Tom Hodgson chronicles family’s history in the Highlands

By Jenn Watt

Tom Hodgson’s family tree includes some of the earliest educators politicians and farmers in Haliburton County. His great-grandparents arrived in the area as early as 1864 and were heavily involved in the community and developing many of the institutions that created the Highlands as we know it.

With so much family history Hodgson said he decided it was time to write it all down producing a book called Remembering My Journey.

“I’ve been collecting things for this book perhaps for most of my life. We have a vast number of [items] I thought should be in a book for our grandchildren and thereafter” said Hodgson. The book is filled with old photographs historical documents postcards and letters that highlight his family’s history and that of the wider community.

Hodgson’s parents were Clayton Hodgson and Phyllis (Dart) Hodgson whose families each made substantial contributions to Haliburton. Clayton moved to the area to work at the Donald chemical plant where he organized teamsters drawing cordwood into the plant. From there he set up The Hodgson Brothers Lumber Company with his brother Tom (who became CEO of Standard Chemical Co.). Clayton later became MP for the region from 1945-1963.

Phyllis Dart was the daughter of Annie (Moon) Dart and John Dart. Both the Moons and the Darts were early settlers in the Highlands both with a hand in developing schools: the Moon School and the Dart School.

In the book Hodgson chronicles the incredibly difficult life of his grandmother Annie Dart: “If I had to sum up my grandmother Dart I would say it was her wisdom and more especially her stoicism that were the hallmarks of her life. She lost two baby boys at birth and later she had to deal with the death of a 12-year-old daughter. After Grandpa died from work-related poisoning in 1928 she was left to deal with the challenges of keeping a home and life’s inevitable problems as she grew older. Then she faced the tragedy of her oldest son Robert who contracted tuberculosis and died in March 1936.”

Tom grew up among five other siblings: Glen Doug Anna Margaret and Louis.

He said it took about two years to put the book together handwriting the copy and having his wife Marie type it up. “What I did was I wrote the whole book the 438 pages by hand … but so did Hemingway” Hodgson laughed.

And he was lucky that his family kept so many documents crucial to telling the story today.

“Both sides of the family both the Hodgson side and the Dart side those people kept stuff. When my grandmother died my mother collected up a lot of those documents and so on – luckily – and she passed those on to me” he said.

The book includes many points of local interest including the fire of 1935 the lumber business early cottaging accounts of settlers and his family’s forays into politics from councillors and reeves to members of parliament and provincial parliament. It also follows Hodgson’s life through a career in education settling in Oshawa where he lives today.

Hodgson will be holding a book launch at St. George’s Anglican Church in Haliburton on Saturday Aug. 31 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Copies of Remembering My Journey will be available for $30.

Excerpt from Remembering My Journey by Tom Hodgson:

Band leader Red Greer needed a piano player and Sinc Davies suggested me. I told Red that I had taken lessons (music teacher Jean Waterman) but had never played in a band. I was hired and played my first “gig” in September 1946 in the Town Hall. Danny and I were attending the old Haliburton high school. One memorable dance was in Tory Hill Christmas night. En route home our car slipped off the road. The band was rescued by the Sibleys of Essonville. No sleep that night!

During the summer of 1947 the band played at Paradise Lodge Bonnie View Minden Golf and Chateau Woodland and elsewhere. Tragically that September Danny died in a canoe accident. Al and I joined Jim Perrin Harold Broadhagen and Harry Bradshaw at the Golden Slipper and played there 1948 and 1949. I had replaced the long-time pianist Mary Wood. I was terrified to play with professionals in front of a hometown crowd but I did survive and learn to play in a band.

Saturday night was the night we went to the Slipper. We had a wonderful time socializing square dancing and round dancing. On the way home we stopped at La Rue’s restaurant for a hamburg. This usually ended on a perfect note for us. Unfortunately Len Salvatori had to work in the restaurant and could not join some of the regulars from our group such as Bob and Noreen Bishop Noel Austin Carl Woodcock Joe Iles Jean and others. Len did join us often after school at the Kosy Korner Restaurant where we indulged ourselves with ice cream and lots of talk. We sometimes teased Marie and Leda Roberts who were the waitresses. They seemed to be happy with us.

The story of my father’s fifth mill [at Haliburton Lake – 1941] is an interesting part of my life because two of my brothers and I worked there. It was wartime and my dad depended on boys and older men such as uncles Joe and Chris to work at the mill.

The timber limits we had dated back to Crown lands some of which we bought from Tommy Gordon.

Early in 1940 the mill was moved from Coleman Lake to Fort Irwin on HaliburtonLake. By the spring of 1941 the mill was up and running. Since it was early in World War II there were all kinds of government regulations such as wage and price controls. The government sent agents to us to select logs of veneer quality for construction of the famous Mosquito Bomber. We also supplied cedar for army toboggans. As well we provided the Peterborough Canoe Co. with high grade birch.

By 1944 two of my brothers Glen (18) Doug (17) and I (13) all had summer jobs at the mill. Doug had the most physically demanding job as he piled lumber in the yard with an assistant (Les Roberts). My cousin Doug Scott piled slabs for firewood. Other cousins Clayton Tom and Bonar Hodgson all worked at this mill and the Coleman Lake mill at one time or another.

I started to work in 1943 by spraying the fresh cut lumber to prevent mould. I was 12 that summer. I worked with Doug. He put the lumber on stands where a truck would pick the lumber up and take it to where it was piled to dry. I would run out on the boards with a water can to treat them against mould. Next year I worked in the appropriately named “Madhouse.” What I did was to pull the slabs and edgings to a saw where they were cut up and thrown into hoppers. Each workday was from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. No wonder I loved the sound of the 5 o’clock whistle.