By F. Bruce Ryans (53-55, 56)
Late in June of ’55 Shirley Fink (55-56) was settling into her new job in the Kennabi Lodge kitchen. She, J.C. Moore (47-70) and his wife Muriel (47-70) had arrived early, but still about a week after the vanguard. We, that is, Don Hutton (55-56) and I, had just spent most of our time painting skiffs in the boathouse. Don had been hired to replace the veteran Ross Mitchell (47-54) as driver of the rented 3-ton Hertz truck, He did not cook! I was only too happy to be demoted from chef to fire lighter. I relinquished the kitchen to the ‘Food Supervisor’ (Shirley) who adjusted quickly to: three stoves, far too many chipmunks and red squirrels, and the almost daily increase in staff at the Lodge table. Generally things were going quite well for Shirley – then it happened!
Out of nowhere it whirled into her kitchen, singing “Rack‘em up, Stack’em up, Hang’em on the wall…”. She saw a tall, lean, youthful stranger in a yellow shirt with faded green letters ‘STAFF’ on the chest. Before she could say a word, the tirade began. He said that he was sick and rapidly listed his symptoms. He had: a cough, a headache, a temperature and he ached all over. His eyes watered and his nose ran. Shirley prepared, but was not allowed to deliver her diagnosis. He obviously had made his own.
“What do you do for a cold?” he snapped.
“If you could just wait… the doctor arrives to-day”, she replied.
“I am… the doctor!” he said with indignation. He then wheeled in disgust – the plastic propeller on the colourful beanie, spinning – and stormed out of the kitchen… he… disappeared. Shirley had just met the Camp Kennabi Physician, Jim Anderson, a man with a cold – a very bad cold.
I know that J.C. assigned a boat and motor to the doctor in ’54 but he made very little use of it. J.C. got an emergency call from Big Bear Point one day. Jim happened to be at H.Q. and J.C. saw me pulling into the slips as they came out of the Lodge. I got an instant assignment.
“Take Jim to Big Bear and use my boat!” he shouted. We sped down channel with both propellers spinning. One was on the 15 horsepower. Evinrude, the other atop Jim’s beanie. We ‘T’ landed at the dock and Jim stepped onto the deck. I grabbed the ‘black bag’ and followed. A scout tied up the boat while the nervous leader grabbed me firmly by the arm.
“This way doctor, “ he said. Startled, I said nothing, but just pointed to the tall fellow up ahead. Jim attended to the injured scout. I believe it was a hatchet cut to his leg. We transported him to H.Q. Hospital [later Bayview Lodge] and left him in the care of the nurse Helen Cruden (54-57,59) I resumed work.
Since Jim said nothing to me about the case of mistaken identity I thought that he had missed it all. He had not. Perhaps he then told Helen, who then told J.C. – the latest story. I only recall seating myself at the long dining room table as the Chief began the tale. Jim was down at the Hub by then enjoying his supper and perhaps telling the same story. I somehow felt like I was once again ‘left holding the bag’. J.C.’s version raised a question. Did Jim leave the black bag in the boat deliberately? With the clarity of hindsight, I would no longer say, “quite possibly”, but rather, “most definitely”. Jim Anderson appeared to be most skilful maintaining some levity during even critical situations. He was a bit of schemer.
I believe Dr. Jim’s first love was a beautiful ‘grey’ young lady from England. She was an imported model (circa ’50). He called her ‘Henrietta’. This Austin A-40 had a sunroof, leather seats, cable operated signal arms with orange (amber?) lights and generally two speeds – full ahead and dead stop. In ’54 J.C. told his Henrietta story at the dinner table in Kennabi Lodge. He said, “I was travelling once from here to the Hub when I met Henrietta coming the other way. I was lucky to have been in a dip because she passed clear over me.” New staff laughed. Veterans smiled. They had heard that story more than once. J.C. talked as if Henrietta drove herself and Jim was only a passenger. J.C. chose to commute between H.Q. and the Composite Camp at Kennaway, usually by boat. Jim’s office was separated from the Hospital (Bayview) by nearly mile of road. It could have been labelled ‘Anderson’s Alley’. J.C. Seldom used that alley.
In ’54 J.C. Moore arranged for me to guide a party of nine rovers on a three-day canoe trip. It started in the southeast corner of Redstone Lake and curved in a giant ‘C’ pattern that ended forty-five miles (75km) later at the town of West Guilford on Pine Lake. Al Moore (47-54) had taken this same trip some years before. He was of great help in directing me to portages that were poorly marked or entirely missing from the map (ca. ’50). Ross Mitchell (45-54) and I had just finished loading the five canoes onto the Hertz truck when J.C. called me aside. I thought that I was prepared for everything – but not this.
“You take really good care of this crew Bruce. You do know that they are Dr. Jim’s boys?” then he smiled. No! I did not know it, and furthermore he knew that I did not know it, until that very moment. That was typical of J.C. as I knew him. I looked around for Jim as the crew boarded the truck. A little extra pressure had been added, thanks to J.C. Moore. I soon learned that I was travelling with Jim’s fan club. The trip was long enough and the weather was rough besides. It was too bad that Jim Anderson could not have shared the adventure. We could have done with an extra laugh or two during the storm.
In spite of his youthful appearance and comic demeanour, James Anderson was first and foremost the professional physician. One day in ’55 several of the H.Q. staff had a golden opportunity, they thought, to have some fun with their favourite clown, Jim. Now James Anderson was busy in the Hospital (Bayview) and he had left his automobile parked up beside the Kennabi Lodge door. It was too easy for them to put Henrietta into neutral and roll her out into the very shallow water between the Main Queen Dock and the slips. Somebody told me that they had only intended to wash the dusty vehicle, but…! Oh sure… tell me another one.
Dr. James Anderson spotted his car and he saw red! He marched straight for his vehicle without comment and splashed out into the water. He threw the long oar projecting form the driver’s window into the lake and jumped into the car. One very angry physician backed out, wheels spinning on the bed-rock. The other oar fell out of the passenger’s window. When he cranked the steering wheel hard, to turn, the deck chair and life jacket toppled from the roof. He manually (no automatics) shifted through 4 gears in rapid succession and was gone. The Austin could be heard roaring all the way to Camp Kennaway.
Some of the guilty staff felt that they had really ‘stepped over the line’, while others felt that Jim had ‘feigned anger’ and had enjoyed the gangs discomfort.
It was, I believe a slightly awkward situation for a short period. The staff had treated Jim as ‘one of the boys’. They meant it as a compliment. They were in fact, still waiting for Jim the clown, to leave the Hospital while James Anderson M.D…. sped away. J.C. told the new Henrietta story eventually, and all was well. Not one person ever said a word in criticism of Dr. Jim’s behaviour that afternoon. They all knew that an error had been made… theirs… theirs alone.
I never visited Jim’s office in ’54. My first visit was in ’55 and it was by special invitation (we all got one). His office (cabin) was located on the north side of the road just west of the Rotary Hub. Jim had invented the ‘Snitometer’ and he displayed it in the window of his office. Now a ‘snit’ is rage or sulk. This meter was designed to convey the doctor’s mood of the day to one and all. An arrow (marker) moved through a series of ever darkening colours. I do remember that the worst of all snits was the ‘purple snit’. It meant that the doctor was in the blackest of all possible ranges. It was to designate a super sulk. Dr. Jim was in a ‘purple snit’ the day he saw his beloved Henrietta wading in the lake with H.Q. staff. I believe Sid Robinson (54-56?) and Ian MacCauley (54-56?), the Kennaway waterfront staff, did convey Jim’s moods to J.C. a few times. Jim and J.C. had some fun with the whole affair. They both were schemers. They encouraged each other.
The second and last time that I visited Jim’s cabin was also in ’55 and Shirley accompanied me. Jim had rescued some orphaned birds. These baby kingfishers were fed water with an eyedropper and Shirley recalls Jim feeding them strips of raw fish. I do recall that they fought ferociously among themselves and that they looked as if they had swallowed ‘ugly pills’. They remained sparsely feathered for some time. I do believe that one of Jim’s aims was to get visitors to eventually say they were cute. At times he miraculously succeeded. Most of us were polite Canadians. We did not wish to hurt Jim’s feelings or for that matter the birds’ feelings. I personally refused to admit that those birds were cute. In fact they were very, very ugly… so very ugly.
In ’56 Jim diagnosed a patient (quite possible a leader) with acute appendicitis. Henrietta rushed patient, doctor and nurse, to the Red Cross Outpost Hospital in Haliburton. This could not have been an easy task for the little Austin A-40, but she came through. Shirley remembers it all. Beans Harper and I found out the details when we arrived the following Friday night. We were both weekend volunteers by that time.
At the foot of Dover hill in Haliburton the road curves right and then sharply left (90º). On the right side of that turn, a two story, yellow brick house served as an Outpost Hospital for years. A flagpole on the front lawn flew the Red Cross flag, below the Union Jack (a.k.a. the Union Flag).
Dr. Anderson successfully operated on his patient. Apparently it had been something of a close call. Shirley also told us that Jim made a statement to the H.Q. Staff on his return.
“That was probably the first operation done by a doctor in scout uniform!” he exclaimed. That of course begs the question.
“Why was Dr. James Anderson in full scout uniform… late at night… during the week?”
Obviously James Anderson wore many hats. Often he was: actor, clown, inventor, schemer, naturalist and rover scout leader. Perhaps more often he was: physician, friend and husband. Yes! Jim did marry Helen Cruden our nurse.
I will always think of Jim as an old friend and fellow staff member. I will always picture him as that youthful character in the colourful beanie… propeller… twirling in the wind.