From The St. Stephen Wharf, a Canadian Perspective North of the South Border

Rob Patry

I have never lived in a true border town.  I have been in close proximity to one, but not within walking distance. My last home in Southern Ontario provided access to New York State from three different crossings, all more than a one-hour drive away. Purchasing a home in St. Stephen last February, living across from Maine, was certainly a selling feature.  It has always been an interesting phenomenon in my mind to cross a bridge to your destination, and be in another country. It intrigues me as much as the rising and lowering tides. In New Brunswick one can actually drive to Calais, go back in time one hour, until you return when the past literally catches up to you. I recall on a recent trip to a restaurant in Baileyville, I arrived for their opening at 11:00 a.m. EST. Imagine my surprise when I arrived an hour earlier than their opening based on Eastern/Atlantic time zones. To this day, every trip to the U.S. is fraught with complex time zone calculations simply to get to the right place at the right time. 

Calais, Maine and St. Stephen, New Brunswick are connected towns, separated by a river, history, ideological differences, and the fact that Calais has a Wal-Mart, and St. Stephen does not. This makes your town quite seductive. You offer certain amenities that aren’t seen at home. Dunkin Donuts and Tim Horton’s coffee? This is a lot for folks with a rich donut loving history. Choice is something Canadians often find confusing. Not enough, we get upset. Too much, and… we get upset.

Yet, we are so intrigued by our neighbors to the south. We have a desire to know, and an aspiration to be known.  We are a collective community, and we are joined by multiple factors. We speak the same language, (putting any accent oddities aside). We both have similar currency, although ours is far more colorful. Do the likenesses end there?

 Our respective towns have had good and bad times. We have seen the rise and fall of our dollar on both sides, and have faced a plethora of change. But we seem to be there for each other to support and to bolster when the tides do transition  – literally and figuratively. It’s my hope to report to you the goings-on of the people who share the St. Croix River. Our two towns have a unique perspective on the world that is rarely seen. We share a border, and our combined population is less than ten thousand. We are two worlds, isolated by miles of green space and waterways, but are completely autonomous of each other. Let’s try and focus on the issues we follow in unity, and make these two communities whole again. We have the ability. 

 

Our three bridges are conduits for your neighbors to the north. We want to get to know you, and we want you to get to know us! I would like to think we could offer Calais a new perspective, and St. Stephen could benefit from yours as well. I like our towns. I love St. Stephen and I love the people of Calais. We offer so much, and at times we take ourselves for granted. North and south of the border are rich in history, heritage, people, and friendship. Let us celebrate the similarities, not dwell on the differences.