Algonquin Park was established in 1893. In the beginning, it was accessed mostly by rail lines established by lumber companies. A string of short roads, built by various authorities and largely in poor condition led into the south part of the park. Some of these were maintained by the Ontario Department of Northern Development. On April 1st, 1937, when Ontario Northern Development merged with the Ontario Department of Highways, their roads and other small roads stretching from Huntsville in the west to Golden Lake in the east were joined and rationalized as Ontario Highway 60. The Department of Highways later extended the highway to Renfrew, which is the eastern limit of Highway 60 today. Part of Highway 60 follows the old Opeongo Line (a settlement road surveyed in 1854) and so is very interesting to historians.
By 1950 the days of rail lines into Algonquin Park were numbered due to limitations on logging in the area but pressure from tourism was increasing. The return of the Canadian forces from Europe caused a huge increase in the number of marriages. Young couples were eager for holidays, but short on money. It became fashionable to vacation at home, to explore Canada. Outdoor pursuits were extremely popular and most could afford an automobile of some kind. So road access to parks became very important very quickly. In 1937, Highway 60 through the Park was only a narrow, gravel road. Sometime in the very early fifties, Highway 60 was improved and paved.
Sky-rocketing tourism also turned public attention to safety. The Ontario Department of Lands and Forests had established a telephone line for their own purposes to the eastern entrance of Algonquin Park in the late 1930’s. By the 1950’s, Bell Telephone was extending its influence, acquiring tiny private rural telephone lines in eastern Ontario. At the time, Bell was promoting its “dial the number” service to small municipalities. Bell promised that dialing would soon replace local operators. In 1952, Bell was at the boundry of the Park, having opened an office in the village of Whitney, in the home of Ned Cannon, which was also the Post Office. Under pressure from advocates for economic development, and persuaded by the arguments for enhancements for tourism and the importance of communication to public safety, the Ontario Government decided to permit Bell to run a new telephone line through Algonquin Park. This was done in 1953. The new line ran along Highway 60.
Many of us remember 1953. (It is amazing how quickly time passes.) The plaid flannel shirts and old-style baseball caps look dated today, but were part of the costume of every working man in the fifties. This wonderful, crisp photograph was likely taken by a local newspaper.
From left to right, the men are:
C. Steele, Kaladar
H.G. Dodd, Perth
B.D. James, Carleton Place
L.D. Maybee, Sydenham
J.C. Kitchen, Picton
T.F. Blute, Napanee
G.T. Gough, Weston
I am indebted to Wayne Bridge, whose article in The Country Connection Magazine, No. 47, 2004, provided some information.