Hinterland entrepreneur and explorer passes away

COMBERMERE – Hinterland Beach is known as a bustling tourist destination, particularly during the summer months. People from all walks of life gather at the western end of Kamaniskeg Lake to relax, swim and enjoy the serenity of nature. 

Although the spacious shoreline welcomes thousands of visitors in the summertime, it was at one point covered in alders and brush right up to the water. In fact, the public beach might not have been there today had it not been for a couple of lovers, looking for the perfect spot to embark on their dream.

It all started on March 9, 1919, when the small town of Lampman, Saskatchewan welcomed another citizen to the world. Helen Pitts (nee Howson) was born to parents Harold and Nellie.

Although her parents were from Ontario, the family was there in an attempt to make a fortune farming the land. It was not meant to be, as a drought had hit the prairies and the farm did not produce a single crop. 
So, when Helen was five, the family packed up what little they had and moved back to Peterborough, where Harold got a job with his brother, who owned a successful car dealership.

Flash forward several years later and Helen had landed her first job as a bookkeeper at Walkers Bread Co. in Peterborough. She worked six days a week, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and earned $8 per week. 
“I dressed well but very often lived on ketchup sandwiches,” Helen wrote in her 2009 memoir. 

She held many jobs in her early years, mainly in banks across Ontario. 

Helen met her husband Carl on a blind date. They fell in love and married at the age of 23. The two shared a common passion for exploration and entrepreneurism. In fact, they spent a couple of years sailing and canoeing all over Ontario, looking for the perfect spot to establish a resort.


One Thanksgiving, around 1942, the couple was invited to spend Thanksgiving with Helen’s parents, who were visiting Sand Bay Camp on Kamaniskeg Lake. 
Helen and Carl took a boat out to the west end of the lake. They were immediately struck by the beauty of one beach in particular. Although it was covered in alders and brush, the couple knew it would be a perfect spot to set up their resort. 

They headed to Bancroft immediately and purchased two 600-foot commercial lots at 30 cents per foot, plus the cost of the survey.

They dubbed the beach, Hinterland, which is a German word for The Land Beyond. Carl and Helen are not of German ancestry and it’s unknown how they came up with the name, but most agree that it suits the property perfectly. 

With the help of a friend, Carl and Helen set up a tent site, “amid the hoards of black flies and mosquitoes,” Helen wrote. The tent had a floor with a trap door into the sand, which was used for refrigeration. They worked all summer clearing land, digging cellars and towing logs from Sand Bay Camp across the lake. 

In the wintertime, the couple would head south to Peterborough, Toronto, or the states to work. Then they would return in the summertime, slowly putting up cabins on the site. They were able to “lure” people from Toronto to visit Hinterland Beach resort thanks to the help of Carl’s brother. 

“The same people came back year after year and became friends,” Helen wrote.

On March 27, 1951, the couple’s only son, Terry Pitts, was born. Instead of taking some time off, Helen knew there was a lot of work to be done at Hinterland Beach Resort that year. 
“I took the baby to the lake that spring to do what had to be done at Hinterland Beach,” Helen wrote.


Get your January 20, 2016 edition of The Valley Gazette to read the full story.