Memories of Turner's Camp - circa 1950
- Fred Gossard, Florida USA
From 1940 to 1982 when he sold his cedar cabin at Beaver
Dam Lake, my father visited Turner's Camp to fish. In the early years
my father rented a cabin at Turner's where meals were served in the dining
room behind the store (later, living room) for around 25 cents. John Joe
and Dolly Turner had restarant tables in that room where they served guests.
John Joe also guided and prepared meals for guests in neighbouring Algonquin
Park. My father recalls one such trip when John Joe walked ahead of the
car, guiding dad around rocks on an old logging road while carrying a
50-pound back-pack filled with potatoes and vegetables, canned goods and
utensils; he was about 50 years old at the time. As meal-time approached,
John Joe walked on ahead to the cabin and by the time my father got there
with the car, John Joe had the potatoes peeled and boiling on the wood
My first holiday at Turner's Camp was at two months of age in August,
1953. A few years later, I remember helping John Joe Turner retrieve ice
blocks from the ice house. First he directed me to push back the sawdust
(which I was at the time, 5 years of age, excited to do). Underneath I
discovered large blocks of ice sawn from the Bonnechere River. Then John
Joe carried a 25-pound block to each cabin that had an icebox.
Other stories John Joe has told me was how he had mastered the skill of
paddling a canoe as a child and how he hunted deer as a child. He learned
that in order to be absolutley quiet he had to turn the paddle sideways
to go forward in the water and turn sideways to slide the paddle back.
One day as he turned a bend in the river on the Bonnechere, he came face
to face with an Indian from Golden Lakein doing the same thing.
I remember around 1965, Reg Turner showing my father and I a Ski Doo,
which we had never seen before. He explained how he used it to drag pelts
on a makeshift sled made from an auto hood, back to his home from his
trap lines. We never saw a snowmobile in the United States until 1970.
Above the rafters in Reg's garage was a birch bark canoe he explained
was John Joe's; it appeared to be at least 50 years old.
I remember my father had fished at High Falls with John Joe as a guide
and they encountered a stone and dirt den used by wolves for years; there
were hundreds of bones of various species laying about.
I remember one evening in the mid-1950s we were all in Turner's Camp store
and wolves had made a kill across the river directly behind the store.
As they gathered up they began to fight and enforced pack rank standings,
which were so terrible sounding it had the hair on the back of my neck
standing out. My parents decided I could stay up later than usual that
night until we all returned to the cabin together. John Joe also told
us about an incident when as an Algonquin Park Ranger he sighted wolves
killing a pregnant doe, and how repulsed he was when he saw them tearing
the unborn fawn out of her.
I remember one evening at Turner's Camp my older sister sang at the piano
in the living room behind the store; many people used to gather in there
after dinner. Fred Turner would play the fiddle in his unique style: he
held the bow still and moved the violin back and forth to create the melody.
He was very good with this procedure.