• Illustration of William Shatner by Liz Mac

    Illustration: Liz Mac/Canadian Geographic

My childhood summers were spent at a cabin on Lac Long in the Laurentian Mountains north of Montreal, where I’m from. Our cabin fronted a dirt road, which is probably a highway now, and had a swinging screen door, the slap of which I’ll always remember. That’s where movies like The Yearling and books like The Red Pony, by Steinbeck, moved me the most.

It started off with three families on the lake. To get running water, we had to hand-pump it from a well to a cistern on the roof. When I was five or six, I offered to fill each family’s cistern for 25 cents, which was a fortune then. I hadn’t realized how hard it was to pump the water, so I’d get a cistern half-filled and be so exhausted that I’d have to come back the next day. I was never able to top off a cistern.

As the number of cabins increased over the years, a corner store finally sprang up. There was a group of 10 kids of different ages — I was around 11 or so — that would gather there on a Saturday night and dance to whatever was playing on the radio or to this French trio that would come and play country music.

Around that time I started to notice girls — and actually caught my first glimpse of a naked girl. It was as memorable as catching my first fish. A friend of my older sister’s was visiting our cabin, and while I was in my room at the top of the stairs (which had no door), the door to my sister’s bedroom opened and I saw her friend Diane dressing. She caught me looking and slammed the door. That memory has stayed with me to this day.

— As told to Michela Rosano