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Celebrating 50 Years @ Kennisis Lake (1966-2016)


Marg and Wilf Everitt first fell in love with Kennisis Lake when they stayed at Windermere Cottages back in the summer of 1960. Their adventure was just beginning when they sold their home in Toronto and moved north. Kennisis was a very different place back in August 1966 when the Everitt’s first took possession of the Marina. There were only one or two other permanent residents on the lake. Without running water, that first winter, they cut holes in the ice and drew from the lake. Every night, their son Larry would have this chore and then an early morning trek to the old mill where the bus would drop off the mill workers and take him and his sister to school. Several times a day the mill whistle would blow, and in the summer it marked the time for the cottagers who had happily left their watches in the city.

The marina quickly became the central hub of Kennisis, the meeting and gathering place for cottagers of all ages. Riina Pearson, whose family have owned a cottage on Kennisis since 1957, recalls it clearly: “How could I forget those Saturday night dances? The restaurant with the spinning stools, the gift shop and general store! Everitt’s had everything from a thriving restaurant, where people would gather, to a full grocery store and post office. Those were the days! Oh, Marg Everitt, we miss you!” 1987 marks the year the Everitt’s sold the marina and moved to their current location at 4415 Kennisis Lake Rd with their new and various enterprises.

Along with all a good marina had to offer, the Everitt’s also provided gas pumps -- for cars and boats, and a Community Centre where fantastic bands from out of town played many Saturday nights. It was not uncommon to have 100 teenagers at the dance hall, and Marg was always on hand to chaperone and keep an eye on things. “Sometimes there were dance contests to those ‘twist and shout’ type records”, says Lea Harper, a frequent contestant. It was here that the KLCOA held their lake meetings, and non-denominational church services. For a time there was even a motel on the property. Not only that, but the marina provided year-round sales, service and repairs for motors and sleds. The snowmobile frenzy was just revving up in the mid-sixties and the Everitt’s would take people on the lake for ‘night rides’ every Saturday at 8PM. Paula Kleinschmidt Lepsky recalls “One summer when our car broke down on the last stretch of Long Lake, Mrs. Everitt sent Larry out with one of their trucks to help us bring everything in.” Larry quickly became a go-to helping hand to friends in need. The fact he was also a skilled mechanic didn’t hurt either. He soon took care of the business and the marine end of things which allowed Wilf the freedom to start the trucking company we know today as ‘W.Everitt’s Enterprises Ltd.’

During this time, Larry and Wilf also trained with the volunteer fire department in Haliburton so Kennisis Lake could have their very own fire department. Wilf was the fire warden for the area and watched for unregulated burning. The KLCOA was responsive to the request for the fire hall and the Everitt’s had a small yellow building constructed. With the proximity of ready hands, a cottage or at least the surrounding trees might be saved. A big cottage can burn to the ground in 14 minutes, not enough time for the Haliburton firemen to

arrive. And being within a few short miles of such aid, meant lower insurance costs for cottager owners!

The Everitt’s employed just about all the youth of Kennisis at the store and restaurant at one time or another, something many parents were grateful for. Back in those days, it was a one car family, and the mother would stay at the lake all summer along with the kids. Dad would join them on the weekends. Working for the Everitt’s kept the teenagers productively engaged. Marg relates a story where some of the older folks on the lake wanted to keep the youngsters from driving motor boats. (This was pre-boat licence days). With the family car in the city, boats were the main mode of transportation. Marg remembers how important it was, even to the pre-teens to keep their boating privileges. They would skillfully pull up at the gas dock and take special care--no nicks, no dents, however many of the adults, having had a drink or two that day, would not only smash into the docks but often end up right on top of them, not to mention trying to drive off without untying. When Marg pointed this out, the idea of penalizing the young was soon abandoned.

There wasn’t telephone service on the lake until the 70s, and there was often a line up to the phone booth at the marina. Regatta’s were different back then too. Boat races (5hp – 250hp) and trick skiing predominated and were the main attractions. Unfortunately, even though an ambulance was on hand in the event of an accident (which never occurred), the fear of liability won out and eventually those races were discontinued altogether. The decorated boat parade and the Miss Kennisis contest (Marg made the crown from a coat hanger and flowers) were also set aside when new owners took over.

The Everitt’s not only had dogs that could ride sleds -- like Larry’s furry companion Prince, there was the runaway horse Trigger, that only Larry could get moving by spanking him in the rear end with a daisy. But the real tourist attraction was Ernie, the pet farm goose. Much plumper and more handsome than his wild counterpart, he had a certain grandeur. He belonged to the cottage across from the boat launch and spent his summers trolling the bay. Ernie’s owners asked Marg to feed him during the week and he’d swoop down for his dinner when she called his name. Ernie would pose for pictures until ALL the ‘paparazzi’ were finished. It was only when cornered by one of the residing dogs near the dance hall that he discovered he could fly. It was ventured that he thought of himself as a dog as he showed no interest in other birds, although he didn’t particularly like dogs much either. Larry remembers working on motors at the docks, “Ernie would poke his head around the boat, tilting it back and forth as if he was trying to figure out how to fix it. Ernie was, well, quite interesting... Although he provided endless entertainment to visitors, I witnessed the occasions where he attempted to drown the dogs. He would flap his wings and wag his tail until they’d swim after him. He never succeeded but he sure as heck tried.” Marg laughs, “He would even knock on the store and restaurant doors with his bill, then walk around greeting customers!”. Although, you had to beware, all bread Ernie saw was indeed ‘Ernie’s bread’ so the ones who didn’t know ended up getting pecked by an angry goose.

As Larry’s daughter, I’ve grown up listening to the Kennisis nostalgia which has only enhanced my appreciation for the lake I’ve called home for the last 16 years. I’ve made my first and lifelong friends here, learned to swim, boat, ski, snowmobile and experience things not many people even dream about. Everyone who’s come here, merely for a visit or unpacked their bags to stay awhile, has fallen head over heels. I’m the 3rd generation Everitt who has been lucky enough to call this truly magical place my home, and we are all so thrilled that we’ve made friends like all of you, that have allowed us to continue to thrive for the last 50 years!

Author: Tammy Everitt, 2016

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