The Stanley Bridge Centre is proud to break new ground with our “What’s Perking at the Coffee Shop” feature.
Want to know what’s percolating in your community? Why not drop by Robin’s in Kensington, where the conversation flows as freely as the coffee and there’s plenty of news to digest along with donuts, pastries, muffins, breakfast entrees and other tasty fare from the menu.
Kensington man reflects on the former Holland College building’s poor condition
By Jim Brown
On this day, March 5, Gary Gallant had just finished reading a Charlottetown Guardian article about an unsightly property – “an eyesore” – that was the former Holland College building.
The long disused building had been a favoured haunt when he was much younger. Gary recalls swimming in the building’s pool many times when he was a kid.
Now the building is boarded up and surrounded by a chain link fence.
“We went there quite a few times for swimming. It was a great spot back then. It definitely served a (good) purpose,” said Gary, whose wife is from Summerside. He still sees the building on a regular basis when they go shopping in that part of the city.
“I’ve read it’s been 12 years since the developer bought the building from the city and he hasn’t done anything with it. It’s kind of a shame – 14 acres right in the heart of Summerside is just sitting there with an old, neglected building on it,” said Gary.
“I remember the old Holland College. I went there for several years, back when I was younger…and I just think it’s terrible in this day and age that something couldn’t be done with 14 acres of land right in the middle of Summerside, when there’s lot of talk about low income housing and all kinds of other uses (such as) a park or recreation facilities of some type. It’s gone on way too long, so hopefully they’ll be able to get something done with it”.
Her job keeps her on the move
By Jim Brown
Ellen Stewart is a very busy woman at her job, but she loves what she’s doing.
Ellen, from Summerside, is an environmental health officer, who inspects hundreds of facilities every year.
“I enjoy feeling I’m doing something to help the public. That’s always been something I’ve been interested in and I get to use my biology background.”
Stewart has just started her career. She has been working as an environmental health officer for six months.
“There’s about 500 facilities in each area (of four areas), so there’s about two inspectors in each area.”
She’s estimates there are about 2,000 facilities on the Island.
“Restaurants, pools, community care facilities, childcare facilities…anything that would (involve) public health,” she said.
Harry and Meghan should pay most of their expenses, says this royals fan
By Jim Brown
On this day, Jan 29, Goldie MacArthur was thinking about Prince Harry and Meghan’s move to Canada.
She counts herself a big supporter of the royal family and Harry and Meghan. But that support isn’t unlimited.
“I’m 100 per cent European in my ancestry, with Great Britain being a part of it (but) if I go and choose to live in another country for six months of the year nobody’s paying my way. So I don’t believe our government should give them any extra money. I think they’re probably doing okay. I don’t think either one of them will be on EI,” said Goldie, who lives in Kinkora.
“Again, I strongly support what they’re doing – they want to just be a family. Canada is great. I think we’ll probably share some perks. If they’re going to be out and about I’m sure it will bring some tourists to the area. So, it could be a win for Canada. I just don’t think we need to get into some heavy (expenses).”
Donald Trump’s impeachment inspiration for new potato soap
By Jim Brown
Approximately 600 bars of Pieter’s specially prepared, peach-infused Impeachment Soap have been manufactured so far.
Pieter says he expects to have images of his new Trump-themed soap on his website shortly.
His inspiration came from a journalist he talked to while selling his products at a craft sale.
“I was selling my Sin Washer Soap and she had this great idea about the impeachment soap,” he said.
Pieter expects significant interest from his American customers, who have already been big buyers of his other potato soap brands.
A box may also find its way to CNN, he said.
Pieter says Trump is just the beginning of his celebrity-themed soaps, with a soap bearing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s likeness on tap, and perhaps even a Don Cherry soap, with choke cherries a potential ingredient.
His Nancy Pelosi soap, which could also feature peach as a key ingredient since impeachment seems to be on her mind these days, will likely be called the Nancy Pelosi “Quid Pro Quo” soap.
Anyone wishing to get an early jump on his Impeachment Soap can order online at islandpotatosoap.com or by calling 902-621-0280.
He’s “not a damn bit happy” about province’s driver’s license renewal change
By Jim Brown
On this day, Dec 14, Brian Foy of Augustine Cove was thinking about driver’s license fees – and not in a good way.
“Why wouldn’t they (provincial government) make sure everyone got a free license (renewal) when they go to change it back? Why should you get it free when I’ve got to pay $113 for my renewal? You hear a lot of people complaining about it.”
The target of his ire was the PC government of Dennis King, which is reinstating five year driver’s license fees as of Jan. 1, 2020, after ditching them earlier this year.
“They should wait till everyone gets at least one free one before changing it,” said Brian.
“Well, the Liberals came up with this idea a couple of years where everybody was going to get a free driver’s license (renewal). Then the Tories got in and changed it back to the way it was, so in the last year or two half the people got a free driver’s license. Now mine renews next year, so I got to pay $113. Why wouldn’t they make sure everyone got one free renewal before they changed it,” he said.
“I’m not a damn bit happy about it.”
Christmas season is near and so are staff parties
By Jim Brown
On this day, Nov 23, Kensington resident Crystal Cairns was thinking about upcoming Christmas staff parties.
“I have two parties coming up, my husband (John’s) and my own,” she said.
She laughed she was happy she didn’t have to plan them, only “show up.”
“I do enjoy them. I like hanging out with the staff,” said Crystal of her own staff party.
Crystal is currently working at Elm Street Elementary School as a EA on a contract until Christmas with a possible extension. She’s a certified youth worker but not at Elm Street Elementary. She’s hoping to get a permanent position within the schools in the near future as a Youth Worker or EA.
“I didn’t have a lot of past Christmas parties that I went to, usually just my husband’s, so this is my first staff party that I’m going to for Christmas. I find it enjoyable just to get together and socialize.”
Good weather for potato harvest
By Jim Brown
On this day, Oct 25, bracing fall weather was on Kensington resident David Gallant’s mind, weather that made harvesting potatoes easier than last year at this time.
David is an inside worker for Cavendish Farms.
“I like the weather, I’ve got no complaints. Because I’m not a winter person I’d rather have it sunny and nice as opposed to winter,” he said.
“There’s been a little bit of rain but other than that it hasn’t been too bad. I’m glad the weather’s not too bad – to get the crop out the ground.”
There were a couple days when harvesting was halted because the soil was too wet, but other than that things look pretty good.
David says he’s heard some farmers are ending their harvest this week, but he isn’t sure about Cavendish Farms.
He expects things to wrap up shortly.
A memorable vacation for two Chicago friends
By Jim Brown
On this day, Sept 18, long time friends Nancy Sherman and Kim Rosencrans were preparing to head back to Chicago after spending five incredible days on PEI. They were on their way to the airport when they graciously agreed to take a few extra minutes to share their thoughts.
They had spent about six months preparing for their excellent adventure on the Island.
“We came here to see the Anne of Green Gables settlement and we came to see the Island. We really enjoyed the lighthouses,” said Nancy.
Nancy and Kim had no friends or family on the Island, they just thought it would be a nice place to visit.
“We enjoyed the (Anne of Green Gables) books when we were young and decided it would be a really fun girls trip,” laughed Nancy.
Fortunately, they arrived after Hurricane Dorian.
“We’re very appreciative, we had a really nice time and we saw the sights. People were really gracious and kind and it’s been a great trip. I would recommend it,” said Kim.
“It’s beautiful, we love it here. We love the houses, we love all the colour. I could live here,” said Nancy.
Hunkering down for Dorian
By Jim Brown
On Sept 6 Kensington resident Debbie Graham was leaving little to chance preparing for Hurricane Dorian, poised to hammer PEI the next day. And her neighbours could benefit from her preparations.
“I have a whole bunch of different things to make sandwiches with and some nice fresh bread. I might make a big plate of sandwiches and invite my neighbours in for a visit,” she said.
It can be pretty boring when the electricity goes out, especially if you live alone, said Debbie.
So why not invite the neighbours?
She’s got other plans, too.
“I just moved to Kensington in March and I’m still not totally organized, so I was thinking I would organize my quilt fabric. I have enough fabric to make 20 quilts – so I thought if the electricity is out I’d bring my bins by the window and organize my fabric and that way I’ll be doing something productive.”
She’s not too worried about costly damage to her property, since she’s a renter.
“I went grocery shopping yesterday morning because I knew it would be crazy today and tomorrow. So I’m pretty well prepared.”
Debbie may be alright to ride out a devastating storm, but she worries about her parents who live in Schulman’s Point.
“I’m worried about my dad and stepmom, who still have their own place in Schulman’s Point, and it’s right near the water. So I’m going out there this afternoon to make sure they’ve got everything prepared and (to check) if they need to go into town for water (and other things),” she said.
“I got all my outdoor stuff in and I’m pretty well ready.”
He can’t find workers to fix his roof
By Jim Brown
On this day, Aug 13, John Pedersen was thinking about the roof of his French River home.
“I’m trying to get my roof done and I’ve had a hard time getting any labour this summer,” he said.
“I think what’s happening is there’s a lot of construction going on… I’ve been told I can get it done in the fall. I hope that will be the case. I also have some windows to change and I can’t even get anywhere there.”
The former Ontario and Quebec resident, who has been living in French River for three years, never had a problem getting home repairs and renovations done in those provinces.
“I think the economy on the Island is very good in July and August and I think it suffers the rest of the year. If you try to do things that should be done during the summer you have a hard time getting labour.”
John went on to say he’s had problems getting workers to show up for other projects after committing to do the work.
“I’ve had bad experiences…I’ve had people tell me they can do something and never show up or kind of show up and do half the job. I have a friend down the road who I knew from Quebec back in the 70s who runs cottages and he’s had a hard time getting labour as well,” said John.
“I think it’s worse than it used to be because there’s more construction going on right now. At least it appears to be. I don’t expect it to be resolved any time soon unless, of course, people stop building.”
Love note to PEI
By Jim Brown
In late July Marissa Costa and her two daughters, Sophie and Grace, were thinking about the great time they had enjoyed on PEI. The Kitchener, Ontario family displayed their sentiments on their car’s back window, making sure any Island motorists they passed knew their feelings about the Island. “We love PEI” was their message.
“We had a wonderful vacation. It was amazing, we did lots of fun things,” said Marissa, who had just left Robin’s with her daughters.
“We stayed just outside Kensington and we travelled around PEI. We’re sad we have to leave today.”
Grace wrote the message “four or five days ago,” said her proud mom.
“Nobody wiped it off and in fact someone added to it (PEI loves you).”
The family plan’s to return to PEI next summer.
Foxes, red beaches, beautiful weather make a perfect PEI holiday
By Jim Brown
Kendra Bates and Melissa Denno, both from Maine, were celebrating the last day of their vacation on PEI at Robin’s on June 29.
They, and other friends, were on the Island for just a week.
“Today’s our last day on Prince Edward Island and it’s kind of exciting to go back home, but we’re sad because we have to leave this beautiful Island,” said Kendra.
What will she miss the most?
“The red beaches have been one of the coolest things,” she said.
“It’s been pretty much beautiful all week…we’ve had one day where it was rainy, but that’s okay. The people up here have been really friendly. It’s been just great.”
One of Melissa’s fondest memories will be seeing a family of foxes at play.
“There were a lot of foxes and I love foxes. They are my favorite animal so it was great. It was our first day and while we were at a train station there was a mom fox and two babies just playing around in the yard. It was adorable.”
She rarely sees foxes where she lives.
“The beaches have been really nice. It’s been nice to see the crabs walking around and the trails. I like to go on the trails.”
Kendra and Melissa both hope to return with friends by next August.
Faded lane markings and lack of signage are on this driving instructor’s mind
By Jim Brown
With the arrival of spring and warmer temperatures road crews are finally getting out to touch up the paint on lane markings. But is it enough?
“As a driver ed instructor with Safe Drivers PEI we deal with this all the time with our learners. They have quite a lot of trouble finding the correct lanes if they’re not marked. I’d like see signage go up in the intersections. Most cities do that. Before you get to the intersection there’s a sign that designates which lanes will do what,” he said.
“It’s not just the kids either. We have a lot of newcomer students from other countries and they have to learn the rules here and we’re trying to explain them as best we can.”
They have to learn to navigate one way streets and other driving challenges unique to PEI, “and without the proper markings it’s difficult,” said the long-time driving instructor and owner of Safe Drivers PEI.
“Whether you’re going to be in the shared turning lane or straight lane only or turning lane only – that varies at every intersection. There’s no hard and fast rules as to how they’re laid out,” said Stewart, who believes improved signage would be a big help for newcomers.
“They don’t know the streets like the people who grew up here,” said Stewart.
Although there is little that than can be done until spring about lane markers faded almost to invisibility by salt and snow, road signage can be, and needs to be, improved.
“You’re going to lose the lane markings over the winter. But as far as having signage prior to the intersection, that would make life a lot easier,” said Stewart, a driving instructor for the past 16 years.
Roundabouts can be especially challenging for student drivers.
“At the double-lane ones in Charlottetown students have a tendency to go wide,” he said.
Librarian a big fan of Island theatre
By Jim Brown
On this day, May 3, Shelley Tamtom was in a rush. Shelley, a librarian, was opening the Kensington Heritage Library that morning and had only a few minutes to visit Robin’s for a coffee to take with her.
Her mind was on a “wonderful” play she had seen recently at North Rustico’s Watermark Theatre.
“I saw 12 Angry Women last night and it was a great production and I think it’s really cool that they are moving it to different venues around the Island,” said Shelley, who has appeared on stage herself.
“I’m amazed by the amount of talent and creativity that exists here (on PEI and in the local area),” she said.
“Having participated in live theatre on stage, I’m aware of how hard it is and to be able to watch that is very special. Because there’s so much work and so much time that goes into the rehearsals and the performances and behind the scenes,” said Shelley.
“It was great, it was very well done. And there’s more coming soon, the River Clyde Pageant is coming and lots of children’s theatre in the summer.”
Waiting more than a year for hip replacement surgery
Story and photo by Jim Brown
On this day, April 2, Eric Shields was thinking about medical wait times. He is facing an agonizingly long wait for a hip replacement procedure.
“You wait six months to see a specialist and you go to a specialist and he tells you that you need a hip replacement and then he tells you it’s another six to nine months before you get one,” said Eric, who lives in Kensington but is originally from Dublin, Ireland.
“So I’m looking at over a year gimping around and I’m a productive person. I do stuff. I have a little business that I run and it’s cutting into my productivity and that’s why I’m upset about it,” he said.
“It’s slowing me down in my business, because part of what I need to do (involves) heavy lifting and I can’t do that,” said Eric, who rebuilds vintage electronics.
“For example an old ham radio can weigh upwards of 100 pounds and I can’t lift 20 any longer safely,” he explained.
“I don’t blame the doctors or the people in the system… there are people available but they just won’t get the roadblocks out of the way to bring them in, be it money or regulations, so that people can have more resources here,” said Eric.
“I think mostly it’s a lack of planning for where we are with the age of the population, especially in Atlantic Canada, where the average age keeps rising. Obviously if the age rises people are going to have more health problems and I don’t believe they’ve come to grips with it.”
Provincial politics is in his blood
By Jim Brown
On this day, Feb 16, Brian Dollar had his mind on PEI’s political scene.
“Anyone who knows me knows exactly who I support. I’m with the (Progressive) Conservative party.”
In 1996 Brian put his political convictions on the line and ran under the PC banner, losing by 352 votes to Liberal Ron MacKinley in District 16 (North River, Rice Point).
“I was the closest anyone came to beating him” he said of MacKinley’s long and storied career in Island politics.
Brian has a nephew, Chris Currie, running for the PC nomination in District 17 (on Feb 18).
He went on to say he’s happy Dennis King won the PC leadership, bringing “new blood” to the PCs. Brian is also optimistic about his party’s chances in the upcoming provincial election.
Brian says Liberal Premier Wade MacLauchlan “has kind of burned a lot of bridges lately. I’ve talked to a lot of Liberal people…and they’re disillusioned with the Liberal Party…I won’t say their names because they’d never forgive me, but they’re very, very upset with their own party and some of them were big workers and they’re not going to do (anything) in the next campaign.”
He expects he will be pitching in to help King’s campaign.
Brian is also following events very intently south of the border and though he’s no fan of Donald Trump, he believes Trump will win the 2020 election.
“He’s going to win, he’s going to be president for two terms.”
Is he happy about that prospect?
“No, not at all,” he said.
“I think it’s kind of childish down there. Very childish.”
There are more important things than “building a wall.”
But Brian still believes Trump will win.
“He’ll be president for two terms. It’s the American attitude…They think differently about politics than Canadians do.”
And anyone who is skeptical about Trump’s prospects for a second term should keep one important thing in mind.
“I predicted he’d get the first one,” said Brian.
“Between Hillary and Trump there wasn’t much choice.”
He’s searching for a home for his son and daughter-in-law
By Jim Brown
On Jan 12 Emmett Murphy, who lives near Kensington, was thinking about finding a home for his son Christopher and his daughter-in-law Megan.
It’s a difficult enough proposition as it is, but just imagine how much more challenging it can be if the couple doesn’t even live on the Island, or in Canada for that matter.
In fact, they are coming to PEI all the way from Glasgow, Scotland.
“They both have jobs here and they’re looking for a home, preferably with some acreage,” said Emmett, adding there’s one more wrinkle.
“She’s a veterinarian and she has several horses,” said Emmett, of Megan.
And that’s not all.
“She’s also from Newfoundland (originally), so she has to see ocean,” he laughed.
“The past month I’ve looked at about a dozen properties. There was one in York yesterday that had a reasonable size barn suitable for horses, with stalls…everything suits but the price.”
Megan and Christopher have been away from the Island for three years, with Megan taking a specialization in veterinarian medicine and Christopher, who has a Master’s degree, working as a physiotherapist.
The couple were to begin their jobs by March 15 and will arrive here by the middle of February.
So he hasn’t got a lot of time to find their perfect home.
“It’s strenuous because I’m making decisions for them and I don’t think I should be,” said Emmett, with a chuckle.
“We had quite a video session at the property yesterday.”
He’s no fan of ‘snow days’
By Jim Brown
On this day, Jan 4, Doug Killam was doing what we all do this time of year, venting about snow.
Many Islanders aren’t too thrilled about having to shovel snow, but it’s a safe bet they haven’t seen as much as Doug. He’s the public works supervisor for the Town of Kensington, who spends much of his time clearing snow from the town’s sidewalks.
“The snow came early so there’s a lot of snow removal, more than what we want right now,” he said with a good-natured laugh. He was drinking a cup of coffee at Robin’s during a break.
“And more is coming Sunday and more is coming Wednesday next week. It’s okay the first few times, but after that it gets old.”
Usually the snow doesn’t start until mid-December, but Islanders were whacked with the white stuff in a brutal November, which saw new records set for snow, rain and cold temperatures.
Doug can be on his trackless sidewalk plow for anywhere from eight to 12 hours a day.
His job involves “cleaning sidewalks, widening them back, salting and sanding, and the plows come and they fill it up and you have to clean them (again),” he said.
Every once in a while a car or a plow will drive by when his window is open and he’ll get a splash of snow.
But that’s all part of the job, which he actually enjoys.
Thinking about the important things at Christmas
By Jim Brown
On this day, Dec 17, Peter Strubel’s mind was on Christmas shopping.
“I’m trying to get presents for some people, not really big shopping but small knick-knacks. Just presents for people who have done things for me, and some sweets, maybe some food baskets or something like that, just to show my (appreciation),” he said.
“I don’t have a lot to do because I don’t have a big family and my wife passed on about a year and a half ago and my daughter is in England. I have a few friends here and those are the ones I look after,” said Peter, who was originally from Germany, but lives in Bedeque.
“I’m not a big Christmas shopper…I think this whole Christmas shopping consumerism is overdone,” said Peter, adding he doesn’t need much for himself.
“We should concentrate on the really important things – being nice to people, trying to keep peace with everybody, and making sure the world is environmentally and socially a better place. That is the most important thing and that’s what I wish for everybody for Christmas.”
Thoughts from the storm
By Jim Brown
On this day, Friday, Nov 30, Leslie Thomas, from Kensington, said he wasn’t ready for the fierce wind and snowstorm that knocked out power for the entire Island a day earlier.
“I wasn’t prepared like I should have been. I didn’t have enough gas in my car and I didn’t have gas for my generator and when it came time to get it nobody was selling it or it was all gone. I was driving around Summerside trying to get gas. It took me two or three hours but I finally got some,” he said.
“I spent 20 dollars (driving) and bought 20 dollars,” said Leslie, with a laugh.
He estimated he was without power for about 12 hours.
Leslie was joined at the Kensington Robin’s by his son and daughter.
On that morning as many as 6,500 Maritime Electric customers were still without power.
Although he’s faced lengthy outages before, Leslie observed situations like this make people realize how reliant they are on something as basic as power.
Not enough recreational opportunities for kids in her community
Photo by Jim Brown
Valerie Hickox, a soccer coach and a mother of three young children, is hoping the recent municipal elections will bring some important changes to her small community of Miscouche.
She and her children and other soccer mad kids she coaches have to travel out of town to play their favorite sport.
“There were 20 children on the team so we’re kind of hoping we’d get something going in Miscouche,” said Valerie.
She and her kids have to travel to Evangeline for soccer, a 15 to 20 minute drive.
“We don’t even have baseball,” she said.
“We have a baseball diamond but it’s not maintained.”
In the past there used to be soccer and baseball teams playing in Miscouche, but that was more than a decade ago, said Valerie, who has lived in Miscouche for nine years.
“It’s not even a matter of what sport (soccer or baseball),” said Valerie.
“My children are all really active in sports. It would be nice if we had something in the community, because we have a lot of children in Miscouche.”
He’s not a fan of winter
Photo by Jim Brown
“What can you say, it’s nasty weather,” he said.
“It’s too early. It’s the cold, it’s the ice, it’s the snow, it’s everything,” said Mr Montgomery, a vegetable farmer who on this date still had some crops in the ground at his 30-acre spread.
“It’s a lot rougher (than last year),” he said.
Mr Montgomery figures he’s got another six days of work ahead, if the weather will co-operate.
A thaw would be nice, he added.
“It’s been hard to do anything. It’s either frozen, or wet.”
Ivan Gallant is back
Story and photo by Jim Brown
He was a councilor on Kensington Council for 18 years, then the Mayor of Kensington for four years, and then he left municipal politics to accept a full time job (a 10 year hiatus). Now he’s back, after winning a seat on council in the recent election which also saw three new members elected.
On Nov 9 returning councilor Ivan Gallant was thinking about some ideas he wanted to bring to his fellow councilors.
“I do have a number of things on my bucket list,” said Mr Gallant, drinking a Robin’s coffee before heading to work.
He said there weren’t many complaints when he knocked on doors during the campaign, but there were plenty of suggestions.
“History is a big thing. A lot of people were saying the history of the town has kind of been left in the dark, as far as displays and so on. There used to be a museum over at the train station for the railway and that’s gone.”
Kensington has “a great little library” but he would like to see a bigger, more extensive library, along with an “interpretive centre or a museum.”
Fixing deteriorating sidewalks and installing new ones in the newer residential areas are also something he would like to see addressed by the new council when it begins its work in December.
Mr Gallant certainly heard about that when he was going door to door.
Many residents are older and enjoy walking for exercise and better sidewalks would certainly be appreciated, he said.
The intersection of Highway 2 and Garden Drive needs prompt attention, also, with the Province’s participation.
“There’s a lot of accidents there and somebody’s going to seriously get hurt if something isn’t done,” said Mr Gallant.
“I think the key for any municipal politician, I don’t care if they’re new or if they’ve been there a while, is to get out and meet the people and see what they have to say.”