An aerial view of Birdseye Centre and the
cabins which were located at the north end of
Water St., along the shore of Lake Scugog, Port
Eddie and Hilda Michell, (below)
moved to Port Perry during 1939 and shortly after
arriving purchased a rough piece of property at
the north end of Water St.
Michells spent much time clearing and levelling
the land, with plans to build a tourist park on
the land overlooking Lake Scugog. Work began on
a 30'x80' swimming pool on the property in August
1939. The following summer the pool was opened and
construction began on the first of nine efficiency
cabins along the lakeshore.
In May 1940, following negotiation
with the Toronto Star, Mr. Michell received exclusive
permission to call the park, Birdseye Centre Cabin
Park, after the popular cartoon series. The cartoon
series was created by former local resident Jimmy
Frise, along with his friend Greg Clarke, and was
featured weekly in the Toronto Star.
(see more on Jimmy Frise at bottom of page)
Over the next 30 years, the park became
a popular spot for tourists, many making long treks
to stay in the beautiful park with picturesque cabins
overlooking Lake Scugog.
After operating Birdseye Centre Cabin
Parks for more three decades, the park was sold
to Scugog Township 1969. A few years later the cabins
were removed and the land was returned to its present
Although it's undergone some restoration
work over the years, the outdoor pool built by the
Michells in Birdseye Park during the fall of 1939
was in used until 2001, when it was removed and
replaced by a new pool.
The entrance to Birdseye Centre
Park, was at the north end of Water Street, beside
the Michell's house and refreshment booth they operated
at the park.
View from the lake of some of
the Birdseye Centre Park cabins as they looked nestled
among the trees along the shoreline.
Birdseye cabins submerged during
a sping flood in 1960.
A view of Birdseye Park swimming
pool during a hot summer day about 1955.
A guest sits on the grass outside
the cabins in the park about 1940.
and Birdseye Centre
In many ways, one of the most unlikely
residents of Scugog to become famous was James Lewellyn
Frise, a farmboy from Scugog Island. But this unassuming
young man went on to become one of Canada's most
famous characters during the early part of this
Jimmy Frise, as he was best known,
became a household name with his "Birdseye Centre"
cartoons in the Toronto Star Weekly during the 1920s
and 30s. A feat he accomplished without one lesson
of instruction in the world of art.
Jimmy was born on a small farm on
Scugog Island overlooking Lake Scugog and Port Perry
in 1891, the only child of John and Hannah Frise.
He grew up in the villages of Seagrave and attended
school in Port Perry. His artistic talents became
evident at an early age, as his schoolbooks were
covered in sketches, many which were the early etching
of "old Archie" and "Pigskin Pete", two characters
from Birdseye Centre which became folklore across
Jimmy Frise relaxing in his office
at the Toronto Star.
In 1910 at the age of 19 year, Jimmy
headed off to Toronto to search for a job that would
lead him to his love of art. It was almost a year
later, after many disappointments that his first
break came, when the Toronto Star published a cartoon
he had submitted. He ran to the Star with his cartoon
waving in his hand, only to find out the paper had
been looking for him for 10 days, because he had
not left instructions where he could be contacted.
But as luck would have it, Jimmy was hired on the
spot into the paperŐs art department.
In 1916, still undiscovered as an
artist, he moved to Montreal to further his career
at an engraving house. Shortly after arriving, he
enlisted in the artillery and went to war. It was
during his stint overseas during the battle of Vimy,
that he was wounded in battle.
Returning to Toronto he once again
began working at the Star, this time cartooning
full time. In 1921 he created his first half-page
cartoon for the Star Weekly called "Life's Little
Comedies." Within months the cartoon's name was
changed to "Birdseye Centre", and Jimmy's career
was launched, a career which spanned more than 25
One of Frise's "Birdseye
Centre" cartoons featured in the Star.
He was often asked the the location
of the town he was portraying in his cartoons, and
he answered "any Canadian village with a hotel,
gasoline station, barber shop and a town pump."
This despite many people from the Scugog area who
felt some of the characters and situations were
taken from locations around Port Perry.
When found at work in his studio,
Frise was said to be seldom found alone. His office
was gathering place for characters who stood around
talking and watching from morning until late at
night. It was said he rose to the top of his profession
with no sense of urgency, a trait that drove his
frantic editors mad. In fact, Gregory Clark wrote
that Jim Frise was a "legendary artless artist."
Even at the top of his career Jimmy
never forgot his roots back along the shores of
Lake Scugog. He returned often to spend time with
old friends and family and spoke to local groups
about his career as a cartoonist. He was a lover
of the outdoors and spent a great deal of time fishing
and hunting. He had an extraordinary love for dogs
especially "Rusty" his water-fearing spaniel, who
was featured many times in his cartoons.
Jimmy fishing near his home on
Jimmy Frise was married after the
war to Ruth Elizabeth Gate and the couple raised
four daughters, Jean, Ruth, Edythe and Betty, and
one son John.
His long-time friend and colleague
Gregory Clark said Jimmy was a living cartoon and
wrote the following after his death on Sunday, June
13, 1948. "He was an original, unbendable, bemused,
rapt, lovable guy in love the the gentleness and
decency of life amid all the storm and rage. Doing
what comes naturally was all he ever did, and it
gave a whole generation of thirty years smiles and
laughter and never a soul hurt in all that time".
Jimmy Frise and his good friend
Jimmy Frise died at is home in Toronto
on Sunday, June 13, 1948 at 57 years of age. Some
original Frise cartoons and a historical plaque
commemorating Jimmy Frise are on display at Scugog
Return to the
Top | Return
to Miscellaneous Index