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Beverley Franklin runs the gift shop at the Long Beach Interpretive Centre on New Brunswick’s Fundy Trail Parkway. The 76-year-old provides art supplies and blows bubbles for kids, keeps the water bowl filled for pets and tells the story of the parkway to visitors.

She’s the daughter of Mitchell Franklin, whose vision and persistence led to its construction. Beverley played an important role herself in the project. The 30-kilometre cliff-top drive between St. Martins and Fundy National Park took 25 years and $100 million to complete. Today, visitors can hike or cycle 35 kilometres of trails and stop at 20 lookouts, five beaches, four waterfalls and several interpretation centres. Saltscapes spoke with Beverley Franklin about drive-in theatres, Frank Sinatra and marshmallow parties.     

Tell me about your family’s roots.

My grandparents came here at a young age from Kyiv, Ukraine. They were supposed to go to Ellis Island in New York, but the ship got turned around, and they ended up at Pier 21 in Halifax.

How did they get their start in Canada?

A friend of my Grandpa Joe’s, Louis B. Mayer, was born in Saint John. He wanted my grandfather to head to California because there was this new movie business thing. Grandpa Joe said, “You go make movies. I’ll build theatres to show them.” I was very popular in high school because we owned all the drive-ins.  

Where did you grow up? 

I was born in Saint John. My mother was a teacher. We were homeschooled. She was very strict. Every morning, you did your work, or you weren’t allowed to have an activity in the afternoon. I went to college in New York and Paris. My grandfather had a home in Miami Beach. It was like my second home. Frank Sinatra sang at my 21st birthday party in Miami. I lived in Halifax for 23 years and ran an art gallery. 

Tell me about the celebrities who fished at Hearst Lodge, now a stop on the Parkway.

My dad was very proud of New Brunswick. He wanted to turn it into the must-see province instead of the drive-through province, so he would invite people to the lodge. Donald Sutherland visited regularly. Paul Newman, Jean Chrétien. Diefenbaker came and Mitchell said, “If I have to hire guys in wetsuits to put a fish on that line, he’s going to catch a salmon.” There’s a picture of Dief and my dad, and you can see the pride in Dief’s face with a 19-pounder. A dream come true.  

How did your father’s dream of the parkway finally come true?

Frank McKenna, premier at the time, was visiting my dad in 1994. He said, “Mitchell, show me what you’re talking about with this idea of a Fundy Trail.” So, they drove as far as they could on the gravel road and walked to Fox Rock, now the first stop on the parkway. It was an absolutely glorious day. The Bay of Fundy was sparkling, and on the horizon was Nova Scotia. He said, “I just got back from Hawaii. It was beautiful, but what I’m looking at rivals any part of the world. We’re going to build the Fundy Trail Parkway.” I still get emotional about it. 

How long will you continue working here?

This is my little idyllic place. When we built it, I said I’m going to Long Beach. The only way I’m leaving now is to carry me out feet first. Then they’re going to have a marshmallow party and put the ashes right in the Bay of Fundy. As long as there’s a party!   

 

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