1966 Pav Bumper Sticker

Dad was a respectable public school principal; Mom was a dedicated housewife. You’d never have guessed that Jack and Marg Robertson - two pillars of the community in the quiet little southern Ontario city of Galt - had a double life: but each year from the early ‘50s until 1978 as soon as school ended in June, Mom and Dad would close up their red-brick city house, pile everything in the car, drive two hundred miles to the shores of Lake Huron, open up a cottage named “Moonglow,” and then settle down (along with other assorted family and in-laws) to operate one of the most fun - and frequently rambunctious - little entertainment empires anyone has ever seen.

Movies. Roller skating. Bowling. Bingo. Rock concerts. Flea markets. Barn dances. Smiling faces and a night sky full of stars ... or motorcycle gangs and septuagenarian drunks in cowboy hats. This was all part of my childhood growing up. It was crazy, colorful, fun, scary, and full of quirky characters and wonderful moments. And it’s all true! I’ve dined out on these stories for years, and now (at last) I’ve decided to devote a corner of my website to them. This page will expand in weeks and months to come, so stay tuned...!

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The Octagon, the original proto-Pavilion, was built on the shores of Lake Huron at Sauble Beach sometime in the 1940s. By 1947 or so it had been purchased by local Southampton boys (and budding entrepreneurs) Jack Robertson and Wally Scott.

 

 

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The Octagon was soon squared off, given a peaked roof, and proudly renamed The Sauble Beach Pavilion. The proud owners of the new establishment - themselves amateur musicians - wasted no time organizing the venue’s first house orchestra.

 

 

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The Pavilion outside and inside, around 1949.

 

 

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The Warren Ovens Orchestra onstage at the Pavilion, 1949.

 

 

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Some fun photos from 1950, taken by a local studio photographer (who kindly labeled them so that all these years later I’d know what from what). In the top two at right the Pavilion is featuring something new ... outdoor dancing! You have to hand it to Jack and Wally, they weren’t timid when it came to renovations.

At left (down below) is another photo of Wally Scott and His Orchestra. I don’t see dad anywhere ... oh, well. I guess he was up front that night taking tickets.

Would you like to actually hear the band play? Incredibly, Wally and Jack actually knew somebody in those days who had a wax recorder, and, one night, this friend came to the Pavilion, set up his equipment, and captured the Wally Scott Orchestra going through several numbers. Years later Dad transcribed two of these onto tape, and I’ve now dubbed them onto my computer. Ladies and Gentlemen, live from the Pavilion - July, 1950 - here (for your dancing pleasure) are “One O’Clock Jump” and “Again.” Enjoy!

By the way, about thirty seconds into “One O’Clock Jump” you can hear a voice shouting out something. It’s Dad, who could never resist a chance to ham it up. He’s saying loudly to the piano player something like, “Remember Robbie (?) you’re playing for posterity.”

If the songs don’t play when you click on them check your browser settings - you may need a plug-in. Alternatively, you can right-click on the link and then choose “Save Target As.” This will allow you to save the files to your own hard drive, where you can play them with Windows Media Player or any other media player you choose. Both songs are recorded in MP3 format and are about 6MB in size - so broadband is definitely a plus.

 

 

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Here’s a marquee from the Pavilion around the early ‘50s. (I’ve often wondered whatever became of ”The Lovely Joan Case?”)

 

 

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By 1951 the Pavilion had been squared off. (You can also see the outdoor dance floor in back.) But the main entrance still opened onto the beach, which was a problem for many customers who didn’t like getting sand (or water on a stormy night) in their shoes before a dance. So within a few years ... more renovations!

 

 

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Great vista photo taken from a boat out on the lake. This is about 1952 or so, and you can see that the Pavilion’s main entrance is now located on the right (south) end of the building.

 

 

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Dancers at the Pavilion, c. 1953. It’s amazing how much clothing fashions have changed in only two or three years!

 

 

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The new entrance to the Pavilion was great except for one thing - it was too small. It looked like a toolshed stuck onto a barn. To improve the situation, in 1954 yet more off-season renovations produced a brand-new covered patio entranceway. Here’s two photos showing the work (top) just begun, and (bottom) just completed.

 

 

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The new front entrance finished, 1955.

 

 

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Dad behind the wheel of the Pavilion broadcast truck, 1955. He would drive up and down the beach and the backroads at a stately 15 miles per hour, announcing upcoming dances, movies, and bingo. The low speed was probably a public safety blessing since he apparently needed one hand for the wheel, another to shift, and a third holding the microphone.

 

 

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The beach looking south from the Pavilion, 1954.

 

 

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The Pavilion’s outside dance floor in the late 1950s.

 

 

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Running the Pavilion was always a family affair. Here’s the entire Southampton branch of the Robertson family in 1956 posing for a picture. Just about everyone you see here (except grandma Robbie) took tickets or worked in the booth at one time or another.

 

 

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By the late 1950s Rock & Roll had arrived and Jack & Wally’s swing bands made up of local friends were no longer much of a draw. So the family began to diversify. The Gift Bowl had been purchased a few years earlier. Now Wally took over running it full-time, while Jack remained main manager of the Pavilion. Here’s a photo of the Gift Bowl sometime around 1957 or 1958.

 

 

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My older sister Ann and I playing on the Pavilion’s outdoor dance floor, 1960. (Well, she’s playing - I seem to be just enjoying the ride!)

 

 

 

Stay tuned ... more to come soon.

Last updated October 22, 2006