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.

110 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
    1. Joanne Black

      Great read! Well done Robyn. I always crossed the tracks, everyone was the same to me.

      Reply
    2. Barb Best

      I remember all of this. Right on point . I won’t forget the struggles and the great times..Thank You

      Reply
  2. Don

    That was very nice, well put..and a good read. You are sooo talented…

    Reply
  3. Linda

    So true Robyn, you are as beautiful as this is. Great job from all at the Daycare .

    Reply
  4. Linda

    So true Robyn, you are as beautiful as this is. Great job from all at the Daycare

    Reply
  5. All Dorko

    Thank you for the wonderful memories.

    Reply
  6. Darin Mombourquette

    A very nice read.

    From a Pier boy living in Thunder Bay Ontario.

    Reply
  7. Jean Mazalin

    That was beautiful.well done. My husband is “from the pier dear:”

    Reply
  8. Jenny Buckland

    This was beautiful ,you made my heart smile,no place like home

    Reply
  9. 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
  10. Terry Chisholm

    Wife of a ‘pier dear’ husband…..wonderful place and wonderful people..<3.<3

    Reply
  11. jackie currie

    very true i miss it

    Reply
  12. 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
  13. donna mclaughlin

    Beautiful and it is still the best place to live, wouldn’t change it for anything.

    Reply
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  15. Shaun Phalen

    Great job Robyn. Keep up the good work!

    Reply
  16. Anna MacLeod

    Excellent Robyn. You are so talented. 👏👏

    Reply
  17. 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
  18. Cathy Kolanko

    Beautiful Robyn and so true the memories just flashing through my mind. Thank you

    Reply
  19. linda forget

    Great story I love the pier and move here 27 years ago .

    Reply
  20. 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
  21. Rene Holloway

    Really nice Robin

    Reply
  22. Valerie Barrett

    I very much enjoyed reading this – well done.

    Reply
  23. 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
  24. Florence & Doug Taylor

    Very well done Robin . You are a very wonderful young lady . Keep up with your dreams xp

    Reply
  25. 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
  26. 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
  27. 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
  28. Jenn Sheppard

    Loved it Robyn!!! 🙂

    Reply
  29. 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
  30. Evelyn Elchyshyn Hunt

    So true. All good memories.

    Reply
  31. John Hennick

    Well said from a Pier Boy in Toronto.

    Reply
  32. 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
  33. Janie Webber

    Every line brought me back to that special place,well done Robyn.
    Thank you for sharing ❤️

    Reply
  34. Shelley axworthy

    Awesome job Robyn

    Reply
  35. Debbie Snow

    This is beautiful love reading it and all so true.

    Reply
  36. Karla Boutilier Harris

    Well Robin, so much of my life read in this.Made my heart swell easing it.

    Reply
  37. Tanya Webber

    Great job Robin! I loved reading this, put a smile on my face:)

    Reply
  38. Cathy Gouthro

    Great job Robyn! Brought back lots of memories.

    Reply
  39. 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
  40. 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
    1. Bill Tetanish

      So true Rose….very well said.

      Reply
    2. Patsy

      Hi Rosie my dear .Hope you are doing well .Patsy Ranni Ojoleck

      Reply
  41. 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
  42. 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
  43. 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
    1. Bill Tetanish

      Well said Charlotte. Haven’t seen you in oh so many years…

      Reply
    2. Anna Marie MacPhee

      Grew up in the Pier and very proud of my roots. Remember playing tiddly, marbles, pick up ball in the field behind Hankard Street, my parents sold Toffy Apples every fall. Living in such a diverse community taught me no matter,race,religion or culture we were all the same.
      Charlotte (Magis) MacIssac….you and I went to school together… all those many years ago. Anna Marie (Dickson) MacPhee

      Reply
  44. 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
    1. Charles Mintus

      A proud Pier Boy that could not be more grateful for the background in multiculturalism.

      Reply
  45. Charles Mintus

    A proud Pier Boy that could not be grateful for the background in multiculturalism.

    Reply
    1. Charles Mintus

      A proud Pier Boy that could not be grateful for the background in multiculturalism.

      Reply
  46. 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
  47. 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
  48. 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
  49. 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
  50. 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
  51. 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
  52. 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
  53. 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
    1. Harold Legge

      Clarissa we both grew up in the same house
      My dad sold the house to your dad in 1976 or 77
      I was 17 at that time
      Great read and it also brought me back to my childhood

      Reply
  54. 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
  55. Joan Paul

    Will always be a proud Pier girl. Grew up on Railroad street.
    My maiden name is Hiscock.

    Reply
  56. 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
    1. Barbara Jessome

      Your work brings the Pier alive. Great job.

      Reply
  57. 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
  58. 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
    1. John violande

      John violande I too am a pier boy grew up in Canada’s best melting pot with so many different cultures it was a grand place to be part off well done

      Reply
  59. Wayne

    Made me smile, Pier Boy living in Ontario.

    Reply
  60. Robyn MartellyRobyn Martelly

    Thanks everyone for all the comments and support. I love reading all your memories. Continue sharing! : )

    Reply
  61. Marilyn(MacLeod)Pasternak

    Thanks Robyn: Grew us on Kitchener St., and my husband on Mt. Pleasant St., brought back lots of good memories

    Reply
  62. Wally MacLeod

    Great job Robyn Wally “Bookie” MacLeod, Left the Pier in 1958 when I joined the RCMP but I never forgot about the wonderful time of growing up in such a diverse place. Grew up on Kitchener street with my Mom and Dad Mildred and Bill along with my two siblings Ross and Marilyn

    Reply
  63. Frank Holly Holloway

    Nice read.

    Reply
  64. Barry Hawco

    No place else like it always a pier boy.

    Reply
  65. Frances Waterman-O’Connell

    Excellent in capturing the authenticity of our Whitney Pier culture. It left a vivid image wth me as I read. Sis, Looking forward to your future creative writing:)

    Reply
  66. Laura (Kokocki) Rafuse

    Amazing article and very proud to have been born and raised in the Pier. Went to Jamieson elementary, Whitney school, then onto Memorial Jr High. Was a part of 587 with people I’m honored to still call my friends and will always remember the feeling of walking in the Santa Clause parade and when we walked onto the overpass, we took a break because we knew we’d soon be playing for our hometown community and once we hit the other side, we would all be so proud and played our hearts out for our family and friends. Thanks for the memories

    Reply
  67. Diane Clare

    Awesome Robyn a round of applause for a job well done!

    Reply
  68. Anne Mombourquette

    Well written! Brought back many wonderful memories growing up in the Pier!

    Reply
  69. Elaine

    Never were words spoken so true. Miss the good ole days of street dances and fun. Best place in the world to grow up. 💗.
    Great job Robyn

    Reply
  70. Kathy (Rykunyk) Monahan

    Well done Robyn
    I grew up on Fredreck St before they destroyed it and tore down our houses this brought back a lot of wonderful memories
    Thanks

    Reply
  71. Linda -Manning-Mac Kinnon

    Beautiful read . Lived in the Pier all of my life. Wonderful place to live and grow up.

    Reply
  72. John MacDonald

    Nice job Robyn. I grew up in the Pier …up on Lingan Rd. by the graveyard…. my mom is still there. I too have great memories of the Pier and I’m kinda glad my mom is still there cause I get to drive there every so often and get to reminess all over again as I pass through the various parts of the Pier. I certainly was well rounded with every inch of the Pier …I played little league with the Dodgers & our home field was Tupper St. … I lived up on the hill and went to Holy Redeemer school after Elmwood. I had friends at every end of the Pier and often I ended up being a peace maker when kids from opposite parts came into confrontations. I have many great memories of the Pier …. playing fastball with the Pier Aces … winning a school championship hockey crown with Don Bosco …playing in different bands enjoying the 60’s & 70’s music….. sliding down Church St. hill on the wire high snow banks & even playing with the tar behind the circus when we use to walk the tracks to get there & sneak in the back. No place like the Pier.

    Reply
  73. Rhonda Webber

    Great read Robin! I enjoyed reminiscing with your words about the Pier.

    Reply
  74. Ellen O'Reilly Sewell

    Beautiful read. Will always be home to me😊 I moved away in 1993 but look forward to my visits home every summer.

    Reply
  75. Cecilia Clyke-Dicker

    Thank you Robin, I grew up in the pier and loved every minute of it. Beautiful memories. I grew up on Curry’s land and remember the whistle from the steel plant and see men walking home with black faces from the dust. My mom yelling to me in and playing baseball in the sand lot just outside the house, any one who came along could play, the more the merrier. We had a ball and a bat. that was it.

    Reply
  76. Evie Dickson

    Once a Pier boy always a Pier boy. Grew up on Hankard St.
    Great article. So many great friends and memories of growing up there. A great place to grow up. Skating on the rink at Villanova school and sliding down the icy driveway in winter and going down the bank by the garage on cardboard.

    Reply
  77. Patricia

    Thanks for the memories. It sure was a busy neighbourhood. Blueberry picking afterwards swimming in the lake (name?). Knew when to go home when we heard the 4 pm horn from the steel plant. Sat. Nite at the corner of Henry & Victoria sts Listening to the Salvation Band. Playing hide & seek on Henry st. Groceries delivered on Sat. Church picnics. Swimming at Polar Bear . Monday’s wash days, all clothes hung on the line, even in the winter. Eastmont & Whitney schools. Families, baby carriages on a Sunday afternoon walk along Victoria St.

    Reply
  78. RobynRobyn

    Thanks everyone! I see there’s lots of great storytellers from the Pier. I enjoy reading everyone’s comments and stories. Thanks again! 🙂

    Reply
  79. G. MacChesney

    Yes, I am from the Pier Dear!
    On Victoria Rosd across from the school.
    My best friend was Walter Nichols, who left us at an early age.
    My memories are not so great.
    Alcoholism surrounded my world.
    Living a life of fear.
    Is what it was like in the pier.
    Recently visited that old house.
    But could not step anywhere near.
    Much of what happened in my Pier,
    Was not held with such revere.
    Whatever happened when I was young.
    Has skewed my mind of what once was.

    Yes I am from the Pier Dear

    Reply
    1. RobynRobyn

      That’s unfortunate.
      That your experience was so different.

      Yet, this poem about the Pier
      still brings us together dear.

      Whether the memories were
      good or bad.

      A life in the Pier Dear
      We both had.

      Thanks for sharing!

      Reply
  80. JoAnne (MacDonald) Kingsbury

    Well written Robin…Growing up in the Pier during the ‘40’s, ‘50’s & ‘60’s such a diverse community. My Dad built our house in 1945 on East James St & it is still in the family. Such wonderful childhood memories Always a Pier Girl.

    Reply
  81. Rev

    You can never replace the pier.

    Reply
  82. Albert Dorko

    Nice read. Lots of memories, good and not so good, but that is life. Would not change much. Living on the west coast now,but still keep in touch with many old pier friends. Thank you Robyn.

    Reply
  83. Bob MacLennan

    Fond memories growing up on Saint Ann’s Street. Soccer on Dominion street, hockey on the Lily pond, horseshoes, baseball, road hockey on St Ann’s St, and who can forget the spring water from John s’s Field !!!!!

    Reply
  84. Peggy Johnson Costigan

    Lived in the pier all my life, and still here. Wouldn’t live anywhere else. Feel very safe here. Origanially from Railroad Street. Love the Pier Dear. Peggy Johnson ( Costigan )

    Reply
  85. Pappy

    The memories that this brought back right on point cuz.

    Reply
  86. Maureen( Keough) Capstick

    To this day I love saying I am from The Pier Dear. So many memories. Victoria Lunch and the mini Jute Boxes and oh the great French fries. I could go on and on. Thanks so much brought it right back to life.

    Reply
  87. Linda (Costigan) MacKinnon

    I left the Pier almost 40 years ago, but still miss it so much. So many memories. Still have siblings living in the Pier & one still lives in our old homestead on Railroad Street. Thank heavens I don’t live far from the Pier & love getting my sons & grandchildren to visit where I grew up……hubby even enjoys the visits. Such an awesome community to grow up in.

    Reply
  88. RobynRobyn

    Nice to see that this poem is circulating again. Thanks everyone! 🙂

    Reply
  89. Catherine Penman

    Hi, Robyn. What a lovely story. I was pleasantly surprised to see you mention my fether’s Close b in the story. Fred Tomie was my father. I was your music teacher. I loved your article. Take care.

    Reply
  90. Maria Camilli Hashem

    This is wonderful!!! When I am asked where I am from, I say Cape Breton, Sydney, the Pier dear!!!

    Reply
  91. Tracy Smith

    I felt home again as I read you beautiful depiction of a place I remember as home. Loved growing up in the Pier. I visit the Pier every day and hope some day to go back and be home again. You are truly an amazing writer. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  92. Lillian Bona (Campbell)

    I grew up in the pier I must say seeing your poem (I experienced it all) and familiar names of those I grew up with etc. I am feeling homesick. I look forward to visiting when I can and have family living there still..thank you for the memories..
    Lillian Bona (Campbell)

    Reply

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