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From Kennetcook to the World
By: Wayne Garden

“Entrepreneur, A Man of Vision.” Those words are the epitaph on the headstone of Charles Everett MacCulloch, a successful businessman from Kennetcook, Hants County. Although his story is not exactly a “rags to riches” story; it is a tale of how enthusiasm, intelligence, and calculated risks turned a carpenter's apprentice into a millionaire Halifax developer and businessman.

Charles, or Charlie, as he was known in business circles, was the son of Everett MacCulloch, a storekeeper and a carpenter, and Emma, who was at one time, an actress on the New York stage. At the age of fourteen, young Charlie left school—a decision he regretted, despite the fact that he became one of Nova Scotia’s most successful investors and wealthiest citizens. 

When he was seventeen, Charles joined his father as a carpenter’s helper and began to do carpentry jobs; his clients told two people, who told two people, and so on. Eventually Charlie was able to take his first big gamble. After buying three building lots for $325 apiece, he built three houses, making a $1500 profit. 

By the age of twenty-one, he had a workforce of over 100 men—not bad for 1932. A year later, he and another Halifax business man, Don Hogan, each invested $2500 in a company that would buy lumber in Sherbrooke, only to turn around and sell it again. In their first attempt, they doubled their investment. Within six months, Charlie was sending cargoes of his lumber to England and shortly after that, he was chartering his own ships to carry his lumber overseas. 

His company continued to grow with the building of a chain of lucrative hardware stores. Soon, MacCulloch Building Companies were sprinkled throughout the province.

With his growing fortune, came an increasing popularity in the business world. Charlie wore the air of success easily. Always nattily dressed and with Clark Gable good looks, he spoke confidently and intelligently and exuded an aura that demanded respect. He held a variety of positions, such as Chairman of Halifax Development Ltd., but probably the best indication of his stature within the investment community was the fruition of his six-year dream: Scotia Square. At the time, it was the greatest financial venture in the city of Halifax with a price tag of $85 million. Though he was the front man, Charlie was actually gambling with a number of investors’ money. He said at the time, not surprisingly, “Everyone is wondering where the money is coming from.”

The bulk of the money was coming from a New York financier whom Charlie had met while on a trade mission to Russia. Apparently, the financier had asked Charlie how much he needed. When Charlie said 60 million, the New Yorker said, “Okay, let’s work out the details over lunch.”

Not only did Scotia Square prove to be a success, it served as a catalyst for other projects by other developers. But Charlie’s dreams did not stop there. Soon he developed the largest shopping mall east of Montreal: Mic Mac Mall. In the National Film Board film, “The Journeyman”, Charles tells how he wrote out a cheque for the property without first consulting his banker. Later, when the surprised banker scolded him, Charlie explained, “I thought you would probably turn me down, but you would not turn down my cheque”. In the same documentary, Charlie tells that his greatest personal attribute—“enthusiasm”—allowed him to live the entrepreneur’s dream: “to make something grow and to make something new.”

He often said that he would need two lives in order to do everything he wanted to do. He was used to putting in 18-hour days and could not understand how anyone could expect to achieve anything with a regular 9-5 day. 

With his fortune, Charlie also enjoyed life’s finer things. He had impeccable taste in art. He drove a Lincoln, a Rolls, a Mercedes. He owned a yacht, a Caribbean island, and a 2500-acre country estate.

It was at his country estate that he and his new wife, former British actress Patricia Bredin, began to enjoy his semi-retirement. Here at the Monte Vista on the shores of Grand Lake, Charlie felt he had returned to his Hants County roots. 

The couple enjoyed the farm’s serenity, although Charlie still rose an hour before dawn each morning to review the financial markets and keep on top of his investments. They had ambitious plans for the farm, but tragically Charles Everett MacCulloch died suddenly at the age of 68 while vacationing on the cruise liner, Pacific Princess (T.V.’s The Love Boat).  Sadly, the achievements of this entrepreneurial man of vision ended in years of litigation and bankruptcy.

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