Craig Bakay | Jul 18, 2018
If you’re looking for a little light reading this summer with a definitively local flavour, you could do a lot worse than The Skootamatta Ozone Ball by summer Cloyne area resident J.E. (Jeff) McBee.
This is McBee’s third offering in the Riverton Trilogy, which also includes Fugitive Dust and Key North.
It’s being sold at the Cloyne Pioneer Museum as a fundraiser and also at Hook’s Building Centre.
It starts out with a mysterious death on the river near Riverton, New York, which really only serves to provide a reason for the moods of some of the protagonists in this particular chapter of the trilogy.
After the death of their friend on the river, several guys around the age of 20 decide to make the trek to Skootamatta Lake for the Labour Day weekend. Tom Martin’s family has owned a cottage on the lake since Tom was a kid, and this is the first time he’s been allowed to use it without his parents being around.
So, what does he do? He invites a bunch of his buddies along for the kind of long weekend that will be all too familiar to area baby boomers who’ve been to more than one of these weekends.
It’s about what you’d expect.
There’s more beer than food. There’s plenty of marijuana. There’s waterskiing, there’s a dance at the Cloyne Hall and amateur night at the Hotel Northbrook, where the boys display typical inadequacies in attracting the opposite sex.
And there’s boys being boys.
What makes this particular novel fun for area residents is all the local references starting from St. Catherines, up the QEW, 427, 401, 41 and finally to Addington Highlands cottage country.
This is Labour Day, 1972.
The novel is full of historical references, including the Watergate Scandal breaking and the Summit Series with the Russian Hockey Federation.
But there’s also plenty of small references to local culture, including Brador and poutine (could you really get poutine at the Hotel Northbrook in 1972?)
It’s essentially a romp. Think Hunter S. Thompson comes to Cloyne for the weekend.
There’s the obligatory stereo system complete with Rolling Stones and Grateful Dead as well as Gordon Lightfoot and Bruce Cockburn for Canadian content.
It’s a good bet most of us in our 60s now have had weekends like this (probably more than one), and it’s interesting to see a Florida writer’s take on it, through the eyes of a bunch of young Yankees.
You’ll recognize just about everything and be saying to yourself, “Yeah, it was pretty much like that.”