Posted on April 12, 2011 by spreston

By Barb & Peter Gilbert

An urban family centre is celebrating its Centenary in 2011. While researching old records, they discovered that the centre operated a summer camp from 1918 to 1970 at a prominent Canadian family’s lake shore vacation estate, and that one member of the family had been the main sponsor and driving force behind the camp for most of its existence. That was all they knew.

They asked us to help them find out more about this camp.

There was no record of the camp being a member of the provincial camping association.  There was nothing in the Camping Collections at the Trent University Archives (in Peterborough, Ontario).

We called a good friend who is on the board of a foundation created by a family with the same name and in a similar business.

Sometimes you get lucky.

He and his brother are descendants. They both remember the camp, although they were not involved in it. They gave permission to contact the archivist researching their family history, and directed us to records in the city archives on the family, their business and their charitable work.

From these sources the committee was able to access a broad range of significant records. The archivist also recalled seeing some old movies, photos and memorabilia somewhere. A search for them in the family centre building finally turned up a box hidden at the back of a “dead storage” closet. It was all there, including, annual movies of the campers and the camp, from grainy black and white of the 1920’s, all the way to Super-8 colour of the 1960’s. These by themselves are an archival and heritage treasure. Fortunately for the family centre people today, forty years ago, when the camp closed, somebody decided to save all that old stuff.

Their camp will now be remembered and documented in activities and displays, so that everyone participating in the Centennial celebrations can discover the history and heritage of the camp that was once part of the family centre.

The best part for future camping history researchers is that the committee has volunteered to copy all the material they collect and contribute it to the Trent Archives when the celebrations are over.

This long gone camp, which opened during the pioneering era of organized children’s camping, has now yielded a wealth of archival material that will be very valuable in illuminating the early history of camping in Canada.

The records of your camp that you save today could also have historical importance forty years from now.

You can reach Barb and Peter by phone (613-475-1689) or email (