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Palliser owner reminisces after 42 years in business


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Allan Bruce shows a photo of the Palliser Motel taken in the 1960s around the time he purchased it. Behind his shoulder is an aerial shot of the property taken in the 1950s. At age 74, Bruce has no plans to reopen the business, saying, "it's time to retire."

Editor's Note: Last week's news that the Palliser Restaurant Motel & Gift Shop, a Lower Truro landmark for decades, would not be reopening this spring quickly became the most-read story on our website for several days and prompted this follow-up.

 

TRURO - "To everything there is a season."

Allan Bruce quoted Ecclesiastes to sum up his feelings about a drastic change in his life, while thumbing through a stack of photos in the quiet upstairs office of the Palliser Restaurant, Motel and Gift Shop in Truro.

Any other year there would be a flurry of activity there with meals being served to motel guests and visitors, but after 42 years at the helm, at age 74 and no prospective buyers for the business in sight, Bruce made the decision not to reopen this spring.

"I'm not upset about it at all," he said between telling stories and reminiscing about special guests and good times over the years. "It was time to retire."

Bruce, an engineer, and his wife Keltie, a registered nurse, grew up in Truro but moved away for a few years after they married before returning in 1964.

"I worked with the former Truro Electric Commission then," Bruce said. "It changed hands, becoming part of the Nova Scotia Light and Power Company so my job was to be in Halifax."

The couple liked living in Truro and didn't want to relocate so they began looking for a new job opportunity for Bruce.

He'd always kept an admiring eye on the Tideview Motel, located on Highway 2, and around that time in 1969 it was put up for sale.

"It was the sort of thing you talk about over a beer, not thinking it would ever happen, then it did," said Bruce.

Over the years the motel has been host to several celebrities and high-ranking politicians.

It has also been the choice of at least two former prime ministers - Pierre Trudeau and John Diefenbaker.

"They came to visit us one time and they brought in their big black helicopter and landed on the front lawn," Bruce recalled about Deifenbaker's arrival.

Another time the visiting prime minister had a severe toothache that needed attention, so Bruce took him to see local dentist Dr. Norman Layton. After a bit of dental surgery to fix the problem Diefenbaker was given a prescription for pain medication.

Bruce said the pharmacist was hesitant to fill the prescription issued in the former prime minister's name.

"We finally convinced him," he said. "He thought we were playing a joke on him."

The Trans Canada Highway opened in 1969, greatly reducing traffic on Highway 2, but Bruce said that didn't have any impact on business. The removal of the bridge on the old highway actually enhanced the property, making it more secluded for visitors.

For many years there were about 55 seasonal jobs each year between the motel and restaurant.

"The tourism industry has changed drastically so it hasn't been that high for the past two or three years," he said.

A shift in tourism trends has moved the peak season from early July to September, making it difficult to staff part-time positions.

"Since 9/11 the tourism business has changed dramatically," said the motel owner.

"There are many properties in the province that are in very deep difficulty and we decided to close it down."

Other factors impacting his decision include their ages, increased competition in the marketplace, high fuel prices, a slumped economy and laws now requiring all American travellers to carry a passport.

The 10-acre property located on the Bay of Fundy includes a 42-room motel, 120-seat restaurant, gift shop and interpretive centre, is now for sale.

"It's been an interesting ride," said Keltie. "How a nurse and an engineer got into the restaurant and motel business is a good question.

"But now, I've got a bucket list and I'm going to get at it."

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