On Saturday afternoon, August 02, 2008, former residents of the Deep River Staff Hotels gathered at the Deep River Yacht and Tennis Club for their first-ever reunion. As they entered they were greeted by the Book Launch and Reception Committee and issued name tags, which also indicated the years in which they resided in the various accommodations – the Old Staff Hotel, the Dorms, the Annex, and the New Hotel, later known as Forest Hall. Since the reception was a Summerfest sponsored event, they purchased a bracelet which allowed them to attend other Summerfest events as well. As they entered the hexagon of the Yacht Club they were greeted again by Margaret Crocker and the other members of her committee who continued to circulate and make sure that everyone was given a warm welcome. Outside, a bar had been set up, with a canopy to allow for inclement weather, but thankfully, the weatherman favoured our group with some very rare fine weather.

Although the event started at 3 p.m., people were still streaming in an hour later and the events committee estimated that at least 250 were checked in. A good number of those attending had come from out-of-town, some from very distant places such as Vienna, England, the United States, and western Canada. There were many happy reunions, as old friends who had not met for many years greeted each other. They had an opportunity to look at a fine display of photos, prepared by John Hilborn, and showing residents and events which had taken place in “the good, old days”. Many new photos were taken during the afternoon which could always form the display for the next reunion.

When it appeared that the majority of attendees had checked in, there was a short program to launch the book “Memories from the Staff Hotels, Deep River, 1945-1985”. To begin proceedings, Al Bancroft (publisher) and June MacDonald (editor of the stories) unveiled a replica of the book’s cover. Master of Ceremonies, Whitney Cook, called for a show of hands for residents from each decade. There were a few from the 40s, more from the early 50s, quite a few from the late 50s, and many from the 60s and beyond. He then introduced a few of the principals involved in the publication of the book.

Glenn Doncaster, whose company was responsible for the printing of the book, offered his congratulations to the team and presented a cheque for $650 to the Deep River Community Foundation, accepted by Gwen Milton on behalf of the Foundation. This represented one dollar for each book that he had printed up to that point.

June Macdonald thanked those who had assisted with the chapter of over 170 stories, which effectively spanned the four decades of life in the Staff Hotels. She congratulated the many authors for their contributions, which have now preserved their memories for posterity.

Al Bancroft thanked the committee who organized the afternoon’s festivities, and spoke of the amazing reception of the “Memories” book, with about 600 books now sold, and rave reviews from readers. He gave some examples of how the book has contributed in special ways to provide amusement and joy to its readers.

As the afternoon waned, the party continued, with people helping themselves at the attractively-set food table which included a beautifully-decorated and delicious cake baked by Marg Crocker. The noise level rose, photos were snapped, and smiles were the order of the day.

Judging from the delighted reactions of those who attended, this reunion was long overdue. With time marching on for many old timers, this was the right time both for the production of the book and the subsequent get-together of former residents.

On the following Sunday afternoon August 3, another reception was held in the Program Room of the Deep River Library. Organized by Chief Librarian, Tom Wiwcharuk, it offered people an opportunity to meet the book publication team, to look at old photographs, and to ask questions about the book. Tom welcomed the large group who attended and pointed out the historical value of the book to the community.

Discussion centred on the possibility of a sequel to the present book and the continuance of adding names of former residents to the list. Pat Meadowcroft, who has supervised the creation of the list, pointed out that many names had been added to the list over the weekend, and that the website will continue to function for a period of time to allow additional input. Al Bancroft answered some questions about the book’s production and added that while the present team has opted to rest on their laurels, a sequel or second edition would be possible if new volunteers were to come forward.

As the book publication committee wraps up final proceedings, there is an overall feeling of satisfaction with a job well done, at an opportune time, and with an amazing result as the book continues to sell and to receive such good reports from readers.

June MacDonald