Years ago when I was at camp, I seem to remember being told that there were actually two canoes.
Now, I've taken a few bangs to the head and have done other things that no doubt killed whatever other few brain cells I was born with, so I could be wrong. Please correct me.
Anyhoo, here's what I think I know about the canoes:
The original one was built in the 1930s for cook Alfred David by some local Indians as a gesture of thanks.
David not only cooked for camp, but in his local travels also supplied food to the most needy during the height of the Depression.
One was the Skead family, who lived southeast of Devil's Gap near the back channel. Here are two letters from George Skead to David dated 1936. (Click on them to enlarge):
Now, as best as I can figure - again, I stand to be corrected - the Skeads and perhaps others made the original birch canoe for David in thanks for his generosity.
After that, I'm not sure what was done with it or how it was displayed, if at all.
Former camp director Punch Jackson says it was decided in the mid-60s to donate the canoe to what is now the Canadian Canoe Museum now in Peterborough, Ont.
I believe that decision was made because the museum was the best place to preserve the canoe.
"The original birch bark canoe was donated to the Canadian Canoe Museum (Kanawa International Museum of Canoes and
Kayaks) during my term as director at Stephens," Punch says. "Discussions had started as early as 1967 when campers from Kirk Wipper's Camp Kandalore in Dorset, Ont. met with Stephen's Voyageurs at Boundary Falls (Manitoba/Ontario boundary) as part of the Centennial celebration.
"Camp Stephens hosted the Canadian Canoe School in the early 70s and that is where the deal was struck. Whipper agreed to replace our canoe with a new birch bark version made by a friend of his."
That "new birch bark version" hung in the dining hall for almost 30 years.
|Dining hall as seen in 1975.|
Once Lount Lodge was finished in the early 1980s, the canoe was moved. It's hung above the fire place ever since. I don't think it ever touched water, or was even meant to. You can see the second canoe here at the beginning of this video. Despite what the narrator says, it's not the original canoe.
Several months ago, alumni Doug Abra and his son Matt travelled to the canoe museum. They might be only people from Stephens who've seen the original canoe in decades.
|Doug and son Matt Abra with original canoe at upper right. |
|The replica canoe as it now hangs in Lount Lodge|
Postscript: Kirk Wipper died suddenly March 19, 2011 in Peterborough: