Make Haste to the Hawk

Posted on August 16, 2014 under Storytelling with no comments yet


Strait Laced



When I think of the Strait area, a few words automatically come to mind: industry, uncertainty and resilience.

For a very long time, Port Hastings and Port Hawkesbury have provided the backdrop for any number of industries.  Aggregate has been rolling down Porcupine Mountain for as many years as I can remember, with large container boats coming from all over the globe to fill their holds.  And the Christmas tree, that appears as if suspended in space near the top of the mountain, is iconic.

The Heavy Water plant, Gulf Oil, NSPC, Georgia Pacific, NSFI, Stora, Stora Enso, Newpage and more recently, Port Hawkesbury Paper.  There were and are many more.  The new star on the block is Nu Star, a well-respected company providing petroleum and chemical storage.

The paper mill has always been the key driver of the economy in the quad counties.  It has provided a great percentage of the good paying jobs in the region.  But it has also provided the greatest amount of angst and uncertainty … for decades.  The community has learned to live with this uncertainty.  In some ways it defines it.

As you approach the Strait area from the mainland you are treated to the panorama that is St. Georges Bay with the rolling hills of Cape Breton rising in the distance.  Once you cross the causeway you will find the Port Hastings Museum and an excellent Visitor Information Centre.  Continuing toward Port Hawkesbury you find many motels and restaurants overlooking the Strait of Canso.  Straddling the two communities is the Nova Scotia Community College, a world class institution providing some very unique programs.  On one of my first tours of the facility, I remember standing by the wave pool and experiencing mild sea sickness when they cranked up the surf.  I knew right then and there that I could cross pilotage off my list of career choices.

Eleven years ago I opened a satellite office for business in Port Hawkesbury.  I thought about it long and hard before approaching the law firm of Evans and MacIsaac.  I reckoned that if things didn’t go well, I wouldn’t have to go far for legal advice.  Shindigs was my second choice.

The folks in Hastings and the Hawk are among the finest people you will find.  That is, until you journey to the next town or village in Cape Breton.  You see, everyone on Cape Breton Island is friendly.  But because of my tenure in port Hawkesbury, I know these people best.

Like most mortals, I like to eat and my favorite haunt is the Fleur de Lis.  Now, before I have all the other fine eating establishments mad at me, I like the others too.  The best fish and chips anywhere can be found at the Port Hawkesbury Motel.  Proximity is key on a busy workday and I find good home cooking five minutes from my office at the Fleur de Lis.   I have gotten to know the staff; even when they are busy (always), they never look rushed.

But there is a gaping hole in this restaurant these days.  Sandra, like Elvis, has “left the building”.  I loved watching her survey her domain when things were hectic beyond belief.  She was just like an air traffic controller.  And she always had this uncanny knack of prying a few extra dollars out of my pocket for charity.  She was a master fundraiser.  You simply didn’t say no to Sandra.

The jewel of the Strait area is the new Civic Centre.  I have attended many events there including seminars, hockey curling and concerts big and small.  The Shannon studio is a gem for musicians who want to entertain in an intimate setting with great acoustics.

Last winter, I decide to do an official launch of a book that I had just published. I booked the Shannon Studio.  My event happened to land on one of the coldest nights of the entire winter and the wind was whipping light snow, making visibility poor. At 6:58 PM (the launch was at 7:00), the audience consisted of my wife and the janitor.  I have never performed anything in front of an audience of one before, except maybe confession.

At 7:00, two brave souls showed up and by 7:15 we had close to twenty.  Some of these folks had travelled from well out of town to attend my event.  One more thing that defines these communities is loyalty.  I learned that first hand on this cold winter’s night.

During these warm summer days you may find me hastening to the Hawk. I’ll be checking out Granville Green or going for a stroll on the boardwalk.  And tuning in to 101.5.

Here’s hoping you haven’t tuned me out.


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