Hay Island, Ontario


When I was a young boy of 12-14, I spent three summers at the Byrnell Manor Hockey Camp, in Fenelon Falls, Ontario. The camp had everything. Located on Cameron Lake (the biggest lake I’d ever seen, but a mere whisper to its neighbors), the camp had a swimming dock, two boats for waterskiing and fishing, ball fields of all kinds, and its own 9 hole golf course.

And two Newfies who didn’t know their own size or strength.

Those were idyllic summers, filled from sunrise to sunset with physical activity of all kinds. I played golf, hockey, softball, soccer every day. I swam, fished, waterskied, and rode Canadian horses that had been captured from the wilds of northern Manitoba (or so I was told).

The memories are still vivid, even the “wedgie competitions” that I was forced into by my senior cottage Czar, a goalie from Norwood named Neil Higgins. Neil was a character, perhaps better known not for his goaltending expertise (he had a so-so college and professional record) as much as for the fact that he wore one of the first form-fitting fiberglass face masks in hockey, thanks to the dedication and genius of his father, Ernie Higgins.

What has this got to do with Hay Island, you ask?

One of the travel routes to our destination took us through the Thousand Islands area, via NY137, which begins where US81 ends, right before Collins Landing. Ever since the day we drove that road over the St. Lawrence River, I have had a picture of it etched in my mind and wanted to go back.

Hay Island is one of those thousand. It is a comparatively large island, on the Canada side of the river off of Gananoque, ON, perhaps 50 miles southwest of the bridge. It is the home of an old, close friend from boarding school days, built almost two centuries ago by a Georgia paper mill owner. He has invited a bunch of his old friends up to join him for a weekend of music and frivolity.

I am bringing my Stratocaster and Yamaha, and he tells me that the water line to my cabin has just been repaired.

I’m getting all giddy already.


27 Responses to “Hay Island, Ontario”

  1. 1 Peter Robbins

    Sounds like another wonderful adventure awaits you. Enjoy!

  2. 2 gerrymccullough

    Brilliant post – like all your writing, Pete!

  3. Are you sure we’re going to let you into Canada, Pete?

  4. 5 Rick Reeve

    I was at Byrnell with Pete and his brother, and like Pete I have fond memories of the Newfies, the sports and Neil “Sugarbear” Higgins and numerous other campers from both sides of the border. . Remember when all the American campers were leaving camp to fly home in their Madras sports coats and all of the fireworks that they could not obtain in the states taped inside the linings of theses jackets. Something that they would definitely not be doing in these times, but then again that was a long time ago.

    • 6 Pete

      Whaaaa??? Rick, this is extraordinary! How did you find this?

      • 7 Rick Reeve

        Pete, I Googled Byrnell and up popped your BLOG, There aren’t many days go by that a memory from Byrnell doesn’t come to mind. A name or and an event sticks out in the grey matter, maybe its an age thing but no matter what my memories of Byrnell are more than pleasant. I forwarded a copy of your Blog to Mimi (Stukus) Vickers as we are on Facebook together, It is nice to be in touch with someone that was at Byrnell. I will check in on your Blog frequently.

  5. 8 Mimi Vickers

    Hi there, I’m Mimi Stukus Vickers, my mom and dad, Frank & Anna Stukus ran Byrnell with my uncle Bill Stukus. It was a great place to grow up, I was very fortunate. It’s so nice that other people have wonderful memories of Byrnell also. Thank you for that.

    • 9 Pete

      Hello Mimi! I remember you, and I remember both your parents and your uncle. I remember some things quite vividly, like being the home plate umpire during one of the HIGHLY competitive softball games, when Frank wasn’t pleased with one of my calls at the plate (he thought I’d been unduly influenced by Davey Sullivan).

      I also remember when “the seance” occurred, in your living room, if I recall the house correctly.

      Funny what you remember (and what you forget)!

  6. 10 Sue O'Shea Brown

    I, too, have wonderful Fenelon Falls memories as a kid but as the pesky little sister of the O’Shea brothers. I would love to someday return to the area. I was also googling and came across this.

    • Sue, perhaps you were one of the few local girls brave enough to go to the movie theater when the campers descended by the busload.

  7. I was at the camp 4 summers, 1963-67. We all had crushes on Mimi and Nancy Schmidt, Milt’s daughter. Mrs Hubley was the camp nurse and practically had a heart attack when she saw me tasting some lasagna sauce I was making in the camp kitchen for Frank Stukas and his family – I put the tasting spoon back in the pot! Everybody smoked cigarettes in those days, hockey players old and new. The rink was in Lindsley, 45min bus ride away. The weekly price was an unheard-of $100!! Pierre Pilotte and Alan Stanley were the NHL players; Ed Chadwick was my favorite player, I thought the nicest guy. I would occasionally see Milt Schmidt and his wife at Bruins games in Boston, when a box seat cost $5 in the old garden. I don’t know where the last 50 years went, but hockey is still the greatest game to play and watch, the skill levels of today’s players is mind boggling!!

    • Another alumnus, Rick!

      Also appearing during the time: Reggie Fleming, Arnie Brown (“Buttercup” to his detractors), and…

      anybody? Rick?

      (this is remarkable, when you think about it.)

      • Pete Pretty neat ,we should get a face book page set up for Byrnell, Mimi said that she still has a lot of memorabilia from camp. Freddie Stanfield, Jean Ratelle,Red Sullivan,Bobby Hull and on and on. I saw Bobby at a couple of functions a few years ago and mentioned Byrnell Manor, he pretty well ignored the other people in line as we reminisced Byrnell while the other people waited to get his autograph.
        Still can see the bandages Mrs Hubley put on Jimmy Glover when he got road rash from sliding into 2ND base,he could have passed as a mummie by the time Mrs Hubley had administered her medical care to Jimmy. Then the games started with who could get the most bandage coverage on their scratches with a visit to Mrs Hubley. Should have bought stock in Johnson and Johnson would have been better returns than Apple shares if Mrs Hubley kept bandaging up the wounds and scratches that we got at camp.PeteThanks for your original post brings back a lot of good times from days gone by. Hope others see your post and respond too.

  8. Pete what is nhaven’s name?

  9. 16 Jimmy

    I remember picking you up one time. It was late afternoon or so and we were driving across a flat plain and a very cool Canadian DJ played Dylan’s Sad-eyed Lady of the Lowlands, the first time I’d ever heard it and a perfect setting for it. It’s been my favorite Dylan song ever since.

  10. 18 Tom Hoyle

    I too, was at this hockey camp and I remember you Pete, you were/are a few years older than me. I came up with the group from Norwood, Mass. I was there for two years 1967-68
    Tom Hoyle

    • 19 Ri

      Tom, did you come up with Sugar Bear Higgins, Jacky Cronin and Howey HaaS al the Norwood Nuggets?

      • I was in that cabin with Higgins! He was the Boss and used to make me and another kid wedgie-wrestle. Can’t remember that kid’s name.

        I went home with almost no intact underwear.

      • 21 Tom hoyle

        I was there with a group from Norwood Ma, I remember the Higgins family very well, my father and I were mask wearing goaltenders.
        Steve Sterling was there at the time and we had the cottage down by the water, separate from the main lodge. It was an experience I’ve alway cherished and it’s been a topic of conversation with my kids many many nights at the dinner table.

      • 22 Pete

        I have since recalled that Howie Haas was in the cottage with us too, and the kid’s name was Carr.

      • 23 Tom Hoyle

        I did not come up there with Neil although he was the reason I went there, my father and I both had his Dad make us our goalie masks. I was there with others from Norwood. Steve Sterling as I recall was one of the counselors there. I Still have old post cards I sent to my parents letting them know all was fine but could use more cash !! Very fond memories of that place……..

  11. Fruit of the Loom, and Hanes took a beating with just your standard every day over the head wedgies there .

  12. Thanks for the Byrnell Manor blog. I was there from 1966 – 69 and have great memories. I played in a tournament a couple of years ago here in Nashville with a friend from Tampa and we were both surprised to find out that we both attended Byrnell Manor. I still have a mini souvenir hockey stick from camp. A facebook page would be great if Mimi or anyone else has some old photos.

    • 26 Pete

      Thanks for commenting, Les. So we were there at the same time, too.

      It still amazes me that people find this blog post.

      • Steve Sterling was an on ice coach in 69, the last year that I was there. There was one year that Howe Haas played Bev Jewett in golf match most of the camp was there at the 9th hole by the store watching the final putts. Don’t remember which one took the title. Looks like we were all there at the same time. It would be nice to have a Facebook page. I found an old T shirt sweater when going through my treasure trove of stuff, Norwood Nuggets #19, Sugar Bear gave it to me, ” indubitably” seemed to be his catch word.

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