By Christine Carr
Sitting with his wife of 64 years in their home on the outskirts of town, the importance of community is clear to David and Phyllis Bishop, with their numerous photos on the wall and examples of lives lived serving the community. As David Bishop recounted countless stories of growing up and making a home in Haliburton since the wartime era, his love and passion for the region he has made his home is still clear today after 83 years.
First introduced to the area when he was a young boy, Bishop moved from the Niagara region to settle here in Haliburton at the age of one. Although he lived elsewhere in his youth, moving to Grimsby at around three years of age and living in Montreal until the end of the war, his family returned and added their history into the tapestry of the town.
“My mother bought what was then called the Highlander Hotel. That was located on the Main Street, in the position of Stedman’s. The hotel was in such substantial disrepair. My mother worked to refurbish it and I was a main street young boy now,” said Bishop, reflecting on this pivotal moment in his life.
As a main street boy, life as a child in the postwar era of Haliburton was very different than it is today. Bishop spoke about the freedom of being a young child with the whole of Haliburton as a playground.
“As kids we would play together in the evenings. In the summer time you would lie on the ground and watch the night hawks swooping down and picking up mosquitos. We learned how to play nicky nine-doors and knock on doors and hide. I did a lot of fishing down at what we called the railroad bridge,” explained Bishop.
He described the freedom of using the entirety of the town as a playground, as he played on stacks of lumber at the mill, jumped on logs floating in the lake, and threw wild cucumbers with his friends behind Main Street.
“The lake was often full of logs … and if you fell in, you didn’t want to go home with wet clothes, so you’d light a little bonfire and dry off your clothes. On the backside of Main Street there was a big sand embankment. It used to grow wild cucumbers. At the right season, you’d have wild cucumber fights, and boy they would be intense,” Bishop said.
While the summers were spent outside, playing outside as late as possible and avoiding the town constable enforcing the curfew, the winters also had their share of fun and mischief.
“You could go out on the village hill, pull [a sled] up the hill… and boy you would just fly. You’d see how far you could get on the main street. If the trucks were running, you’d get a pair of your brother’s rubber boots, and you’d go out and hide behind the bush where the truck went by. When the truck went by, you’d run and grab a hold of the bumper, and you’d ski behind the truck as far as you could go. Sometimes you’d get a couple of miles outside of town,” said Bishop.
Life as a child in postwar Haliburton, however, wasn’t all fun and games. The horrors seen during the war made their impact on our small town, and as a young boy he remembered the importance of honouring the soldiers’ sacrifices.
“A number of people were on the Dieppe raid and were in prisoner of war camps from the time of the Dieppe raid until the end of the war. It was very important as a child that you knew who had served, and you knew what they had gone through. You don’t know what those people did for you,” said Bishop.
Although he spent some time growing up in Montreal, Haliburton was where he returned, making a life here and contributing to the growth and development of the town. Opening the first law firm in Haliburton, he described how it feels knowing you can serve the community through providing a service.
“As a lawyer, if somebody comes to you for your assistance and service, it is an honour. You have to remember that as a lawyer, you produce nothing. You are providing a service, so you honour the trust that person has put in your hands and you get excited because a person you know has a connection to the area has brought that trust to you,” he said.
As a lawyer, Bishop has supported many individuals and businesses over his career. He described how it felt supporting people through everything from opening a bank account to buying and selling land, starting businesses, and supporting them through the death of family members.
“We did a lot of amazing things. I practiced law in Ireland, Denmark, other provinces, and it has been a worthwhile game. At the same time, always remembering that I was in Haliburton, West Guilford, Eagle Lake, Minden, Ingoldsby… those were part of the whole community. That’s what I was trying to represent. That part must have come out of living here as a kid,” Bishop said.
A community minded person above all, his work with Rotary helped cement his impact on the area. With Rotary, he served the community in as many ways as possible, being on the Board of Directors, president, Car Draw chairperson, and many more positions. Bishop reflected on the fun they used to have while working in the service of others.
“I always wanted to make Rotary fun. We started lobster night – the picnic baskets, where ladies would make up a picnic basket and we would go down to the park and bid on each other’s baskets. The other one that was fun was bed races. You had to push a bed from [Victoria School] to [the Cenotaph],” said Bishop.
Reflecting on the changes he has seen in his life, Bishop considered any advice he had for the youth living in Haliburton today.
“If you really think you like Haliburton, please get out for a while, go see something else, then if you want to come back, fine and dandy. It is an awfully big world. The only way to understand it is to go see it. Then, come back to Haliburton,” said Bishop.
Although many things have changed within Haliburton, the passion and values that led Bishop to open Haliburton’s first law firm, become President of Rotary, and live a community-minded life still exist and live on in our small community, and he encourages everyone to learn the stories and embrace what living in Haliburton County has to offer.