At breakfast on July 18, 2018, Charlie and Val Richard, Milford House Managers, presented me with Charlie’s wood carving of the Milford House logo celebrating 75 years since my first birthday at Milford House. It was an unexpected treasure that will always occupy a place of prominence in my home.
Charlie suggested that I put down on paper some of my Milford House memories. I have taken his advice. The memories are not in chronological order, but they are my thoughts written as remembered.
I shall break down these memories into three categories:
Early Days 1943 – 1947
Middle Years 1950 – 1967
Now Years 1968 – 2018
The Early Years
My first birthday party was held at the Pavilion, across the road from the Main Lodge. All the children staying at Milford were invited. Many of the guests were children and their mothers because the husbands and fathers were in WW11.
My father was in the Canadian Army, the Princess Louise Fusiliers. (Primary Reserve infantry unit of the Canadian Armed Forces).
My mother, Frances Bayne, and three friends spent the summers at Milford House with their children. My mother said she paid $22 a week for accommodations, which would have been accommodation in a shared cabin and meals for one adult. The mothers took the Pablum for children, so children’s meals would not have been an issue. I believe the mothers also took turns going to the dining room; one mother stayed to look after the children while the others dined. The mothers were also able to use laundry facilities in off-times, and I don’t think there was any charge for that. They took cabins along the lake close to the Lodge. Her friends were Joyce Andrew and her daughter Stephanie, Jacque Mitchell and her son David, Jessie Minshull, and her son Walter. Jacque’s in-laws, Cyril and Geraldine (Uniacke) Mitchell, stayed in the Main Lodge when visiting.
Mr. Mitchell was known to the children as “Morning,” which stemmed from his daily greeting to David, his grandson.
Meals were taken in the Lodge. Mothers were permitted to use the laundry facilities later in the day. Because there were so many children, this was necessary.
My mother spoke of the Delco plant, which provided electricity for the Lodge.
The mothers canoed and went on fishing trips with the guides available at the Lodge. Although we as children went canoeing with our mothers, it was not much fun because we could not move or make a noise. We were usually kept still by a foot placed strategically.
I have beautiful memories of Milford House. I remember a hooded doll’s cradle made by Madelyn, the basket weaving wife of one of the guides. Only the most special doll occupied that cradle.
Mostly the children played and paddled at Home Beach and clambered in and out of a leaky old rowboat, with pails and shovels, wearing wool bathing suits, sunbonnets, or straw hats. (There is now a reproduction of a photo of this in the dining room).
1943 was also the year Bud Miller came to Milford House. He was employed by the Thomas’s as a handyman. Little did anyone know at this point that Bud and his wife Margaret would become the iconic standards of the Milford House way.
There was a sharp division between the Nova Scotian guests and those who came from the US. The locals were not included in the American social set and vice versa, I presume. However, the ‘mothers’ were acutely aware of the Americans. Characters such as the Ovenshines were much enjoyed for their eccentricities. Mrs. Ovenshine wore voluminous bloomers.
Charles Morton of the Atlantic magazine stayed in the main Lodge, secreted away with his typewriter. E.B. White (Charlotte’s Web and the New Yorker) was another guest.
The Middle Years
My Milford years between 1947 and 1967 were minimal. My parents had bought a property near Windsor, Nova Scotia, but lived in Sydney, Cape Breton. Our summers were spent at Ellershouse with a few day trips to the Annapolis area, which included lunch at Milford House.
The Later Years
Peter and I were married in July of 1968, and we chose Milford House for our honeymoon! Geier was our destination. We arrived in the wee hours of the morning after our wedding and reception in Wolfville. The car was overflowing with empty champagne bottles our friends had stowed aboard, discreetly dealt with by Milford House staff the following day.
The Dining Room
In those days, lunch was included in the meal plan. I can remember the hushed dining room and taking our places at our table. The newly varnished chairs were gleaming. The varnish was not quite set, so it was a challenge to extricate oneself after the meal when one’s clothes had adhered quite firmly to the chair.
Meals were hearty country fare; everything homemade. Pork scrapple was often on the breakfast menu. At night the “relish” tray was brought to each table, offering a selection of homemade pickles and relishes made by Margaret Miller in her spare time – hard to imagine she had any! Desserts included such delicacies as grape nut pudding.
When a guest caught a good-sized fish, it was shared among the other guests, and all acknowledged the fisherman’s prowess.
Servers wore starched white uniforms in the morning and, in later years, sported “peasant” garb at the evening meal, not necessarily a flattering style.
Regular guests kept special condiments on their tables for their stay. Boisterous children were frowned upon by sedate older folk. At night there was the waft of mothballs permeating the dining room because regular guests stowed their summer finery in mothballed trunks in the main Lodge. Men wore their ill-matched seersucker and madras jackets and ties. Saturday night was the cocktail night for the Americans who took turns hosting drinks, crackers, and cheese for their set. Guests drove to the appointed cabin and then to the Lodge for dinner! The American guests still kept to themselves but were a bit more receptive to the locals and vice versa.
The Connors were particularly welcoming. Mary Lou spoke of when she and Bill were in Switzerland on holiday, looked at each other, and said, “What are we doing here when we could be at Milford?” They were loyal summer visitors for many years. Mary Lou’s summer chore was to cordon off a small sandy patch near the road to Colonel, where turtles laid eggs. She kept a close watch. Bill did a watercolor of a particular evergreen tree each summer; the theme never varied.
Mr. Gillette presided over the croquet court. Children were not allowed on the court after dinner – that was the serious croquet players’ domain. In fact, children were not welcome on the front steps when croquet was in progress. The good mallets were stowed away for the sole use of those players. Children could make do with the broken and scarred leftovers for their morning games.
Mr. Sikes was a wonder to behold in the canoe. Although he had to use aluminum crutches on land, he was strong and elegant in his canoe.
Mrs. Tyler hosted our older daughter, Jane, making doll clothes and sharing afternoon tea one rainy afternoon.
In the late 1960’s early 1970’s, we enjoyed the daily delivery of ice to the icebox on the cabin veranda. Bud cut the ice from the lake in winter and then stored it in sawdust in the summer guests’ icehouse. Each cabin was provided with an ice pick. Food could be kept cold on hot summer days, and there were always lumps for cold drinks. It was a sad day when refrigerators inched their ways into the cabins.
There were also oil lamps in each cabin for power outages but were great to light on dark nights just for the fun of it.
Family and Friends
Our visits were a week at the end of July. The people we met were those who also visited at that time. There are many regular guests whom we have never met because of vacation time schedules. Also, four families from our block in Halifax are Milford people, though we have seldom crossed with any.
For many years, my parents accompanied us, sharing the five-bedroom cabin then known as Roadside, now named Tyler.
My mother met Mrs. Farrell (Santa Barbara, Ca) on the Cabin Road. They chatted and discovered they had a common friend in Santa Barbara, originally from Wolfville, Nova Scotia.
Each year Mrs. Farrell and my mother enjoyed renewing their friendship. On the other hand, we delighted in Warren Farrell’s daily 4 o’clock swim from their cabin by Pompy to Boathouse Beach and then his ability to devour an incredible dessert selection at dinner that night.
My father spent his week training the squirrel of the year to take an unshelled peanut from an empty beverage can. That sometimes involved retrieving the can from the woods when the squirrel could not get the peanut without taking the can.
Mid-afternoon, upon returning from a picnic and swim on one of the beaches, we would hear the sonic boom from the Concorde.
Pompy Trail walks were and are a part of the ritual. The Williams family stayed at North, and they and their sons, Blake and Bruce, trudged the trail to breakfast daily.
Our daughters Jane and Stephanie always wore their summer dresses to dinner but preferred to take the canoe rather than the Cabin Road.
The sandy beaches on the various lakes were enjoyed for swimming, picnics, frog or tadpole collecting and the leeches provided excellent entertainment.
Some evenings there were special events at the Lodge. The ladies from Lazyman gave a marvelous slide presentation of the Grand Tetons.
Randall Brooks took us to the tennis court one very clear night with telescopes identifying and describing the night sky. Now Trout Point Lodge does this as a destination attraction.
Daughter Jane spent five summers in the dining room as a waitress. She became familiar with returning families, even learning of their likes and dislikes – only being reduced to tears once or twice by demanding guests. On the whole, it was an incredible experience for her. Guests were wonderful to her, and their tip generosity provided her university education at Mt. Allison University.
Our daughter Stephanie set up a canoe business one summer. She is a certified instructor and a beautiful canoeist to watch. She taught a number of guests and lived in the staff cabin. Wildlife provided entertainment indoors and out.
There were evening canoe excursions to Gang Run to watch beaver activity, with fast paddles back to the cabin when bats swooped down upon us.
Once, birds did a dead-bird-drop right in front of us to divert our attention from their young.
On another occasion, a heron relieved itself of detritus, just missing our canoe by inches.
We also watched baby loons hitching a ride on a parent’s back.
Our dog, Robin, in the canoe, tossed his head back to sing along with the loons.
We also found a nest of water snakes.
Thanks to Peter’s creativity, a beaver jaw with teeth now adorns a walking stick
Recently, we watched an eagle dissecting what was probably a juvenile loon.
Various critters enjoy visiting within the cabins adding to the fun.
Milford House in the fall, in the unwinterized cabins, is such a treat. Cold nights, warm days, roaring fires, and beautiful colors are emerging as the leaves turn; reflections in the still waters, canoe adventures, cocktail hour, Lodge meals, games, and good books.
The Milford House Library has always been important. Though lost twice in the fires, the library has yet another life. Treasures are found upon its many shelves
In the early years, sheets and towels were dried on the clothesline at the back of the Lodge. Such a luxury it was to crawl into those fresh sheets at night, although the mattresses were of the saggy variety, nests where sleepers had curled up over the years. Now washers and dryers have taken over, but on a positive note, most mattresses have improved!
A very special rite took place when guests departed. The dining staff would line up on the veranda and wave white napkins as the guests drove out the driveway past the water pump. Guests would respond, but only until they came to the large tree, then they could no longer look back and wave – superstition held that if they erred, they might not ever return to Milford House, a bit like “Brigad