Humans of Larry's River


Maybe he’ll lock the door this year.


And then what?

“Then I’ll die,” said John Delorey.

Then the 84 year old laughed.

He laughed alone surrounded by his replacement watch straps, litre cartons of milk, corned beef, Aspirin, batteries, chocolate bars and cigarettes.

“It’s what we’ve all got to do,” he said.

But if John’s Village Grocery closes there won’t be another place to buy anything on Highway 316 between Whitehead and New Harbour.

Highway being a word used loosely when applied to the road that snakes along Guysborough County’s Atlantic coast between communities with many memories but precious few children.

The 70 or so souls of Larrys River need John’s Village Grocery just like its proprietor of 41 years needs them.

Because when it loses places to gather, be it a volunteer fire department, a church ladies auxiliary or a store, a community drifts toward becoming a stretch of road where people live but rarely have reason to open one another’s doors.

And that would be a shame for this place where Pellerines and Deloreys and Pettipas, Acadians burned out of their Chezzetcook homes by the English in 1763, came to scrape together new lives amongst granite and stunted spruce.

And it would be a shame for Delorey.

He’d be forced to open the cardboard box containing the 42 inch television he won four years ago in a lottery at the hospital a hundred kilometres away in Antigonish.

“Sound system and everything in it, but who’s got time to watch television,” said Delorey.

Because without the visitors who double as customers, he would be left alone with his memories.

The memories that drift across his mind’s eye during the hours alone in his tiny store are coloured by both sunlight and shadow.

There’s the put-put-put of his father’s 4 h.p. Atlantic make-and-break engine pushing their skiff through the swell out to the lobster grounds to haul traps by hand as the sun rose behind them.

There’s the clear, cold waters of Ungava and Hudson’s Bay which he sounded over 31 years working for the Canadian Hydrographic Service.

There’s a pretty young waitress at a motel north of Peterborough.

There’s chatting up Margaret Foley, marrying her and moving her back to Larry’s River to open a store.

“It didn’t take much convincing – she wanted out of Ontario too,” said Delorey.

And who could blame her.

There’s raising a son and watching him lose control over his own body from a mysterious illness.

“Poor soul, he doesn’t live in Larry’s River,” said Delorey, who visits Jean Pierre weekly at the Milford Haven Nursing Home in Guysborough, twenty minutes away.

“He can’t talk but I see him smile sometimes.”

There’s losing Margaret five years ago.

“I’d of closed before but I’m afraid of staring at four walls,” he said.

When Delorey was a child Larry’s River had five stores, a bank and two fish plants.

Now it’s just him.

“I have beautiful corned beef,” he said.

“Comes from Sydney (Cape Breton).”

If you want some, he’s open seven days a week but closes from 4-6 p.m. for supper.

His number is on the door if you stop by after hours.

Aaron Beswick