May 30, 2002 Halifax Herald

Nova Scotia's changing scene: for the better?

MANY THINGS have changed radically over the past six decades in Nova Scotia. The following are several examples and my judgment of the bad or good effects of them. If you feel inclined to express your judgment, drop me a note and lay it on.

Last summer, accompanied by my brother-in-law Bob MacMillan, I took a sentimental journey to Otter Lake, Halifax County, to visit what was in my younger days a pristine location where my father had built a hunting and fishing camp. It was kept up until the province decided that it had to go. The fond memories I have of the days I spent fishing and hunting in the area could fill a book!

As we passed through the area leading to the lake, the devastation that greeted my eyes was heartbreaking: clearcut landscape and woods roads running off in all directions. The ruins of the camp were still visible and evoked many pleasant memories of the tasty meals and good companionship enjoyed within. Besides the memories, there was another good thing: When viewing the lake from straight ahead, everything looked normal; the ruins of the camp and forest were out of sight. Conclusion: for the worse.

A half century ago, we could do many things without government watching over our shoulders and regulating what we did. In fact, as citizens of democracies, we were indoctrinated to believe that was what "freedom" was all about, because only "dictatorial" communist countries believed in excessive government regulation. Today, our freedom is being eroded by increasing government "Big Brotherism," and we take it like sheep. Conclusion (no surprise): for the worse.

Shubenacadie Lake (better known as Grand Lake) once had landlocked salmon galore to entice the dedicated sports fisherman. Locating them and enticing them to take the bait required the utmost patience. Then, locating devices came along and the fish were placed at an unfair disadvantage. Conclusion: not sportsmanlike, for the worse.

For decades, when passing through farming country, one could admire great colourful barns dotting the landscape by the number. In fact, in youth, I spent quite a few summers helping to fill many with freshly mowed, great smelling hay. But, prodded along by the invention of more efficient storage methods, they are fast giving way to silos and other un-inspiring buildings. Conclusion: Although their slow disappearance is sad for the scenery; for the farmer and consumer, better.

Education is a subject that must be high on the list when discussing the pros and cons of then and now. When I went to school, classmates were well acquainted with each other and with teachers. Teachers knew families and communications were wide open. Subjects were taught with inclusiveness and intensity. I probably knew more about history and geography and a few other subjects when I left school at Grade 8 than most university students know today when they graduate. Then, factory-type schools came on the scene, cold, remote, and with an almost total lack of positive intimacy. Conclusion: If what we have today is progress, perhaps it's time to look for something new, or maybe something old.

Do you lament the passing of the day - because of the overexposure and sensationalizing of gross sexual assaults that occurred in some institutions and in high-profile individual cases - when it wasn't unusual for children and, in many cases, adults to receive hugs and an occasional slap on the behind as recognition for a job well done?

In spite of the fact that only a tiny minority are involved in such gross misbehaviour, the media, by sensationalizing it, have turned us into a society where we now view a friendly hug or slap on the rear with a jaundiced eye. Many teachers and other close-contact persons have become gun-shy and afraid to show even the least amount of personal, non-aggressive feeling towards the people they want to help. Conclusion: This is not progress; teaching our children to live in protective cocoons is likely causing more harm than good. We have to learn to put things of this nature into perspective and get back to trusting one another.

Now for service stations, or the almost non-existence of such. Do you recall the days when you could - if your tire went flat or you had some other minor auto problem - pull into a friendly service station, have it fixed and be happily on your way? Wasn't it great?

Then, supposedly for better customer service, the oil companies took over most stations, closed down most auto services and replaced them with grocery stores and snack bars. Now, if you need auto service, even a flat fixed, you go in and they offer to sell you a loaf of bread or a cup of coffee. This is to help you pass the time while you contemplate how much a repair, for which you should be charged only a few bucks, is going to cost because of the "wonderful" changes.

To be fair, the odd service station does provide some service, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., five days a week. One weekend night, I had a flat at an Esso station in Enfield and asked if I could have it fixed. The response was "yes;" however, because they would have to bring in a mechanic, it would cost me in the neighbourhood of 50 bucks. I limped back to Halifax and had the tire fixed for a reasonable price at one of the rare places that do such "labourious" work on weekends.

Do we anticipate disposable cars in the future because no one will fix even minor things? God help the poor tourists who have no way of finding the few stations that will help after hours. Conclusion: for the worse, by a country mile!

Daniel N. Paul


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