Control Technician.  Products you will all be familiar with were produced there.  Jell-o, Tang,  Crystal Light, Shake N Bake,  Kool  Aid,  Cool Whip,  General Foods International  Coffee,  Minute Rice and all the Post Cereals  were made there.  Some products that may not be so familiar to you are Awake (frozen orange juice);  LaFrance (laundry soap);  Swans Down (cake mix);  After Five Cocktail Mix and in a separate building Gaines Pet Food.

My old High School, the Cobourg District Collegiate Institute West that  I attended for five years (I liked grade nine so much I did that one twice) and they must have thought that I also liked grade twelve as they asked me to repeat that one also!  But by now I hated High School, so I eventually earned my grade twelve diploma via the Ontario Study at home program!

One other thing from my past is now slated to be removed from my life!  The old one- lane Mill Street Bridge appropriately named after an old, long-gone Mill ( does every village and town in Canada have a Mill Street?)  has been declared to be too old, unsafe and expensive to be replaced.  After much public input  (read anger!)  it has been blocked to all but pedestrian use and when Township coffers allow, it will be replaced by a new pedestrian only bridge.  As a kid, I used to impress my friends by walking along the railings on the old bridge,  seems really a dumb thing to do now as it was a long way down to the stream below.   To those old friends…the secret to my bravery (stupidity) was to always, and I mean always, lean towards the road side…not the water side!

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This bridge is still open and can be located in Camborne via Albert’s Alley west off Northumberland County Rd. 18.  To drive there, take Kennedy Rd. west from County Rd. 18 and turn south on (guess what! A NO EXIT) Doyle Road and park at the bottom of Toenail Hill.    I would bet good money that no one in Camborne (but Mr & Mrs D) know that hill has an name!  When this bridge is replaced, hopefully this year, the 2oldguyswalking team will be there with a before & after posting all about it.  Stay tuned.

Yes, maybe I am getting a bit paranoid…but on the bright side, at my age there ain’t many more places left that I can’t go back to!

Ranger.

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11 comments

  1. Bushwacker's LilSis · · Reply

    Ranger I really enjoyed walking down memory lane with you. Was nice to get to ‘meet’ you. Maybe one day Bushwacker will introduce us…if I ever get there for a visit!

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  2. Thanks for comment, looking forward to meeting you. This summer we can show you one of our favorite haunts.
    Ranger

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  3. Stumbled across this blog while doing a google search for Camborne ski club , spent everyday and night they were open there , loved that place. Mr & Mrs Doyle were fantastic people,everytime I think of the ski hill I remember walking into the chalet and smelling the cheese burgers cooking on the flat top !! Man they hit the spot !!! And the tow rope…. remember that also, we used to love taking that thing and holding on for dear life …. speeding up… stopping 3/4’s of the way up… buddy in front snapping the rope as he let go in hope’s of making you fall lol , my parents hated picking me up after a day of skiing and using the tow rope , it just shredded your gloves right up and they would have to buy me a new set LOL…. what a great time I had out there, awesome memories.

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  4. I also stumbled upon your blog googling info about the old Camborne ski club. I moved to Camborne about 15 years ago as a grade 3 student, and ever since discovering that the there was once a ski hill so close to my home I have been intrigued by it. I really enjoyed reading about your memories of the hill and what it used to be like, I just wish that it could still be around to enjoy! Although there is now a large home being constructed at the top of the hill I plan on skiing the old trails within the next few days. Also, I had no idea that the hill by the bridge was called toenail hill haha I’d like to know how that name came about.
    Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Dan Climo · · Reply

    what a blast from the past! I remember one of the tow operators was Bernie. My dad and I were on the ski patrol, and yes, Carol’s burgers on the grill were the absolute best. I remember our pot-luck dinners at the end of every season, and all the friends I made from the local area. What a charming area. – Dan Climo – Port Hope

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  6. Like others, I found this in a search for the ski hill, inspired by… well, you know how these wanderings go. I learned to ski on that hill in the 1970’s, and I didn’t know that it had even closed, much less that it was so long ago. Thanks for an informative and entertaining diversion.

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  7. Just a small note to clarify directions for those wanting to visit the old bridge or Toenail Hill…
    If you want to get to the east end, you just go down Albert’s Alley (not Court) from County Rd. 18 (the road is blocked at the bridge); if you want to drive to the west end by the old ski club, you take Kennedy Rd. west from County Rd. 18, then Jibb Road (right after the school), and then turn south on the other end of Albert’s Alley to Doyle Road.

    Google Maps is a wonderful thing to see what everything looks like now (or at least recently), but we need “old guys” to tell us about how they were.

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  8. Brian, thanks for your correct information Re: Albert’s Alley (not Albert’s Court). You would wonder how I could have missed this as I lived my first 21 years on Albert’s Alley then known as Mill Street! Thanks again, Ranger.

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    1. I wondered why “Albert’s Alley” – as it is now shown on maps and signs – wasn’t familiar to me: it wasn’t called that! Even the other road names in the area all seem new, because Hamilton Township changed from “Lines” and “Concession Roads” to naming after local families, long after I left. It makes sense, and I like the idea of keeping local history alive, but it’s harder to navigate without a map. Of course, everyone has maps on electronic devices now.

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  9. Ewart Timlin · · Reply

    The information is really relevant as we have lived on Albert,s Alley for 42 years.I feel that the name of our street should be changed to Albert’s Lane as the word alley denotes a negative idea.Neverless ,I enjoyed reading your blog Ranger. Keep up the good work!

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  10. Ewart, thanks for your kind words. You might really enjoy the Camborne Ghost Mills. They would have been located very near your home…Agree Albert’s Lane would have been a better choice.
    Ranger.

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