Author Archives: Robyn Martelly

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.

Old Whitney Pier

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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.