Hamilton is home to waterfalls and gorgeous trails. Check out the various trails the city has to offer from more serious hikes to casual and leisurely strolls. Many of the trails can be accessed for free or with just the fee of on-site parking.
By Emily-Jane Hills Orford
We drove down to Port Dover from Galt, forming a convoy of three cars. Pat and I drove my trusty 1921 Ford Model T. I was proud of the car. I had saved for a long time. $300 was a lot of money. A year’s salary as a secretary. And I had so many other things I wanted to spend my money on: like a new hat, a new coat, and so much more. Saving was hard. But save I did and I was so proud of myself when I walked into the office of the garage in Galt and handed over my hard-earned money. I was given a receipt and the keys. As long as I could drive the car off the lot, it was mine. I had practiced with Dad’s car, so I knew how to drive. No test. No further paperwork. Just pay and drive away. And that’s what I did. Dad and Mother were driving in Dad’s older Model T, just behind us. My brother Jim and his girlfriend, Marion, brought up the rear in Jim’s car.
This was our first long trip in my new car and I was a little nervous. Cars were notorious for breaking down or having a flat tire in the middle of nowhere. Which was just about everywhere along the road that wove its way to Port Dover. No gas station or garage for miles. Good thing Pat could fix just about anything. He was handy to have around. We’d been seeing each other for a few years and things were starting to get serious. Neither one of us wanted to rush things. We were both quite content with the way things were going.
On a long road trip, it was always a good idea to have others driving their own vehicles. If one broke down, there was always another set of wheels to go find help, if needed. Fortunately, other than one flat tire, we made good time without any serious incidents.
We settled into the guest house that looked out onto Lake Erie. The sun was still high and warm and the beach was full of sunbathers soaking up the early summer sun. Marion had wanted to camp on the beach, but I had convinced her to stay with the rest of us in the guest house. We could enjoy the beach during the day and the comforts of sleeping indoors at night.
Mother and Dad headed out to the beach before the rest of us. They knew the perfect spot to set up a campfire. Even though we weren’t sleeping outdoors, we wanted to be outside as much as possible and the idea of sitting around a fire, eating, talking and singing, was what summer was all about.
The rest of us followed shortly after, Marion bringing up the rear, calling out to everyone, “I have the hot dogs. We can cook them ourselves over the fire. Jim collected some sticks and, if your father has the fire going, then we’re good to roast the dogs.” She giggled at her little joke. No one else thought it was funny. I looked at the hot dogs Marion held over her bag. “Oh, they are long,” I exclaimed. “Of course, they’re long,” she said, indignance sharpening her voice. “They’re the foot-long Port Dover specials!” “Oh! How wonderful!” I clapped my hands in glee. We joined my parents and I helped Marion pierce the hot dogs with the sticks Jim had collected. Then we laid them over the coals, being careful not to let them lie too deep into the flames. As they cooked, we turned the sticks to rotate the cooking process. “Hot dogs!” Dad grumbled. “I would rather have Mother’s stew and dumplings any day.” Mother nudged him playfully and gave him a half smile, something she seldom did.
A gentle breeze blew off the lake as we sat around the campfire eating our hot dogs and later the toasted marshmallows. The food consumed and everyone feeling satisfied, Dad positioned his accordion on his lap. “What shall we sing?” When no one came up with a ready answer, he launched into a song of his own choosing, his mellow tenor voice carrying across the space that separated us from one another. I loved to hear Dad sing.
When Dad finished, Jim started singing “I’m forever blowing bubbles. Bubbles everywhere.” Trust my brother to think of a carefree, funny little ditty to lighten the mood. Pat followed with his choice. He sang in a deeper voice than Dad’s, but equally rich, a popular tune that I hadn’t heard in some time. Although, trust Pat to change the words to suit his mood.
"Margaret, Margaret, give me your answer do.” He only called me Margaret when he was serious about something. Otherwise he just called me Peggy like everyone else. “I’m half crazy, all for the love of you. It won’t be a stylish marriage, I can’t afford a carriage. But you’ll look sweet, upon the seat, of a bicycle built for two.” I wiped a tear that leaked from the corner of my eye. “Oh Pat.” He pulled me off the ground and led me away from the campfire. Closer to the beach, he motioned to a tree stump and suggested I sit. Then he knelt on one knee and took my hands in his. “Margaret Murray Dickson,” he looked me deep in the eyes. “Will you be my wife?” Hot diggity dog! My heart was all aflutter. Hot dogs and a proposal. What more could a girl ask for?
Of course, my grandmother answered, ‘yes’. I wouldn’t be here to tell her story if she hadn’t. It was one story she loved to share, especially when we enjoyed the traditional foot-long hot dog on the beach of Port Dover on a hot summer day. When my grandfather proposed, hot dogs were still fairly new to the North American population, although various forms of this summer favorite had been around in Europe for centuries. As a summer favorite, it’s only fitting that July should be National Hot Dog Month and, for 2018 at least, July 18th is National Hot Dog Day. So, roast a hot dog and savor the experience. Who knows? There might be a proposal in there for you as well.
Emily-Jane Hills Orford has published several books, creative nonfiction stories mostly about her family. Growing up in Toronto, then Hamilton and finally London, Emily-Jane has lots of family stories to warm the heart. For more information about the author, check out her webpage at: http://emilyjanebooks.ca