Our family used to have a cottage outside of a little town called Calabogie in Ontario. When I say cottage I mean shack. Not an estate, not a home away from home, not a house that happened to be situated on a lake. I mean a very small cabin that was probably built by the 4th little pig. The one who built his house out of cobwebs and farts.
The drive to the cottage was around 5 hours but that didn't bother me one bit. It was a simpler time when kids bounced around in the back of station wagons like tennis balls and the most popular booster seat on the market was a case of beer.
The cottage was dusty, dirty, and dangerous. There was no electricity, no water and no bathroom but there was one out of date Playboy calendar. Or as I believe they were called then - nudie calendars.
Back then a cottage was a place where parents could smoke, drink and send their kids into the probably murderer infested forest to hunt for anything to keep them occupied. Rocks, shells, and twigs were some of the things parents demanded we look for; allowing them valuable time for more smoking and drinking.
If you've been paying attention you'll have noticed that there was no drinking water at the cottage, and lots of beer.
What was there for a 4 year old Karen to drink? There was beer, dirty river water or the yellowing paper nipple of a faded Playmate. Those were my options after a hot day of eating Bugles and looking for sticks in the 1970's.
I knew I wasn't allowed to drink beer or the dirty water and I was pretty sure that nipple had long dried up.
Damnit I was thirsty, thought my 4 year old self. But since the adults around the cottage this particular day had also been quite thirsty, no one seemed to care or notice that the salty, crunchy, delicious corn chippy tasting Bugles had left me parched. In fact they probably didn't even notice that I existed.
The grown ups had more important things on their mind. Like arguing over who drank the booster seat.
In a miraculous turn of events I found myself a bottle of delicious Coca Cola and I drank it down. I drank all of it down.
Turns out it wasn't filled with Coke but instead with dirty old motor oil.
It also turns out I couldn't tell the difference between the taste of a bottle of Coke and dirty motor oil at that age. My palate has progressed significantly since then and I can almost always tell the difference between motor oil and Coke (unless it's in a marinade which always trips me up).
When everyone finally realized what I'd done, my grandfather, who was a dentist, jumped into action and grabbed himself another beer. The he sat on the porch, told everyone to zip it and relax. I'd be fine. Nothing to worry about.
I still don't know if it was because he was way smarter than everyone else, or just way drunker. Either way I lived through the ordeal with the only side effect being I crave Bugles every time I get an oil change.
The point of this is that eating one wrong thing isn't going to kill you. Unless it's Russian poison, in which case it definitely will.
Actually I think the real point is that our generation is tough. We are beer case booster seat, motor oil drinking tough.
Kids today cry when they can't find a phone charger.
This latest generation might be technologically advanced and infinitely more mature than we were at the same age.
But they never would have survived a 1970's summer.
Have a good summer weekend and stay safe. But not too safe, because that never makes a good story.
Many kids live on dirt as a nutrient rich food. It’s available and best of all still free. Seems they like it as a face protector too. Those cute circles they make or swirls on their faces or all over their body’s and clothes mixed with snot.
Must be yummy.
Much better than kale!
Cigarettes are a fine snack food item that a three year old can just gobble off the couch table. The grown ups shoved them in their mouths all the time after all...there was the minor side effect of nicotine poisoning, but that's what stomach pumps are for.
Maybe that's what kept me from ever wanting to smoke?
Thanks for my morning laugh!
We too had a cottage when we were growing up but it was luxurious. No running water but we had electricity and a pedal flush toilet!
My Uncle used to say, we were raised with loving neglect!
Wouldn't have wanted it any other way 😀
Miss you my friend 💗
The best thing you can do for your kids is to raise them with "loving neglect." (speaking from 80 years of experience!) Too many entitled people today that were raised by "helicopter" parents.
OMG you Southern Ontario people - that is a CAMP not a cottage! 😀
Truly, Lianne, it was never called a CAMP because that was saved fir the weighty hunk of canvas we used for CAMPING.
I agree, absolutely. Cottages are at the beach; camps are in the woods. Are you a Maritimer, by any chance? For a short, very short, time in my childhood my parents had a house, a cottage AND a camp, and then my father, at 32 had a heart attack and all that was no more. (Long story, suffice it to say he died at 87.) But, guess what, my father had a bachelor brother, and he had a camp in the woods, with a Playboy calendar that my mother would, before we kids were allowed into the cabin, cover with tea towels and tacks. HA! As if we were not smart enough to know that if it was hidden it had to be juicy! I was terrified to go to the bathroom - bathroom? -- at night since it was an outhouse and it was dark and I was told not to be a sissy, that the bears would be long asleep. Ah, the lies that parents tell. Fortunately, although I saw a bear, ONCE, it was in broad daylight and it was more scared than I. To get to this cabin/camp one had to take a jeep off a logging road, then carry all the gear down the road another many hundred (thousands to a kid) feet, through a small stream -- into which I fell more than once as the rocks were slippery -- then up a, thankfully, small slippery hill. The water came through a hose from a stream that my uncle and my father, being resilient and inventive N.B. men had managed to hook up to a tap of sorts over the sink in the kitchen -- it that is what one could call the bucket and the room. There was no electricity, just oil lamps and candles for light, and there was a smoky fireplace and lots of wool blankets to wrap up in while playing games. It was idyllic. I am so grateful that I grew up when and where I did and that I found the dusty, musty camp my Nirvana, well into my teenaged years. A somewhat lumpy couch, an oil lamp or a flashlight, a good book and a blanket, what else could a teenager want -- then? This one, at least. Later, boyfriends came, too, and they also loved the woods, the smell of the wood smoke, the freedom....
But you had less wear and tear on your "innerds" for the summer months.
I completely understand! I drank a whole bottle of Calamine Lotion when I was about the same age! My mom said the doc just wondered why I’d keep drinking it! 🤣🤣🤣🤣
That was in 1961.
We too piled into the car ( which invariably broke down) and drove what seemed like days ( 5 hours) to my Uncle’s cottage on the Chesapeake Bay. We thought it was heaven, and we usually couldn’t even swim due to the jellyfish(!) but we didn’t care. There were woods to explore, the cat lady’s house to visit and the kinda nice neighbor who let us watch while he gutted the day’s catch. He had the girlie calendar which I didn’t quite get.
Karen, I’m sure you have been tlid this many times , but you have a book in you waiting to be published!!
My four siblings and I also fought over the coveted back section of the station wagon... older kids usually win. On one road trip up the Alaska Highway (gravel for a lot of it), the tent trailer blew a tire (or maybe both) and my brother and I had to wait by the side of the highway till they came back with repaired tires. No one kidnapped us, though, probably because we never stopped fighting! Ahhh, memories!
Love your stories and the comment section is always worth the time to read as well! I never drank motor oil myself but appreciate your solid review.
My mom grew up in Winnipeg and her parents had a cottage near Gimli Lake. We visited one summer and I almost needed a blood transfusion from the mosquito bites. My aunt and I were sharing a bed and I’d keep her awake at night will all my scratching. There was electricity but we had to haul water from large pipes located alongside the road with (spring?) water gushing 24/7. Had a two hole outhouse and a chamber pot for use at night. My mother couldn’t convince me to swim in the lake. I was a California girl and only swam in concrete ponds.
No cottage story but when I was about 3, my parents had a cocktail party (this was in the early 60s). The next morning as they were sleeping off the effects, my 4 year old brother and I proceeded to eat all the cigarette butts that had been marinating in the alcohol dregs in the bottoms of the glasses. Mmmmm. No one rushed us to the ER when my parents eventually got up but I do believe they gave us each a drink of water. How parenting has changed!
I love this story! It's a perfect example of the crazy things will get into! LOL
Thanks for the story Karen! It brought back my own memories of a Seventies summer at a cottage on Lake Simcoe in Ontario. My parents smoked and drank too and we were so happy because the kids got to stay up late. Those crazy cottages - now I know why I secretly love the smell of old musty furniture and the taste of stale baloney sandwiches.
Those station wagons had infinite capacity for children. (who needs seat belts) and it was easy to drive - I know because my brother and I took it for a spin when I was ten. No wonder my parents drank.
Our Grampa built a small cottage on the north shore of Long Island NY for his five grand girls... Early days included an out house but they'd built and plumbed an attached bathroom by the time I came along -- my eldest sister claims he built that just for ME! (I am the youngest daughter of the youngest daughter.) We always thought we stayed there weeks at a time. Dad corrected us once - we may have stayed one full week, but mostly it was just weekends! ha ha ha!
My mother put johnson floor wax in a drinking glass..I got home from K , it was a hot day..drank the whole glass of wax.. it was awful tasting,,not like the chocolate milk I had thought it was. I got dressed in my best dress..laid down on the bed to die..did'not want my mom to have to dress me for the funereal. guess what I did not die..but I did need to see our inside bathroom often...Johnson Floor Wax is not a good thing to drink.
Of course, that lovely cabin (shack) is worth at least $500,000 today. More if it is near water. I enjoyed the Ontario life of loving neglect at many of my parent's friend's cottages throughout the years.
I don't know how high you might have been when you wrote that story, but I do know I laughed my ass off at least five times reading your crazy recollections.
Thank you for all the laughs and the help getting things done.
"I crave buggles every time I get an oil change" HAHAHAHA I don't care who you are, but that's just too damn funny!!!
In the late 60's, my middle brother ate an entire bottle of children's aspirin. I found the bottle and was mad as I thought of them as a treat or candy. When I told my Mom to get him in trouble, she freaked and rushed him to the hospital to get his stomach pumped.
Served him right.... hehehehe.
Hi Karen, never drank motor oil but once did drink cooking oil. Yuk but it was a bet and in the end I lost. No run to the ER just spent time in the potty. I grow Brussels Sprouts in my garden every part of the plant including the flowers can be eaten. Good post I sure enjoyed it.
Way back in the mid 50’s, when I was little, we had a summer vacation in a cottage somewhere “up north”. I remember having an afternoon nap with my nana and being upset that she kept hitting me. Maybe the fact that I was sticking a bobby pin in the electrical outlet beside the bed had something to do with it. I also shoved a pussy willow up my nose. It was so soft and furry like a bunny. Ahhh the good ol’ days. Kids today are weenies. They’ve missed out on the really fun stuff like being almost electrocuted…..