Thank-you so much for printing the article on the Driftwood Café; it was a trigger to fond memories and created a stir in the family of all the stories just waiting to be told to the next generation.
The Coward family met and remained friends with so many people that came through the door. Some of the toughest and most rewarding times in our parents life. Bill and Eleanor Coward and of course our Gram, Ivy Coward. Truly a family affair.
When my parents purchased the Driftwood it had been run for years as “Howard’s Mariner” by a local family. Father changed the name and we worked hard to build a reputation for good home cooking. The Oyster Bay Resort and The Oyster bay Store were also run by families trying to make a better life for their families. The three businesses – family run by The Browns, Evans and Cowards – all had children to help the parents in the daily operations. As teenagers we always knew what we were doing each weekend…work! The resort had cabins and RV spaces and busy gas pumps with a boat house and launch on the water side. From April to October it was like “A little America” with all the tourists and the fishing was great. The store was between the café and the restaurant and was a going concern. We complemented and helped each other, as small communities do.
The first years were extremely difficult financially but we toughed it out, sometimes staying open bringing in $3 one day but Dad was determined to stay open. His thoughts were that if he ever closed it would take forever to build the trust with the public .
When he first opened his attitude was “The customer is always right”…after being in business for a while it became “The RIGHT customer is never wrong.” We tried running an ice cream stand for a short time but Dad moved on to opening his cocktail lounge which was more into the sign of the times. The old gas pumps were removed and more parking created. The early years were tough as we had very poor water. Dad made a deal with The Glen Alder Resort across the bay and he hauled city water in health board approved sterile containers for all the coffee and drinking water…a huge task but eventually we were able to drill a new well that serviced all our needs. The days of the Rubbermaid “garbage “can was over!!
Our mother Eleanor and grandmother Ivy – Mrs. C and Gram to all – ran the day-to-day operations and wanted people to feel comfortable and well fed…home cooking at it’s finest. Forty years later I still run into customers that ask about Gram’s banana cream and coconut cream pies and her famous “butter tart” still live on. Many a wedding and family Christmas party was planned for the Driftwood. If you did not book your business Christmas party early you found out you were out of luck. During the early days at the Driftwood about a dozen “draft dodgers” lived in uninsulated cottages at Bennets Point Resort on the corner. These young Americans spent many a happy hour at the Driftwood playing the big old piano. We learned a new point of view after talking and getting to know these folks and our Mom mothered them in times when they were missing their own families thousands of miles away.
When the Blue Grouse was in operation it provided lively entertainment for the camp that was set up on the north side – booths and small juke boxes and the best dance floor on the north end of the island. It was the place to be on a Friday night.
All in all the Driftwood has a colourful history. I have received many a comment since last week’s Mirror, I thought I should just add to the story.