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May. 25, 2022 | Wednesday
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History Unveiled: Shalamar was a family affair for the Sheppards

 

Second in a series

The Shalamar Lake resort might have been the brainchild of Bert Sheppard, but it really was a family affair.

Bert's daughter Cynthia also notes her mother’s contribution to the family enterprise.

When Shalamar was moving from dream to reality in Shep’s head, his wife Edna, who went by the name Billie, was a head nurse at Niagara Falls General Hospital.

As the business grew, she joined the enterprise full-time. A keen gardener, she planted trees all over the site. The mature trees on the property today add to the ambiance of Shalamar’s successor, Vine Ridge Resort.

Thanks to Bert Sheppard’s acumen, his family’s belief in the project and all their hard work, Shalamar was a huge success.

Sheppard fell ill and died at age 57 in 1970. Although he achieved many of his dreams at Shalamar, he had hoped to do more.

A mini golf course, an arcade and winter ice skating parties were dreams unfulfilled. Although a new general manager was hired, the Sheppard family’s heart was no longer in Shalamar. The property was sold soon after.

Kimberly Legros’s family owned Shalamar from 1978 to 1987, as well as Log Cabin Trailers in Niagara-on-the-Lake.

There were four brothers. "Two ran Log Cabin and two, Shalamar,” Legros says.

At the time, the people who camped at Shalamar also often worked there.

Jen Cunning and her family camped at Shalamar during the latter part of this period.

“I was about 13 or 14 when we started going to Shalamar," Cunning says. "We would camp from April till October, basically when the park opened for the season, until closing.”

They stayed there even though the family lived nearby in St. Catharines.

“Back in the day, most of us that camped there were pretty fearless. We would walk to Queenston Heights all the time. Some of us even walked all the way to the Pen Centre one summer, just for something to do,"

"I think it was more or less to see if we could walk that far. A bunch of us would even walk to Niagara Riding Stables and go horseback riding quite a bit."

"We would spend a lot of time going to the Falls as well, especially to Maple Leaf Village, the place to 'hang out' and have some fun."

She also recalls hanging out poolside, chilling at the arcade, movie and dance nights at the pavilion, Christmas in July, the Winterfest ("where some of us would meet back up there in the off-season amongst all the snow for a day").

There was also "the St. Davids Carnival, the Virgil Victoria Day carnival. Seeing how far up the Brock Monument you could get, after walking up the hillsides to get there. There wasn't anything not to like.”

Cunning met and hung out with a lot of Americans and to this day, she keeps in touch with them – more than 30 years later.

Longtime camper Emily DeSantis confirms Cunning’s memories of Shalamar.

"My mother Cheryl Loughlin began camping at Shalamar in 1978. She took her two boys to the campgrounds and upgraded her trailer as her family grew," she says.

"She has loved and cherished the spot for so many years, as did I as a child.”

Shawna Robinson Jones adds, “As far as activities, there was never a dull moment. Most events centred on the pavilion – Saturday night movies (bring your own lawn chair), bingo, ceramics, horseshoe tournaments.”

One of her favourite pastimes was baseball. They played against teams from other campgrounds, including one from Ransomville, N.Y.

The summers at Shalamar provided memories that last a lifetime.

Next: Shalamar now operates as Vine Ridge Resort.

Author's acknowledgement: I’d like to thank all of those who responded to my request for information about Shalamar Lake. All of you loved your time there. Because there were so many of you, I had to pick and choose the information I used, but I’m grateful to all of you.

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