The Way We Were
The following article first appeared in "The Low Down to Hull and Back News" in the November 23, 2005 issue. Reprinted with permission.
At the crossroads of Tulip Valley
by Catherine Joyce
Dan Fassen knows that you can't stop change.
Since 1958, when his father first opened the restaurant and motel at Tulip Valley, the family business has seen the transformation of the Gatineau Hills.
Tom Fassen came from Holland at the age of 20, working for a year on Kennedy's farm up in Farrellton. After a four-year stint in Montreal where his twin boys, Dan and Chris, were born, he wanted to return to the Hills. He bought the triangle of land between the old River Road and Highway 11 (now the 105) to build a small restaurant and two-unit motel. B.P. Gas Company approached him to put in two pumps. In 1958 Tulip Valley became the second B.P. gas stop in Canada.
"Preston Wilson's dad was the contractor on the site," remembers Dan. "I still have the papers. And Milton Cross had his lumber mill just up River Road - I think he was still operating into the '70s. Our closest neighbour was Tommy MacDiarmid down on Ramsay Road - his was the only house around.
"My parents worked hard. They started off with a kitchen half this size, doing take-out - hamburgers, hotdogs, chips - using special trays that hooked onto car windows, just like A & W. I still have the original milkshake machine.
"Then my dad wanted a liquor licence. West Hull (Chelsea) was dry Masham was dry Only Hull, Cantley and Wakefield had bars. To qualify he needed a proper dining room, ten rooms for guests, and he had to pay for a community referendum. Finally in 1967, after three tries, he succeeded. Then the Larrimac Golf Club got their licence. Afterwards, the referendum policy was scrapped.
"Soon our place was packed. All the ski clubs would stop by on their way home - Fortune, Vorlage, Edelweiss, Mont Ste. Marie - people used to relax and socialize more. If there was a snowstorm and you were stranded, where else could you go? We had the only rooms, and the only public phone for miles around. The police would drop people off.
The snowplow guys would come in to get warm. Chris and I were often the first on the scene of an accident. We were always out changing tires, helping if cars broke down. This was what being raised in the country meant - you got out there, you were connected, part of a community I've been a volunteer fireman for 30 years. I hate to see that country ethic die."
Dan remembers how they would hike or bicycle into the Meech Creek to go swimming. "Kids from 10 to 21, it didn't matter, we all knew each other. We'd swing out on a rope off the covered bridge and dive into the creek. We maintained the place - there was never any vandalism. As we got older, we'd help with the haying at Andy Brown's farm, getting all covered in thistles before we hit the creek. He'd pay us with a good meal - or a vodka and orange!"
In the hopes of a tourist boom, the Fassens bought more land when the government expropriated the Meech Creek Valley in the mid-1970s for a proposed zoo. Nothing materialized. Then in November 1990 the new extension of Hwy 5 converged at Tulip Valley. But by 1995 the gas pumps were gone.
"The tax zoning has killed country gas stations. We are 22 kilometers from Ottawa but we pay six cents more tax; in Hull they pay 4 cents more. Everyone goes to town now to buy their gas - soon there will be no place left to fill up in the Hills. I get from two to 20 people a week running out of gas. I want to help them - I am in a service business. But change happens. You have to adapt."
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