Of Actinolite bears, and picking up pop bottles

You never know what you'll find on the internet: tonight I discovered this vintage postcard featuring Actinolite's Buster and Bandy. It's for sale by a U.S. collector here. (Photo from delcampe.com)

You never know what you’ll find on the internet: tonight I discovered this vintage postcard featuring Actinolite’s Buster and Bandy. It’s for sale by a U.S. collector here, but the sale ends tomorrow (March 19) and the price isn’t cheap. (Photo from delcampe.com)

This is either Buster or Bandy, the two bears that in the 1960s were the star attraction at the service station and restaurant on Highway 7 near Actinolite that was called Price's, or the Log Cabin. People loved to stop in and watch those poor caged bears. They were, as I recall, famous for being fond of Coca-Cola, and would drink it out of the bottle. Note the classic vintage "Supertest" sign in the background. (Photo almost certainly by my grandfather, J.A.S. Keay)

Buster (or maybe Bandy) in the 1960s, behind bars at Price’s Log Cabin service station and restaurant on Highway 7. (Photo by J.A.S. Keay)

Longtime readers might remember my post from last July featuring Buster and Bandy, the caged Coke-drinking bears who were the star attraction back in the 1960s at Price’s Log Cabin Restaurant at Actinolite, just a few miles southeast of Queensborough on the Trans-Canada Highway. I also posted a couple of photos that my grandfather, the late J.A.S. Keay, had taken of the bears. Subsequently, another central Hastings County-based blog that I follow, Provost Family Cookbook & Archives, picked up one of those photos and asked readers if they remembered good old Buster and Bandy. (You can see the post here. And for a very entertaining music video that features Actinolite prominently and includes mention of the bears – though their names are incorrectly given as Mandy, Bandy and Moe – check out this post.)

The comments that came in to the Provost post were very entertaining; clearly people have very fond memories of the Actinolite bears. But one comment that was posted very recently was so great that I’m just going to quote it. Not only does Eugene have some good Buster and Bandy recollections, but he brought back another happy childhood memory. (Plus his signoff is classic.)

Yes i remember the bears. I was just a young boy. I’m 60 now. I grew up near Cloyne and we used to stop on our trips to Tweed. I remember giving them a pop. A pop wasn’t something us kids got regularly. 5 cents a bottle? I forget as i didn’t buy it. I just drank it. But we used to pick up empty bottles for a penny each. A dollar was a lot of money for a kid. 100 pop bottles. That was a lot of walking along the road. Polluters paid me haha. And i sold frogs. Now you can hardly use them for fishing. Times sure have changed in 60 yrs. i even thought in the future we would have a box that you ask a question and it would give you the answer. I’m typing on one of those. No flying cars yet though.

Vintage soft-drink ("pop," if you must) bottles, all found last weekend in Stratford: Hires root beer, Pure Spring ginger ale, and Wilson's ginger ale. Where are they now? But at least the bottles will live on in some nook at the Manse.

Now we collect them for their vintage look (Raymond and I found these in an antique mall in Stratford, Ont., last summer) but back when I was a kid, empty pop bottles meant cash for buying candy, and that was good stuff.

Good stuff, Eugene! I’m sure GM will be introducing the flying cars any day now. Meanwhile, thank you for reminding us all about the days of collecting pop bottles by the roadside. It’s hard to believe now, in these eco-conscious times we live in, but people used to toss soft-drink bottles out of car windows willy-nilly. We kids would get together and go for a walk along the roads outside of Queensborough and gather ’em up. I think by then the refund was up from a penny to 2¢ for a small bottle and 5¢ for a big one, but I could be wrong about that. As Eugene says, we kids benefitted from the polluters’ thoughtless ways. How exciting it was to take our collection of empty Coke, Pepsi, Crush, Pure Spring, Wilson’s, Mountain Dew, Dr. Pepper and Canada Dry bottles to Bobbie’s or McMurray’s general store and turn them into cash that could buy a pile of penny candy!

Ah, yes. Coke-drinking bears and bottle-collecting kids. And general stores.

Life was good.

23 thoughts on “Of Actinolite bears, and picking up pop bottles

  1. Great blog! What wonderful memories.. It’s good to know others are viewing our family cookbook site. It’s a terrific way to keep everyone, especially our younger generation interested in checking in with the old folks.. Mary Provost

    • Hi Mary! I think it is very cool the way your family has used technology to share memories and recipes and whatnot. A lovely idea that more families could probably benefit from! (Especially if they have Irish Whiskey Cake recipes to share… for the grownups.)

  2. Those great days of summer.. and sticking your arms in the the cooler that opened from the top and was filled with water and the blackballs were the best. We got a lot of exercise back in those days just looking for our next treat at the local general store. I was not as fortunate to live by the bears but my dad took us to visit them. Life was good!

    • Oh Marykay, you have just summarized the whole experience of being a kid in the general store in those days, in such a few words! Beautiful! Don’t we all remember sticking our arms down into the cold water of the cooler where the “pop” was – at Bobbie’s, a store you are very familiar with, the small 12-cent bottles were in the front, and the big (25-cent?) bottles were in the back – and finding our favourite soft drink? And yes, blackballs (which we bought at McMurray’s) really were the best – the way they would change colour as you sucked on them… Oh, such memories you have brought back. Life was good!

  3. I remember the bears at Price’s Park, too. We used to stop and gawk when we were in the area. We didn’t bother with the ritual of giving them Coca-Cola, though. I’m glad you’ve posted this. Nobody believes me when I tell them that there were two bears at the bus stop cafe at Actinolite. Speaking of that area (and I’ve seen your page about the art school), do you remember the art school on Hwy 7 (about 5 miles west of Price’s)? It was owned by the Cadwells, and there is a story about UFO abductions …. yes! If you’re interested, I can send you the information, complete with video!!

    • Well! Art schools and UFOs – I cannot top that. Would the art school you’re referring to possibly correspond to the present-day (and wonderful) Studio 737 gallery, I wonder? But on the UFO front, what can I say but: please share!

      • No, it’s not Studio 737. If you drive west of the Hwy 7 & 37 intersection (going west on 7), about 6-10km away, you will pass the Pearson Peace Park, with a monument up on the hill. Beside that, there is a place where they sell pottery and possibly lawn furniture. That’s the site of the old art school, and the peace park was also part of the property, all owned by Roy Cadwell. I remember meeting visiting Japanese students around 1967 at their school. As for the UFO abduction, in Google, do a search for UFO ABDUCTION ACTINOLITE ART SCHOOL and you will find articles by a woman named Winifred Barton. In Youtube, search for Cosmic Changeover and you will find a video with Mrs. Barton, and she explains what happened. Now, it’s all rather strange … a UFO abducted 46 people and some of them were gone for years. Uhhhhhh … hmmm. Let’s think … a hot summer night in 1973 … people at a party in the country … ummm, wine? Herbal stuff?? And what’s that thing people were taking at the time, starts with L and ends with D???

      • I hope I don’t incriminate myself by saying this, but I always had suspicions about that “peace park”… I will (with some gusto, because – what a lark!) check out the “evidence” for that UFO abduction. How entertaining!

      • Also, do a search for Winifred Barton Dreams of Great Earth Changes and you will find more. It’s all very strange, things like people fading from view, etc. She claims she had a brain transplant on a UFO (without anaesthetic!), all from the Actinolite experience. Whoda thunk? Madoc? Actinolite? I guess aliens are tired of watching government officials.

  4. I remember Buster and Brandy. The Price Log Cabin was owned by my 2 Uncles, Bud and Bruce Price. I sure miss the days of feeding the bears their ice cream and pop. My Great Grandfather built the log cabin. I also remember the trading post that was next door, they had a lot of nice things.

    • Hello Kim! I’m so glad you found my Buster and Bandy post, and to hear from someone who is really connected to the Log Cabin – it’s a thrill! Would you by any chance have any photos of those happy old bears enjoying their Cokes? I would love to be able to post those! Also, what can you tell me (and my readers) about the trading post next to the restaurant? That I do not remember, and I am intrigued!

    • I used to work there. Bruce ran the restaurant and Bud the gas… good times. Used to stay upstairs overnight while working the weekends. And of course feed the 2 bears..

  5. My Grandpa, Bruce Price & Uncle Bud (Lloyd Price) were owners of the Log Cabin Restaurant (Price Bros.). My Dad worked there along with everyone else in the family at some point, and many of the locals as well. Lots of memories there. I still come into contact with may people who remember the place and the bears, Buster and Bandy (sisters) and the older bear Teddy (female). When I was a kid it was just empty cages. The bears are buried in the field at what used to be my Grandparents house, across the road from the restaurant, now owned by my cousin. Great to see the old postcard!
    Side note: The art school was (and still is I think) called the Bridgewater Retreat.
    Lauren (Price) Caldwell.

    • Wonderful to hear from you, Lauren – thank you for sharing your connection to, and memories of, the Log Cabin and the bears! I find it very touching that they are buried nearby. That is just as it should be. Buster and Bandy (and Teddy, who must have been before my time) sure made an impression on a lot of people!

  6. My Great Grandfather, Merritt Price built the Log Cabin Restaurant. His sons Bud and Bruce (my Grandfather) inherited and ran the restaurant, with their wives Shirley and Helen, respectively, until 1984, when they sold it and retired. I note above, mention of the bears being incorrectly identified as Mandy, Bandy, and Moe. Please note that there were more than two bears, over the years, and those names do sound familiar to me. The restaurant was named after the log cabin that Merritt and Dorothy Price lived in. There were also 3 very small rental cabins, and they were also named (although i forget the names), which may be contributing to name-related confusion . One of the cabins still exists on the property of the late Bud Price on the corner of Hwy’s 7 and 37. Also note, the bears loved ice cream just as much as pop.

    • Thank you for sharing your Log Cabin – and bears! – knowledge, Jennifer! I’ve heard from others as well that Buster and Bandy were fond of ice cream as well as Coke. Those bears got a lot of treats! What a wonderful memory the Log Cabin is for people. I did not know about the rental cabins before; that is interesting, and it’s cool that one of them still exists.

  7. I have foggy, but fond, recollections of stopping at ‘The Bears’ each time our family drove from our home in Kitchener to visit my father’s family in Renfrew. I believe they moved much closer before I was 10, so we likely would have stopped making the trip prior to 1977. My parents are both gone now, but stumbling on this made me smile.

    Do you have any knowledge of when the last bears were kept? I have a vague memory of making the trip, quite possibly for the last time and seeing the enclosure torn down, with only the base remaining.

    • Jon, I’m afraid I don’t know when the bears were no longer at the Log Cabin, but I’m hoping some readers might. As you probably saw from other comments, some members of the Price family, who ran the restaurant for many years, have weighed in, and they might know. I kind of think that the bears were still there when my family moved away in 1975, though I wouldn’t want to bet my bottom dollar on it. I wouldn’t be surprised if the last of the bears was somewhere around 1976 or 1977, as you are guessing. Thanks for sharing your memories. Kitchener to Renfrew – that’s a long drive for a little kid! Good thing there were Coke-drinking bears to help break up the trip!

  8. This is amazing. I was just talking about this with friends on the weekend. Very much like Jon, above, I was sure that I remembered seeing caged bears at a gas station in Actinolite when I was a kid, travelling with my family from north of Toronto to relatives in Almonte. Popped into my head just now and–well, maybe the Internet–and here you are! Woulda been the early to mid 70s. Though I remember it with some fondness, I have to say that as I grew older the memory made me uncomfortable. I would be sickened by the sight of bears being treated this way today. (I’m truly not judging the folks that did this back then–I enjoyed it at the time–but I like to think we’ve progressed). Bears are amazing, intelligent creatures, and our aboriginal people had/have a special relationship with them–based partly I think on the fact that a hunted bear, stripped of its hide, looks hauntingly like one of us. I have seen many bears in the wild since then, and prefer them there than in a cage. Anyway, thanks for confirming this memory!

    • Hi Skot! It is amazing to me how many people have memories of Buster and Bandy, the bears at Actinolite. I absolutely agree with you that their being caged for the amusement of travellers seems unthinkable now, but that was a long time ago, and none of us (including you or me, it seems) thought about those issues back then. We just enjoyed the amazing spectacle of what seemed like some pretty happy caged bears guzzling Coke at a Highway 7 gas station! Your visits on the way to Almonte in the early to mid-1970s would have coincided precisely with my own time seeing the bears regularly, seeing as how my family lived just a few miles north of them in Queensborough. Lord knows Highway 7 is busy enough today, but it was probably even busier back then (before the 401 was such a big deal), and it seems those bears were a landmark for an awful lot of travelling families.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s