Elinor Hamilton, 93, now lives in the Gardens of Haliburton after being one of the first cottagers on Kushog Lake in the 1950s. /VIVIAN COLLINGS Staff

‘Spread the joy,’ says Elinor Hamilton

By Vivian Collings

Elinor Hamilton has lived 93 glorious years of life so far, but her spirit is as young as those in the school yard across the lake from her living room window.

It’s no surprise that the always-positive, quick-witted, and fabulously sweet Gardens of Haliburton resident has focused on one thing for her whole life; spreading joy.

Born in Toronto, Elinor has four children, 11 grandchildren, and one great grandchild.

Some words used to describe her by family and friends in a scrapbook of her life include: compassionate, helper, funny, generous, intelligent, warm, elegant, mentor, adventurer.

She is certainly all of those and so much more, based on the stories she shared with the Echo.

Hamilton was first introduced to the Highlands in the 1950s when her husband bought a piece of property on Kushog Lake in Carnarvon, one of first at a now-full lake.

“There were only three people on the lake at that time. We’d go out on a Sunday boat ride and maybe only see two other people.”

At the time, there was no road to the north side of the lake.

“We’d drive to the Narrows, park the car, and rent a boat to get to our property, and it took us 25 minutes in the boat,” she said.

She laughed recalling the time when her husband and his friends built the cottage, they didn’t have a level, so they used a saucer with water.

“18 year old kids with a hammer, some nails, and a saucer full of water? Oh my. And the wood was so fresh, that two years later, the wood had started to dry, so when you swept the floor, you didn’t need a dust pan because of the cracks and knot holes,” Hamilton said.

She said for a while, each year they would see a campfire at a different spot on the lake, signalling a new property owner had arrived.

“Our children were always looking for others to play with at the cottage,” she said.

Half of the thrill of arriving to the cottage at night was seeing whose lights were twinkling in the distance across the lake.

Even though the Hamilton family lived in the suburbs of Welland in the Niagara Region, she said the friendships made at the little cottage on Kushog were incomparable. 

“The people there became more friends to you than your friends back at home because you were with them from morning to night.”

Eventually, when Hamilton and her husband came to retirement age, they decided the cottage wasn’t suitable to live in year-round, so they bought a farm on the south side of the lake, big enough to store snowmobiles, tractors, and grow large gardens.

Many of her immediate family now has cottages in Haliburton County.

“I’m ever so grateful to my 17 year old husband in the 50s for buying that lot on Kushog Lake which started the whole thing,” she said.

Hamilton was a member of the Doers Club and volunteered at her church. She devoted much of her time while living in the Highlands to the Haliburton Highlands Chamber of Commerce. 

“Because I didn’t have any encumbrances, when they wanted to go to, say, the Cottage Life Show, if any of the business people went from up here, they’d have to leave their business, so I went instead, stayed the whole ten days, and had a ball,” Hamilton said.

At age 73, one of the activities included at an event was a rock climbing wall, which Hamilton climbed, of course.

“We had such fun, but we were exhausted,” she said.

Hamilton seized every opportunity she could.

“If lessons of any type came by, I took them. I wouldn’t trade any of my experiences for all the tea in China,” she said.

With her strong desire to always know more, she was completely absorbed in the Watergate Scandal of 1972.

“I very much wanted to see everything to do with it. I was refinishing a piece of furniture, so I moved the television out to the garage where I was busy.”

The weather was good at the time, so her children were swimming at friends houses but needed a ride home before dinner.

“I told them to call me when they needed to be picked up, and I would come during a commercial. Nothing would stop me from watching Watergate, not even my children,” she laughed. “You had to be ready when I got there. No saying goodbye to your friends, because I wasn’t about to miss it.”

She continues to watch the news on TV each day.

For Hamilton, learning and teaching should always go hand in hand.

She learned how to sew, knit, embroider, weave, upholster, took creative writing classes, and took every travel opportunity.

“Don’t just keep it to yourself, come home and teach it to somebody else,” she said.

Her generosity still shows through her everyday activities, like embroidering squares to be made into Afghans for the Minden United Church to give to first responders for people in emergency situations.

She enjoys her down time by drawing in colouring books and putting together puzzles.

Hamilton’s life advice is to “take every opportunity to learn. Even if you don’t think you’re ever going to use it. And always spread the joy, wherever you go.”