PARRY SOUND - Members of the McIsaac family gathered this week to celebrate a street naming at the waterfront, McIsaac Way, after Allan and Roly McIsaac. The roadway runs adjacent to Bay Street from underneath the railway bridge, and through the harbour property once owned by the McIsaacs for over 50 years. Parry Sound town council recently approved the naming as a fitting tribute to two men who loved Parry Sound and gave much to their community.
McIsaac Way named after McIsaac brothers.
Paula McIsaac, front left, Marian McIsaac, centre, and Parry Sound Mayor Jamie McGarvey, right, are surrounded by the McIsaac family. A bylaw was recently passed naming a street near the waterfront McIsaac Way after Allan and Roly McIsaac.
Cody Storm Cooper/Beacon Star
Allan is remembered as a gentle man who loved music, an excellent curler and skater, formerly with Parry Sound Shamrocks, a good listener who could turn any phrase or situation into humour. Roly, the sometimes feisty, gregarious one was known as the fiddler, volunteering to play at hospitals, seniors’ residences, through the Lions Club and wherever he could get an audience. In 1995 he was awarded a Caring Canadian Award for giving back to his community – one of only 40 awards given that year in Canada.
Roland, Allan, and sister Dorothy, were born in North Cobalt, Ontario; Roland in 1919, and Allan in 1921. Their father Neil, having ventured to northern Ontario from Cape Breton, and having married Mae McDonough, established a bus service running through the “Tritowns” from Cobalt to New Liskeard. As young men, the boys excelled in sports. Allan won three Silver Cups and many medals in track and field, and skated rings around other players on the championship Haileybury Hawks Jr. B. hockey team (1938-39). Roland excelled in distance swimming. Good thing, since many years later he would swim to the Parry Sound shore in November after a boating incident. He also loved badminton and football. Both spent summers as drivers for their dad’s McIsaac Transportation Company. Both ventured south for school, Roland to St. Mike’s in Toronto, and Allan to Queen’s University, School of Mining.
The McIsaacs came to Parry Sound in the early ‘40s when officials at Queen’s Park approached Neil McIsaac to run buses from Parry Sound to the Defence Industries Ltd. in Nobel. The plant supplied munitions during WW2, operating three shifts twenty-four hours a day. After the war, with Roland having left the Canadian Air Force, Neil purchased Scott Boat Livery for his sons in 1945. From then on and for the next 30 years, Allan and Roly could be seen at the waterfront running to pump gas, tying up boats, dispatching the fleet of wooden water taxis and becoming fast friends with many American customers who had homes ”down the bay”. Roland married Marian Shakell in 1946 and raised his family (Bruce and Paula) on the property, living above the boathouse until 1954. Allan married Barbara Jean Hawkins n 1950 and became a father five times over (Marianne, Jani, John, Mike, Joe). To this day Joe owns and operates the “Trimac”, the McIsaac’s steel hulled tanker servicing marinas and others on Georgian Bay with gas and oil.
With two families to support and the appearance of fibreglass hulls in the late ‘50s, the McIsaacs exercised their entrepreneurial spirit recognizing that the water taxi business would soon become obsolete. Customers would soon have their own reliable motorboats. Indeed, by 1968 hardly a wooden stock boat would be built. McIsaac Fuels was born as was Dockside Restaurant along the way, and Rose Point Resort became part of the McIsaac enterprises from 1968-1972. Over the years McIsaac Fuels serviced thousands of homes and businesses within a 50-mile radius of Parry Sound. Allan and Roly will be remembered for their unfailing service, sometimes personally delivering oil in the middle of a cold winter night, and ever so lenient with late payers. Much business was accomplished with a handshake. You could count on the McIsaacs.
Allan McIsaac passed away at age 77 in April,1998. Roland, who went on to establish McIsaac Self Store, retired at age 87 and passed away last November, 2011, at 92. While the brothers were different in ways, they were united in many. Both handsome, smart, with ready smiles and a kind word, they loved people from every walk of life. Both strong and manly, they were known to laugh and to cry. Their stories, particularly of the McDonough cousins in days gone by, were vivid and kept the family folklore alive. They loved their families, taking pride in their childrens’ achievements. Music, especially Roly’s Cape Breton fiddle, was dear to their hearts, Allan, tapping his toes and calling out, “Play Big John McNeil Roland.” Allan secretly could sing and oh how Roly could dance!
While the old McIsaac office built by their father Neil was demolished a couple of years ago, the spirit of these two special men remains on the waterfront. This wonderful tribute, McIsaac Way, will ensure that they are remembered. Forever in our hearts, no doubt they are thrilled.