GRAVENHURST - Like the foamy wake that crashes upon the shores of Lake Muskoka, history can be smoothed and lost in the churning swirl of time.
On Feb. 16 the Muskoka Steamship and Historical Society and town’s heritage committee will be holding an official plaquing ceremony for the Islander and Cherokee wheelhouses as part of National Heritage week and the local, fourth annual Portholes to the Past events at the Muskoka Boat and Heritage Centre. Here, Mary Storey, volunteer archivist and heritage committee chair Henry ‘History-Hank’ Smith proudly show off the Cherokee wheelhouse.
Photo by Neil Etienne
That’s why for four years now, the Muskoka Boat and Heritage Centre, the Muskoka Steamship and Historical Society, municipal heritage committee and town archives have joined forces to open the book on Gravenhurst’s days gone by through Portholes to the Past. The event will return Feb. 16 as part of Family Day events and a kick-off to National Heritage Week and this year’s theme will celebrate Gravenhurst’s famed boat builders, race boaters and their motorized steeds.
Henry Smith, chair of the municipal heritage committee and director of historical society and his crew of volunteers have plenty of fascinating history to share that weekend, and will be bringing in a few people to share their stories.
“The stories just go on and on; there’s so many to tell,” said Mary Storey, volunteer archivist with the society. “But that’s the really important part of our events, it’s that oral history that can be lost.”
Ron Sclater and Cyril Fry will be the lead story sharers starting at 1:30 p.m., and Smith said he expects—and truly hopes – people in the audience will share their remembrances of old days on Lake Muskoka and new pearls of historic wisdom will be discovered.
The Muskoka Boat and Heritage Centre will be open from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the 16th, and people are only being asked to make a small donation for admission. There will be guided tours, special artifacts and displays on former local boat builders Ditchburn and Greavette, a demonstration of the wooden boat database with more than 4,700 Canadian boats on file and a Gravenhurst municipal archives photo display. There will also be children’s games and activities, and at 11:30 a.m. will be the unveiling ceremony of heritage plaques for the Cherokee and Islander wheelhouses that sit out front of the museum. A lunch will be available following the ceremony for $5. Shirley Barlow, a waitress on the Cherokee at the age of 16 will be on hand to share some stories and assist with the ceremony.
Storey pointed out that new this year is a ‘historical request booth’ where people can ask volunteers any local history question and they will research to try and find the answer.
“We might not be able to answer everything right then, but we’ll do the research and see what we can discover,” she said.
On Monday, Feb. 18, Family Day activities will continue with an emphasis on youth. From 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., by donation, families will be invited to participate in a pirate treasure hunt, arts and crafts, movies and floating boat races.
For more information on events and activities at Muskoka Boat and Heritage Centre, please call 705-687-2115.