Bark Lake Memories from Richard Devenney

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The Friends of Bark Lake: Ontario Camp Leadership Centre, Irondale, Ontario, Canada

Bark Lake Memories from Richard Devenney

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The following article was researched and written by Richard Devenney.

Growing Up at Bark Lake

Richard Devenney shares a few stories from Bark Lake.

I am the youngest son of the Bark Lake Camp Director - Hart Devenney (1956-1968) and brother of Counsellor Don Devenney. Born in 1949, I first stepped on the soil of Bark Lake in 1956 when my family moved to Ontario from Manitoba (where I was born) and my father had been Provincial Director of Physical Education in the years 1946-1956.

I never attended as a camper at Bark Lake, nor was I ever a Counsellor; but, I was present for some or all of the summers of 1956 through 1968 with my Mother and Father where I served in the ceremonial roles as both "Camp Brat" and the "Catcher of Fish" for the Counsellor's Table at breakfast in those years. I did manage to get my Bronze Medaillion certification of the Royal Life Saving Society at Bark around 1965 (you would have to look it up). I also watched alot. For example, when the instructive swimming classes for the leaders'-in-training were being held, I often sat on the very large rock formation to the left of Bark Lodge, and took in (as best I could) what they were being taught.

I spent alot of time with the maintenance men who were very kind and generous to me in allowing me to tag along on various chores. They taught me how to carve wood, and to stay away from the places where snapping turtles might be (I am sure my little toes would have been delectable). In particular, Mr. Dallin ('Dal') Pickens, of nearby Gooderham, who was the head man on the maintenace team for all those early years, and Mr. Lloyd King were formative examples to me of the special decency of real country gentlemen.

I also spent alot of time in the Craft Shop where, as the campers were learning how to teach crafts, they could have a guinea-pig young fellow on which to try the techniques they were learning. Fishing, even all alone, was also a constant diversion - Flag Point, the Canoe docks (when not in use), various shore locations, and after dinner with my Dad on the Swimming Dock, or out and about in one of the small motor boats in several favourite locations around the lake.

Later as I grew older, I went to summer camps of my own such as 'Pinecrest' near Bala Ontario , and to 'On Dah Da Wah' on Golden Lake near Pembroke. When I was 14, I took up long distance running. So when I was at Bark, in the years 1964-67 especially, I regularly ran out and back on the Camp road (before paving) to check on mosquito levels and for lynx tracks, all while scaring numerous frogs and squirrels, and the various drivers of incoming or outgoing vehicles. It was about a 8 km jaunt.

Once, I decided to try the 'great circle' out Bark road to the Highway (503), west on it to the old highway 503 into Irondale, thorough the village of Irondale and around to where the old highway met the new and back west to the entance of the Camp road, and home. Close to 20 km, I figured then. That was a long run with no water. Wisely, I never tried that again.

There are many other remembrances which I will record in due course. The 'magic' campfires, the story-telling, the sing-songs, the chapel services, the bouncing bog, the 'mock' disaster exercises, the snapping turtles, the fish stories, building kayaks, visits by John Robarts and Bill Davis (when each were Minister of Education), trying out 'winter-camping' goes on and on...and it is all before 1970.

Hart Devenney

My Dad - Hartland Morrison Devenney, Sr. - known to everyone as "Hart" - shuffled off this mortal coil in 1976 - and even if he had not, he would be 103 now - so he will only be able to attend in spirit. I am sure he will be around, if he ever listens to my prayers...

This year will mark the 51st anniversary of his (and my) setting foot on the Bark Lake property - yes, 1956 - he was 53, and I had just turned 7 - I have a huge volume of very special memories as I played a special role - I was the "Camp Brat" - ask any of the counsellors, or maintenance guys from back then (if they are around).

Dad was a "Y" man all his life. He graduated in 1927 from the YMCA College in Springfield, Massachussets (where Canadian Dr. James Naismith invented the game of basketball in 1891), taking a four year degee in three years, receiving a B.Sc. in Physical Education. He was one of the first student Canadians to have so graduated. His brother Allan followed two years later. The next year he spent a year at Yale Divinity School, but it was not for him.

He came back to Canada to marry my mother Catherine Elizabeth Bickerton (always known as "Rena") in late 1929 and take up a post at the Montreal YMCA - running the teenage progarmme there for the next ten years. During that period, he also earned an M.Sc. in Phys. Ed at McGill in 1934. Accepted in the PhD. cousre, he never did it due to the econmic constraints of the Depression and having a young family.

In 1939, he was selected to be Director of Physical Education for the Province of Manitoba, but War broke out and he wanted to do his part. Too old to enlist, he joined YMCA Special Sevices, went overseas, and served until 1945 in North Africa, Palestine, Italy and England running 'furlough' phys.ed. programs for the troops in those places. When he returned to Canada, he went to Manitoba to take up the postion he had been offered 6 years earlier.

In the mid 1950s, he met Gord Wright who got him to come to Ontario to work in the the Department of Education of the provincial government and to have, as part of his duties, being the Camp Director at Bark Lake, which he did until his retirement in 1968.