Saturday, January 9, 2016

Could it be the Future Looks a Lot Like The Past?

Is there anyone that looks back on the not so distant past, when small towns were supported by the people that lived there and cheers for the loss of a time when we shopped from our neighbours?  Is there anyone that says, Thank goodness we have to go to Walmart to buy our underwear?  Is there anyone truly happy that instead of a local shoemaker living down the street they now go to a department store to buy their shoes.
Do fast food restaurants that replace a Mom and Pop Diner really bring joy to people's hearts and build our community?

It seems that when my customers enter my little studio/shop there is always an audible exhale, where the rebirth  of a gentler time becomes a possibility.  You live here?  Your son is playing on the other side of that door?  You can take a break to go for a walk or work in the garden? How wonderful!  I know my neighbours seem particularly proud to have a hat maker next door.  I am thrilled that there is a lady that makes amazing bags just down the street and a woman that teaches music a couple streets over.

Could it be that the Future of Nova Scotia might look a lot like the past?  I'm not advocating for a museum town, but with internet connectivity, existing carriage houses and out buildings and creative uses of unused buildings, can we not build a Nova Scotia where our children have a future?

I hope you enjoy the following letter from a man in Lunenburg that was around when the Lunenburg of my dreams existed.  I think we can get back there.  It just takes understanding and vision.


Because of your ongoing issues I have been reflecting on the notion of home-based businesses; including my father’s experience.

The background of my father’s home-based business began when I was very young (a very long time ago!). In the 1940s and into the early 1950s he had an especially successful shoe repair business.

During the Second World War years he was very busy. It so happened his shoe repair shop was located on Duke Street, directly across from the old Legion Hall (which, unfortunately burned down in 1957). This location offered easy access to the military to have their boots and shoes with leather soles and heels (which wore very quickly) repaired.

When synthetic materials were developed to replace rubber which was in short supply due to Nazi occupied Burma, for example, these new “miracle” materials began to be used for soles and heels which didn’t wear out — for a very long time. As result, the shoe repair business started to get uncomfortably sparse.

When the shop’s landlord insisted on raising the rent my frugal mother said absolutely not. As a result my father moved his shoe repair business to the basement of his newly constructed house at 159 Lawrence Street.

So for a good period of time, until he changed professions, people of all walks of life including town councillors, lawyers, police officers and others satisfied with his work walked and drove their shoes for repairs “back to the house.”

Also, doctors brought their patient’s foot impressions so my father could construct “arch-supports” — before the term “orthotics” came about.

That my father had a home-based business was not especially unusual.

All to say, home-based businesses were common and in many cases absolutely necessary to provide families with the necessities of living.

As I recall, other well-known home-based businesses included piano teachers. I know of parents who used to bring their children to such businesses on Townsend and Falkland Street. As I recall, they would drop their children off and wait outside in the car for the half-hour lesson.

And then there was the case of solo and choral choir lessons conducted by an internationally known music teacher on Creighton Street.

Tailoring and hairdressing were other businesses carried out from home.

Also, there were at least 4 houses where the first floor served as fully supplied grocery stores.

There was even a take-out hamburger and hot-dog vendor from a house on Pelham near Hopson?

Anna, in your situation, where a few people come by periodically, surely there must be at least some room for adequate flexibility.

Yes, if one wanted to open a “deep-discount everything” business out of their home where dozens and dozens of cars would be lined up that would be another story.

As I see it, all of this is situational, surely there must be some flexibility — some small town unique community spirit, some “common sense.”

Gary Tanner

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