When Raymond and I are beetling along good old Highway 7 (the Trans-Canada) on our way to the Manse from Montreal late on a Friday night, through hot spots like Sharbot Lake and Maberly and Kaladar, we have a standing question/joke: when we get to the outskirts of Actinolite (the tiniest place of them all, and very close to our final destination, Queensborough), will there or won’t there be a Greyhound bus at the Log Cabin?
The Log Cabin, you see, has been a stop on the Highway 7 bus route for – well, I want to say time immemorial, but that wouldn’t be quite accurate. But for a long time. And it’s not just a stop to let passengers on and off; the Log Cabin is a restaurant, so it’s a rest stop, allowing bathroom breaks and telephone breaks (not that people need that much anymore, thanks to cellphones) and snack breaks and cigarette breaks. And it is amazing how many times – like, 9 times out of 10 – when we drive by, there is indeed a bus stopped at the Log Cabin, with passengers milling about outside taking their smoke breaks or whatever.
One wonders: how can there be that many buses going east and west along Highway 7 (between Ottawa and Peterborough and then on to Toronto) that there’s almost always a bus stopped at the little old Log Cabin? Mind you, on our drive on 7 from Perth to Queensborough Road (just a bit west of the Log Cabin) we do tend to see at least a couple of moving buses per trip. But still: how can there be a stopped one at Actinolite almost all the time? It’s one of the great mysteries of the universe.
I got thinking about the Log Cabin (and more on it a little bit later) and bus stops on Highway 7 because of something I found last night when I was looking online (in vain) for a photo of our bread man back in the Manse days, Bill Willemsen, and his bread truck – the subject of yesterday’s post.
One thing I did find was this article from the Ottawa Citizen way back in March 1980:
Now that is good stuff, is it not? The big old bus company (Voyageur in those days, before Greyhound took it over) forced to back down in the face of being told by its customers, drivers and everybody else that Bill Willemsen ran a very fine operation and the buses should keep on stopping there.
The Windmill is, sadly, long gone, and Bill himself died some years ago. But one thing that puzzles me about this article is that it suggests that the Windmill was the main rest stop for the buses in that region – a place for passengers “to stretch their legs and get a bite to eat on the long trip to points west.” So where does that leave the Log Cabin at Actinolite, just a few miles east? There’s no way there would have been two rest stops so close to each other. But for untold years – way back to when I was a kid at the Manse, and long before then – the Log Cabin had been where the buses stopped.
You don’t have to take my word for it. An article by John Hopkins about the history of the hamlet of Actinolite that appeared in the fall 2011 issue of the wonderful Hastings County magazine Country Roads says: “In the summer of 1933 Price’s Log Cabin was opened on Highway 7 and the service station and restaurant became an almost indispensable stop for travelers on the new highway. Part of the Log Cabin’s appeal was its black bears, and tourists would stop to have their pictures taken with the animals, share their lunch or simply take a look. Teddy, the original tenant, was one of two cubs found in the area in May, 1933 while in 1950 Buster and Bandy joined him. When Teddy died in September, 1964 at the age of 31 it was the cause of much sadness in the area.” (You can read the full article here. And if you’re interested in Hastings County, let me tell you that Country Roads is well worth picking up when you’re in the area, or subscribing to.)
Anyway, back to the bus-stop situation. All I can think of is that something happened so that the Log Cabin lost the rest-stop rights for a while, and the honour went to Bill Willemsen’s Windmill Restaurant. But with the Windmill long gone, and the Log Cabin still operating, I suppose things have reverted.
That said, the Log Cabin isn’t what it used to be. (Is anything?) When I was a kid growing up in Queensborough, going out for a meal at the Log Cabin was quite the treat, being served your hamburger by waitresses as you sat in the very funky rustic-styled wooden chairs that looked (perhaps except for the many coats of varnish) like they really did belong in a log cabin. The last time I stopped in was probably 15 years ago – long before I ever dreamed of buying the Manse – and it was kind of a bare-bones self-serve cafeteria-style operation. But I’m sure the hungry bus passengers appreciate it.
Anyway, two more things and I shall completely exhaust my store of Madoc-Actinolite bus-stop lore. Are you still with me?
One: While the Log Cabin no longer has those rustic wooden tables and chairs, I think I know who does. One day a few years back (still long before I ever thought I might one day own the Manse) I happened to be in the nearby village of Tweed, and stopped in for lunch at the Gateway Restaurant on the main street. And was delighted to see it furnished in part with those very same (if I’m not mistaken) tables and chairs. I wish I’d thought to take a photo of them, then or since; Raymond and I go to the Gateway often for breakfast or lunch when we’re staying at the Manse, so there’s no excuse. But I did find this tiny one (at left) online, and it kind of gives you the idea.
And two: about those bears that John Hopkins’s article mentions. Yes, Teddy apparently died in 1964 (the year my family moved to the Manse), but Buster and Bandy were very much alive, well and drinking Coke out of Coke bottles, much to the entertainment of bus passengers, car travellers, and those of us who lived in the area, back in the long-ago day when I was young. I made them guests of honour in a blog post a while back – it’s here – and I am re-using a photo (taken by my grandfather) of Buster (or is it Bandy?), just because I can.
And because it makes me smile to think about the old days at the Log Cabin. Where the buses still stop. A lot.