The Growth of Minden and Area (1946-1964)
The first two major waves of polio outbreaks hit Ontario in 1929 and 1937. The third wave, which struck summer after summer from 1946 until 1953, was the most severe. The children of young middle-class families living in the new post-war suburbs were especially vulnerable. Parents were advised to take or send their children to the country whenever possible, and this was one of the primary reasons for the increased popularity of lodges and summer camps and the rising sale of cottage lots in Haliburton.
The first bank robbery in the county occurred at the Canadian Bank of Commerce in Minden in 1946. No guns were involved. The crooks gained entry through a back window and then used an axe to hack through the wood and plaster wall to get into the vault, which contained a large, steel safe and safety deposit boxes. 30 of the boxes, containing bonds, personal papers and jewelry worth approximately $150,000, were taken. A few months later, the bonds and papers were found in Toronto. The jewelry was never recovered and no arrests were ever made. The second robbery attempt took place in 1962 at the Bank of Montreal in Haliburton village. Although nothing was taken, the bank manager was shot and killed. A suspect was arrested a few hours later in Kinmount.
In 1946, at the north end of Big Bob Lake, Bill Pete Smith opened the Venture Inn, a hunting and fishing lodge (shown in red on the map below) with half a dozen cabins and outhouses. The same year, David and John Hamilton bought land at the south end of the lake (shown in blue on the map below), and began building a lodge building / dining room and eight cabins with outhouses. Bigbob Lodge opened the following year.
Muriel and Bud Medley opened Medley’s Bowl and Dance Hall in Carnarvon in 1948. It quickly became a popular venue for cottagers. The following year, the Medleys opened Minden Bowl on Main Street (where Minden Pharmasave is now located). The bowling alley in Minden was closed in the mid-1970s, and the Carnarvon dance hall was destroyed in a fire in the fall of 2013.
In 1950, Tom and Lucy Rivers, and their teenage son Joe, bought a farm (lots 4 and 5, concession I of Anson Township) directly east of the Tennison farm. Their property ran north of the River Road and the farmhouse was located at what is now 4079 Deep Bay Road. During the winter months in the 1950s, Joe remembers taking a team of horses and a sled to log behind the South Bob Lake cottages. His favourite spot for ice fishing was in front of Bigbob Lodge. In late winter, he would cut blocks of ice from Bob Lake and take them into Minden for the stores to use and sell during the summer months. In the late 1950s, Tom sold half of the farm to start a garbage collection and septic-tank pumping business. There was a small garbage dump on his property, and at the north end, there was a pond where sewage from the truck was emptied. A decade later, Joe sold the garbage collection business to Reg Garbutt and concentrated his efforts on septic pumping. On a nice summer day, everyone on the cottage line would know that Joe and his truck were in the area if they caught a whiff of sewage.
Throughout the 1960s and 70s, cottagers would often stop at the Rivers’ farmhouse to buy fresh eggs from Gwen Cox, Joe’s partner. The family also kept a small herd of cattle until the early 1970s. A green metal gate (presently located at 1066 Tennyson Road) marked the trail to their upper pasture. Joe retired around 1980, and he and Gwen now live in a cottage on the Gull River across from their original farmhouse.
In 1950, the 50’ fire tower near Bob Lake Road was replaced with an 85’ steel structure. The tower was staffed seven days a week throughout the year. Entry to the enclosed observation room was through a trap door in the floor. On a clear day, the ranger could see all the way up to Lake of Bays and there was a phone to contact the Minden headquarters to report any smoke observed.
Newlyweds Gloria and Angus Cameron took over the tower in May, 1951 and moved into the base cabin, a 12’ square room with no partitions and a double steel bunk bed in one corner. There was no electricity or running water. Gloria cooked on a 2-burner kerosene stove, and water was carried in 5-gallon cans from either the Sawyer or Holmes farm which was located about half a mile away. During their second year, a 2-room cottage was built to replace the log cabin but there was still no electricity or running water. After the birth of their second child, Gloria and Angus left the tower in the fall of 1953. Full time ranger service was slowly phased out and the tower was abandoned by the mid-1960s. After that, some of the teenage cottagers from Bob Lake would take their boats to the dam, park at the ramp, walk over to the fire tower and check out the view from the top. For safety reasons, the tower was removed in 1970.
In 1952, Dorothy Thayer moved from Hamilton to Minden to teach at its continuation school. For an annual salary of $2800, Dorothy taught English literature, math, science, Latin, art, career choices and girls’ physical education to several grades.
The following year, the county closed both of its continuation schools and Dorothy was transferred to the new Haliburton County District High School in Haliburton village. The school opened in September on the south shore of Head Lake, and offered Grades Nine through 13. About 250 students were bused in from all over the county. The school was staffed by a principal, who taught half of the day, and eight full-time teachers. In 1968, when the Haliburton County Board of Education was formed, the school was renamed Haliburton Highlands Secondary School.
In the spring of 1954, Bob and Jean Minto opened Minto Marine (on the property where the current Jug City and Shell Gas Station are located). For the next 25 years, Minto Marine was the primary marina in the Haliburton area and was used by most of the original Bob Lake cottagers. In the basement of the marina, Bob’s sister May built the famous cedar-strip Minto canoes. Garry Anderson bought the marina in 1976, and Doug Thompson (our local marine mechanic) began his apprenticeship there in 1978. Garry sold the business in 1986 and two years later the building was destroyed in a fire.
May Minto’s twin sister, Winnifred, who had been working as a clerk in Welch’s General Store since the 1930s, remembers that the Hamilton brothers regularly shopped at Welch’s for supplies needed at Bigbob Lodge during the 1940s and 50s. Winnie was well known to early Bob Lake cottagers.
In the summer of 1954, the Highway 35 Minden bypass was constructed and became the current highway route. Prior to that time, the highway passed through downtown Minden along Bobcaygeon Road to the bridge, and then right onto South Water Street to run north past the entrance to the Beaverbrook Golf Course.
The following year, Lloyd Brown and Richard Paterson purchased lots 9 and 10, concession I at the south end of Bob Lake from the Hamilton brothers. By the end of June, 31 lakefront cottage lots had been surveyed and were offered for sale at a price of about $500 per lot. The first cottage lots sold were numbers 1 to 10, which contained Bigbob Lodge. The lots were bought by Orval and Irma Gillespie who became the new proprietors of the lodge. Orval handled the maintenance while Irma did the cooking and administrative work.
After working at E.A. Roger’s General Store for 25 years, Mark McKay left in 1945 to work in construction at Camp Borden. Ten years later, he returned to Minden and started his own construction company. Between 1955 and 1959, Mark built the 14 original cottages in the South Bob Lake development. The buildings were approximately 780 square feet (30’x26’) with indoor plumbing and had one of three basic floor plans. They sold for about $5,600 and for an additional charge, Mark would add a porch to the cottage.
In 1956, the Dollo brothers opened an IGA Food Market on the west side of Main Street. At that time, Easton’s Red & White grocery store was already operating on the opposite side of the street (where the variety store is now located). Rumour had it that the produce was better at IGA and the meat was better at Red & White.
Since the Dollos were friends of Orval and Irma Gillespie, they started to hold their annual summer IGA staff parties at Bigbob Lodge in the late 1950s.
In the fall of 1956, the Minden Red Cross Outpost Hospital opened near the corner of Highway 35 and Bobcaygeon Road. The hospital operated until 2000, when the current Minden Hospital opened next to the Hyland Crest Long-Term Care Home. The old hospital became a veterinary clinic and was later remodeled into affordable housing units.
A new brick building with six classrooms, a gym and a library was constructed in 1960 behind the stone elementary school, and the two buildings were named the Archie Stouffer Public School. After two more renovations, the original stone building still remains at the front of the present-day school complex.
In 1964, Rackety Ranch resort on Little Bob Lake was purchased by members of the Vagabond Motorcycle Club. It was used as a clubhouse during the following two decades, when the members were regularly seen cruising along Deep Bay Road as they travelled to and from Minden.
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