In 1976, my family moved from Dartmouth, back to my father’s boyhood home of West Bay, Cape Breton. I was seven year old and I only remember a turn off in the road with a sign saying Amherst, and the other pointed to Cape Breton.
Soon after our move, my uncle Ainslie MacKay, sold his Pharmacy in Dartmouth and purchased a business called the Border Motel, in Amherst in Nova Scotia. To help transition uncle Ainslie, into his new roll of motel owner, my father accompanied him and he took my sister and I along. I seem to recall being excited I would get to travel on the “other road” towards Amherst, we had by-passed on our way to Cape Breton. I had no idea, the “border” stood for the provincial line between Nova Scotia and New Brunswick.
I remember three things very clearly; we drank a lot of pop my uncle had stored in the cellar, I learned the proper way to fold and hang a towel over the towel rack in the bathroom-( I still do it the same way today) and last, out back of the hotel, there was a high grass marshy area with a muddy stream. It was the most foreign landscape I had ever seen.
This trip home for the holidays, I am on a mission to find this motel.
Walking through the door of the Nova Scotia Welcome Center, I greet the attendances, then hit them with a question. “Do any of you know where the old Border motel was located?” Lucky for me, the winter attendance’s are of the age to remember forty years ago. One of the gentlemen speaks up, “yes, it is on the old highway 2, five minutes from here”. Old photo of the Border Motel
It seems the topic is worthy of conversation. They continue saying how it use to have a restaurant that was popular. The second attendant adds, “the twinning of the Tran Canada Highway, crushed the areas tourism. People no longer stop, they whip right through”
“Who owns it now? I ask, he replies, “an eccentric millionaire”. Then adds. ” the building is still standing but it’s in bad shape” I tell them I want to go see it anyway, its a middle-aged thing, “I recall a woolly looking grassy back yard.” They nod and say “that hasn’t changed,” part of the Tantramar Marsh.
I explain, “I want to know Amherst a bit more, I don’t remember any of it from my summer here as a youth”. It has been washed away by traveling through so many times over my life.. They mention “Fort Lawrence is completed.” I was there in March and there was a sign stating it was an active archaeological site. I showed a picture of it in my story Make Any Drive A Road Trip.. This time, it is tourist ready. Here are some of what you can find in the Fort Lawrence area;
- Fort Lawrence and Beaubess National Historic Site.
- Mount Whatley Road, House a National Historic Site
- Jacob Bourgeois Nationally recognized person plaque
- Windmill farm
- The Lighthouse with the Nova Scotia welcome sign
Since I already covered some of the historical buildings and politically important locations of Amherst In Honour of Canada’s 150th.
I don’t feel like going on a historic house tour and there is no sense going to the bird sanctuary this time of year. I have one more idea, and I ask; ” any craft breweries in the area?” I am handed a card with the name of a brewery. I thank them all and I head out the door. I want to go see the location I came here for; the Border Motel.
I circle the front yard then proceed to follow the walkway under the overhang looking in the windows. The rooms are filled with boxes most of the ceiling has caved in the doors are all locked. Some windows are boarded up. In another room I see an old TV and possible a bed but most of the acoustic tile ceilings has collapsed.
I walk around the back and see the matted grassy field. It is just as I remember. My examination of the place, has left me feeling nothing. It is a decrepit run down place. My memories are of a busy hotel of modern up keep. I shall not need to visit again. I am off in search of something more vibrant and I think I can find it at the brewery 46 Anson road, at the Trider’s Craft brewery.
Located in an industrial building, It is hard to distinguish it from the other units except for the lined up of vehicles outside. I push open the door gently, not sure if I am entering into a restricted area. There is a lady behind a counter. She welcomes me in, says she is Ashley, and tells me, the glass wear is on sale, then continues waiting on the next customer.
” Any discounts on a six pack?” I ask, she says, “no, that was last week.” Figures I would miss it. I make my selection from a beer cooler and she cheerfully rings up my purchases. I leave with a wave and a Merry Christmas
I am ready to leave Amherst, I come away with two bottle of craft beer to put in my sister and brother-in-laws sock. My fond memories from my youth intact. Amherst is a great town with lots of historical homes but a new culture of trendiness is returning.
Happy Travels and happy Holidays from Maritime Mac