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Remembering When with Roy Hopkins

July 20, 2023

Harold and his brother Roy Hopkins with dog and lamb at Hopkins Farm

By Ernest Hills

Originally Published in the Summer Times July 1, 1986

The cluster of farms and mail boxes with the names of the original families are only a small part of the once vibrant community of Baddow. For four generations now, the Hopkins name has been a part of the Baddow heritage. Roy Hopkins, who recently celebrated his 80th birthday, is saddened by the more recent changes to the community but brightens as his recollections take him back to days when neighbours were close friends.

“I often think of it,” he says, “how the work was shared among the neighbours here. You didn’t think anything of helping a neighbour for a day. You would never think of asking for pay, because we shared each other’s toils.”

The original Hopkins family farm is located on the north east corner of Highway 35 and Somerville 3rd Concession. Later an adjoining farm was purchased, bringing the acreage to 200 acres, which Roy and his brother Harold, ran together.

Roy recalls the family was involved in mixed farming. In early years the emphasis was on milking cows. “Coboconk was the closest train station, and we’d take our cream and milk there to be shipped,” Roy remembers. The family would deliver eggs from the flock of over 100 hens they kept, to customers in Coboconk as well. “Farming was essential to your well being,” suggests Roy. “We kept sheep for a while then,” he notes, because they were dual purpose, supplying both wool and meat.

“There used to be stockyards in Fenelon Falls then. I would have been about 20, so it’s close to 60 years ago. It was a tough time to be young. The older men had so many expectations, and you had to learn fast. … I remember it was no easy task backing up a wagon load of pigs with a team of horses, to the chute where they were unloaded. Unless you got them squared around just right someone would have something to say.”

Roy recalls his uncle, Ed Hopkins, was a barn raiser who lived in Burnt River. “He was the sort of man who came to life when he was raising a barn. He loved it. I enjoyed helping, and the sense of community involved in barn raising, but I never did like heights.”

Roy notes that it was his father’s generation which established the tradition of community spirit which carried over to his own, and the deep sense of comradery shared among the Watsons, the Suggitts and Fells, and other families in Baddow, who shared the difficult times and the happy moments too.

In 1939, during the depression, he married Phyllis Brandon. He remembers their first winter was the toughest they faced during their life together. Money was so scarce, and they had just moved into the farmhouse east of the family farm.

In the winters, he remembers, they would work valiantly to keep the road open as far as the second farmhouse, which would become a depot of sorts for deliveries further along the 3rd line. Sometimes, there’d be as many as 80 or 90 loaves of bread dropped off for different ones in Baddow.”

He laughs heartily as he recalls an incident at the school he attended, now the Baddow Community Hall. “The Cundill’s lived close-by the school and Mrs. Cundill had a particularly fierce reputation with unruly young boys. She also kept quite a number of hens, which she dearly cared for, but which ranged about the property. ‘Well, one day, when we were out for recess, Max Watson spotted one of the chickens in the school yard, and as boys were apt to do he picked up a stone and threw it at the chicken. “Well, if he didn’t hit it square on, and the bird rolled over dead. Did we hightail it back into class! No one wanted to face the wrath of Mrs. Cundill. “One of the fellows picked up the chicken and left it on the other side of the fence. No one wanted it blamed on the school kids.”

Mr. Hopkins recalls that after his marriage, the house was regularly used as a polling station for area voters during elections. “It was really used as a day to gather. Election days became good times, when you’d try not to be too busy so you could stay around home and visit.”

Ten years after his marriage, Roy became seriously afflicted with arthritis. The painful and crippling  disease put an end to the ice-cutting business, which he and brother, Harold, had engaged in during the many winters. We would put ice in during the winter, for the cottages and lodges. We used ice boxes then and folks had ice houses along the shores of the lake where the ice was stored. We charged 6 cents for a 16 inch square block of ice. It may have been as high as 10 cents when I had to give it up.”

For years the farm was worked with horses, in addition to being the principal means of transportation besides your feet, and provided some of the labour in the ice business. Roy recalls that he was good at shoeing horses, and he developed a bit of a blacksmith’s instinct.  “I could do most of the small things around the farm, like weld a link on a chain. I suppose it’s a talent, working with metal. I enjoyed it. It was a neighbourly shop we had here on the farm, where neighbours could come and get some of their work done. “I remember one winter we made 3 snowplows. They lasted a long time too.”

For Roy Hopkins the recurring theme of his recollections is the sense of community, perhaps even family, which neighbours in Baddow shared. Names like Gladys Suggitt, Maurice Watson, Jim Fell, and many, many others checkered his memories of comradery in the face of adversity and rejoicing. “I have no regrets,” he says, “My wife and I shared a good life together here in Baddow.”

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