It Takes a Village …
May. 14, 2018
As the old saying goes, it takes a village to raise a child. The same is true for fishing lodges. At Aikens, we are truly blessed by the community of family and friends who support us and help make the Aikens Experience possible.
Many different people help us many different ways, with some of the most significant help each year comes in early May during an Aikens tradition known as Molly Week.
A group of 20-some relatives, friends and former staff members volunteer for a week each spring to help us prepare the lodge for guests.
“It’s really touching that people would take their vacation time to come and help out,” said Pit, noting that one of his uncles even drives 25 hours from Ontario to come help each spring. “It’s all our friends and family. We don’t even have staff up yet, so in addition to the critical help to prepare the lodge, Molly Week is also a chance to share a slice of Aikens with our family for the week and let them see what we do all summer.”
The tradition started about 30 years ago (essentially Gerry and Lorraine’s first season at Aikens), when a trio consisting of Pit’s beloved uncle, Bernie Turenne, and two of Gerry Turenne’s close friends came to Aikens for a week to help prepare the lodge for the season ahead.
They called themselves the Mollies, after a popular rent-a-maid company in Manitoba that called its cleaners “Molly Maids.” Bernie, a larger than life man in both stature and personality, was nicknamed “Big Molly,” to go along with his friends and fellow cleaners “Short Molly” and “Tall Molly.”
The trio came back again the following spring to help, and slowly but surely the tradition was born. Each year, the critical group of volunteers helps with a wide variety of projects including cleaning, preparing boats and four-wheelers, and working in the saw mill.
Pit’s sister, Andrina, who like Pit grew up at Aikens, returns every year and cherishes the annual Molly Week.
“I love Molly Week so much! It's a wonderful way to kick off the season,” Andrina said. “It allows us to share quality time with our friends and family and is almost like blowing the dust off the winter in a literal way, and in a metaphorical way. It’s renewal, the coming alive of camp once again, and it’s just so great to share that with loved ones.”
Those loved ones share a special bond, at a special place.
“We are a group of relatives and friends that can be described in French by ‘bons vivants,” which translates loosely “jovial folk who know how to live,” Andrina explained. “It’s just a great atmosphere. Everyone is happy to be there, and everyone puts in a hard day’s work. Come five o’clock, we gather for happy hour and exchange jokes and stories into the night.”
Andrina cheerfully admits that late evening merriment has caused her to be late to breakfast the following day on more than one occasion. But as Pit can attest, Andrina is always a hard worker and willing to pitch in with any job.
“I worked in housekeeping and serving for most of my working days at the lodge, so now I like to do the other things I never really got to do then, like use the chainsaw to clear the paths of the winter’s fallen deadwood, or reupholstering seats for boats and quads, or re-wiring the electric fence that keeps the wildlife out of camp,” Andrina said. “I usually ask my brother for the odd-jobs, and it’s a plus when they involve power tools.”
Some years ago, there was also a unique task that Andrina remembers well.
“My brother sent me out to catch a few walleye as the chef wanted to test out a few fish-cake recipes. I went to the Honey Hole by myself, with one rod, half a tub of minnows and a few jigs,” Andrina recalled. “In between catching what I needed, I kept getting my line hooked, followed by the line getting snapped. I knew a big pike kept taking my line. I was down to my last jig and was determined to catch whatever it was that kept biting.”
“I finally did and reeled in a Master Angler pike. Being alone, I had to be creative in documenting this. I took a selfie with the huge pike head, and it needs to be said that this was before smartphones and the selfie phenomena. It was a point and shoot camera and I had little time in order to release the fish safely. It was one of the most exciting days, and my favorite ‘job.’”
Another Aikens friend and former staffer, Megan Schwabiuk, has similarly helped with a wide variety of tasks in her 19 years of volunteering at Molly Week.
“The week runs like a well-executed theatrical production: everyone has their part and plays it well. My main part is to clean up the leaves and then help fold laundry and open up cabins,” Megan said. “My hardest job was when I used to have to open the kitchen after the winter and clean my nemesis, the exhaust fan hood.”
“My favorite job is being outside blowing leaves or, if it's raining, making beds,” Megan said. “It’s actually really nice to for one week to be working more with my hands, and less with my head.”
Megan also loves visiting with old Aikens friends during the week, especially in a boat at sunset, over good food at dinner, playing crib at Big Molly’s and––when the weather allows––enjoying beachside parties.
“The past couple of years we've had awesome weather which has been fun,” said Megan, noting the souvenirs are a nice perk, too. “On the contrary, I can remember spending a night playing a group trivia game in the dining room watching the snow fall... you never know what to expect when it comes to the weather!”
We want to thank our extended Aikens family for making the effort to volunteer at Molly Week each year, rain, shine or snow. Thanks to your help, we’re excited for another great year ahead at Aikens!
P.S. Curious about Big Molly himself? Stay tuned for a future article about the man, the myth and the namesake of Big Molly’s Bar.