OPERATING a vacation resort in the right way is more of a profession than a business, and just about fit to be bracketed among the arts. We mentioned in these pages a couple of years ago a Florida refuge where everything was perfect. Its touchstone was a hot sandwich offered, with other things, for the Thursday night beach picnic; a sandwich not of hamburger— which would have been fully acceptable — but instead a thick slice of beef tenderloin. The tariff was fairly expensive, but at any price one would have got a prodigious run for the money.
The main standard for judging a resort, restaurant, or hotel is in that phrase “a run for the money.” At the right sort of place you get it; at others and it matters not whether the prices are high or low — you don’t.
If the Florida establishment was a great bargain, it was slightly in the manner of a $700 transatlantic passage: delightful stuff and a good value if you can stand the price. I happened last summer on a totally different kind of resort, a terrific run for the money and at just about negligible prices. It was Nova Scotian, a tiny old-fashioned hotel with twentysix cabins, located at the edge of a wilderness on a chain of lakes. American Plan rates were $25 a week for one of the eight or ten rooms in the hotel, or $132 a week for the cabins. The trout fishing was just as good as Florida’s game fishing; there was only one tennis court but it was impeccably maintained; and in every respect the Canadian retreat made good on its commitments just as handsomely as the Florida establishment had done.
I mention all this not because the Canadian place was so inexpensive, but because of the wisdom, the ingenuity, and the common sense which made it that way. It was in the hands of the third generation of its proprietors; and to open up a new place with all these qualities in full force might be impossible. But the technique was interesting and certainly worth imitation.
There were three reasons for the low rates: no food was wasted, no payroll went for nonessential services, and temptations to “modernize” (and thereby spoil) the property were opposed by guests and management alike.
It took me a day or two to get the hang of the menu. “White Bread or Brown Bread — to order” meant what it said; an “order” brought one slice of bread, and if you wanted two slices you had to ask for two. “ Rolls" similarly meant one roll. Portions were small; yet the variety was ample and the country cooking correct, the pies and desserts incomparably the best I have ever tasted. Young garden vegetables, day-old eggs, home-baked bread (which produced wonderful toast for breakfast), and soup, meat, and fish at midday and evening made up as hearty a table as one could wish. It would have been unmannerly as well as foolish to waste this kind of food, and I noticed that none of it went back to the kitchen. Ordering what you wanted and gelting it and no more, you were not financing the enormous waste common to most American restaurants.
“Service” consisted of the diningroom waitress; a “cabin girl” who made the beds, polished the lamp chimneys, and housecleaned thoroughly every morning; and a chore boy who kept the woodpile high with rock maple chunks and fragrant birch. In all other matters the guests looked after themselves.
They pumped their own drinking water into tall metal pitchers from a well. Each cabin had a toilet and lavatory, but hot water came from a kettle in the fireplace. For a bathingtrunks life in the sun, this was quite all right, with a hot tub in the main building for those who passed up swimming in the lake.
For convenience and again for cutting out needless services, the guests’ outdoor icebox was much to ihe point; a stout wooden chest about 10 feet long, half filled with 200-pound cakes of ice. Here the guests stored their own ale and beer, and here they chopped out their own ice for cocktails or highballs—no push buttons, but no waiting and no tips. There were no telephones, no electricity in the cabins, and hence no expensive plant and equipment on which returns had to be earned. There were no outboards on the lake, since the hotel will not traffic with anyone who insists on an outboard; no radios, either. The woodland paths were pitch-dark after nightfall, but the guests were all in bed and asleep by 9.30 anyhow. Complete absence of ragweed was thrown in. All in all, with the Canadian dollar at a 10 per cent discount, a very sound run for the money indeed.
I have no idea what land fetches in the Maritime Provinces, but it must be cheap. There are hundreds of miles of spectacular seacoast with scarcely a fisherman’s cottage in sight. A carpenter, they told me in Nova Scotia, gets about 80 cents an hour, and lumber is in huge local supply. A summer home ought to cost only a minor fraction of what it would on this side of the border, If Accent on Living readers can bear with a few words more on this last matter — the Border and the joint Canadian-American play-acting at making an international barrier out of it—I’ll have a further report next month.
CHARLES W. MORTON