The Story Of Wobamkek NOTE: A very special thanks to Marie Woodworth,, originally of Port Mouton, but now with a retirement home in Labelle, for providing the following information including her personal recollections of the Wobamkek Resort. Her research was done for a speech that she delivered to Queens County Historical Society on April 20, 1994.
The Wobamkek resort was the brainchild of James W. Willis, who had previously visited Port Mouton.
From the Liverpool Advance of Dec. 20, 1922: A New Summer Resort “Wobamkek” There is no spot on the South Shore more delightfully situated than “Wobamkek” (the Mic-mac word for a stretch of white sand) a ten minute drive from Port Mouton none more beautiful and attractive from every point of view as a summer resort. For many years, there has been a tremendous demand for cabins or bungalows on these most wonderful white sand beaches but there was little or no accomodation available. We are now able to state that J.W. Willis who has been carefully looking over the situation has not only purchased the property but is now erecting cabins for use next summer.
Mr. Willis tells us that it was just fourteen years ago that he first went over the property, and at the time made up his mind that if ever he was able to, he would buy and open a summer resort, so that others might be able to enjoy beauties and advantages of the finest of Nature’s Playgrounds and that by a stroke of good luck that opportunity has come to pass.
The surveyers and engineers have completed their work, and as many log and other cabins will be erected this winter as possible and others next spring, including a large restaurant and reading room.
It would be difficult to find a more likely spot for so many different kinds of amusements. The trout fishing in the spring is excellent, deep sea fishing (cod, haddock, pollock, etc.) can be had immediately in front of the property. The waters of Port Mouton is the tuna fishing grounds of the province.
Port Mouton Harbour offers one of the best opportunities for yachting, boating, canoeing, etc. For children, the vast sand hills, sand dunes and the parklike woods make it the cleanest and safest playgrounds that can be imagined.
“Wobamkek” is, as Mr. Willis says, almost impossible to describe, it is well worth a visit.
The woodland all around the property is very fine, being thickly wooded with tall, straight spruce, intermingled with some leafy hardwoods, which makes it exceptionally attractive for the sites of the cabins. Shade from either the wind or sun can be had at all times.
We are heartly glad that at last someone who knows the value of our white sand beaches is to commence operations at Port Mouton, and we are also glad to commend and wish Mr. Willis every success.
It is a pity that more of our people do not stay at home and develop our own province.
Liverpool Advance March 2, 1927: Port Mouton As A Summer Resort Port Mouton has extensive white sand beaches and offers bathing, boating and canoeing, tuna and trout fishing.. It is especially noted as the district of a wildfowl sanctuary and hunting of big game and ducks and geese may be found. Altogether it is one of the most interesting and satisfactory spots for summer vacationists to be found in Eastern Canada.
When people from the United States are writing of the fine attractions of this province, it is certainly time for Nova Scotians themselves to get busy to take full advantage of the fine opportunities afforded here, for building up an extensive tourist trade. A live and comprehensive program should now be launched for the 1927 season.
People from New York, Chicago, Cincinnati and other United States cities spent the summer days last year in Port Mouton. Mr. Knobel of Chicago, who is on the National Council of the Y.M.C.A., has expressed his delight of the tourist advantages of this attractive Nova Scotia resort. Having spent last summer there, he and his family are going to spend the entire summer of 1927 at Port Mouton.
Marie Woodworth’s Recollections Of Wobamkek As soon as the muddy roads dried up in the spring when he could drive his touring car down, Mr. Willis would arrive in Port Mouton to put up his Wobamkek sign at the crossroads here...the Carters Beach and the Southwest roads meet.
The sign was rustic, usually made of two poles, crossed teepee style with two boards nailed across, saying Wobamkek Beach, painted in black with an arrow pointing down the Southwest Road. Back then, the roads were one-track with the trees and alders growing right to the roadside. There was no cutting back the bush in those days. One traveled the narrow road about a mile before reaching the turnoff into the beach.
The river flowing from Stewarts Lake to the Atlantic ran along the laneway leading into the cabins, it was usually a bubbling brook in the summertime until it reached the stillwater pond, the site Mr. Willis picked to build his diningroom, and then it twisted and turned through the sandbeach to the ocean.
The diningroom was a fair-sized rustic building with larger windows overlooking the sandbeach with the ocean beyond. There was a kitchen on the back with an icehouse on the outside.
There were six cabins, in all, I believe. Only one was privately owned by a Mr. and Mrs. Naftel, relatives of Mr. Willis, and I think perhaps the reason I remember their name was because they both lost their lives in the tragic “Queen Hotel” fire in Halifax in the late 1930s. Their only child, a son, used their cabin for many years for his summer holiday.
The cabins were rustic, some were made from logs. There were no facilities such as running water or inside plumbing. Three were on the Carters Beach side of the river and Mr. Willis maintained a little wooden foot bridge for his guests to cross over to the diningroom and also to the roadway. One of the cabins stood out above the rest. “The Osprey” was larger and had windows right across the front, overlooking the harbour and the islands. When the sun was setting on a warm summer days, its rays would strike the windows in The Osprey and it would shine line a Christmas tree - a beautiful sight with the white sandbeach beneath it and the green forest in the background.
That scene had been painted many times. I remember, as a child, standing and watching the artists with their paints putting that picture on canvas.
One summer, Mr. Willis appeared at my home. He knew my family always kept cattle and he was looking to purchase fresh milk for his guests. It was to be delivered every morning before breakfast was served. My younger brother and I were designated to do the milk delivery. So, for the summer months, we were up with the sun to carry the milk. It was two or three quarts. We had about one-quarter mile of roadway to the sandbeach, across the beach and up the river to the foot bridge, especially if the tide was in, across the bridge to the dining hall. On our first deliver to the cook in the kitchen, I noticed at least six tiny frying pans on the stove. I couldn’t take my eyes from them as I hadn’t seen frying pans so small. Growing up in a large family, our frying pan held at least six eggs. I was later informed that each guest had their eggs cooked individually. At the end of the season, Mr. Willis appeared to thank my brother and I for doing a good job delivering the milk and he paid us each one dollar, in nickels. We thought we were two rich kids that year.
At the pond, beside the dining hall, one could find three or four canoes if one wished to paddle around the pond, or down the river.
Scattered over the sandbeach were small red flags - 200 or so yards apart - where any golfer could keep in practice with his game for his swing and his chipping, but there were no putting greens, just sandbeach.
I recall hearing people yell “fore” so we kids knew there were some golfers in residence. They used red golf balls so they could be found.
Clara Dennis, in her book “More About Nova Scotia”, on visiting the sandbeach at Port Mouton wrote: A game of golf is in progress when I arrive on the sands. The steel ends of the golf clubs flash in the bright sun as the red golf balls are sent soaring through the air”. The most unique coarse I’ve ever played on, a player was saying as he passed by.
A great many of the same guests at Wobamkek came back year after year. I remember one gentleman by the clothing he wore - a pair of plus fours (knickers) - a panama straw hat, and he carried a fancy walking stick. His home was in New York City and he stayed in the larger “Osprey” cabin while visiting Wobamkek Beach.
Wobamkek Beach Resort was a thriving business for a number of years. It was sold, just before the Second World War started. Private signs and fences were put up.This was a great loss to the community and even the name “Wobamkek” had faded into history.
It was during these same years, in the early part of the century, that many family members came home to visit during the summer. There was scarcely a family in the community where at least one member had left home to work in the United States, mostly in the Boston area, and they came back for the holidays and would bring their families and friends with them. The population of Port Mouton would sometimes seem to double, which was great as it meant more playmates for swimming, Sunday School, picnics, etc., and we country kids learned a lot from our summer friends. One year, a friend had taken tap dancing lessons the winter before so playday, she taught me what she knew. I danced all that summer, even danced the toes right off my good Sunday shoes.
Then, there was the gentleman who arrived with a movie camera. He wanted all the kids at the beach to be active so he could run his film but soon as he pointed the camera in our direction, everyone stood still and stared. Noone had seen a movie camera before, much less have their picture taken with one.
Where Seagulls Cry (A friend of Marie Woodworth, grew up in Port Mouton, and later lived in the American Mid-West, a long distance from the ocean, sent Marie this favorite poem by Janice Earman King)
I love the place where seagulls cry, Where meet the glistening sea with sky, Where one can search for shells and such, Where one can feel the ocean’s touch!
To walk upon the whitened sand While clinging to a loved one’s hand To sense the wonder of a place Where marks of care are soon erased
Although I know I can’t be there I go on whispering wings of prayer To seashore with its splendorous view Which sucors, strenghens and renews
Oh, Maker of the sand and sea May I return in memory To where I’ll glimpse the ocean’s foam To where such treasured joys I’ve know