‘Welcome to the Haliburton Club. Pull up a chair. You don’t need to identify as seasonal or permanent you just have to support the motto “my heart is in the Highlands.”’

Welcome to the Haliburton Club

By Janet Trull

Special to the Echo

I am starting a club.

As a kid I belonged to a comic book club. Everyone brought their favourite comic books to swap. We talked about who would make a better boyfriend Archie or Jughead. LOL. Kidding. Nobody ever asked that question.

When my son went to university he and his friends found out that there was a $200 start-up bonus for new clubs. That was enough incentive for an initial meeting. After much discussion they came up with something they all liked. Cheese. They started the Cheese Club. Nominated a president and a secretary. Got their $200 for registering as an official university club and spent it on essential research. Gouda smokey cheddar muenster.

Cheese Club members came together to celebrate their love of cheese but they didn’t always agree. An academic discourse to decide which is better brie or camembert was inconclusive. After many tastings and much debate people who loved brie still loved brie. People who loved camembert still loved camembert. Some issues are unresolvable but a little dissonance makes for a good club.

Which is why the Haliburton Club welcomes permanent residents and seasonal residents. I have been both.

I grew up in a different kind of cottage country. Dunnville is on the Grand River a few miles from Lake Erie. In the summer our downtown was buzzing with tourists many of them American. They descended on our sleepy little town on motorcycles and camper vans and power boats. It was fun and energizing for me as a teenager to meet people who LOVED my town.

“You are so lucky’” they would say “to live in this beautiful area.”

Well. That was refreshing to hear. Because my friends and I spent a lot of time talking about getting the heck away from there. We called it Dullville.

By September we were relieved to get our parking spaces back. We agreed that some cottagers were loud and rude. Kind of pushy. But hey. It was worth it. Parties on the beach. Summer romances. A crazy weekend called the Mudcat Festival. Extra big tips for those of us who sold foot-longs and cones.

It is interesting when I go back to visit to see that my hometown has become a retirement community. A happy vacation place is also a happy place to grow old.

My happy place has always been Haliburton.

I like to hang out with people who love Haliburton. To hear about characters from the old days. To share directions to quiet trails and hidden lakes and secret fishing holes. I like listening to hunting stories and hiking stories and artist stories and love stories. After years of being a cottager I now live here full time.

I once interviewed a guy about his life in Haliburton. He talked about driving up here with his parents in the 1940s. When they reached Norland his dad would say “I wish we could put a machine gun nest here to keep people from coming up to Haliburton and destroying our peace and quiet.”

Once we discover a beautiful place we want to keep it to ourselves. “Us versus them” dialogue is not new. But it is divisive. We’ve all had the unhappy experience of being excluded. A “Boys Only” sign on a cardboard box is not a good club. Somebody ends up in tears.

For the most part all Haliburton residents have followed protocol since the pandemic started delaying non-urgent projects considering health care dynamics minimizing risky behaviour and safely supporting local businesses and organizations. Much appreciated.

If you want to join the Haliburton Club you don’t need to identify as permanent or seasonal. You just have to support the motto “my heart is in the Highlands.” We can have productive debates on the important issues. Bingo or meat draw? Skinny dips or bathing suits? Canoe or kayak? Cross country or downhill?

I won’t make you choose. There are countless reasons to love Haliburton especially in these uncertain times. Welcome to the club.