At 7:45 a.m. this morning I was out in the driveway with a hose & a bucket of soapy water washing the Jeep. Now why would I be doing that & so what if I had the usual gaggle of mud on the fenders? Well, a friend & I were on a mission this morning to find out why the Canadian Government has created a permanent 'no fly zone' up to 10,000 feet stretching from Point Franks Ontario to just east of a place called Kettle Point on the shores of Lake Huron. We did have a hunch why but it made no logical sense. My retired friend Craig Wilker is a private Pilot with his own plane & this 'no fly zone' has been bugging him for a long time. But both Craig & I plus 3 other hometown Tavistock boys know something about this area that many people don't know & it dates back to the very early 1960's.
Craig & I grew up on the same street in a small Ontario town. We have kept in touch through the years & Craig always drops in to say Hello in late August. He drives from Kitchener Ontario to another little town in our area called Zurich. Zurich is known for it's annual big bean festival. Craig always attends to pick up a big load of his favorite baked beans. It's always a Saturday & two weeks ago Craig dropped by late in the afternoon to say Hello. He mentioned his interest in this 'no fly zone' south of Grand Bend which in turn is south of Bayfield. Port Franks was our destination. We talked a bit about what we had found in this 'then uninhabited' area about 43 years ago. Craig wondered if I would be interested in taking a drive back in time to a place we had indeed found some ‘bombs’ those oh so many years ago. Bombs?? Yes indeed, hundreds if not thousands of them.
Ok, a quick bit of background. The area in question had been owned for centuries by the Chippewa First Nations Native People. Using the War Measures Act in 1942 the Canadian Government appropriated a large chunk of land & turned it into a military training base. Deal was to return the land to Native Peoples after the war but they never did. It was used as a base up into the 1990's when the Indian folks fought to take the land back resulting in the death of one of their own. The military finally withdrew in 1995 but tensions are still strong amongst the local Indian folks. It was while this section of land was still in military hands back in the early 60's that we made our bomb discovery.
Near the military base was the small lakeside community of Port Franks. It consisted of a Marina & a few dozen cottages back them. Between Port Franks & the military base a Tavistock couple built a cottage on the shores of Lake Huron. They were trusting enough to let their son Gary & a few of his friends go up to that cottage at times including Christmas Holidays. There were usually 5 of us who spent a few days now & again at 'the cottage.' Our group of 5 consisted of Gary, Jim & John Eifert, Craig & myself. While at the cottage & being the young teenagers we were it didn't take us long to discover all the military stuff back in the sand dunes & forests of the military camp nearly. No fences in those days or signs warning anyone to stay off the property. Well I don't remember any signs anyway & if there were signs it wouldn't have mattered anyway. We were young males & the more we hiked into this area the more really neat-o army stuff we found.
It was an active army training base with fox holes on many of the sand dune ridges. Found an underground bunker made of pine logs & one day we hiked in far enough to see the firing ranges. We were behind the big square wood targets. Not too smart. It was easy for us to dodge any military vehicles because we could hear them coming. I don't recall ever running into any army personnel though. We found rifle & machine gun shell casings everywhere. We even found an old Indian cemetery one day. But one of the big finds was hundreds if not thousands of MORTAR BOMBS dumped into a small pond. Water was crystal clear & piles of these mortar bombs covered the bottom of the pond for as far out as we could see. I remember them looking to be about a foot & half long with tail fins on one end. All 5 of us seen them so we know they were indeed there. I also remember finding a blue rocket head in the sand. We poked at it with a stick. I'm talking some very major stupidity here but it gets stupider. Had this thing exploded it would have instantly killed the whole works of us. This warhead was very heavy, about a foot long, & about as round as my leg. It was tapered to a soft point at one end. For some reason we convinced ourselves it was probably a dummy practice round. Here's where it gets even stupider. I picked this thing up & carried it all the way back to Gary's parents cottage. Now Gary is older than me, a whole lot smarter & for sure a much more cautions person than I have ever been. Thinking about it now I don't know how he let me carry that thing back to the cottage. Unless he didn't know. Hmmmmm. It's not clear how I got that possible bomb back to Tavistock into my Mother's barn out behind the house but I did. And that is where that piece of forgotten ordnance remained for the next 25 years until I came across it cleaning out the barn one time.......Oh Dear I have got myself waaaaaaay off topic here again haven’t I.
Met Craig in Sobeys Supermarket parking lot in Grand Bend at 10:15 this morning & we Jeeped ourselves off to Port Franks. (Craig is quite meticulous about his vehicles & that's why I wanted us to go in a clean Jeep:)) Our first destination was the very cottage we used to go to go to back in the early 60's. I had driven by it last summer so knew where it was despite the whole area being much more built up than it was many years ago. Craig wanted to have a close up look at the cottage plus take some way points on his Garmin Aviation device he had with him. Nobody home so we had ourselves a walk around for old times sake. Many changes of course but the basics of our memories were still there. Last time I remembered walking on that property was 1967. Awhile back I posted about where I was the night the Beatles first appeared on Ed Sullivan 50 years ago. This is the cottage where we watched the Fab Four that night & this is my February 9th 2014 LINK to that post.
THE BASIC COTTAGE STRUCTURE IS STILL THE SAME EXCEPT THE CARPORT ON LEFT HAS BEEN MADE INTO A ROOM & ANYWHERE YOU SEE GRASS IN THESE PHOTOS WAS ONCE ALL SAND DUNES
THAT LARGE HOUSE TO THE RIGHT WITH THE BIG CHIMNEY WAS NOT THERE YEARS AGO
YES WE DID HAVE SOME PARTIES ON THAT BEACH DOWN THERE FOR SURE:))
THESE STEPS & FLOWERS WEREN’T HERE EITHER
From 'Burton's' cottage we headed off in the direction of the army camp a short distance away. Absolutely nothing was familiar. Where once we hiked up & over sand dunes & tobogganed down a steep hill onto a frozen pond there were now roads & suburbs of houses. We ventured up some no exit roads with Craig recording way points along the way. He wants to gather enough information together before he phones someone in the Government regarding the 'no fly zone'. We could only guess where the small lake/pond was with the mortar bombs in the bottom. No landmarks we could go by until we spotted a sign on a fence alongside the road after we had come to the end of the suburban sprawl. It was a warning sign which read. We knew we were roughly in the area of Mortar Bomb lake but it was heavily forested & neither one of us were into tramping through a mosquito infested woods in search of something we already knew was there. The Government is obviously aware of all the ordnance scattered about in the large training area as well but it seems a stretch to enforce a 'no fly zone' over this whole area, including all the suburban homes. Whatever artillery shells that could blow up in there certainly is not going to toss anything 10,000 feet into the air. Anyway Craig logged the information & photos he wanted so our mission was complete but we didn't stop there. If he is successful in finding out about this ‘no fly zone’ he said he’ll let me know. And of course you all know when I know you all will know as well…………….:))
CRAIG PUNCHES IN A WAY POINT FOR HIS ‘NO FLY ZONE’ PROJECT
TAKING A PHOTO OF THE SIGN ON THE RIGHT & WE KNEW WE WERE IN THE GENERAL AREA OF MORTAR BOMB LAKE
CRAIG USES THIS GARMIN AVIATION DEVICE WHEN HE’S FLYING HIS SINGLE ENGINE GRUMMAN AS WELL…HE WAS ACTUALLY IN THE AIR OVER LAKE ONTARIO HEADED FOR THE STATES ON THE MORNING OF 9/11 BUT WAS ABLE TO GET HIS PLANE TURNED AROUND IN TIME TO LAND BACK IN CANADA
We took us for a leisurely drive south on highway 21 to another area we remembered traveling around many years ago. Much of it is now under Indian control so we were a bit restricted as to where we could go. We did recognize a few buildings here & there as we made our way to Kettle Point right on the shores of Lake Huron. Grabbed a leg stretch here & took a few photos of the areas big round rock 'Kettles.' To see the history of how these rocks were formed & how the Stoney Point Indians made use of the shale rock check out these links…..KETTLE POINT & how the Kettles were formed at ORIGIN OF THE KETTLES
UNFORTUNATELY LAKE LEVELS ARE UP THIS YEAR & WE COULDN’T SEE THE BIG ROUND ‘KETTLE’ ROCKS NOW UNDER WATER JUST OFFSHORE
THESE 2 KETTLE ROCKS HAVE BEEN MOVED HERE FOR PEOPLE TO SEE & THE ONE BELOW IS IN IT’S NATURAL ENVIRONMENT NEAR THE WATER
FACE TO FACE WITH LAKE HURON & THIS IS THE SHALE ROCK AT KETTLE POINT THE INDIANS MADE ARROWHEADS & SPEAR TIPS FROM
From there it was back to Grand Bend where we washed down a couple foot long hot dogs with a couple root beers on the Bend's famous main street stretch. Um, that’s 1 foot long & 1 root beer apiece by the way. Drove Craig back to his car in Sobey's parking lot & we called it a day. Been a very long time since I have had a day like today & it was nice meeting up with an old friend & heading off on a bit of an adventure. Years ago it was the norm for me to be hanging out with a bunch of guys & close friends off doing all sorts of things. I hadn't really missed that way of life these last bunch of years but I sure did enjoy our mystery 'no fly zone' mission today. Hmmmm, makes me wonder if I've been hanging around with myself too long.........................
PROBABLY ONE OF THE LONGEST STANDING EATERIES ON THE STRIP
MASHING DOWN OUR FOOT LONGS & SHARING A FEW OLD MEMORIES OF DAY’S GONE BY…LUNCH WAS ON CRAIG…THANKS BIG GUY
I RIGHTLY GUESSED AT THIS AS A 54 FORD
CRAIG WAS PARTICULARLY INTERESTED IN THIS CAMARO BECAUSE HE BOUGHT A NEW OF THESE YEARS AGO & STILL HAS IT
THE BOYS ARE TALKING SHOP HERE…UNLIKE CRAIG’S CAMARO THIS ONE IS ALL SOUPED UP
Bit of a surprise on the way home when just north of Grand Bend I spotted a very familiar looking Class C Ford Winnebago Access Premier. Made a U-turn on the highway & went back to grab a couple photos. Yep sure enough…….it was our old Winnie Wagon. Winnie The Bago her very self. Ron had told us a couple from Grand Bend had bought it & by golly now we know where Winnie’s new digs are. It was comforting to see she had herself a fine new home……………………..:))
YES BY GOLLY THAT’S WINNIE THE BAGO ALRIGHT:))
GROANER'S CORNER:(( The other day it was my turn to prepare dinner so I asked my wife to go over to the local market and buy some organic vegetables. She came back rather upset. When I asked her what was wrong she said, "I don't think I like that produce guy. I went and looked around for your organic vegetables and I couldn't find any. So I asked him where the organic vegetables were. " He didn't know what I was talking about so I said, " These vegetables are for my husband. Have they been sprayed with any poisonous chemicals?" And he said, "No, ma'am. You'll have to do that yourself."