Bringing up a family back in the 50s and 60s was much different than the modern rush to get through life of today, which is mostly controlled by computers and a lack of one-on-one, face-to-face communication. Being brought up in the 30s, during the Great Depression and the Second World War – and under the strict rule of a Scottish father and English Mother – was, of course, the era of responsibility and the real world.
As for my three sons and two daughters, it was more of a life of enjoying the outdoors. We had a dog, but as a Conservation Officer in those early days, we also had a pet skunk, a great horned owl, a white raccoon and the “swimming pal”, Bobby the Beaver.
For my three sons, Kim, Kevin and Dave, it was hunting, fishing and canoeing – not in calm lakes, but rather wild rivers. If one of the boys was not at the front in the bow position, they were up in trees or hanging alongside off a cliff to get the ideal picture of us in the canoe as we challenged the white water.
Back in the ’70s, I was then a public relations representative of Winchester Repeating Arms Co., but we spent the weekends white water testing canoes from canoe manufacturers in Canada and the United States, and writing monthly columns on such for the Ontario Fisherman & Hunter magazine, later to change its name to The Ontario Out Of Doors magazine.
My daughters Bonnie and Tracey were more interested in shooting shot guns and .22 rifles, and needless to say, they became really good at it.
Bonnie spent two weeks at the Ontario Outdoor School in Northern Ontario, sharpening her outdoor skills. It just happened that Winchester sent me there to teach trap shooting and target shooting. Most of the girls were new to the shotgun, but Bonnie stepped up to be the plate without hesitation. At 14 years old she broke 18 out of 25 in trap, and came away with the top prize.
Later, Tracy got into kayaking and even now leads her brother and friends around cottage country in Ontario lakes and rivers.
As for the boys, I had made a promise that when one of them got a deer, I would then take them to the notorious Groundhog River in Northern Ontario; a river most canoeists, as well as hunters, stayed away from.
The group I hunted that river with had always managed to get a moose, as well as enjoyed the finest walleye fishing you could find in North America. The boys worked hard at sharpening their shooting skills, as well as all the ins and out of deer hunting. Dave, with his single shot 30-30, got his first deer and the best part was I was there with him. He was proud, but my pride (to this day) runneth over.
The next fall we loaded the canoes, fishing gear, tents and food to last a week and set out for the Groundhog River. On the third day, I heard a shot from where my son Kim was set up. Jumping into the canoe with Dave, we crossed the Groundhog and there, sitting up on the dead moose’s shoulders was Kim, with a smile from one side of his face to the other.
Each year after that, as we drove the 13-hour trip to our secret hunting grounds, we stopped at the restaurant and as we came through the door, other hunters would call out “hey, there’s the Martin boys.” Needless to say, my cup runneth over.
Many years later, Kim’s son Rob has followed the old Martin tradition of hunting the Groundhog River. A recent letter from my grandson informed me that he takes his young preschool son hunting grouse and his boy loves it.
What has bringing up children in outdoor experiences and enjoying the life of camping, fishing and hunting done for the children? Well my youngest has turned 52 and the oldest is now a senior. They have continued the life of the outdoors, remained the closest of friends and still go camping, fishing and hunting together. A father could not be more proud.