Summer in Rawdon the Rockies and Rawdon Beach
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Helen Copping on Summer Activities in Rawdon 1930s

How we looked forward to summertime!

The earliest I can remember, our next door neighbours, the Holloways, took us to the “Rockies’ to paddle in the water. The Rockies were below the dam and above Mason Falls. [ this area can be seen on the right side of the bridge on 3rd Avenue]
The water would be quite warm as it was shallow with rocks underneath the water. My brother Reggie and Frank Holloway, who were near in age, would roll up their pant legs and get stones from the bottom of the water. With these they made little dams for us to paddle in. I do not remember if we had bathing suits or not. I think we just kept our dresses on because the water was not deep enough to swim.

The Holloways came to Rawdon only in the summer. There were five children, the youngest near my age, the oldest boy about my brother‘s age. Like us, their property backed on a hill. They dug a sand pit into the hillside. Many long summer hours were spent there.

As the boys got older they started to build things. One year a little playhouse built under the cherry trees on our property was the project. Another time we ambitiously dug a hole to China. Somehow, we never got there.

Another year it was ‘cowboys and Indians’. The boys built a log cabin from slabs from the mill. One time I was the victim and was tied up and locked in the cabin.

 [Helen’s father had a sawmill and lumber yard. He was also a cabinet maker and so encouraged  the boys in their construction projects. Slabs are the pieces bark cut from logs when making lumber. They were of little value other than for heating. Selwyn’s steam engine that powered the mill was fueled with slabs and sawdust.]

the area Helen calls The Rockies
[This is the area Helen calls The Rockies. This photo was taken in the early spring when the water was quite high. By the time they would be paddling in the river, this same area would be down to  a trickle.]
Mr. Holloway came out from Montreal on the Saturday afternoon train and returned to Montreal Sunday night [Many so called summer families only saw the father on weekends]. Many times, Eileen Holloway and I ran to meet him as soon as we saw him coming up the street. He would often have candy for us in his pocket.
Rawdon Train Bridge

Sometimes he would bring a little box of cheese as a treat for the family. These were little triangles of cheese individually wrapped in tinfoil [La Vache Qui Rit]. To my mind it looked like a silver wheel. I had never seen cheese done up like that. The only cheese I ever saw cut from a huge, round block waxed and wrapped in cheese cloth.

One summer day Edith and I were playing over at the Hollloways’ when a storm came up. It rained so hard Mrs. Holloway told us to stay for supper. It was like a party with so many children at the table. There was a long wooden bench down each side of the table. It was a novelty for us to eat from a bench.

How we missed the Holloways when they bought a house up in The Pines! The two older girls wanted to be nearer to the other young folk from the city and it was more fashionable up there.

As we grew older Edith and I went swimming at the dam. We went most days but were not allowed to go on Sundays. 

At the dam the hill to get to the water was small, but it was clay and it was grassy where we  put our towels down. We could not go out very far before it took a steep drop into deep water. [ Rawdon Lake is artificial having been made by damming the Red River. The steep drop was where the original river bed lay.  At the beach was the same phenomena, a sudden deep drop but a little farther from the shore .]

Sometimes there would be an old log to play with. There were squeals whenever someone was dumped off the log into the water.

The better swimmers would dive off the dam. I never did. It was a great accomplishment for me just to swim across  the lake and dive off the raft on the other side.

In August Regattas were held at the dam. There were swimming races, row boat races and wash tub races using paddles as well as a greased log contest.

Somehow Daddy received a life belt. It was made from blocks of cork  covered with heavy white cotton. It was cut into two pieces so we each had a lifebelt. There were wide woven cotton tapes to go over our shoulders and there were ties at the back. They kept us up in the water and we learned to swim with them on.


Sandy Beach about a mile away at the other end of the village

Many young ones from The Pines came to swim at the dam. One little girl apparently had a heart problem and some one would say, ’Your lips are blue’ and she would have to get out of the water. Another little lad could swim like a fish - even under water. That was something I was always afraid to try. One of the older boys always brought his Spaniel dog with him while another brought his Labrador Retriever which kept trying to rescue his master.  The dog had to be ordered to sit on the shore so he could swim.

Many walked up to the Sandy Beach about a mile away at the other end of the village. At the beach, the lake was sandy and you could walk out quite a piece before it got deep. We did not go there very often as it was usually crowded and we would be hot again by the time we walked home up the long sandy hill and through the village. [the beach is visible from the dam]

There were row boats for rent at the beach as well as at Reggie Purcell’s where there was a steep bank with wooden stairs to get down to the lake . It was a different view when we were out on the lake. [Reggie Purcell lived on Queen Street backing on the lake, across from the Rawdon Inn, or the Balmoral as it was then known.  I believe remnants of the stairs are still visible today]


When the carnival came to Rawdon it was a big event. [this travelling midway  show came to Rawdon every summer for many years. ] Everyone just had to attend -  the music of the calliope coming from the merry-go-round was like the call of a siren.
What excitement to get on the merry-go-round! At first it was scary away up high on the big, slippery horse as it went up and down, around and around. I held on tightly to the shiny pole. Then the rhythm of the horse and the music got to me and I relaxed. The ride always ended too soon.

The Ferris Wheel was for the more daring ones. From the top it seemed you could almost reach out and touch the stars. It just felt so high up on top, then you would swing down the outer side into nothing, or so it seemed.

One year at the Ring Toss Eric Holloway made a perfect toss. The ring went right over the box with a pocket watch on it. As Eric was not only a young boy, but small for his age, the man did not want to give it to him. But Eric had won it fairly and he got it.

One year when I was still very young, our family went to the carnival. I became so interested in watching something I did not hear my mother saying we were moving on. Suddenly, I looked around and all I could see were strangers all around me. I couldn’t see my family anywhere so I started for home. The streets were not well lighted the lamp posts being few and far between. I was in a panic and had reached the top of the hill above home when Edith caught up to me. We turned around and went back to the carnival.

Country Fair
As I look back I think how small the area of carnival was and yet it looked so enormously huge to my little eyes.


There were several dances during the summer. The First of July Square Dance was held in the Anglican Hall on Metcalfe Street and there was dancing over at the Golf Club most weekends. Ted Copping held square dances in the dance hall over his theatre. [ Actually, the dance hall was over the restaurant. It had a ‘floating floor’ that had been installed by Helen’s father. Possibly he also played the violin for the dances.]
Square dancing petered out as modern dances became more and more popular.

Haddad’s built a summer dance hall behind their restaurant. Here the young set danced to music from the juke box. The Fox Trot, The Big Apple, The Jitterbug were enjoyed by the summer folk. [ Haddad’s Restaurant was beside Reggie Purcell’s across from The Rawdon Inn.]

There were movies to attend, as well. Maggie and Ted Copping had the first movie theatre in Rawdon. It was behind their restaurant on 4th Avenue. Later a new theatre was opened on 5th Avenue. I do not know how much it cost when I first went to the theatre but later it was 25 cents for adults, 15 cents for teenagers and under 13 was free. Some twelve year olds took several years to reach 13, especially if they were small for  their age. [ After having been empty for many years, this theatre was demolished in 2009 to make extra parking for the Caisse Populaire]