Small Town Ontario: Thornbury {A Visit to My Family’s Hometown}

Tucked away, on the southern shores of Georgian Bay, is a little town called Thornbury. Its the place where five generations of my family were born and is where I spent summers and weekends when I was growing up. I may have lived in another town, but it is Thornbury that has always felt like my hometown. I have so many wonderful memories with family and friends there.

A couple of winters ago, I shared some pictures from a snowmobiling adventure we had up there. I love going up there through all the different seasons – but especially during the late summer and early fall when apple season starts. My poppa used to take us on tractor rides through the orchards, letting us pick some apples along the way.

I have vivid memories of going for walks, up and down Bruce Street (the main street). My grandparents’ church was along the street and afterwards we’d head down to the bank, the pharmacy/video store, the convenience store for a new Archie Comic…and then my favourite place…

Wong’s Restaurant.
This is the first restaurant I ever went to. My parents made a quick stop here on their way home from the hospital to pick up my dad’s favourite – “The Banquet Burger Deluxe with Fries and Gravy….and a Coke, please”.  Every time we go there, we always run into someone we know, even though it’s been decades since we actually lived there. I love small towns like that.

Most of the store fronts have turned into gift shops, boutiques and restaurants, but at one point I remember this being a hopping place with people running their everyday errands here.

Over the years, various members from both sides of my family have had shops here. Before I was born, my mom opened Touch of Green, a florist and gift shop here. My Nana and Poppa once owned a convenience store, and down from them was my Great Uncle’s TV/Radio repair shop.

As you drive around town, you’ll find some beautiful old historic homes from when this was a large shipping community.

Friends of my parents once house-sit for a shipping magnate who had an incredibly huge house. I can remember knocking on all the wood paneling trying to find a secret door. (That was the summer my sister and I were reading old yellow hardcover Nancy Drew books and were determined to solve a mystery).

This is the very first house my parents owned. They lived here until I was about 8 weeks old and we moved away for work.

Right before they moved, they’d also bought this house for us to move into, but never got there. Can you imagine moving hours away from your family to a new place where you know nobody, while selling two houses and taking care of a newborn? I don’t know how they did it, but it all worked out in the end.

I do remember as a kid, I used to wish that we’d never left Thornbury. I wanted to grow up riding my bike between my grandparents’ houses, going for boat rides on the bay, visiting our friends and family all the time, not just on weekends. But now I realize that it was those visits up there is what made it really special for us. I was talking about this with my Nana on the phone the other day and we agreed that being apart didn’t stop us from making great memories.

My grandfather still lives in town, in the very house that he was born in. His boat may not sit in the harbour anymore, but the sign still sits on the front porch.

In the back of the house, you can see my grandfather’s workshop on the right and the big red maple tree is the “Amanda” tree, planted when I was born.

It’s amazing to watch a tree grow up with you. I always think of my late grandmother when I see it.

As kids, we would throw down an old blanket under the shade of it’s branches and read books. I snapped this picture of my dad and grandfather enjoying the shade during a family barbecue last summer.

When I got older, we’d always have to make a trip to the pier at the harbour. It was only a 10 minute walk from my Poppa’s house and it was the perfect place to cool off in the summer heat. We’d run to the end of the pier and jump into the crisp cool waters of Georgian Bay.

You can see the end of the dock behind my brother. When I look at it now and see how high it is in some spots, I can’t believe I’d just jump in blindly!

Over the years, we’ve had numerous picnics by the water and walks along the shore. The Bruce Trail also runs through town, and is popular for hiking, biking and cross country skiing.

As you’re heading out of town, you see the Thornbury Village Cidery, home to the award winning Thornbury Cider, which debuted a couple of summers ago. It’s my go-to cottage drink nowadays. I think I like it not just for the taste, but the thought of all the heritage behind it. Three generations of my family worked in the apple manufacturing business in this town and it’s nice to see it making its return.

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  1. Annie says

    I’m in Thornbury right now, staying at the Royal Harbour Resort where my friend has a timeshare. We’ve been coming here every year the past 5 years. We’ve been here since last Sunday and will be leaving tomorrow. She’s going to be selling or giving up this timeshare, so this will be our last time. I’m going to miss this place.

  2. beverly gay says

    After checking in on your master remodel I clicked here so Aunt Irene could do a photo hop down memory lane. Thanks! Hugs! Aunt Irene and the Colorado Connection

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