From Musky Fisherman to Camp Cook in the Blink of an Eye

by Ralph Martone
August 2007

My last column dealt with a trip to Ontario's Georgian Bay featuring my wife's big musky. This week I'm turning my column over to Denise for what Paul Harvey might call the "rest of the story".....

As the Food Service teacher at Frew Mill School, I spend my days in the kitchen with my students preparing meals and teaching them the restaurant business. During our recent vacation to the Pennsylvania Club in Georgian Bay, the lodge's cook, Dorothy Pagan, left midweek due to family emergency. We were left without the luxury of the three meals a day of home-cooking we had come to expect. This sudden turn of events changed my vacation into a unique summer job.

Ralph was surprised when I not only volunteered to cook the meals for the remainder of our week, but to stay an additional week to cook for the next group scheduled to come to the Pennsylvania Club. I know Ralph thought he was the luckiest man on earth, getting to musky fish another week. Wow, was he in for a surprise!

I eased into my new job on Thursday and Friday with the help of Karen and Alexandra Haas and Stacey Skubak who were all part of our group. But, it wasn't until I watched their boats pull away from the island on Saturday morning that I realized what lay in store for me over the next seven days.

The next group coming to the island would consist of twenty people from two families that I had never met before. Using the week's menu, my first task was to order food from the local grocery store. The group coming in would pick up the food order and bring it to the island. Of course, being on an island, I couldn't just run to the store if I forgot something!

I began Saturday evening with a spaghetti dinner complete with homemade sauce, meatballs, garlic toast, tossed salad and dessert. Nobody got sick. So far, so good.

In the kitchen each day by 6:30 a.m., I put Ralph in charge of making the coffee, setting the table, and making toast as the guests began filtering in for breakfast. We served breakfast until 9:30, cleaning up just in time to start preparing lunch. Each day's lunch included homemade soup, luncheon meats and relish trays, grilled hot dogs or hamburgers. After lunch, I began making dinner including homemade desserts like pies, cakes, apple dumplings, cream puffs and, of course, cookies for each day's snacks.

When Ralph realized how much help I needed, he made sure to help as much as possible. I had him peeling potatoes, coring apples, making iced tea and lemonade, setting the table and washing dishes, dishes and more dishes. In general, everything he had never done before.

Each day after we finished cleaning up the kitchen around 7:00 p.m., I made sure we took the boat out for at least one fishing trip, even if it was only for an hour before dark.

The twenty strangers that arrived on Pennsylvania Island that Saturday afternoon quickly became good friends as we shared our stories and experiences at the Pennsylvania Club. My special thanks for their patience and understanding go to the Mauk family from New Castle consisting of Dick and Sally with daughter Marcie, husband Mark Reinhard and their children Christopher and Morgan from Raleigh, North Carolina. And the Latore family from Cleveland consisting of Donald and Betsy, their sons Kevin and Keith, daughter Kimberly and husband Joey Lindau with children Chelsea and Shelby, and daughter Kelly with husband Barry Winovich and their children Katie, Charlie, William and friend Andrew. These wonderful people made my experience as camp cook very memorable.