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Road Trip Memories

Black-and-white image of adults, children, and two dogs in front of vintage car with trees in background

Oliver Family Out for a Sunday Drive, 1930s

Ever since the automobile became affordable, adventurous people have taken to the road on pleasure jaunts. These could range from Sunday afternoon outings and evening drives to dances, to longer trips that took several hours to complete and left parents and kids exhausted.

Black-and-white image of large vintage car parked in front of building with enormous wooden roof

Wonderland Dance Hall, ca. 1940

Those living in northwestern Kawartha Lakes in the early 1900s frequently made their way to the shores of Balsam Lake for picnicking and swimming, first by horse-and-buggy and then by motor car. James Daniels, the owner of a Kirkfield-based livery stable, chauffeured local teenagers on these trips in his five-passenger touring car.

What may have been the first long-distance road trip in Kawartha Lakes took place in late July of 1911, when Dr. H. Irvine, a Lindsay dentist, drove from Lindsay to Minden along what later became known as Highway 35 North. Travelling in a fast late-model Buick, the Irvine party departed around six o’clock in the evening and reached Coboconk at dusk. They stayed overnight in Coboconk before continuing into Minden the following day. Said an unidentified journalist travelling with the group:

It was a trip that very few perhaps have ventured to take in motor conveyance, and consequently has been enjoyed by only a few…The road on the whole was good and many a time after passing a stretch of freshly gravelled roadway the throttle was thrown open and a good piece of roadway was covered at a fast clip.

Watchman-Warder, July 27, 1911, Pg. 1

Archival document printed in black and orange ink showing caricatures of parents and children carrying luggage on cover

Kawartha Lakes Tourism Association “Travel Vacation Guide,” 1966

Some relished the thrill of a long road trip. “Getting to your summer vacation spot is half the fun, especially if you’re driving on today’s good highways,” one commentator said in 1960. “They whisk you farther, faster and in more comfort than ever before.” Others disagreed. A May 26, 1950 editorial in the Lindsay Daily Post predicted that “super highways” would spell the end of the leisurely road trip:

Archival document printed in black ink showing printed directions

Directions and Road Conditions as Printed in the 1959 Ontario Motor League Road Book

The tourist likes good, passable roads but he is going to find it mighty monotonous making trips to touristland on super highways streamlined to such an extent that much of the natural beauty to be encountered along the way is erased.


Colour image of plastic game board with green markers and paper surface showing various automotive logos

Magnetic Car Bingo, ca. 1950s

Whether they found it exhilarating or exhausting, motorists and their families could hardly say that they found road trips boring. Car games, such as the Norbert Specialty Corporation’s “Magnetic Car Bingo,” and a plethora of guidebooks and maps kept young passengers busy, even though cries of “are we there yet?!?!” inevitably persisted from the back seats of sedans and station wagons.

Kim Tuckett remembers the trip to Falcon Lodge. Enjoy this video clip with an English transcript.

Black-and-white image of vintage vehicle towing boat trailer on dirt road past shack with trees in background

Station Wagon Towing Boat Trailer Into Balsam Lake Provincial Park