Thanks to St. Ann’s for 50 years of memories… and lobsters!

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By Brian Cormier
Wednesday, June 17, 2015
Moncton Times & Transcript

I was listening to the news the other day when I heard that the venerable St. Ann’s ‍Lobster Suppers on P.E.I. would be closing after 50 years in business. It was the first weekly ‍lobster supper on the Island and was a financial godsend for the parishioners of St. Ann’s Church located between Stanley Bridge and New Glasgow. For years, it kept the parish in the black and created employment, including for a number of my relatives.

My mother grew up within sight of St. Ann’s. It was her family church. Whenever we visited, we had to go to church on Sunday. It would be treasonous to do otherwise. We didn’t go often at home, so I couldn’t understand why we had to go whenever we visited our grandparents. “But Mom,” I whined one day when I didn’t feel like going, “we never go to church when we’re home!”

My grandmother’s ears perked up like a fox who’d just spied a delicious rabbit with a limp at the edge of the forest. Easy prey. “You don’t go to church back in Moncton?,” she asked, incredulous at our family’s heathenish tendencies. Meanwhile, my mother (who my grandmother couldn’t see from her vantage point) was giving me looks that could kill, waving her arms and motioning for me to stop talking right that instant or risk losing some of my favourite body parts.

Let’s just say that on the ferry ride back to New Brunswick, I stayed away from the railings on the deck in case a certain mother decided to get revenge for me getting her in trouble with her own mother! I’m not sure if I could have conquered the Northumberland Strait after falling off a ferry.

St Anns
St. Ann’s Church in Hope River, P.E.I., was home to the venerable St. Ann’s Lobster Suppers for 50 years. Click on the photo for a larger version. (Image courtesy of Facebook.)

Our family went to St. Ann’s ‍Lob‍‍ster Suppers a number of times over the years and always enjoyed it. The brains behind the operation was their one-time parish priest Rev. Denis Gallant. “Father Denis,” as he was commonly known, had a booming voice and a commanding personality (including an ego to match!) – and I don’t think he ever met a mirror he didn’t like, either. He would come to visit my grandparents from time to time and would get the best chair in the house as he sat back with a cigarette and pontificated about something or other.

But big personalities often have big ideas, and St. Ann’s ‍Lobster Suppers certainly was a great success over the years, sometimes serving up to 1,000 meals per night. Everything was homemade by locals and the friendly Island customer service kept people coming back for years.

Eventually, however, others started to copy the format and eventually eclipsed St. Ann’s success with spacious, bright dining halls with windows – unlike St. Ann’s which held its ‍lob‍‍ster suppers downstairs in a cramped church basement located down a flight of stairs. Over the years, St. Ann’s just couldn’t compete with more modern facilities that cropped up here and there, including the very popular New Glasgow ‍Lobster Suppers just a few kilometres down the road.

As an adult, I avoided St. Ann’s and would opt for the much more spacious and less claustrophobic New Glasgow ‍Lobster Suppers instead. My grandmother would turn over in her grave if she knew. At the end of my days, in fact, she’ll likely be standing at the end of that tunnel of light and shaking her finger at me for having abandoned St. Ann’s in favour of ‘the enemy.’

My strongest memory of St. Ann’s ‍Lobster Suppers was when a family member had a bit too much wine during a visit and got slightly tipsy. At one point, they fell off their chair, causing the organ player providing live entertainment to start singing, “Show me the way to go home; I’m tired and I want to go to bed; I had a little drink about an hour ago; And it’s gone right to my head.” I heard my father tell that story for years afterwards, coupled with much laughter.

In any industry, there are always pioneers. St. Ann’s ‍Lobster Suppers was that for P.E.I. for many years, and I’m sure it attracted its fair share of patrons from New Brunswick every summer. The delicious desserts were made from scratch, as were the rolls, potato salad, coleslaw and everything else. Unfortunately, it just couldn’t keep up with the times, but the many memories made there by 50 years’ worth of tourists are definitely a lasting legacy.

With the demise of St. Ann’s, though, at least I can now eat at the New Glasgow ‍Lobster Suppers without feeling my grandmother on my shoulder saying,“ Tsk! Tsk! Tsk!”

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