When I was 11 and 12 years old, my parents sent me to Frontier Ranch two summers in a row for a 2 week camp holiday. Frontier Ranch was a western cowboy camp where we learned to ride real horses and sing Koombia around a camp fire. Located on 400 acres of land on Loney Lake near Arnprior, in its heyday, Frontier Ranch had 120 brood mares and three stallions, any boy’s dream.
It was run by Lyle and Florence Jeffrey. It was a real Christian camp, the Jeffrey’s being Baptists, were very serious about their faith. Florence grew up in Westboro, and at 15 left high school to look after her mother. When she was 16, Florence began working as an inspector at Modern Containers. At 20 she married Lyle Jeffery, a man she had met when she was 15. Before the birth of their second child, Lyle enlisted in the Navy. Serving in the North Atlantic, he was gone two years.
When Lyle returned from the war, he created a line of suitcases called Jeff Flite out of the basement of their Ottawa home. Recognizing a promising and growing business for Arnprior, Mayor Bob Simpson invited Lyle to build a luggage plant. Jeffrey Luggage Ltd. was built on McNab Street, and the business grew to employ 23 people. Following a family trip to the Calgary Stampede, Florence and Lyle decided to create a Christian ranch camp for children. In 1957 they bought wooded land on Loney Lake, and opened the ranch in 1958. Lyle, who was such a resolute Christian that he thought nothing of telling off strangers if they took the Lord’s name in vain. Mostly, people apologized, but a few snarled back and, once, it earned him a bop in the chin.
My mother was connected with the Ottawa Presbyterian church community and must have heard about Frontier Ranch.* So off I was sent for a week in 1961. Well after getting over my fear of horses, I learned to ride and quite fell in love with “Black Sambo”. Black Sambo was a smaller gentler horse that did not try to rub your legs off on the fence posts nor take your head off by running under low hanging branches. I made some new friends and liked the food and crafts. When my parents came to pick me up I pleaded to be allowed to stay a 2nd week, and they let me. That is not Black Sambo below and I am looking more confident than I felt.
The next summer I came back for a 2nd stint. On the first day I think it was, I was swimming to the raft in the lake with a new friend. He started to struggle and when I went to help him he pulled me under. I thought I was going to drown. One of the Jeffrey boys came to our rescue and properly grabbed my friend from the back of his body and pulled him to safety. I was very shaken by this. Another time I was in the motor boat and who ever was driving (I think it was one of the Jeffrey boys again) made a series of sharp turns. The motor fell right off the boat and sank to the bottom of the lake. Well, that was an adventure too that I will never forget. I can still hear the gurgling sound the motor made as if disappeared below the boat. Ha!
I learned a lot about my fears at Frontier Ranch and also how to overcome them. It was a tremendous experience the county side was extraordinary. I can still see those circular low growing juniper bushes and the horse trail that ran through them. One of my childhood experiences I will never forget. The irony is now I am living in Arnprior, not too far from where all this growing up occurred.
A feature article about Frontier Ranch appeared in the Canadian Weekly in June 1962, the Toronto Star weekly magazine. I knew fellow camper David Schryer at the time but have not seen him in many years.
I am indebted to a February 2014 article in the Arnprior Chronicle-Guide about Florence Jeffrey:
I also came across this blog article by her grand daughter with some nostalgia pics.
Finally, one of the Jeffrey boys – David whom I must have met – went on to become a famous professor at Baylor University in Waco, TX. Here is his story.
In the moment, I am very grateful for everything Lyle and Florence Jeffrey did for me and for my friends. I still love you Black Sambo.
* May 2, 2022. It has now occurred to me that my mother was great friends with Jean Frazer who was Lyle Jeffrey’s sister. The Frazers lived near us in west Ottawa and I was friends with Steve Frazer in high school, Jean’s son. So that is how my mother must have learned about Frontier Ranch and how I ended up there. I remember Jean well too and visiting their cottage on Big Rideau Lake.