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  • Writer's pictureErin Dentzien

1015-1 AVE - The Cottage Clan

Updated: Mar 16, 2022

This history has been lovingly dedicated by Wendy Wylie in honour of her generous, kind & unique sister R. Susan Wylie. Doris Moonie has also contributed to the telling of the Roper segment of this history. The story of the Roper-Wylie-Hagstrom Families at Ma-Me-O Beach is quite interesting as many families have blended over the years into what is now the Cottage Clan.

Couchiching Lodge_1955

The Roper-Wylie families have been at Ma-Me-O Beach since 1923, when C.T.C. (Don) & Edna (Queenie) Roper purchased a 60-foot lot and built Couchiching Lodge in 1932. Wendy stated her Grandad was known as CTC “Don” Roper. The CTC is a combination of family names - Cecil Thomas Curzon. A white wood siding cottage and garage were built. Couchiching Lodge was the name given to the cottage because the Roper family had lived near Orillia, Ontario, which is near Lake Couchiching.

Cottages were built with verandas across the entire front (lake side) and so the family mirrored that in their design at Couchiching Lodge. The veranda was seldom used though, as the outside shutters were always up while the family was there to allow the light to come in; however the wind and rain rushed in also. One could barely see the lake with all bushes that almost covered the stone path to the beach in the 1930's. Jack and Vivian Roper-Biddell built the stone path that still to this day leads from the veranda down to the beach.

Queenie & CTC_1933

The Don Roper family consisted of four children. They are also listed with their spouses in brackets: Basil (Jean George), Nora (Bob Wylie), Dorothy (Dunc McIntosh), & Vivian (Jack Biddell).

CTC Ropers & Spouses_August 2, 1942

The Wylie family consisted of Will, Art, Nell, Jean and Bob. Of that family, Jean Wylie-Henning’s family included Vic, Bill, Pat, Andrew and Dallas who were frequent lake visitors.

Queenie, Amy, Enid, Doris (with the ball) & 2 others

These family members enjoyed the Lake until 1945, when Nora Roper-Wylie’s children – Wendy and Susan along with Dorothy Roper-McIntosh’s children – Doug, Bruce and Pat formed another generation that enjoyed life at Couchiching.

Wendy, Bruce, Doug, & Susan at back of Couchiching_1950

Don's brother H.B.S. (Harry) Roper, wife Amy and children Neville, Enid and Doris lived in Rimbey, and would drive over to Ma-Me-O Beach to visit often. They enjoyed the clear water, boat rides, perfect sand for building castles and huge bonfires on the beach. Don was a wonderful story- teller, fisherman, family man, and role model.

Image 1: Queenie Roper on the Beach Wall

Image 2: Don Roper in his motor boat

Image 3: Janet Moonie at the pier

On one of their visits Don put his 2 1/2 H.P. motor on the green rowboat and offered everyone rides. Enid accepted and sat in the bow which was the choice seat! Doris decided to watch cousin Dorothy play horseshoes at Dr. L.E. Johnson’s family cottage across the road. Soon they received the news that Don's little green boat had been struck and cut in half by the only huge, steel-hulled motorboat on the lake! Uncle Don was rescued and Enid managed to swim to the main pier safely. It was Doris' lucky day! If Doris had been in the boat she would have been sitting in the middle where the boat was struck. As compensation Don was given a special green rowboat with a 5 H.P. motor which was quite the deal!

One summer Don Roper had a fence built. Jacob Yellowbird and sometimes Philip Lightening helped Don to build a fence around the property which stood for many years. After the build there were strips of bark left in the yard. It did not take long for the eldest cousin Doug to learn how to snap the strips. Soon he was snapping at the rest of the kids! Grandad Don was quickly informed and then gave Doug a taste of his own medicine. Doug could be heard yelling to Grandad Don “I’m never coming back here." Just words of course as many summers were enjoyed together as cousins well after the 'bark snapping incident.'

In the evenings Wendy remembered having popcorn popped in the fire and enjoying the treat all snuggled in Grandad Don's bear rug in front of the beautiful fireplace. The cottage walls were covered with pictures of wild prairie horses painted by Uncle Jack Biddell’s father. There were three bedrooms and a huge wooden table for family meals in the large central room.

Doug, Bruce, Wendy & Susan-Riding a horse from the stable _approx.1949

The children had many a job to keep them busy out at the cottage. The most frequent task was to haul water, in a wagon, from the Provincial Day Park’s well. Ice was delivered, thankfully by the Jackson family. What was dreaded most was the march to the 'whitehouse' at night, so the children often used the ‘thunder mug’ which was kept under their bed. The outhouse was occasionally tipped over on Halloween by mischievous children!

Speaking of candy, the big wooden store with a full-length veranda across the road from the main pier was the goal of Doris and her siblings long walks. A shelf full of huge jars filled with assorted colourful candies gave them a tempting selection. Five cents bought a lot in those days! Called Woods General Store. Doris' favourite candy was the black round hard ball jawbreakers! Left for a long time in one’s mouth and the first flavour was licorice!

All of the kids also loved to ride the horses at the stable by the main pier. Each child had their favourite steed of course. Work at the stable was traded for time riding their horses.

In 1959, Queenie sold Couchiching Lodge to her goddaughter Doris Roper-Moonie under the condition the cottage name never be changed. Doris' husband George Moonie and their sons David and Alan had been renting small cottages from the Hillas family nearby for a few weeks each summer.

Image 1: Cara, Doris (Moonie), Megan Rutledge

Image 2: Cara, Janet, Megan on Pigeon Lake

The family was delighted to have Couchiching Lodge as their own and to continue the Roper family presence at Ma-Me-O Beach.

Amy Roper & granddaughter Janet Moonie at Thanksgiving_1964

Doris' daughter Janet, soon arrived after the cottage was bought from Queenie. All three children spent two full months each summer with Doris enjoying life at the beautiful beach. The Moonie's also participated in events on the neighbouring Pigeon Lake Reserve nearby. One little girl became Janet's summer friend and they enjoyed playing on Janet's bed with Barbie dolls for hours.

Doris, George, Alan, David & Janet Moonie_70's

In the late 1960's and during the 70's, George and the boys enjoyed the Sailing Club races on the weekends. Most of the vessels were single hulled such as their Enterprise, the Sunfish, the Windmill or the classy Flying Dutchman. With the start and finish being at the main pier, families and friends could watch the close competitions. After each race the Sailing Club social functions were usually held in the Legion Hall. The prestigious role of Commodore was rotated amongst the members.

After many years of hand washing diapers and other laundry outside in sun-warmed water Doris and George decided it was time they had indoor plumbing and heat. In 1988-89 a 10-foot addition to the cottage allowed them to enjoy those conveniences. The addition was lined with white pine panelling to match that in the original part of the cottage. When heating was added they opted for a gravity furnace. A few years later, half of the veranda was closed in to add a bedroom but the basic structure still extends across the front staying true to the cottage style.

Summer was not the only time a Roper could be found out at the cottage.

Doris' family especially enjoyed cross country skiing in the winter time or skating on the lake. Doris commented, "I would go skiing across the to the provincial park with Sandy Wright or Judy McCardia quite often. Even my 98-year-old brother still drives over to the lake for a visit! I'm not sure that he remembers that he fell out of the top bunk one night when he was six-years-old as he did not even wake up with the THUD!"

Doris reflected on her time out at the cottage as being so fortunate to have a place to go - even when renting they came out quite often. “I just always wanted to go back there and Ma-Me-O Beach is my favourite place. Also memories of our late sons David and Alan and their happy times at Ma-Me-O, will always be with us."

In 1993, daughter Janet (Moonie) Rutledge became the owner of Couchiching Lodge. Janet and daughters Cara and Megan have spent many happy holidays at the cottage.

Ropers at Couchiching 2008_Neville Roper, Doris Roper-Moonie, Doug McIntosh, Wendy & Susan Roper-Wylie

Susan Roper-Wylie continues her story in the telling of Wapiti Lodge. Read more about the Wapiti Lodge & Roper-Wylie history in the extension of this family story at 1007-1 Avenue.

Janet and her family also intend to continue to enjoy the beach, lake, special friends and neighbours of Ma-Me-O Beach while proudly keeping the legacy alive at Couchiching Lodge.

That's all for now folks! Stay tuned for our next post as more stories are collected and submitted.

~History Book Team~

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