Now & Then

Lois and Gerry in recent times.

Gerald and Lois Bond

Entering the Bond home, one is immediately impressed by the bountiful Christmas decorations that fill every niche in the home and spill to the yard where a snow lantern invites a guest to pause. Santas, elves, beautiful homemade crafts, a Christmas tree, fully decorated, and the pièce de résistance, the amazing, fully functioning Christmas village taking up a sizable portion of the family room are only a scant few of the cherished items Lois has collected or created. When Lois claims, “I just love Christmas!” she really means it. Lois was also a telephone operator, delivered mail, worked at Smith’s Hardware Store and helped Gerry with his work. 

Gerry has left his mark by building their homes, being a proficient mechanic, running their farm, screening iron ore for CPR and overseeing maintenance for both the Centennial Manor and the Island Lodge in Whitefish Falls. He also started his own Manitoulin Vault and Concrete Products business.

“My maternal grandparents died before I was born so I never really knew them,” Gerry begins. “My paternal grandparents, Albert and Mary Bond, arrived here from England with two sons, James, 10 and Alf, nine. Albert got work on the CPR coal dock in Little Current. In time, he settled into life on the Island and joined the Orange Lodge. My dad James married Mildred Rowe. They had four sons. Two other siblings died soon after birth.” 

Gerry, the youngest, was born on May 1, 1941 to James and Mildred Bond. Older brother Jim had joined the army and was off to war. Len and Edwin were at home. “Dad cut wood at people’s homes during the depression. In 1942, the family moved to Malton where dad worked at Victory Aircraft, the home of the Lancaster bomber aircraft. “I got used to the planes passing overhead.”

Our wedding day, September 2, 1960.

When the war ended in 1945, Victory Airplane shut down and the Bond family returned to Manitoulin. James bought a 400-acre farm on the Rowe Settlement in Howland Township. “One of my first memories was coming home from Malton at four. I remember being squeezed into that 1932 Chevy with mother, dad, Len, Ed, a family friend, and all our stuff. Four of us were in the back seat, including mother. She had packed a lunch and we stopped for dinner in North Bay. It was a long trip over rough roads. There was no Highway 69 yet so we had to go through North Bay.” 

“On Manitoulin, we stayed at Art Rowe’s place while dad and Art got our old farmhouse ready. A freight train brought our furniture from Malton to Little Current. In the spring, we restarted our farm with 10 ewes. I helped feed them and enjoyed seeing the little lambs grow over summer but disliked having the ram repeatedly knock me over from behind. In the fall the lambs would be sold. He raised cattle too and continued cutting wood which he delivered by horse and sleigh or wagon to homes in Little Current for 10 dollars a cord.”

Gerry and his brothers, mum and dad.

“School meant a four-mile walk to the No. 7 Green Bush School for Ed and me. It was one room with all nine grades in one class. We had a young, first-time teacher. She was very nice. I enjoyed math and reading but hated spelling. The strap? I came close a couple of times, but I never got it.”

“One time, Marjorie gave me a ride home from school on her new balloon tire bike. Being unfamiliar, I managed to get my feet into the spokes and catapulted us both into the bushes. We weren’t hurt but the bike was badly damaged. Marjorie was very upset when her mother threw the bike onto the garbage pile down the gully. She was angry with her mum, but she didn’t seem to be angry with me, which was good.”

Gerry joined the boy scouts. “There were about 16 of us meeting in the United Church. I still have my uniform today,” Gerry adds, smiling. High school was in Little Current but young Gerald was anxious to start working. “I went the first day but decided I would be an apprentice mechanic for Tom McMurray instead. For the next two years, I worked on old cars, trucks, tractors and small engines. I was paid $25 for a six-day week.” After that, Gerry worked one year for Art Elliott as a mechanic.

Gerry the birthday boy, age five, on the farm.

In 1959, Gerry’s friend was taking out Phyllis Cosby. Gerry met Lois, her sister and there was an immediate attraction for both. Just prior to a visit, Lois detailed the location of the gravel pit in front of the house. “Be careful, it’s hard to see the edges in winter,” she cautioned. Lois was in the house when she heard screams and ran to the window. She observed Gerry and his friend sliding into the quarry, about 25 feet below. Only their pride was hurt. Lois and Gerald dated, and their friendship became stronger. 

Lois Isabelle had been born to Alex and Pearl (Bryan) Cosby on November 13, 1939, on the kitchen table, in Little Current. Midwife Mrs. Boyd assisted. Lois’ family had been on the Island for many generations also, leaving England when work was scarce. “Mum was a baker at the Red Lodge and the Manitowaning Lodge. Dad farmed, raised horses, hens, turkeys, sheep and pigs. My sister Helen was an ‘inside’ helper and learned to bake from mother. I was outside, dad’s right-hand-man. Our youngest siblings Phyllis, Brenda and little Russell were too small.” 

“I milked cows and fed the pigs, hens and turkeys and did whatever was needed in the barn and the yard. Dad saved me one day when I got angry at the turkeys for blocking me from the feed trough. I was six and I tried to clear the way by swinging my bucket in a circle. Unfortunately, I hit three of them on the head and they fell over, dead. Dad kindly buried them, so mum never found out. At that time, food stamps were issued to help save supplies for our soldiers on the front. We had our own meat, milk and butter but we needed to buy sugar, coffee, tea and other supplies.” 

Lois and her sister holding morels on the farm.

 “I remember my maternal grandparents, Jim and Mary Bryan of Gore Bay. Mary upholstered furniture and sewed clothes. By the time I knew them, grandad had retired and was helping Mary with her upholstery work. Paternal grandparents Charles and Hanna Cosby lived across the road. They had horses and yearling cows that would be sold in the fall. They were neighbours of the Green Bay United Church. Dad looked after the church and the school there. As his helper, I cleaned both places at the end of the daily lessons or the Sunday sermon and lit the stove during the week and at the church on Sunday.”

School was at SS No. 5 Green Bay. I didn’t particularly like school. I hated spelling but I got through.” Lois remembers going out for Hallowe’en. “There were only about five houses within walking distance for my sisters and me. We never got driven so were limited only by our stamina.” 

“By the time I got to high school, we were bused to Little Current by Dave Strain. He was nice. Science class was in the furnace room among old clanking pipes. There were no labs, just discussions and I wasn’t happy with any of it. I left shortly after starting Grade 9 and got work with Mrs. Farquhar in Little Current. I didn’t tell my parents but kept using the bus to get back home. I had to run like the dickens to get to the bus before it left the school yard.” 

“Nearing the end of the school year, Mrs. Farquhar, who didn’t know about my playing hooky, happened to call her sister who owned the Red Lodge. She mentioned that I worked for her. Her sister called my mother. When I got home that day, mother asked me how school was. I told her all was fine. Then she angrily confronted me with her knowledge that I hadn’t been in school for most of the term. She demanded an explanation. Dad came to my rescue again. He said it was alright for me to work so I continued to do just that.” 

“My next job was telephone switchboard operator in Sheguiandah for Leila Dunlop who operated the Howland Phone Company. We took care of the party line from Cold Springs through Little Current to Sheguiandah. There was a list of everyone on the line and the number of rings for each phone. I liked this kind of work.”

Gerry and Lois and the kids on the couple’s 10th anniversary.

“I also had to babysit her five boys. Mrs. Dunlop was expecting and needed a break when the kids got home from school. The boys weren’t allowed into the porch where the switchboard was, but they liked to play tricks. One time I was on one of the horses when a boy slapped the horse’s backside. That animal took off kicking and bucking and the boys laughed but I managed to stay on top, hopefully impressing the boys and injecting a dose of respect at the same time.”

“If there was an emergency, like a fire or a death, all the phone lines lit up; everyone got five rings. All would be aware of the impending catastrophe and could help if needed. “One time, Uncle Leslie Woods was on top of the hay wagon when the whippletree broke. The spooked horses began to run away from the wagon. Uncle was hanging onto the horses with the reins. He fell off and was dragged before the horses were stopped. Sadly, uncle died that day.”

After one year at the Howland Phone Company, Lois, 16, looked after an elderly, blind lady in Little Current. Lois also spent part of her summer at the Red Lodge. Her duties included taking the cows to pasture and back again at the end of the day. In time she worked for the Hans family who owned Timberlane Rustic Lodges, cleaning cabins, doing laundry, setting tables and serving food. “I stayed upstairs in the old farmhouse and had to be up by six in the morning. The tourists, mostly fishermen, were kind. I left there to get married just before the end of the season.”

“Gerry and I married on September 2, 1960. My mum made the beautiful multi-layered cake and the lunch.” About 50 people attended the Green Bay church and the reception at the community centre in Mindemoya. The honeymoon to Niagara Falls was cancelled because their car had broken down. “That didn’t work out, but I am proud that our youngest daughter wore my dress at her wedding. We also had it on display for our 25th anniversary.” 

“We had already started to build a house on the lake not far from my parents’ farm,” Gerry offers, “I used dad’s sawmill to cut the boards from trees felled in winter. I did much of the work myself for our two-bedroom, 24-by-30-foot bungalow. The project started in mid-April and we moved in by mid-September.” The couple would have three children, Perry, Barbara and Carol.

When he was laid off at Elliott’s in the slow season, Gerry did similar mechanical work at Cooper Transport in Mindemoya. “I fixed engines and drove trucks for the next three years.” After that it was one year of mechanic work at Posson Volkswagen in Sudbury before moving back to Manitoulin to do iron ore screening for Carmen Fielding Construction at the CPR dock. “I was looking after the screening plant when I lost part of my hand to the drive chain in 1966.”

Gerry spent two months, from late June to September, in the hospital in Toronto. “They grafted skin onto my hand which was left with two fingers, one of which had to be removed later. The hand was bound to a spot on my stomach so the skin graft would take. That alone took 21 days. I went home for one week, then returned for another two months in Toronto.”

“After I got home in November, I worked one month with the Fielding plant before being laid off for winter.” Gerry’s next job was at the Manitoulin Centennial Manor when it opened in 1967. He spent 13 years as the maintenance supervisor. “I enjoyed that work.” In 1973 he and Lois bought their farm and she helped with the farm work. Gerry spent his last 20 working years at Whitefish Falls, the Island Lodge in the Bay of Islands. He was the cabin manager, doing maintenance work with a staff of 25. Lois cleaned cabins.

Lois and Gerry in recent times.

Lois took on the Little Current rural mail delivery for 30 to 40 customers. “At 8:30 am I sorted the mail and started my deliveries. I was home by noon.” Additionally, she worked at Smith’s Hardware for about 14 years. “My days ended at 5:30 pm so back then, I had to put Carol on the bus to go home after school. I had driven her there in the morning.”

In her mid-50s, Lois retired from the hardware store and looked after four gentlemen with prostate cancer, each in their own homes. In 1990 Gerry started his Manitoulin Vault and Concrete Products business on his farm. He built burial vaults and concrete products like patio stones. He sold this business in 2008.

Both Gerry and Lois dealt with some health issues during those years. Lois fought off breast cancer twice and kidney cancer once. “They just burned the growth off the kidney with minimally invasive surgery.” Gerald came down with prostate cancer and he had surgery around 2000. Son Perry broke his back while riding a horse and jumping over a gate. A timber hit him in the back and left him with a damaged spine. He was in his early 40s and needed a wheelchair. He has two sons and two daughters. Daughter Barb has two sons and lived in Calgary before she moved back to her family home. She works in reception at the physiotherapy clinic in M’Chigeeng. Carol has three boys and works at the Hobart Plant in Owen Sound. 

“We have 13 great-grandchildren and one on the way. A memorable exciting event? The life-changing birth of our first child. I spent a week in the hospital then,” Lois shares. “That’s unheard of now. Favourite pet? Skippy our poodle. He lived to be 12 or 13 and thankfully Dr. Tipper was there for us when we had to lay him to rest. Favourite season? Winter for ski-dooing; but summer for boating. We enjoyed our 24-foot Chris Craft cabin cruiser until we sold it to help buy the farm in 1973.”

“Favourite collection? The train set I had as an eight-year-old,” Gerry recalls, “It was special, and I bought one for each of my sons. Favourite holiday? Calgary in 1968. We took a CN train for $90 return for both of us. We spent ten days there and saw the Calgary Stampede with its chuckwagon races and bronc riding. At that time, you paid once for all the events. Now each event has a separate entry fee. We would still love to see the East Coast. Favourite media? Sirius XM on the road and the television here, to watch the Maple Leafs in the winter and the Blue Jays in the summer.”

Hobbies? “I love to do crafts, mostly for the Christmas season,” Lois confirms. Her professional creations are displayed in every available niche in the home, including the stairs and the walls. They are beautiful. Quilts have been made for the grandchildren. Lois also loves to attend craft fairs all over Ontario.

“Twelve years ago, we bought and moved into this home in Little Current. We enjoyed spending time with our family ski-dooing to McGregor Bay, riding horses or boating to Killarney for the fish and chips. Our vacations to Las Vegas have generally covered our return flights,” Gerry adds, smiling. “I was also a member of the Lions Club for 10 years. What do I hope for the future? We hope that the increasing number of fires will not destroy too much of our planet.”

In the mid 1970s, Americans Ray and Mary Zimmeth, new boaters and marine navigators, were cruising the open, choppy waters of West Bay in their cabin cruiser in late September. Ray lost his life there, early in a planned year-long journey that started in Duluth. He had dislodged the anchor line and was swimming back to the boat in 45-degree Fahrenheit water. Mary saw him wave, dip into the water, never to surface again. The boat began to drift after the engine was choked again by the anchor line. She cried desperate tears. 

Gerry happened to be on shore when he saw the cruiser moving towards the shoals. He quickly initiated the rescue of Mary and her boat, later sheltering the new widow in his and Lois’ home for several days while teams searched for Ray’s body. Mary had to return home alone. Ray’s body was found near Kagawong one month later. Gerry continued to help. He had become her knight in shining armour and Mary was eternally grateful for his life-saving help. Mary wrote a book about her experience.

“I have always done what I like to do when I wanted to do it,” Gerry adds with a smile. “The Island seems to be the friendliest place to live. People will speak to you. In the city people just pass you by without even looking.” Today, Jordan Alston, from a few doors away, was outside shoveling snow. “He comes as needed and we are thankful.” Lois adds, “this quiet, peaceful place is also special because we have lived here all our lives. The deer collect at our front door to eat the grain. Short trips always bring us back to be where people know us and where we can live on Manitoulin time.”