A Parker Legacy

A Parker Legacy by Robbie Parker

A Parker Legacy

Dad (Tom Parker), his brother Lou and their sister Francis were born and raised on a small farm in Elmsdale, near what is now Kali Lane. The farm had poor soil and they did what they had to do to get by... a bit of this and a bit of that. There was never much money. Like a lot of other local farms, one of the ventures was raising foxes. Some of the pens were still there when I was a kid.

Although he never said it to me, I believe that Dad made up his mind early in life to not be poor. His determination and drive were as much a part of him as his skin. He left school in grade 9 and started working at Scotia Flour and Feed in Elmsdale. He was driving their delivery truck at 15. As soon as he was of legal age, he joined the RCMP, moving to Saskatchewan for his training. That was 1939.

When the war started, most young men were signing up to go beat up Hitler and Dad was no exception. He tried to quit the RCMP and join*the army, but the police force would not release him. He served his mandatory term and paid for an early discharge in 1943. He joined the army but never went overseas.
During his time in the service, he met a young soldier named Gordon Marsh. Marsh came from Windsor Ontario where his father owned (before fridges) an ice business. When the war was over, Dad went to Windsor with Marsh and they worked in the family business. It's possible that together, they took over the business. I say that because Dad came back to Enfield in two years with enough money to start a general store. (1947) and likely that would not have been possible as an employee. Meanwhile, Lou had also joined the army, was discharged at war's end, and ended up working in Frobisher Bay.

The general store they started together was in the building that is now Payzants Home Hardware. The ground floor housed the store. The basement was storage, and the second floor was eventually converted to two apartments. We were in one apartment with my grandmother and Lou's family was in the other... a grand total of 9 kids and 5 adults.

The store sold boots and fishing rods and cans of peas and beans and fresh meat and cheese and televisions* and almost everything else and delivered them to homes and farms packed in cardboard boxes in a blue panel truck (like a van). Delivery was an essential service then because most families didn‘t own a car. At this time, the airport was still being built and there wasn't a lot of local employment in Enfield except for the saw mills. People who worked in the city travelled there by train. The train station was near the present post office but on the other side o* the tracks** Elmsdale had its own General store. The villages now known collectively as the East HantS Corridor (Enfield, Elmsdale, Lantz, Milford and Shubenacadie), now a homogeneous community were distinct villages then. Enfield was predominantly Catholic while Elmsdale was Protestant. Dad and his siblings were the only Catholic kids in the Elmsdale school. He told me this led to almost daily confrontations and, I assume was what forced him to be physically tough.

My dad and Lou saw the airport coming and knew that it was bound to make Enfield grow. They decided to build a bigger store, a Supermarket. I think it was 1957 when their brand-new IGA Supermarket opened. All that remains of the building today is the pizzeria beside Wilsons' gas station. But then it was a bustling, thriving place and the center of the village. I think besides the Sobeys store in New Glasgow and perhaps two others in Halifax, it was the only other supermarket in Nova Scotia. It stopped selling rubber boots and televisions and sold only food. The food included fresh, green vegetables like broccoli...the first broccoli most of us had ever seen.

The building that they vacated (Payzants’) then became a dry goods store. It was taken over by Maurice and Emma Horne. They previously had a smaller store down near Shooters where, they too, sold a bit of everything, including groceries. There was a handshake deal whereby Dad and Lou agreed not to sell boots and clothing, etc., and Maurice and Emma stopped selling groceries. Today, it's called collusion.
The old store eventually evolved into a hardware store which Maurice operated with his son Frank and later, Bob Bona. And that became Enfield Hardware and Scotian Homes.

Meanwhile, the new supermarket was an instant success. There were two or perhaps three checkouts, each with a cash register (wow, really). It had a fresh produce area with a big case that kept the fruit and vegetables cool. Revolutionary. There was a storage/delivery area with a lunchroom above. There was even a proper butcher shop in there where half carcases hung in the walk-in cooler.

A store like this needed water...a dependable year-round supply of clean water. I believe the Department of Health voiced this opinion as well. So, they ran a water line to the river beyond what is now Payzant's lumber yard. Of course, there was no 102 highway to stop them then. In the late 50’s, most every home took its water from a dug well, or the few who had access to the river, pumped it from there. The issues of frost, summer drought and impure water were real and recurrent problems.

This was the genesis of Enfield's first water utility. People saw this large water line going in, passing near their houses. It seemed the logical thing to hook up to it. So, a very informal and primitive water company was born, supplying water to the new store and a few houses enroute. Although the EH Horne school had no hard connection to the system, Lou used to fill the cistern there from a fire hose. The pump house was moved twice in subsequent years and eventually serviced perhaps 100 homes. The utility was taken over by the Municipality in the 70’s.

The new store was built with a full basement*”” under it and this big space (about 60 x 120 feet) did not stay empty long. Soon there was a 6-lane candlepin bowling alley down there. It was a hopping place with many leagues active 6 nights a week till 11pm. There were snacks and drinks but no alcohol (officially). The all-time highest score was 149 by Maurice Horne. The building was built as a one storey with a flat roof. About 1964, a small 2 storey brick building was added to the side nearest the fire hall. The ground floor became the Enfield Post Office and the second floor became Dad's office for his newest venture, BPA Insurance. He partnered with his friend Leo Benere and in 1965, incorporated Benere Parker Associates (Best Protection Available/Better Price Always). The company was bought by their long-time employee, Lee Hennigar and Lee sold it to Caldwell Roach about 10 years ago. Thus, Caldwell Roach's claim...” since 1965”. About 1967, a second storey was added to the main store. This housed 8 new apartments.

Dad and Lou sold the building in 1973. It burned to the ground in 1974. All that remains today is the sad looking Pizzeria (the post office) and an apartment above it (Dad's office). But not so long ago, it was a bustling, thriving place and the center of the village.

*The one and only television for sale at any given time was displayed (turned on) in the front window of the store. Most often, the “picture” was a grey blizzard. Test pattern (an Indian Chiefs head) came on at noon for a half hour as a prelude to the programming. People would stand in front of the window and watch the blizzard, the test pattern, or the program with what appeared to be equal interest, perhaps because the picture was so similar for all three.

* The old Enfield train station was moved to the lake shore near Monte Vista about 1965 and became the family cottage of Catherine and Claude White.

*** The concrete foundation of the store was poured entirely using wheel barrows, no pump truck

Pictured in the image left to right: Tom Parker, Lou Horne, Lou Parker