D and B Campground on the Ervin Road at Black Point is marking 40 years in business Saturday, Oct. 4.
“We’re going to have a big party with a band playing in the evening and we’ll have some food and lots of good cheer. Of the six seasonals we started with, one is still here and we have 11 in our 25 years and over club,’’ said Dennis.
It seems illness or the loss of a partner is about the only reason people leave D and B Campground.
“We’re hoping some of those people who are still around will come back for the party.”
A slide show marking the campground’s 40 years will be part of the celebrations.
Neither Dennis nor Brenda started out in life with a plan to run a business but both say it has given them years of enjoyment.
Dennis dropped out of high school in Grade 10 and joined the navy for three years.
“It was interesting at first but I soon figured out the avenue to advance was through an education. I went back to New Glasgow High School for Grade 11 and applied to St. Francis Xavier University for engineering. I’m still grateful they accepted me.”
Brenda Allard Martin is a coal miner’s daughter from Stellarton’s Red Row and proud of it. She and Dennis married 50 years ago in Lourdes and lived in Halifax while he worked for a company that serviced boilers and turbines. An opportunity to work at Nova Scotia Power’s Trenton generating station brought them back to Pictou County and Dennis eventually retired as plant manager.
Back in 1974 they found the little cottage they were looking for, but it was part of a small campground that was for sale. After much consideration they bought it, deciding to give the campground business a try for a year. They reasoned that if it didn’t work out, they’d still have their cottage.
Brenda ran the campground while Dennis was at work and he dealt with maintenance in the evenings and on weekends.
“Between the three kids, the cottage which was right down by the water, the campers up the hill and the canteen all I did was run but the kids were happy. I enjoyed being outside and meeting people,” said Brenda.
Their 1974 campground register shows it cost $4 for a fully serviced site, $3.50 for a two-way hook-up and $2.50 to pitch a tent for the night. The register also shows a lot of local campers, as well as visitors from New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario and Maine.
Dennis remembers touring his father around the campground and telling him his plans to expand if there was a demand.
“I remember very clearly he shook his head and told me I was crazy.”
But business turned out to be surprisingly good, so good that sometimes the Martins had to put tenters on the adjacent farm property.
“The owner was not living there, but I contacted him to make sure he didn’t mind. He offered to sell me the farm. It was a great idea except I didn’t have two cents to rub together but we talked some more and came to a deal that suited us both.”
The Martins moved from the old cottage into the farmhouse on the new property and turned a barn into a clubhouse with a pool table and a Pac-Man arcade game that was popular with kids.
In 1984 Dennis and Brenda built a year-round home with a beautiful sea view on the property and as the business changed, they changed, too. They added a few sites each year, put in more services, moved the office, closed the canteen and built Ye Old Wooden Tent, a spacious recreation hall which campers decked out with furnishings, a sound system and curtains on the windows. Dennis, who is an accomplished woodworker, most recently added a showcase where campground activities, of which there are many, are posted.
“When we started we had young kids and so did many of the campers but kids grow up and things change. The traffic started to decline, but about the same time we started getting a big increase in demand for seasonal spots. We’ve got 64 fully serviced sites today, all seasonal and we have a wait list.”
The Martins give their campers credit for keeping them in business.
“We’re getting older and Brenda’s health isn’t so good anymore, but we’ve got the best of people staying here. They look after all the activities and keep the place buzzing. We couldn’t keep it all going without them.”
Carole and Reg Thompson of Truro are on the campers’ recreation association executive as are George Butt and Toni Wilson. They hold four meetings a year and stage a variety of planned and impromptu entertainment from dances to card parties, darts, auctions and washer toss competitions as well as barbecues and buffet suppers.
“Dennis and Brenda are pretty easy on us, not too many rules to follow and they like everybody to have a good time,” said Reg.
The rapport between the Martins and the campers is obvious as they make their way around the property, chatting and sharing the day’s news. With October in the air, everyone is getting excited about the anniversary party and the communal thanksgiving dinner that marks the end of another camping season.
One of Brenda’s best memories goes back a few years to when George Canyon dropped in to say hello.
“His mother had a trailer here then and I know she sent him down to see me, but he was sweet as could be and it made my day.”
Denise Lynch and Darren and Derek Martin, the three children who instigated the search for a cottage, will join their parents and campers for the 40th anniversary party.