- The Washington Times - Friday, December 31, 2004

PUGWASH, Nova Scotia — Most visitors to Pugwash come to fish, hike, play golf or other outdoor activities, not because it is a world-famous conference site. Many visitors simply wish to spend a short while for the radiant dusks, splendid dawns and Old World hospitality still found here.

Part of the drive, along Sunrise Trail (Route 6), goes past mines, farms, orchards, vineyards, tobacco plantations, native reserves, coastal parks and fishing villages.

Pugwash was the site of the 1956-57 international peace conferences organized by Canadian-U.S. industrialist and philanthropist Cyrus Eaton. Since then the annual meetings there have become known as the Pugwash conferences.

In August, former President Bill Clinton took time from his book tour to visit the Northumberland Strait in Wallace, near Pugwash, flying in and out the same evening on the new runway at Fox Harb’r Resort. Mr. Clinton spoke to a group of Canadian businessmen and politicians at the resort.

Curious about this backwater of the Maritimes, my wife and I later drove the Trans-Canada Highway north from Saint John, New Brunswick. In two hours, we reached the strait and were expecting much of the natural attractions of the region. We were not disappointed. The landscape was stunningly beautiful: long beaches, manicured farmlands and estates.

The Northumberland Strait separates Prince Edward Island on its north from New Brunswick and from Nova Scotia to the south. The long coastal panorama is as sublime at daybreak or sunset as anywhere in North America.

Delayed by the warm waters of the Northumberland Strait, winters have been milder and shorter here than in New Brunswick or Nova Scotia. And the Indian summer extends the seasonal fall colors into November. The three land masses — Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia — shelter the strait from the cool currents and the arctic air from Quebec and Labrador. This results in a temperature as warm as the tobacco-growing climate of North Carolina, but, for reasons largely of the market, the tobacco farms are few to none anymore this far north.

SUNRISE TRAIL

The Sunrise road to Wallace (population 500) and on to Pugwash is a winding country highway of two lanes under repair serves trucks and passenger cars and is best traveled during the day. We could have flown into the resort, as most of the guests do, for its runway can accommodate a Boeing 737 passenger jet. A marina serves oceangoing yachts. The resort also offers a limousine and jet or helicopter pick-up service, giving other travel options besides automobile.

Not far from Wallace, two hours before nightfall, we stopped in Pugwash (population 750), parking in front of Cyrus Eaton Park and the cove along Water Street. At the mouth of the Pugwash River, we could see the Confederation Bridge gleaming across the strait to Prince Edward Island.

A few fishing boats were anchored in the small harbor, but not much was going on at that hour. A large house dominated the center of the green, which served as a meeting hall during the peace conferences organized by Mr. Eaton, who died in 1979. Mr. Eaton was controversial in his day but not easy to pigeonhole.

Born in Pugwash, he studied at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, to become a Baptist minister. But John D. Rockefeller, in a chance meeting at a Cleveland church, persuaded him to go into business. After graduating with honors in philosophy, Mr. Eaton began marketing natural gas in 1907 and negotiated franchises to supply Canadian towns with power from Rockefeller’s utility, Eastern Ohio Gas and Power.

The financial panic of 1907 created the opportunity for Mr. Eaton to become owner of a steam-generating plant to supply power to towns and cities. By 1912, using profits from his first operation, he expanded his interests in utilities in Canadian provinces and Northwestern American states.

In 1930, he merged several steel companies to form Republic Steel, the third-largest U.S. steel firm at that time. Although he lost his shirt in the Great Depression, he recovered his fortune within a few years. A teetotaler, Mr. Eaton came from an area widely known for illegal liquor.

During Prohibition, local rum runners and bootleggers on the Northumberland Strait supplied a good deal of illicit booze either produced or in transit to the United States. All of Cumberland County, according to Pugwash guide Ruth McGrath, was officially dry until the 1980s.

The name Pugwash comes from the Mi’kmaq word for deep water, “pagweak.” Descendants of the Mi’kmaq aborigines who greeted the first French explorers and English settlers still live on reserves, as do some descendants of the Acadians, who were expelled by the British in 1755. Today, Mi’kmaqs, United Empire Loyalists (descendants of pro-British people who fled revolutionary America for Canada) and Acadians live among the descendants of later immigrants, nearly all of them from Ireland and Europe.

So many Irish and Scottish immigrants have made this region home that Pugwash street signs are bilingual in Gaelic and English. Every July 1, Pugwash celebrates the annual Gathering of the Clans, a Scottish festival with pipe bands, individual piping and drumming competitions, and a regatta.

Until 1867, shipbuilding was the major industry, but the local economy went into decline after the U.S. Civil War and did not revive until 1890, when a new railway boosted the economy. By 1900, Pugwash had a brickyard producing 8 million bricks a year, a tannery, a foundry, a confectionery factory, a chair factory, lobster canneries, hotels, a theater, general stores, churches, shipbuilders, a quarry, saloons and the county insane asylum.

After World War I, most of the businesses vanished. The Windsor Salt Mine, the seaport and lobster industries, Seagull Pewter, and Jost Winery remain the largest employers, along with Fox Harb’r Resort.

INTERNATIONAL ATTENTION

In 1957, Mr. Eaton brought international media to Pugwash to cover his “thinker’s conference,” held at the height of Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. At the time of the conference, he was one of the wealthiest men in North America, but he also was among the first prominent businessmen to advocate diplomacy to reduce tensions between the two nations.

He founded the Pugwash Intellectual Life Conferences in 1956 and the International Pugwash Conferences of Nuclear Scientists in 1957. When the Soviets awarded Mr. Eaton the Lenin Peace Prize in 1960, many of his critics accused him of sympathizing with the communists, but he vigorously promoted free enterprise in the Soviet Union, which was not a popular thing there, either.

His idea for the conference came from a manifesto issued in 1955 by Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein and signed by 22 eminent scientists, including Max Born, Frederic Joliot-Curie, Linus Pauling, Joseph Rotblat and Hideki Yukawa, warning the world that thermonuclear weapons could destroy all life on the planet.

The International Pugwash Foundation in Geneva, supports the annual conferences, involving 30 to 50 participants in their private capacity, not as representatives of governments or organizations. In 1989, the U.N. Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization awarded the Einstein Gold Medal to the Pugwash Conferences, and in 1995, the Pugwash Conferences on Science and World Affairs, and Mr. Rotblat, its president, shared the Nobel Peace Prize.

WALLACE

In 1710, Acadians founded the first permanent European settlement, living, fishing and hunting among the native Mi’kmaq, who called the village Remsheg, “the place between.” The Acadian dykes from that period are still evident along Tatamagouche Bay, reminders of the Acadian presence before the British expelled them in August 1755.

Between 80,000 and 100,000 refugees of the American Revolutionary War fled to Canada from the American Colonies in 1783, the year of the Treaty of Paris. Nearly 35,000 of them came to the Maritimes. The Loyalists settling in Remsheg or Wallace were from Westchester, N.Y., and many of their descendants, with names such as Brown, Dotten, Forshner, Piers, Purdy and Tuttle, are still here.

Wallace is known for its sandstone, used throughout North America for buildings such as the Peace Tower of the Canadian Parliament in Ottawa. Architect Robert Scott, who opened the first quarry in the area, used it to house the Nova Scotia Legislature in 1811.

The most popular destinations here are a local museum and Fox Harb’r Resort, the five-year-old creation of another successful native son, doughnut king Ron Joyce. His business interests included Tim Hortons coffee chain; Wendy’s; and Jetport, an executive-jet charter service. Mr. Joyce happens to be an eighth-grade dropout who became a billionaire.

He is a philanthropist and dreamer, like Mr. Eaton. But although Mr. Joyce engages philanthropy and has improved the lives of many people through his businesses, he has never dabbled in politics. At 73 he has energy aplenty, though he leaves day-to-day resort management to his 37-year-old son, Stephen, who holds a master’s degree in business from Moscow State University in Russia.

Through his friendship with the late Wendy’s owner Dave Thomas, Mr. Joyce managed to work out a partnership with Wendy’s. He sold his Tim Hortons chain to Wendy’s in 1995. Now he says he regrets the merger. “It was the biggest mistake I ever made,” he said to me, “merging Tim Hortons with Wendy’s.” I asked why.

“Wendy’s was losing money,” he said. “We weren’t. But I didn’t know that at the time.”

Still as restless and energetic as ever, he returned to his home, much as Mr. Eaton had done, to create another legacy, his splendid Fox Harb’r. In 2000, he opened the five-star hotel, marina, jetport and golf resort to offer comforts seldom matched in North America.

The baffling thing is that no one else realized the idea before him. Perhaps that is because he was born here and made his vast fortune elsewhere. Mr. Joyce dropped out of school and went west to Ontario and served four years in the Canadian Navy. He next was a policeman for several years in Hamilton; married by then, he had a growing family, eventually numbering seven sons. A policeman’s salary wasn’t enough.

“It was hard making people feel happy as a policeman,” he said. Leaving the force, he dabbled in real estate, and he soon bought a Dairy Queen franchise. He had finally found a way to make people happy. Then he discovered a way to make himself happy as well. In 1967, he became a partner in a lucrative doughnut-shop chain owned by retired hockey star Tim Horton.

After Mr. Horton died in a 1974 car accident, Mr. Joyce bought out the Horton family. It was the beginning of a franchise expansion that put a Tim Hortons in just about every Canadian town. When he sold out to Wendy’s, there were 2,500 Tim Horton franchises in Canada.

Fox Harb’r opened in 2000, offering skeet shooting and sporting clay, a trap shooting lodge, tennis, a spa, deep-water fishing, sailing, boating, kayaking, biking, canoeing, a practice range, seaside par-3 short courses, an Olympic-size pool, 24-hour service, privately catered town houses, and 72 luxurious suites. Town houses also are available with maids.

Graham Cooke designed the par-72 golf course, and in 2001, Golf Digest bestowed its award for best new course on the gated and landscaped resort. Other awards include Five Star Resort 2003, Canada Select and Canada’s Golf Ranking magazine.

Built on 1,000 acres, the resort is less than a two-hour direct flight from many U.S. cities on the East Coast. From Maine and New Brunswick, it is accessible by car, from the Canadian Highway to Sunset Trail. The resort is a three-hour drive from Halifax International Airport — and there is the Joyce limo service or luxury bus.

Passengers arriving by personal boats may dock at the resort’s marina. If you choose to fly, you may charter the resort’s nine-passenger amphibious Cessna, nine-seat King Air 350, six-seat cross-continental Astra G100 or 12-seat trans-Atlantic Canadair Challenger 604, and helicopters also pick you up and fly you onto the 5,000-foot runway from anywhere in North America.

You have the option of the plane literally landing behind your guest townhouse so that you may have only a short walk to your accommodations. There to greet you will be all the luxuries: a fireplace, a cooked and catered meal by the resort’s chef delivered moments after your arrival and free vintage wines in your plush quarters

Mr. Eaton’s return to his birthplace to launch his project finds a parallel with the return of Mr. Joyce to his birthplace in the valley. But there the similarity ends. Fox Harb’r is not dedicated to any peace other than your peace of mind. And you will find all the comforts and luxuries of a five-star hotel considerably below the cost of comparable destinations in the States.

The region reminded me of my childhood in the 1950s traveling the Gulf Shore, from Mississippi to Florida’s panhandle, before it was discovered and, some say, ruined by developers and land speculators. I hope the same fate never befalls the Northumberland Strait or Tatamagouche Bay.

American writer Carl Senna lives in Saint John, New Brunswick.

Accommodations in Pugwash

Two nights’ accommodation in executive suites includes two rounds of golf per person; full access to the practice range and seaside par-3 short course; and daily breakfast in the clubhouse dining room for about $685 in U.S. currency. Also: fireplaces in rooms, Internet, cable, luxury dining, twice-daily maid service. Off-season rates begin at about $165 per night.

For reservations and information about limousine or air transportation, contact Fox Harb’r Golf Resort & Spa, 1337 Fox Harbour Road, Wallace, Nova Scotia B0K 1Y0, Canada; phone 902/257-1801 or 866/257-1801; fax 902/257-1852.

Points of interest for tourists and visitors to Pugwash and Wallace include Cameron Beach, Gulf Shore Provincial Park, picnic areas, Northumberland Golf Links, Thinker’s Lodge (home of the Pugwash conferences), Salt Mine Wharf, the Brickyard Marina, Fisherman’s and Lobster wharves, Eaton Park, Wallace Bay Wildlife Preserve, and Sea Gull Pewter Shops.

Restaurants offer excellent seafood and other fare. Accommodations in motels and cabins are available. For more information, contact: Pugwash Village Commission, P.O. Box 220, 124 Water St., Pugwash, Nova Scotia B0K 1L0, Canada; phone: 902/243-2946 Monday to Friday; or visit [email protected]

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