WASAGA BEACH, ON - Ahhh, the dog days of summer are about to end and another year of enjoying this wonderful weekend retreat with my family and friends has come and gone too soon.
A hot spot in my youth, Wasaga Beach holds a special place in my heart for many reasons. My grandfather bought beachfront property here back in the ’60s when nobody had the time nor inclination to own and maintain a cottage. As a little girl, I spent every summer here and have watched the evolution of Wasaga Beach over the past 50 years.
Much has changed in this tiny Ontario hamlet but the one thing that remains constant is the glorious beaches - the longest stretch of fresh water beach (16 kilometres) in the world, the locals will proudly tell you.
Being a little girl in the ’70s and driving along Mosley Street, which winds along the beachfront, my eyes were met with hundreds of little one room cottages on little lots overgrown with pine trees and shrubs. Dotted between were many small motels and mini cottages for rent.
At the time, a drive along Mosley, into the town’s “main drag”, was a big adventure for those of us who lived on the furthest western point of the beach (Beach Area 6). It winded along through Beach Area 2 where all the action took place. I remember seeing mobs of people bathing on the beige sand with their car radios blasting out rock music and competing with each other for our attention.
It was common to see bikers parked along the roadways - Wasaga has always been a mecca for them; travelling in packs with their shiny chrome glistening in the sunlight and their growling pipes reminding you of their presence.
Above: Lovely cottages built by families over the years stand like monuments along the shoreline.
My mom would always tell my brother and I not to look at them, but I never listened. With my blond ponytails flapping in the wind and two missing front teeth, I never missed an opportunity to wave at the bikers as we passed by them congregated in front of the small cottages they had rented. They always waved back and were wonderfully friendly.
There were no super centres to shop in or well known restaurant chains in the area back then. Only little shops selling candy, ice cream, beach toys and water floats and of course plenty of fish and chip stands dotted along the shoreline. If you needed to shop you had to go to Collingwood. That was also an outing - we would stop mid way en route at the A&W, where you pulled your car up to a microphone (similar to a gas station layout) and ordered your food, which would be delivered by girls on roller skates. How cool!
Today as you drive along the same path, one by one the little cottages are being sold and people are building mega, two-storey homes, sacrificing the community’s cottage charm for the size and comforts they have grown accustomed to in the big city.
Small stores and food shacks have been replaced with mini malls - this no longer looks like a sleepy cottage town but just an extension of the city we all sought to escape. It now bustles with aging baby boomers snapping up all the real estate they can and trying to out build one another.
The one thing they can’t change is the beach. The soft fluffy sand and the warm and clean waters of Georgian Bay will always be the biggest draw and continue to invite, entice and beckon all to enjoy.
I wrote a poem on August 13, 1992 at the age of 24, exactly half a lifetime ago for me, summing up my feelings about Wasaga Beach and every word still rings true today.
Above: Wasaga Beach is the fun capital of Ontario in summer.
I wrote it at the end of our lot, atop a cement bench which overlooks the beach and where I would start each morning and end each day watching the spectacular sunset.
The following words flowed one morning from my thoughts and onto paper faster then I could write them:
WASAGA BEACH: HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS
I awaken to the sound of a bird crowing outside of my window, as he made his flight along the shore, awakening his neighbours for a new day had dawned.
Peeking outside my window, my eyes were soon met by a warm burst of colour as the sun made it’s long journey out of the depths of the blue and shone her rays of light across the shore.
As I ran out towards the light and absorbed my first fresh breath of the day, there was a slight chill in the air that engulfed my body but was soon forgotten as the warm rays of the sun danced across my face.
To the path’s edge, my feet were soon met by millions of tiny friends whose bodies were soft and warm and welcomed my presence. The soft beige powder played as a massage along the bottoms of my feet.
As I looked across the beach, I could see no friends, no enemies, no love, not hatred. I stood alone, one with nature, one with our creator.
Although I stood among hundreds of creatures lurking in my shadows, I could only see my solitude and feel the peace within myself. At that instant, I realized that I was home.
Home truly is not where one dwells or lays their head to sleep every night; home is a state of mind where thought is driven by the soul and not biased to outside influences. Home is an essence of inner peace where one can let down their guard and engulf their happiness.
Home is not always a geographical location dictated by careers or money, it can be within one’s self and is usually the place most thought and dreamt about.
As I made my way along the shoreline only the gentle sound of the waves rushing up and down the sand could be heard, and as each new step marked my presence, each new wave erased it just as life is given, and life is taken.
With the sun exploding out of the water and the birds awakening from their overnight frolics to find refuge in their early morning flight, a new day had begun and once again I had come HOME!