A History of Pennorth Beach
By Scot Lowes
“The Dock” at Pennorth, mid 1950’s. Scot Lowes, in horizontal white stripes, stands mid-picture, next to George Lackie. Jack Lackie, wearing a white golf shirt, is seated on the dock, looking away from the camera.
Pennorth Beach is located about halfway between the 13th and 14th Concession Roads of Tiny. My first recollections of this area go back to the early 1950’s. There were no paved roads north of Barrie. There was no electricity and no telephone service available on the beach. Several times each week, local farmers and merchants delivered bread, milk and ice (for the ice box) – but only during July and August.
The original property (approximately 100 acres) was owned by the Maurice family in Lafontaine. A small portion of this property along the waterfront was purchased by the Lackie family in 1946. The Lackie family consisted of three brothers and three sisters. Since one of the sisters lived in California, there were only five families who actually built cottages on the property. This is the way I remember spending summers on Georgian Bay – five cottages along an unspoiled half-mile of beach.
The story begins with J.S. “Jack” Lackie who was the original founder of Lackie Brothers Limited, a construction and heavy moving company in Waterloo, Ontario. Jack was on vacation with friends who had a cottage in the 12th Concession of Tiny. Almost every day of that vacation, Jack would walk the beach in a northwesterly direction and marvel at the clean water and sandy beach as well as the interesting and undulating shoreline. He also wondered if some of this vacant, unspoiled property could be purchased.
Befriending a few of the local farmers, Jack was able to find out that the Maurice family in Lafontaine owned a huge parcel of land which included the beachfront area. The initial offer to purchase a strip of land along the shoreline was rejected.
Now within every family there is usually a “black sheep”. Murdoch Oscar Smith was the husband of one of the Lackie sisters. Murdoch or “Buck”, as he was better known, was an avid talker and drinker – not always in that order.
At any rate, “Buck” was asked to try his hand at negotiating the land purchase from the Maurice family. The story has been passed down that “Buck” used his considerable negotiating skills along with a bottle of whiskey and even solicited the aid of the local parish priest in order to finally convince the Maurice family to sell a strip of beach property to the Lackie family. The original strip of land was about 250 feet deep with about 2500 feet of shoreline. And the price? A whopping $5000!
The Lackie families began building their cottages the next spring and by 1950, there were three good-sized dwellings and two smaller cottages. There were a number of “baby boomer” children coming along at that time and by 1955 there were a total of 11 cousins plus two outsiders (myself and my sister) who spent their summers “at the cottage”. Those of you who had that opportunity to spend summers on the beach in Tiny know the memories of seemingly endless summer vacations with warm weather and warm water. Perhaps, as kids, we just didn’t care that the water wasn’t really that warm.
Those summers I spent on the shores of Georgian Bay between the ages of about seven and 17 were absolutely idyllic. It is no wonder that many of us who had that opportunity as kids have chosen to retire to this area.
But I need to continue with the story of Pennorth Beach. I mentioned that the Lackie brothers (Jack, Neil and George) owned a construction company. In the early 1950’s, with their cottages now built and children starting to grow up, the three brothers decided to build a stone jetty with floating docks. This structure was located at the point of land where the shoreline changes direction and dips down towards the 13th concession. This was a huge undertaking which required Jack Lackie to obtain a water lot lease from the province and the placement of several hundred tons of steel and stone. At one point, a mobile crane owned by Lackie Brothers Ltd. was needed to lift steel sections and larger stones into position. The crane was driven from Waterloo and the trip was uneventful until it reached the 13th Concession Road just a quarter mile from the waterfront. In those days, the road was gravel, very narrow and had deep ditches along both sides. Somehow, the crane got a little too close to the edge of the road and slipped into the ditch coming to rest on its side. It took two days with winches and temporary metal and stone anchors embedded in a neighbouring field owned by the late Emery Lesperance to get the crane back onto the road.
The dock was finished in 1952 and became the gathering place for the Lackie family and friends every weekend. At one point there were as many as six small (16 ft.) boats nestled in floating slips behind the break-wall of steel and stone and timbers. The property on the point has changed hands twice since Jack Lackie built the original cottage and the dock has not been maintained. However, there are still remnants visible today.
Well, nothing remains constant and the beach areas within Tiny became very popular through the 1950’s and 1960’s. This was a period of unprecedented vacation property acquisition and cottage building. By the late 1960’s, it became apparent that the Lackie property with only five buildings on 2500 feet of beachfront was not sustainable. Credit needs to be given to the Lackie family for developing plans for a subdivision that would encompass the existing cottage properties and allow the creation of “estate” sized lots in the area. This plan of subdivision was approved in 1970 as Registered Plan 1588 and lots were sold over the next few years. At this point in time (more than 35 years later) only five of the original 42 lots are still vacant.
Sadly, only two of the original five cottages remain near the west end of the property. Today, Pennorth Beach has an active association with a participation rate of 80% of property owners. There are six full time resident families in the subdivision.