Memories of growing up in the small village of Baysville.
Our family first moved to Baysville in 1972. I was 6. All I knew when we moved from Algonquin Ave near Clappison’s Corner Hamilton to Baysville was that we were moving to the white house… I was so excited…it wasn’t until years later that I discovered it was not THAT white house.
Little did I know that our adventure to move north started with my dad visiting his friend Doug Duff in Bracebridge (Doug also happened to be his best man at their wedding). During his visit he asked Doug if there was anything around where a guy could make a living. About 3 months after that question was asked, Mr. Duff phoned dad to say that he and Joe Morrow were heading to Ingersol to pick up 2 new school buses. During the conversation Joe mentioned that if he had a chance to sell, he would, BUT, it would have to be to someone who would look after the whole lot; the busses, the garage and the house. (Yes, the white house!) So, in short, mom and dad made the decision to move to Baysville. With all five B’s in tow they headed North for one of the biggest adventures of their lives.
Funny how I don’t remember anything of the move but I do remember that house in detail, every square inch and even the phone number!
I am not sure if any of us Hicks kids ever told our parents just how lucky we were to have grown up in Baysville. All of us remember feeling safe and playing outside, down the street, at friends, at the docks, swimming lessons with Mrs. Kerr, snacks from Mr. and Mrs. Ferguson’s store, picking out gift from Garrod’s general store for Mother’s Day and Father’s day!. Dad winning a goat from the Lions Club draw and named him “Patches”. He lived in a shed in our back yard that ended up stinking to high heaven. I am surprised the Brownlees or the Millers didn’t complain about the stench! I think eventually Patches went to live with Milton Ruttan.
We knew almost everyone and everyone knew us. So, living in Baysville, you sure didn’t want to misbehave because you knew that if you did, your parents would be informed and waiting for you to get home to discuss the matter!
We spent many evenings enjoying the smorgasbord at Lincoln Lodge owned by the Maynard Family overlooking the “best place to eat by a dam site.” Langmaid’s was the best spot to get candy and ice cream. But once we got older the beer/liquor trailer became the best spot!
I know growing up we felt like there was nothing to do, but looking back I long for the lazy days on the dock, going for canoe/paddle boat rides or an adventure in the bush. We could walk anywhere in the village and knew who lived at each house. We knew our siblings friends and our friends siblings too-it was a wonderful feeling. When your town doesn’t have much in the away of entertainment (or so you think) it’s important to learn how to make your own fun and find people who share your sense of adventure and sense of humour. Growing up in a small town taught me the importance of finding “your” people – people who truly “get you”!
I have so many memories of doing stupid pointless things with some really great friends like; thinking we were cool and smoking mosquito coils down at the docks, driving around aimlessly, and no matter how old we were – dressing up for Halloween and none of the adults hassled us-they were happy to know where we were and what we were doing, skating on the lake, getting drunk watching bears at the dump, swimming from dock to dock, scaring each other with leeches, playing tennis without knowing the rules, buying pop and cheezies from Ferguson’s and sitting near the water watching boats go by! It didn’t matter what we were doing, just hanging out had purpose. We always found a way to have fun!
Eventually, we ended up moving from the white house to out on the Lake of Bays in a beautiful house sold to mom and dad by Shirley Ellis or maybe it was Lennie Biseck? Mom finally had her dream house on the water surrounded by trees.
If friends wanted to come visit, directions were easy...keep going past Birch Glenn Cottages towards Dorset and turn left onto Strathheid Road and go right to the end! Those directions came in handy when a snowmobiler went through the ice and the ambulance came. My friend Betty Ruttan and I had been sent to the highway to make sure the ambulance got the right directions. I remember mom being interviewed for her heroic act by the Huntsville radio station and the only part of the interview that was played was mom saying, “Well, I brought him into the house, got him naked and kept him warm by the fire!” Nothing was said about her being a nurse, or stealing the neighbor’s canoe, or getting this soaking wet man in a heavy drenched snowsuit into the canoe, or about using our wooden toboggan to pull him up to the house or indeed saving his life! Over the years it became a bit of a joke and we would laugh and laugh!
Mom and dad were entrepreneurial. Mom was an emergency room nurse at Hamilton General and dad had worked for Ready Mix Concrete before deciding to make the big move to Muskoka. 5 kids in tow they headed to Baysville to own and operate school busses of all things! It was then that the Hicks Bus Lines began. Mom and dad had the rural routes from Baysville to Bracebridge and from Baysville to Huntsville. Being out of town – the bus routes could be long. I remember the Bonnie Lake route seemed to take forever! We were fortunate that on snowy days or icy days dad would be up and out checking the roads at 5 or 6 am. If he felt they were too dangerous, he would cancel the busses and since we were the first to know, we would jump back into bed! It was a glorious feeling!
At one point mom and dad bought a house in Bracebridge right across from the BMLSS (our high school) which they renovated and then sold. We were so worried that we were going to have to leave Baysville and move to the “big” town! It was in that period of time where mom heard Glenn Campbell’s Rhinestone Cowboy playing hourly on the local radio station… I can still hear her say through gritted teeth how much she disliked that song. Oddly enough, a man named Glenn Campbell died the same day as mom and his obituary was printed beside hers.
Mom and dad also went on to buy a service station right across the street from Garrod’s General Store. It was named Bob’s Gas Bar which our oldest brother Bob would help run. Dad was pretty handy with a wrench and it was there he and my brother, Bob, would repair cars as well as buy and sell used cars. At one time there was a hairdresser in the building. I remember a striking woman named Helga Westlake who was the stylist there at the time. There was also a small apartment in the back that someone rented.
Mom and dad were also heavily involved in the Baysville Lions Club. I remember mom having purple and yellow material laying all over the living room while she sewed vests for all the members. If any new member needed vest mom would whip up another one.
People didn’t realize mom and dad used their own money to make these. Mom and dad were always generous with both time and money. Donating to this or that, housing exchange students for summers on end and were sure to be great ambassadors for the Lions Club and for Canada. Mom and dad started the Lions Club bottle return. Every week they spent countless hours sorting the empty beer, wine and alcohol bottles at the dump down Brunel Road. They then packed them up, put it in their own vehicle and took them to Bracebridge or Gravenhurst with no thought of remuneration for themselves. The money they received went directly to the Baysville Lions Club. At that time, it was sent to the camp on Lake Rosseau, given to help needy families, support the yearly Santa Claus parade and party for the children of Baysville and to many other worthy causes. Over the years, since mom and dad started the return bin, they have raised thousands and thousands of dollars. Mom and dad were happy to do it all the while with a smile on their faces.
Mom was an avid sewer and had “Sybil’ Sewing Cellar” where she sold material and gave sewing lessons as well. Mom was also active in the church activities and also played the organ at Bethune United. While she played, dad would be in the congregation and cough anytime she missed or played an incorrect note.
Mom loved gardening and had quite a creative green thumb and was heavily involved in the Baysville Horticultural Society. The Senior’s Centre was another area mom and dad were involved in!
Not only were mom and dad business owners, community members, Lions Members, with dad a Mason, and mom a member of the Eastern Star, mom and dad were also truly friendly and family people!
They loved having people over and putting on a big spread. The shenanigans that would happen at the Hicks table had us laughing for weeks and stories were retold at the following get together. We had a table that would pull-out with 8 leaves able to be added. The most we had for a sit down dinner one night held 23 people around the table. I don’t remember everyone there that night but I do remember that the Armstrong family was in attendance! Chris and Eddy and their kids: Tony, Barry, Tina & Tammy!
Mom and dad, both, had a wicked sense of humour and people would catch on quickly that this was not an ordinary household. Mom and dad offered an open home to anyone who showed up.
For twenty years mom and dad had Hicks Bus Lines in Baysville. They took care in choosing drivers as they recognized that their cargo of children was precious. A job they understood and took very seriously. Among the drivers I remember; Brian Hunt, Grace van Setters, Bob MacIntyre, Barry Wynn, Joy Seymour and of course Ron and Sybil!
Small towns may mean that everyone knows your business, but it also means they will be there to support you through triumphs and struggles. I remember one time I had fallen asleep in a little cove above the stairs in the white house – mom and dad couldn’t find me…when I woke up and wandered into the kitchen mom burst into tears – apparently the whole town was out looking for me. Now THAT, is a caring small town!
Most of us kids had already left Muskoka, except for Brenda who remained in Bracebridge. Fortunately, for mom and dad, she was there to help when mom was diagnosed with Alzheimers. Being in a small town and people knowing your situation – people learn how to be good neighbours and everyone was very understanding if mom was at the post office and not sure why she was there or who she was picking up the mail for. Mom passed away February 2, 2019 with Brenda at her side. Mom hadn’t spoken for a number of years, so we wrote her obituary in first person giving her a voice one last time. It was written in true Sybil fashion and it went viral – mom was finally travelling the world as she had once hoped to do with dad in retirement. (Obituary in separate blog but can be found here)
Dad is currently living in Hamilton and I know he reminisces of his time in Baysville with fond memories.
I know that my siblings, Bob, Brian, Brenda and Bruce would have some funny anecdotes or childhood stories to share. If you were fortunate enough to have remained in Baysville, I hope you and your family are as happy as we were growing up! Lucky you!
How wonderful for our whole Hicks family that dad, Mr. Duff and Mr. Morrow had the conversation that they did in 1971!
Barb (Hicks) Drummond
Contributed to “Baysville: Next Generation” - by Judy Ruttan.
For Ron & Sybil Hicks
(Barb absent from family photos as usual)