Now and Then: Linda and Andy Bowerman

Andy and Linda signing the registry at the Fairview United Church in Tehkummah on November 4, 1966.

The Bowermans’ home is nestled amid a quaint row of houses overlooking Leason Bay, a fishing and lumber destination of the past. The house sits well off the road and is sheltered by tall spruce trees. This writer is welcomed into a warm dining room, where a cup of tea and a delicious variety of squares are soon presented. On the back deck, a huge Fahrenheit thermometer is clearly visible and reminds one that some still prefer ‘traditional’ ways. “The local Amish at the farmers’ market had it for sale along with some old-style boots and we got both.”

Andy, age 2, in his granddad’s garden.

Andy was still a teenager when he and his father helped build the road between Espanola and Little Current. After that project finished, Andy helped some of the local farmers manage their beef herds and he learned the art of carpentry. Years later, he started Andy’s Carpentry and built many of the local homes and cottages. He was also an Assiginack councillor for 21 years. Linda worked at South Baymouth Lodge for the McNulty’s (now South Bay Resort), cleaning cottages. Later she made jam and jellies at the Huron Sands Motel in Providence Bay and finally she was employed at the Manitoulin Centennial Manor in Little Current, cooking and serving food to the residents.

“I should begin with my paternal grandparents, Wilmer and Emma (Haner) McCauly,” Linda offers. “They lived in a beautiful stone house not far from here, raising cattle and farming. Grandfather was a happy guy who broke into step-dancing at every opportunity. He would enter Ward’s Store demonstrating his favourite step dance, energizing the staff and other shoppers. We used to visit our grandparents’ home at Christmas and celebrate with them. Grandmother would play her piano. She also liked to sit in her rocker on the porch and smoke cigarettes she had rolled herself. Sadly, the asthma did not quell the urge to smoke, and the emphysema created the need for an oxygen tank.”

“She was only 63 when she died. I couldn’t go to grandmother’s funeral because I had to stay home to look after my younger siblings. I remember seeing her lying in her coffin in the living room. It was my first time experiencing death. On a happier note, Grandfather used to let sister Karen and I drive the old 1955 Buick. I was just 12 and I loved driving this huge car in big circles in the field. When grandfather saw us, he always brought out his bag of peppermints. He also trained himself to look after the medical needs of animals, his own and others. He had no official veterinary training but if a farmer had trouble with a calving cow, Grandfather Wilmer would be called.”

“Maternal grandparents, Richard and Josephine, ‘Josie’ (Vanmeer) Foster, made their home in Poplar before moving to Waldemar near Grand Valley in the Orangeville area where grandfather worked as a ranch hand. Karen lives there now. Grandmother Josie liked to make clothes and sold some to the tourists who frequented the area. She loved to write poems and assembled enough for a book. Later in life they moved to Gore Bay. About 1972 grandfather had a stroke and moved into the nursing home. Grandmother lived in a nearby apartment. When it was time for her to move into the nursing home, grandfather had already passed away.”

Linda Josephine was born on August 7, 1948 to Gerald and Elaine (Foster) McCauly, the third oldest of seven. She was named after her grandmother Josie Foster. She had six siblings, Larry, Karen, Dale, Sharlene, Cathy and Jack. SS No. 1 in Tehkummah was Linda’s school. “Elaine Ward and Jeannette Anstice, Grade 8 students, got me for my first day of school. I rode on the crossbar of Elaine’s bike and Bob Smeltzer, our neighbour, also six, sat on the crossbar of Jeannette’s bike. We had Mrs. Paisley from Grades 1 to 6. I liked school, especially math and spelling. Spelling bees were a lot of fun.”

Gerald McCauley was both a farmer and a builder. “We had a few Hereford cows for meat, and each winter we always had a pig hanging in the woodshed. A slice of pork would be cut for a meal. Mother wanted to be sure we had no worms in us, so all of us over 10 years old would get a pink Rawleigh’s laxative pill every Friday night and Saturday morning, it would be a race to the outhouse.”

“Dad was only 65 when he died from emphysema and lung cancer. He lived just long enough to see his first pension cheque. In the mid-1960s, I started working at South Baymouth Lodge for the McNultys, cleaning cottages and helping where needed. From 1985 to 2003, mom and I worked together making the jams, jellies and chutneys for the Huron Sands Hotel and their “Hawberry Jams and Jellies” line. Mum and I also cooked meals for their restaurant, whenever a guest appeared in the dining room.” The owner of the Huron Sands motel at the time, was Stu Cuthbertson, (or Irving Lipshitz, his pseudonym.)

Linda met Andy first in South Baymouth in 1962, and again soon after at a Saturday night dance at the Sandfield Hall. “It was love at first sight, when our eyes connected,” Linda shares. “We had other connections. Our dads were both working at Whitefish Falls, building the new road and Andy was good friends with my older brother.”

Andy’s classy 1957 Chevrolet.

“My paternal great grandfather Joseph Coe used to take me fishing when I was a little tyke,” Andy offers as introduction to his family. “We walked to Roger’s Creek Bridge on Leason’s Bay and caught bull-heads. Later, he would clean them and the two of us would enjoy a fish fry at great-grandfather’s house. Before living in the Slash, Joseph lived on Lake Manitou, at Corbett’s Beach, where he built boats. Great Grandmother Helena (Pugh) was raised ‘across the pond’ in the Collingwood area. She made great cookies.”

“I was raised by my grandparents, Albert and Mary (McKechnie) Coe. I was born in their house with the help of mid-wife Mrs. Whit McDonald of Tehkummah. She claims I made a lot of noise after my entry. I was named Andy Maxwell, after my dad. My birth on July 12, 1940, coincided with the day of the Orange Parade and so was easy to remember. My parents Vivian (Coe) and Alvin Maxwell Bowerman had their own farm, but it seems I preferred the home of my grandparents because I cried every time I had to leave their home. I just felt more comfortable in the house I was born in.”

“Grandfather Albert had a small farm, with sheep, cattle and work horses. There were no tractors yet. He trapped beavers and wolves. In hindsight, I was more of a hindrance than a helper, but at the time I sure felt I was helping, especially when it was time to bring in the hay. In the two-week deer hunting season, grandfather would guide American hunters from Akron, Ohio into the bush. They usually did quite well. I remember the first time I was old enough to hunt with a licence, at 18. Chuck Ford, a family friend, bought me a .22 Savage rifle. I got a few deer with that gun. We would spend 45 minutes walking to Pennie’s Corner and then hunt in the Michael’s Bay area, returning before nightfall to Lighthouse Point. I kept that gun until a year ago, when I gave it to my son.”

“Grandmother Mary took care of the house, cleaned cottages on Leason Bay and was a caretaker for the Little Slash School, No. 7. She would participate in the wood bees, too. Twelve farmers would head into the bush, cut the wood and bring it out by sleigh. The ladies would assist when they could but their main role that day was cooking a big meal for everyone to enjoy. Grandfather Jack might bring out his fiddle, park it between his legs, or on his shoulder if he was step-dancing to songs like ‘Little Brown Jug.’ His skill had been perfected in the early lumber camps and later at house parties too.”

Andy has two brothers, John and Paul, and a sister, Mary. Andy walked to S.S. No. 7 school with his grandmother, the caretaker. “I liked playing baseball with the kids from the other two schools in the area. We usually did quite well. When Leason Bay froze over each winter, we got our skates on and played a little hockey or just skated on the huge, iced bay. That was always fun. At home, one of my jobs was taking the wood from the shed and filling up the box behind the kitchen stove. When I was older, I could drive the horses at haying time, feed the livestock and clean the stable.”

High school, Grade 9, was in Mindemoya. “Mr. Szabo was our teacher. I remember he always wore a hat. One winter day, the boys took his hat and filled it with snow, then perched it on the gate post where it froze solid. He tried to laugh about it, but he wasn’t amused. Apart from playing baseball, I didn’t really like school. I wasn’t doing well. It could have been a learning disability, but that incapacity wasn’t well known. ‘I’ll gladly pick shit with the chickens to get out of school’,” he claimed. Andy left after Grade 9. When the road from Espanola to Little Current job came up, Andy joined his dad. “It was a 10-hour day plus the long drive to and from home, so for those two summers, we boarded in Whitefish Falls.”

After leaving school, Andy helped local farmers like Marty Brennan and Raymond McKenzie manage their cattle. This was about the time Andy and Linda met and fell in love. “If you want to go with me, you need to learn to dance,” Linda had told him. Andy did learn to dance and the couple was wed on November 4, 1966 in the Fairview United Church. “When we emerged from the Tehkummah hall, after the wedding dinner, there was a foot of snow on the ground. We started for Sault Ste. Marie, but only got as far as Little Current because of the snow.”

“We moved into Aunt Sadie’s house from November 1966 to April 1967. After that we moved in with Andy’s grandparents and bought their farm in 1974. His grandparents continued to live and work on the farm. There were horses, cows and chickens to care for. I didn’t like chickens, or anything that could fly over my head,” Linda points out. “But I did like eating them. We always had a big garden too and I canned a lot of our vegetables.” The couple had two children, Kerry and Peggy. Kerry was 10 when he got a second prize ribbon when showing his calf in the Providence Bay Fair for 4-H.

Linda and Andy with Peggy and Kerry in 1975.

Linda helped her mother clean at South Baymouth Lodge, and Andy found carpentry work with Reg Leeson. “I had watched my father and grandfather. Reg and I built several houses and cottages. In 1970 Andy had helped his parents build their new home. Andy also did carpentry work for Doug Hutchinson and in 1972, he spent 16 years building homes with Ray Schut Construction. Mike Schut, husband of Maggie, who worked at Timberlane, also asked Andy to help fix up the cottages at the lodge.

Andy was a member of the Assiginack council for 21 years, from 1983 to 2004. “We repaired part of the main road into the Slash area and worked on many other projects.” By 1992, Andy had formed his own construction company, Andy’s Carpentry. He built many more homes until he retired in 2008.

Andy with his team of six helpers, including four grandchildren, putting the garage together.

“1990 both was a busy year. Both kids got married, one in June and one in September, and we moved into our new home. Kerry has been the body shop manager at Manitoulin Chrysler for 36 years, since 1985. He is married to Angela (Leeson), who is a cook and dietary aide at the Mindemoya Hospital. They have two boys, Kurtis and Zachary. Zachary works for Hydro One in forestry and he is married to Ashley (Martin). They have little Lyla who is one year old and are expecting in May. Kurtis works in the body shop at Chrysler and his partner Christine works in the Deli at Foodland in Mindemoya.”

“Daughter Peggy is an insurance broker with Van Horne Insurance in Mindemoya. She is married to Steven Wood who runs the snowplows and graders for Assiginack Township public works. They have two children, Andrew and Jenna. Andrew works in Nunavut as a mine mechanic. His wife Amber works at Community Living in Mindemoya. They have a 10-month-old son, Landon. Jenna works as an X-ray technician in both Manitoulin Hospital sites. Jenna’s fiance Kyle works as a mechanic for Vale in Sudbury.” In 2003, Linda stopped making jams and jellies and began working for the Centennial Manor in Little Current cooking and serving food to the residents. Linda retired in January 2015.

Celebrating Andy’s 21 years of service in 2004. From left to right, Peggy, Angela, Kerry, Linda, Kurtis, Andy, Steve, and Andrew with Zachary and Jenna in front.

“Fond memory? The Charlie Pride show in Sudbury. An important event in our life? The birth of our children, grandchildren, greatgrandchildren, and our 50th anniversary. All the attendants came except one usher. On a side note, the day I brought the 1978 Oldsmobile home was special too. It was a demo but I felt like the queen when I drove it to my job in South Baymouth. I loved that car. We still have it, sitting behind the old barn here. Andy’s 1957 Chev is in the barn and it still runs.”

“Favourite pets? We never had to find a pet; they always came to us. Lucky, a cross between a collie and a dalmatian, was thrown from a vehicle with a plastic bag over her head. She was rescued but nobody claimed her and she was to be shot. We gave her a home. She lived to be 13 years old. Rambo, a huskie with beautiful fur, showed up at our door. We advertised his arrival on the radio, but nobody claimed him. He had a good life too. He used to love drinking water from the toilet and lived for nine years. We had one cat, Boots, brought home on the school bus by Peggy. It side side on the deck. Favourite book? ‘The Haweaters’ by Vanessa Farnsworth and I like Danielle Steele books,” Linda offers. “Any collections? About 60 salt and pepper shakers acquired at vacation destinations by family members.”

“Special family holidays? Christmas, Thanksgiving and Family Day. For Family Day, the kids invite us out to the farm at Kerry and Angie’s place where we join them for a fish fry, usually accompanied by corn and roasted potatoes. Another memorable holiday was the trip to Niagara Falls with my sister and brother-in-law, Wayne and Karen Roxburgh.”

“What did you enjoy most as a parent? Fishing with the kids and watching them skate on the homemade rink that Andy made for them. The years have gone too quickly. Favourite sport? Baseball in school for both of us and singing in a choir and in church for me,” Linda holds.” “First hourly wage? Fifty cents an hour, managing sheep here, for an American owner,” Andy claims. For Linda, at 14, it was $25 a month, including room and board, at Kyle’s Resort in Sandfield. Associations involved in? Tehkummah Triangle Senior’s Club where Andy is the president. “We host card and Bingo games as well as musical shows featuring local talent.”

Linda and Andy on the occasion of their 50th wedding anniversary at the Tehkummah Triangle Club.

Strengths? For Andy, it’s estimating the costs of construction and then doing the carpentry. For Linda, baking, canning and quilting. Something you still want to do that you haven’t been able to yet? “See the grass again,” Andy offers, smiling. For Linda, “Go to Nashville and see Graceland.”

What are you proud of? “All our children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. They are good, accomplished citizens.”

“Most afraid of? Snakes, one crawled up my leg in the house once,” Linda admits. “For Andy it’s mice. He accidentally put his hand into a nest once.”

If you could go back in time is there anything you would change? “No, life has been good for both of us, and we are still close after 50 years.”

Did either of you realize a childhood dream? “I wanted to become a hairdresser, but I am happy with the cooking I have done. I had my food service worker certificate from Canadore College.”

Anyone who inspired you? “Grandfather McCauly once said, ‘Never be afraid to talk to people, even the queen. Walk up to them and shake their hand.’ Hope for the future? “That the pandemic goes away, and normality returns.” Recipe for happiness? “Don’t go to bed angry. A kiss goodnight is always nice.”

Anything you want to recommend to young people? “Find a hobby or something you enjoy. My grandfather was a step dancer and he taught me that skill, which helped me stay focused when I was growing up,” Linda adds.

Linda crafting her newest baby quilt in February 2022.

“Manitoulin is heaven. It’s a quiet place. We like the scenery, the lake. We are true Haweaters, born and raised here. We wave to people we pass in the car and many wave back but a few give odd looks instead, but that’s all right. We know where all the places are on this island and most of the people. Ward’s Store has some new faces, but we still know most of the visitors we encounter. We have no intention of ever going anyplace else. Hilly Grove Cemetery will be our final destination. Until then, we intend to stay on Manitoulin in our comfortable Leason Bay home.”