Early visitors living in shacktents cooked and shared meals in the camp kitchens provided by the Park service in the campgrounds. The camp kitchens, the centre of neighbourhood life, were used for socializing, doing laundry, playing cards and enjoying games as well as for cooking meals. People who rose early in the morning would chop wood and get the fire started in the stove in the morning, filling kettles so water would be hot for the later risers. Some people were nicknamed “pot pushers” as they would push their own pots to the favoured location on the stove top – near the stove pipe where it was hottest. Often people would have an impromptu potluck meal by sharing what they had to offer amongst the families gathered in the shacktent. Since there was no electricity in the shack tents, one resourceful resident plugged her sewing machine into the light socket of the camp kitchen so she could sew. Similar camp kitchens were located at beaches around the lake for day picnickers also. The tradition of “going on cook-outs” continues today and the remaining camp kitchens have recently been refurbished. The Waskesiu Heritage Museum officially opened this replica of the original camp kitchen design on the museum site in July, 2010.
Pat Coghlan’s memories of camp kitchen life including a practical joke played on newcomers were included in volume one of Waskesiu Memories. This set of three volumes of collected stories of life in Waskesiu is available to read in the Museum.
“And, oh, those camp kitchens; places for all surrounding families to meet and become good friends. As our shack tents were so small, cold, and with leaky tarp roofs, we relied on the camp kitchens for warmth, playing board games and cards, washing diapers, feeding twelve to twenty people around roaring fires in the big stoves. Since we were on [Block] “C,” three lots from the lake, the wind blew pretty strong off the water, but we would nail blankets to the end of the camp kitchen to make all cozy.
Laurence and Connie Smith were a fun loving couple – faithful shacktenters on [Block] “D”. A favourite trick Laurence used to play on newcomers was to nail an electric plug on the pillar of the camp kitchen but not connected to the electrical lines. Since we had no power in our shack tents, men wanting to use their electric razors would come to the camp kitchen and plug them in to this plug – then wonder what was wrong. Laurence and all the regulars “in the know” would watch this and be well entertained. He did the same thing with a pipe and water tap stuck in the ground.”