Old Whitney Pier

Don’t cross those tracks,
Stay on that side of the overpass.

Whitney Pier?
A place some people feared.

A diverse community with lots of culture.
A Canadian heritage site like no other.

Welcome to the Pier Dear,
That was something you’d always hear.

Like many families that settled in Cape Breton,
Parents came to work, and then sent for their children.

They worked at the Steel Plant, Coke Ovens and the Coal Mines.
West Indians in the blast furnace: they could take the heat high.

Steel Plant, Tar Ponds, Canada’s toxic playground.
Now it’s a park with tracks, trails and sporting grounds.

Grandparents sitting back, reminiscing about the good old times.
Church every Sunday, mama baking bread and pies.

Some families didn’t have much.
But they invited you in, shared stories and fed you lunch.

I remember in my day, my mom would always say, for a dollar
You can get a bag of chips, soda and chocolate bar, with change left over.

You can always count on people from the Pier.
You get a smile, hello, how are you, and who’s your mother and father dear?

The Pier had businesses on every corner.
Barber shops, bakeries, grocery stores and plenty more.

We built churches, schools and community halls, so we would have a place to go.
Immigrants built the Pier from the ground up, many years ago.

You could visit Arties & Fred Tommie’s to get your daily cup of tea.
Men and women dancing around, jiving, doing the swing.

The Kabana Club, Clipper, and the Thistle were also places to be.
Putting hard-earned money, ching, ching in the slot machines.

We raised artists, athletes, cops, doctors, and lawyers.
Teachers, musicians, politicians and so much more.

A time when neighbours knew each other.
Welcomed everyone with open arms, and built friendships forever.

When I was young I had so much fun.
There was one-cent candy, and five-cent bubble gum.

Who remembers picking berries on blueberry hill?
Picked all day, ate until we were ill.

Lemonade stands, selling blueberries door to door.
Running errands for the elders, to the local corner store.

Children playing outside until the street lights came on.
You would hear parents yelling, Wanda, Marie, Jack, Noreen:
It’s time to come home.

Street Chase and Nicky Nicky 9 Doors, games kids loved to play.
Everyone enrolled in 587 Air Cadets, they’re still running today.

The Pier Day Care, United Mission and Whitney Pier Youth Club
Were a part of every child’s childhood.

Community Hall field trips, coming back all muddy.
The looks on our parents’ faces were frightening, but funny.

Running to Pier Video so we can throw quarters in the gumball machine.
Praying we would win free popcorn and movies.

Kids from all over Sydney would come to the Pier for the Menelik Hall dances.
Everyone got along, no one focused on our differences.

Christmas parades, Mission picnics, and lots of festivals.
Open loaders, pierogies, chicken and rice, hot sauce, and souse.

Want to learn some history?
Head to the Whitney Pier Historical Museum.

Sydney-Toronto Reunion, Action Week and sports.
Fun-run, baseball games, street dances, and the Tupper Street courts.

You could look out your door or walk down the street.
See adults and children talking and laughing, the sounds were sweet.

Oh the things I would give to live in Old Whitney Pier.

Robyn Martelly

About Robyn Martelly

Robyn Martelly is from magical Cape Breton Island, born and raised in the diverse community of Whitney Pier, a Canadian heritage site. She’s a self-taught artist, her skills ranging from painting to poetry. Robyn attended the Nova Scotia Community College where she graduated with a diploma in Therapeutic Recreation with Counselling, Group Facilitation, and Program Planning components. Robyn has ten-plus years’ experience creating beautiful art and working with children and youth. She combines her training in Therapeutic Recreation with her love for art to create therapeutic activities, programs and stories that keep children and youth engaged and empowered. See more of Robyn’s work on Facebook and Instagram.

67 thoughts on “Old Whitney Pier

  1. Loretta

    This is beautiful Robyn, so happy your doing what u love , and I hope u inspire others to do as well, good luck my cousin.

    Reply
  2. Sharon Chisholm

    Wonderful place to live in many great memories. People were so kind and down to earth. After I moved away from the pier I realized I had been raised in a great “melting pot” of different cultures. The pier is a special place where people are so kind and caring.

    Reply
  3. Marsha (Jones) Gannon

    What a nice read. I am also from the Pier dear. Tupper St. to be percise.
    Memories, that can never be erased.

    Reply
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  5. Shelly (Hickey) Knight

    That was great! So true too. You never know what you have until you move away. The “Pier” will always be home. I miss the community!

    Reply
  6. Sandy Kawetzki

    Very nice. I grew up in the North End but most of my relatives lived in the Pier. Spent a lot of time there. Those were the days.

    Reply
  7. paula (Crane)Cocco

    I grew up in the Pier on the hill (French St) it was the best everyone was like family………BTW I noticed comments made by some of my old school (Eastmount) classmates……….love the memories TY

    Reply
    1. Pat Ojoleck

      Very nice Robin,I grew up in the Pier but moved to Ontario many years ago . Bless you young lady .Noticed Paula Crane was one of my dear friends when we were growing up .Pat Ranni Ojoleck

      Reply
  8. Char Lewis

    Well written Robyn, and brought back so many memories. I loved growing up in the pier, there’s nowhere else on earth like it.
    from a pier girl in Brantford, Ontario

    Reply
  9. Brenda Clyke

    Brought back so many memories I grew up in the pier a childhood I would not change for anything. I lived on currys lane and remember all the places you have mentioned no place like home Thanks

    Reply
  10. Barb

    Thank you Robyn!!😍This made my heart swell.We were all so lucky to have grown up in the Pier.Wonderful memories and values that were shared in our homes ,schools and community.We were all Children of God in a wonderful rainbow world.Thanks for caring and sharing your wonderful Talents!!👏🏻❤️👏🏻

    Reply
  11. Carmella Fogarty Murphy

    Love this. I grew up on Matilda Street in the Pier. I know all the places you talk about. I think I was a little bit before you. Matilda Street Was a wonderful neighborhood but as my dad was the mailman and worked every street in the pier we got to know everyone. Actually as children, we didn’t even know how diverse our neighborhood was. Everyone was the same. Over the last few years we’ve had some wonderful reunions from Matilda St. The memories and pictures are priceless.

    Reply
  12. Donna

    Well said Robyn,,,,I was very lucky to have grown up in the Pier,…Lot of Memories and I will always say I’am Pier Girl….

    Reply
  13. Mike farrell

    It brings me back to when I was a kid. Thank you so much Robyn. Everything you listed here I have done or had a family member who did.

    Reply
  14. Rose Binns Conohan

    Well done Robyn..a beautiful piece…It brought back many fond memories..of my childhood as I read along..It was a time and place where everyone knew your name,doors were left unlocked snd wherever you were at supper time you sat at their table to eat or them with you at your table..a time when homemade bread or biscuits ..hot from the oven with molasses..never tasted so good..The Pier was a place where almost everyone’s Dad worked at the Steel plant , where your neighbour’s were your family and we grew up with families from all parts of the world! WHITNEY PIER..a magical place..a true “MELTING POT”.. so proud to have been born there!❤️

    Reply
  15. Wendy Richardson

    It has been years since I lived in The Pier…..Broadway to be exact. Always proud to say…I’m from the Pier …..never said I’m from Sydney. It was a great place to grow up….people were always helping overs, and like others have said…you played outside from morning til dark….when your Mom called you home for supper. By today’s standards I guess we weren’t Rich….but we sure had everything we needed and more. The Pier sure was a melting pot….still is…..and for those of us who were born and grew up there….what a privilege ! Thanks Robyn….what a great read!

    Reply
  16. Mary Phillips

    Nice read Robin. I am the widow of a “Pier Dear” guy and have lived here for 52 years. I love it. The people are so kind and helpful.

    Reply
  17. Charlotte (Magis) Mac Isaac

    I am a proud Cape Bretoner who is especially proud of being born and raised in the Pier. In its day, it was known to be a melting pot, many nationalities who all got along. We had everything we needed in the Pier. Lots of wonderful memories from growing up in the Pier! So proud of being a Pier Dear that it is part of my e-mail address! Lol.

    Reply
  18. Bill Tetanish

    Thanks for the memories Robyn. This was forwarded to me from a friend. I’m a Ukrainian who grew up on Maloney Street in the Pier. You have posted so many truths about people from the Pier…well done. Enjoyed this very much. “Hi” to my many friends who have or will read this…CHEERS TO THE PIER.

    Reply
  19. Wayne MacLean

    Proud to be a Pier guy from St Ann St, but we all said we were from down Broadway. Great people, all so kind and thoughtful of others. Whitney school, hockey teams, great Little League baseball although we could never beat them darn Senators… Art Campbell and Kenny Crawford, 2 really fine pitchers had our number./// Great article, loved it. Favorite food place… BERNIEs PIZZA… Seen a few names on the comment list that I havent seen in over 50 years or more./// Favorite store, Willie CRANEs variety on St Ann ST, my hangout.///

    Reply
  20. Anna Marie Dickson MacPhee

    Grew up on Hankard Street…. proud of being from the Pier and before your time…maiden name Dickson and many people from all over use to come at Taffy Apple time as my Dad made and sold them….Try to visit the area whenever I am home from Alberta. Great piece of writing and tons of memories.

    Reply
  21. Dorothy March Giacomini

    Coming from Dog Patch you have resurfaced so many fun memories of the Best People on Earth. How many of you remember the Pound Parties or the Dances at the Imperial Hall and St. Michaels/ Those were the days My Friends

    Reply
  22. Sandra Lewis Hussey

    This is beautiful. Thank you so much for sharing. I grew up in Whitney Pier. I attended Whitney School, attended Trinity United Church and after church we headed to Bernie’s for something good for lunch. My mother still lives at the Pier.

    Reply
  23. Jocelyn Dearing

    You pretty much captured all the memories of all of us. You did a terrific job with this and thank you for sharing this with all the people who Love the Pier Dear.

    Reply
  24. Ron O'Rourke

    So true Robyn, great poem! I grew up on Bryan Street, I miss those days! What a great way to grow up, miss it dearly, what I wouldn’t give to have those days back, such great memories. Missing it from Edmonton!

    Reply
  25. Mary Mollons( French)

    I grew up un Whitney pier, those were the days. Went to Holy Redeemer School. Nobody went hungry in those days. I remember the pound parties that we had for anyone who were down on their luck. We would take a pound of (butter,flour,tea,sugar)or whatever and fill their pantries. It was fun as well as helpful. I miss them and the beautiful people.lived in the Robert St. Jameson St area.

    Reply
  26. Clarissa Arthur

    It’ll be 30 years next summer since I moved away and I can’t veleive how much time has flown by. Regardless of time, one thing remains… the Pier will ALWAYS be the place I call home. Thank you for reminding us and so many others why growing up in the Pier was the best gift every given! 👊🏽 And my Dad, got a mention… he’d appreciate that… always and forever a part of history #ArtieArthur ❤️

    Reply
  27. sharon rolls

    Thank you it was so great to read or see anything from Whitney Pier i have been away for 34 yrs living in Hamilton On but my heart has never left Sydney n s the Pier dere lol

    Reply
  28. Cher Mcmahon

    Well said I miss the pier so much it will always bro home to me. Someday I hope to bring my grandkids there to see where I grew up

    Reply
  29. Deanna Gibson

    Robyn, that was excellent. I am going to make sure your Grandmother gets a copy. She would really enjoy reading this. Take care and continue the great writing.

    Reply
  30. Dean Smith

    Robyn,

    What a wonderful and refreshing treat to read and reminisce through your piece. “Old Whitney Pier” brought back so many fantastic memories for me, and so many others. Thank you for this! As a board members of the Delmore Buddy Daye Learning Institute, this is the kind of work I am proud to put my support behind. As a Whitney Pier native, I am equally proud of you! It is also very nice to be partnering with the Alexa McDonough Institute.

    All the best.

    Dean Smith

    Reply

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