The Hamilton Spectator

He was co-founder of ‘the Cadillac’ of nudist resorts

Hans Stein and his wife operated Four Seasons camp for 40 years


Hans Stein went from one extreme to the other.

During the Second World War, he was conscripte­d into the German army and sent to the Russian front, known for its battles in snow and freezing temperatur­es. His unit was surrounded, but he managed to escape and walk and hitchhike back to Berlin.

After he came to Canada in 1957, he and his wife Lisa opened two nudist resorts — the Ponderosa Nature Resort in 1964 in the former Beverly Township, and the much larger Four Seasons Family Nudist Resort near Freelton in the former East Flamboroug­h Township in 1969.

Stein — who died Dec. 31 at age 95 — and his wife were the nucleus of a unique piece of Hamilton history. They ran the resorts for 45 years and by the end of the 1980s, Four Seasons had a membership of 1,200, including 550 families.

Spectator columnist Paul Wilson described the 12th Concession Road East resort in 1990 as “the Cadillac of camps for those without clothes. Fifty acres of peace and privacy on the edges of Freelton. Big indoor swimming pool that becomes a dance floor with the touch of a button. Bars. Tennis courts. Lake. Tanning table. Whirlpool deluxe. Four hundred trailer sites.”

By the time it changed to what nudists call “a textile” — a clothes-required establishm­ent — in 2011, there were still more than 100 families who were members. This was two years after the couple had sold the property. It is now Fernbrook Resort. Ponderosa on 8th Concession Road West continues to operate.

Stein, who also served in an antiaircra­ft unit in Berlin, visited on a whim a nudist park with his family near Fonthill in 1960. He fell for the lifestyle, but Stein found the owner too strict. He was a former U-boat commander.

“He was too bossy,” Stein told the Spec in 2012. “Drinking wasn’t allowed and he would barge into our rooms, looking for imaginary bottles.”

He started thinking about opening his own park. At first, he believed he might face some difficulty opening a nudist park in Beverly Township. He went to the township hall in Rockton to ask what kind of permit he would need to open such a park. He said the clerk didn’t bat an eye.

“The woman said, ‘Let me look at the bylaws,’ handed me a form for a seasonal park and said it’d be $10,” he said.

At first, he didn’t know what to expect, and he kept his job at Union Gas. He opened Ponderosa with his sister and her husband. By 1968, it was doing so well Stein sold his share to his sister to finance the Four Seasons.

A year after opening, he inaugurate­d the Miss Nude Pageant and it caught fire. They held a total of four pageants and the events brought media to the door, plus contestant­s from Canada, the United States, Mexico and Europe. Media personalit­ies like Pierre Berton and Gordon Sinclair served as judges, and Sinclair later became a Four Seasons member.

In 1970, there were 10 contestant­s and, in 1971, there were 17. One day alone in 1971, 2,500 people came to the park to see the pageant.

The 1971 winner received a trophy, a trip to Florida and a set of snow tires.

The couple told a podcast interviewe­r several years ago they decided to cancel the pageant because they came to believe it was “antinaturi­st.”

Though Four Seasons was gone, Stein and his wife still enjoyed the lifestyle. They were interviewe­d by the McClatchy-Tribune News Service in 2014 while at Cypress Cove, a nudist resort they had visited since 1964. The reporter commented on how fit and young Stein looked at 86. He was naked, but for tennis shoes.

“It’s the nudist lifestyle,” Stein said.

Stein is survived by his wife Lisa, three granddaugh­ters and three great-grandchild­ren. He was predecease­d by his son Michael in 2008 and his grandson Neeko in 2014.

 ?? JOHN RENNISON SPECTATOR FILE PHOTO ?? Hans Stein believed he might face some difficulty opening a nudist park in Beverly Township.
JOHN RENNISON SPECTATOR FILE PHOTO Hans Stein believed he might face some difficulty opening a nudist park in Beverly Township.

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