Wandering Around Out There With A Canoe On My Head

Family Day 2012

by Preston
February 20, 2012

Another great Frozen Offseason activity is getting out there and have some fun with your family. What better day than the one dedicated specifically for this kind of thing: Family Day.

In Alberta, Ontario and Saskatchewan, the third Monday of February has become known as Family Day, the idea being to celebrate the importance of family life, and being a stat holiday, give people the opportunity to do so. Being a relatively new holiday, it lacks the tradition of the more established holidays, but people seem to be really buying into the idea. It’s not only a great time to do some family activities, but a great opportunity to reflect on all those times you spent with Mom and Dad, sisters and brothers and the rest of the family. What I think about most is the quintessential family experience: the Family Vacation.

The (Sub)urban Tourist was looking for pictures of families doing something fun together outdoors, having posted her own memories on her blog. I thought the challenge was a great excuse to go over and get Mom’s photo albums out and check out some of my own family outdoor memories. When I was a kid, that’s what you did with your family. Holidays were spent at parks, vacations meant camping, and time off from school was spent “up north” with my grandparents in South River. I found a lot of great stuff and I’ll share a bit of it below. Maybe they’ll evoke your own family outdoor memories like the (Sub)urban Tourist’s did for me. I suggest you find some old albums and take your own paddle down memory lane.


 This isn’t actually us on safari, regardless of how realistic it may appear. We’re at the African Lion Safari outside Hamilton. Not exactly “outside”, but I include this because it’s a family picture but with a very interesting story. Apparently shortly after this was taken, my little head (center, being held by my mother) was licked by a lion. It’s a story neither of my parents have told in me in full, no matter how many times I ask. Needless to say, I’ve not returned since I found this out, in case of a Captain Hook scenario where there’s some lion out there dreaming about that tasty little boy.

 As I mentioned, my grandfather lived in South River. He moved up there in 1972 when the government was selling off 100 acre plots of undeveloped woodland. He bought one in which he planned on building his house. He did so himself (he didn’t “have it built”) with some help from friends and family – or whoever was visiting. We have a lot of fond memories of the process, but none funnier than when he had dug out the basement (by dynamite – it is on the Great Canadian Shield) , he was informed he had built it on the wrong 100 acres. This picture is of my father, brother and I cooking our meals over the fire on my grandfather’s 200 acres.

The house took a few years to build. It was a small house that was made to be livable at first, then added onto over the years. With all the additions and upgrades made over the years you could probably say it was never truly finished. This is a picture of my mother, probably wondering how long this process would take.

There was always work to do at my grandfather’s. If it wasn’t working on the house, wood needed to be collected for the winter, for him and others. He made a (very small) bit of money selling wood, while I became an expert wood splitter and stacker.  Pictured here is me, my cousin Barb, Opa (my grandfather) and my brother in the background. (I found out recently that my grandmother had put in a clause when they later sold off parts of their land that for any white pine cut down, another had to be planted in its place.)

After the work was done, we would spend the rest of the time wandering around the woods, as my mother and younger sister are doing here….

… While my brother and I gather pickle jars for… well, I’m sure there was some reason.

This picture is from one of the best and unique places for family fun in the Near North: The Funny Farm. It was a petting zoo, with exotic animals you could feed pellets, but also paired (strangely enough) with an ice cream parlour. You first would choose your cone flavour, then the soft serve ice cream type – vanilla, chocolate or a swirl of both – then your real decision started. Long before Dairy Queen or McDonalds had these options, the Funny Farm had a wall full of ingredients that could be added to your ice cream, blended and crushed as necessary – and you could choose two for each cone. They had candies and different types of cookies, fruits, nuts or flavour liquids. As you can imagine, it took us kids forever to decide. Often we would come up with some strange combinations. It was the greatest place. Later they would have small rides and other activities, but probably due to the remote location (it was off the highway near Powassan, Ontario), it eventually went out of business. The part that amuses me most about this photo is that with all the strange animals I could be interacting with, I’m hanging out with the owner’s dog, “secretly” feeding him the pellets those chickens relied on.


Family Day is a winter holiday, which was also a lot of fun Up North. Pictured here is my sister and I – me with my all time favourite winter coat. It had all kinds of pockets, was just like Han Solo wore on Hoth, and it appears to have a badge of some kind (I’m sure there’s a story behind that, which I’ve since forgotten).


 Family vacations for us, as with many people, were camping around the province. It was significantly less expensive alternative to staying at hotels or cottages. We made our own fun, and trekked to our sights – we often never knew what we’d see nor where we’d find those sights, but we always found something. In this picture we bought a second hand pop-up trailer (the first of two we’d own). Even when at home the trailer would be set up for us kids to “camp out”.

A lot of the time we didn’t have a trailer, instead we had those big canvas tents, to which I still maintain a nostalgic admiration and contempt. They were heavy, were a pain to put up, leaked, never quite zipped up all the way, but we sure had a lot of fun in them. But even under those circumstances, my mother made sure we kept a civilized campsite. We must have stayed in nearly every provincial park, but at each stay we kept a clean site, ate very well and had a lot of fun.

We’d travel from camp to camp and picnic for lunch. This not only saved money, but it allowed us to see more, and of course hang out as a family. When we did get stop for a burger it was a treat, and it felt that way. This picture is at a rest stop near Martin River, along Highway 11. I have a lot of fond memories of these stops – often having little unexpected adventures on the way to the destination. Many years later I would stop at this exact spot with my nieces and nephews in tow, about to have an “incident” because my niece refused to use the portable toilets they have now.

I traveled with a dog back then too, and as it turns out, one that looks very similar to Nancy. This dog’s name is Sassy, and she was a great dog. She was sweet but had a mean streak when necessary (she once took on a bear, but that’s another story). Here my brother keeps Sassy close for protection. (I would have been very, very upset to discover Sassy on Pieter’s bed rather than mine.)

It seems everyone I talk to about camping had at least one big, epic, family vacation. For us it was an almost circuit tour of the province, camping and checking out the sites everywhere along the way. The is (Magpie) High Falls in Wawa, a place my father spent a lot of time in his youth, and wanted to make sure to bring us kids to see it. Here my brother, sister and I play close to the falls – which you’d be blocked off from doing now.

 We spent nearly the entire summer driving from Hamilton to past Thunder Bay, then back around the northern part of highway 11 then back down south. We checked the map and expected to have covered the entire province, and I remember thinking about how much we didn’t see, how huge the province was – and so the country, the world really was. Maybe next year.

For kids the best part of staying at provincial parks was that they nearly always had a beach. Here my sister and mother ham it up for the camera, with my brother holding one of the foster children we used to take in. I believe my parents may still have at least one of those coolers.

I’ll leave you with a picture parents might enjoy. This is from a tour of the Subury mines. Not sure where we found a jail there, but after a long day, but perhaps we weren’t as well behaved as my memory suggests. Happy Family Day. Hope these pictures remind you of your own family trips, vacations and days spent together. As always, I’d love to hear about them. Leave a comment, send me a message on facebook, or if you do find your own pictures, post them up on the (Sub)urban Tourist’s page. I’d love to see them.

  • I’m glad I provided you with the inspiration to go over old photos. What a great post! Some of your driving trip photos and stops remind me of the stops we had. One place was on Airport Rd/Highway 18 – an ice cream shop that we used to always stop at when traveling south to Toronto from annual visits in Midland.

  • Excellent posting. Brings back memories of the family trips from days gone by. My mother has been making scrapbooks for each child and grandchild, so we have been sampling the photos of our family. We were at Magpie High Falls too. Thanks for the memories!

  • South River was an amazing place! thank you for writing this! it brings me back to alot of happy memories, and kinda make me feel a little old! lol.

  • Thanks guys. I really appreciate the kind words.

    @Marg: I’m amazed at how many people I’ve known who’ve not only been there but have a family photo and a story to go with it.

    @Barb – Yeah, I know. I not only had hair, but it was blond?! Must be even worse for you though, being older than I.

  • I just stumbled upon this post (having missed it somehow when first published) and must say I really enjoyed the pictures and the stories behind them. Really dig that you had a dog when you were a boy that looked so much like Nancy! I love Nancy! :o)

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