Tag Archives: glacebay

The history of technology and telecommunications is also a history of Cape Breton


Cape Breton is known for many things, including a great deal of history. One part of that history that I wish were played up more is the part it played in telecommunications at the beginning of the 20th century. I thought of that when I read about how a Cape Breton town (North Sydney) knew about the end of WW I before the rest of North America. It knew about it because of the Western Union offices there. It was a leader at the time. Sadly that Western Union building in North Sydney was torn down.

While that place is lost, there are still other sites on the Island that recognize that history of technology. There is the Alexander Graham Bell museum in Baddeck that is worth visiting. And while it is small, The Marconi Museum in Glace Bay is also good. There are some fine museums in Cape Breton: if you are going there to there to see that sort of thing, make sure you include those two.

Cape Breton had a significant role to play in the history of world telecommunications. That role should get recognized and more museums should be made to promote that era, in my opinion.

For more on North Sydney, see:   wikipedia North Sydney Nova Scotia.

(The image above is the Marconi National Historic Site of Canada in Glace Bay, linked to at goCapeBreton.com)

On the Maritimes, Hurricane Fiona, Kate Beaton and Ann Terry, etc


The big news out east recently has been focused on Hurricane Fiona. As the local media showed, Fiona destroyed property all throughout the region. One place heavily hit was Glace Bay. A ton of damage occurred there in my hometown. Homes, buildings, you name it…even the airport between Glace Bay and Sydney was hit. To get a sense of the damage done, click on any of the links (also where the above photo comes from).

Sadly, a lot of the havoc that Fiona caused will not be covered by insurance. Here’s hoping the government steps in. And it wasn’t just damage: a woman in Port aux Basques, Nfld. was pulled out into the sea and drowned, as was this man in Lower Prospect, N.S.

Despite all this hardship, people from that part of Canada are resilient. Before the storm, the local media even had advice on how to cook when your power goes out for days: Storm day dining. Mari timers are in for some tough times, but they’ll pull through: they always do.

I’ve been thinking much about Cape Breton and Nova Scotia lately even before the storm. The great artist Kate Beaton has a new work out call Ducks which documents her life and time working in Alberta.  Anyone who is a fan of graphic novels should get it. Even if you are not, I recommend it.

Speaking of great Cape Breton women, I was thinking of Ann Terry lately. Growing up, you could hear her everywhere. She seemed like she was everywhere. Here’s a good introduction to her, and here she is broadcasting. She had a tremendous voice. A great presence, too.

In other east coast news, it looks like Westjet is suspending flights to NS . I always hate to see transportation reduced to the Maritimes. Here’s hoping that doesn’t last long. Speaking of reductions, here’s a story on how some churches are closing down in Atlantic Canada. I suspect that phenomenon is not limited to that part of the country, though.

 

On Bades Bake Shop and the Chip Wagon of Glace Bay

It can be notoriously difficult to find images of Glace Bay on the Internet. Google is no help: I had been searching for “Bades Bakery Glace Bay” and came up with nothing. It was only through searching for the specific phrase “Bades Bake Shop” did I find it.

I loved Bades as a kid. It was on my route to the hockey arena, and depending on the time and how much coin I had, I could drop in and get a doughnut or something sweet. I don’t recall there being any other such establishment nearby, so it was an oasis for someone like me who loved sweet things. I recall the lettering for the sign being yellow against a brown backdrop. It was a great place, long gone. (You can read more about it, here.)

Here’s a good piece on another place I loved as a kid and as an adult: the Chip Wagon. When I was a kid it was in the main part of town. Later as an adult I would line up like these people to get a sample of those delicious fries. I don’t know if it is still in operation. If not, that’s sad. Like Mike’s Lunch, it was a must visit whenever I went home to Glace Bay.

If you are feeling nostalgic like me, you can see lots more images of Cape Breton at Caperpics or here at the flickr account of the Beaton Institute. Forget Google: go directly to those two places.

(Images: links to images at the Beaton Institute and Caperpics).

On the wonder of Big Glace Bay Lake


There’s plenty to see and do in Nova Scotia and Cape Breton, including exploring the coast. One of the best parts of that coast is Big Glace Bay Lake and the area around it. When I was younger I’d walk down to that beach and swim or or skip rocks or just sit and watch the ocean. It’s still one of my favorite things in life.

One of my favorites is now getting greater recognition. The government of Canada has designated Big Glace Bay Lake its newest National Wildlife Area. That’s great news! To see why they did, read this on canada.ca.

If you are thinking of paying a visit but need tourist help, TripAdvisor has some good information.

I love Glace Bay, but it’s not for everyone. But anyone and everyone should love Glace Bay Lake. It’s a wonder.

(Image from canada.ca)

 

On restaurants loved and lost: Mike’s Lunch in Glace Bay

It doesn’t look like much. Only that Teem sign on the right tells you that this is the location of the famous Mike’s Lunch of Glace Bay. It had a good run of 109 years in various locations in my hometown before closing in 2019.  It was one of my favorite restaurants in the whole world, and it was the first place I went and dined by myself as a young man.

Back when I was young, it was located on Commercial Street in a little galley type restaurant. It had a counter in the middle where you ate, while pinball machines lined the walls behind you and the cooking was done in front of you. In the summer I would sit next to the open door and look out at the beautiful house across the street (the only house left on Commercial Street). I can remember the sunshine and the warmth and the joy of sitting there while I waited for my food. While many diners had the famous fish and chips, my meal of choice was the Club Sandwich. Toasty bread and toothpicks held together chunks of turkey, crispy bacon, lettuce and mayo. Mine was completed with hot french fries coated with gravy and ketchup and accompanied by an ice cold Coca-Cola. To this day it is still one of the best meals I ever had.

Years later Mike’s Lunch moved to a nicer space in the Sterling. The pinball machines never made the transition, but it still had a counter. It also had nice tables and booths and friendly waitresses. I never failed to go any time I visited Glace Bay, often more than once a visit. I don’t know how, but no matter how long I had been away, when I returned they always remembered me. And the club sandwiches were as good when I was 50 as they were when I was 15. No wonder we all loved it.

I miss Glace Bay for many reasons: the Chip Wagon, Venice Pizzeria, and Colette’s, to name a few great places. But of all the places I miss, I miss Mike’s Lunch the most. Thank you Mike’s Lunch for all the great meals and great times I’ve had there. I have been to many great restaurants over the years, but if I could walk through the doors of any one of them one last time, it would be yours.

Bonus: footage of Commercial St in 1988. The town changed over time, but this is how I remember it growing up. By this point Mike’s Lunch had already moved to the Sterling. Teddy’s (or as this video called it, The Greasy Spoon, and a similar restaurant to Mike’s) was still there.

What I learned writing web scrapers last week


I started writing web scrapers last week. If you don’t know, web scraper code can read web pages on the Internet and pull information from them.

I have to thank the Ontario Minister of Health for prompting me to do this. The Minister used to share COVID-19 information on twitter, but then chose recently to no longer do that. You can come to your own conclusions as to why she stopped. As for me, I was irritated by the move. Enough so that I decided to get the information and publish it myself.

Fortunately I had two things to start with. One, this great book: Automate the Boring Stuff with Python. There is a chapter in there on how to scrape web pages using Python and something called Beautiful Soup. Two, I had the minister’s own web site: https://covid-19.ontario.ca/. It had the data I wanted right there! I wrote a little program called covid.py to scrape the data from the page and put it all on one line of output which I share on twitter every day.

Emboldened by my success, I decided to write more code like this. The challenge is finding a web page where the data is clearly marked by some standard HTML. For example, the COVID data I wanted is associated with paragraph HTML tag and it has a class label of  covid-data-block__title and covid-data-block__data. Easy.

My next bit of code was obit.py: this program scrapes the SaltWire web site (Cape Breton Post) for obituaries listed there, and writes it out into HTML. Hey, it’s weird, but again the web pages are easy to scrape. And  it’s an easy way to read my hometown’s obits to see if any of my family or friends have died. Like the Covid data, the obit’s were associated with some html, this time it was a div statement of class sw-obit-list__item. Bingo, I had my ID to get the data.

My last bit of code was somewhat different. The web page I was scraping was on the web but instead of HTML it was a CSV file. In this case I wrote a program called icu.sh to get the latest ICU information on the province of Ontario. (I am concerned Covid is going to come roaring back and the ICUs will fill up again.) ICU.sh runs a curl command and in conjunction with the tail command gets the latest ICU data from an online CSV file. ICU.sh then calls a python program to parse that CSV data and get the ICU information I want.

I learned several lessons from writing this code. First, when it comes to scraping HTML, it’s necessary that the page is well formed and consistent. In the past I tried scraping complex web pages that were not and I failed. With the COVID data and the obituary data,  those pages were that way and I succeeded. Second, not all scraping is going to be from HTML pages: sometimes there will be CSV or other files. Be prepared to deal with the format you are given. Third, once you have the data, decide how you want to publish / present it. For the COVID and ICU data, I present them in a simple manner on twitter. Just the facts, but facts I want to share. For the obit data, that is just fun and for myself. For that, I spit it into a temporary HTML file and open it in a browser to review.

If you want to see the code I wrote, you can go to my repo in Github. Feel free to fork the code and make something of your own. If you want to see some data you might want to play with, Toronto has an open data site, here. Good luck!

 

On the things parents tell their kids and the things kids remember

Vihos Sweets

This is a picture of a street in downtown Glace Bay. Next to the Dominion is a small place called Vihos Sweets. It didn’t exist when I was growing up, but it did when my mom was a teen. She worked there for a time, and she occasionally talked about it.

Though she didn’t talk about it a lot, it stuck in my mind and I often thought about it. I don’t know why. Maybe I liked the sound of it. Maybe the way she described it made it seem special. Perhaps I was trying to imagine having my own job someday. I am not sure.

I wonder of the many things I’ve told my kids what they remember. You hope that the big lessons you try and impart to your kids are the things that stick. But often times it is the little things. Things like the name of a place you worked at for a short time when you were younger.

Try and be comfortable with the notion that  you have less control than you think.  You can only live and speak as best as you can, and hope that is enough to send them in the right direction. They may recall the important things you passed on. They may recall something you said in passing. They are their own person, and they will absorb and recall what they need.

(Image via http://capermemories.blogspot.com/)

 

Four good pieces on my hometown, Glace Bay

Anyone with an interest in Glace Bay will find these worth reading:

  1. A COAL TOWN FIGHTS FOR ITS LIFE | Maclean’s | MARCH 15 1954: this was fascinating. A story from Maclean’s Magazine in the 1950s that documented Glace Bay at the crossroads. So much in this piece explains my home town and the people who lived there.
  2. Glace Bay hockey rink’s new name closer to its roots | CBC.ca: a mainstay of Glace Bay is the hockey rink. When I was a kid I lived about 100 meters from it. I spent most of my early days (until grade 10) going to it. So many memories back then revolved around that building.
  3. KEN MACDONALD: Remembering the miners | Local-Lifestyles | Lifestyles | Cape Breton Post: a good piece from the local paper on the mines of Glace Bay and the miners who lived and sometimes died in them.
  4. Miners’ houses: Lawren Harris in Glace Bay – Nova Scotia Advocate: finally this piece on Glace Bay with a focus on a famous painting of Glace Bay by Lawren Harris (shown above). It used to be in the AGO and I often paused to reflect on it, and my hometown. Just like I am doing now.