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When Nova Scotia's 'Tancookers' had to get drivers' licences

Life was changing on Nova Scotia's Big Tancook Island -- specifically on its dusty, gravel roads.

In the late 1980s, the roads were getting a little more formal on Big Tancook Island

New rules for drivers on N.S. island

Digital Archives

32 years ago
2:05
In 1989, CBC News reports on changes on Big Tancook Island that affected local drivers. 2:05

Life was changing on Nova Scotia's Big Tancook Island — specifically on its dusty, gravel roads.

"There's a new order on Tancook — it's the road, all five miles of it," reporter Rob Gordon told viewers in a report that aired on CBC's long-running Midday program on July 19, 1989.

"The government has taken control."

Gordon said the government had installed stop signs and introduced speed limits. And it had implemented other changes for the island's drivers, too.

'They wanted some discipline'

In 1989, rules came in that required people on Big Tancook, N.S., to carry driver's licences in their wallets if they were behind the wheel of a car. (Midday/CBC Archives)

"From now on, every Tancooker behind the wheel must have a licence in the wallet," said Gordon. 

"The older people on the island just got fed up with young speeders. They wanted some discipline."

Gordon spoke to two such young drivers to get their take on the changes being made in Tancook.

"Some old guys, it don't matter if they got a licence or not, they're still crazy drivers," said a long-haired man who was wearing a baseball cap with the logo of Playboy magazine on it.

Another young man riding in the passenger seat of the same car said the changes seemed to be aimed at keeping young people "from acting crazy and stuff."

The patrol car needed a ferry

Reporter Rob Gordon noted a patrol car made appearances on Big Tancook Island, but it needed to use a ferry to get to the island. (Midday/CBC Archives)

Gordon said there was a Mountie car assigned to make occasional patrols, though the RCMP officers had to take a ferry to get to Big Tancook, suggesting it would be hard to approach the island unnoticed.

Joe Baker, a local resident who was interviewed as he drove his pickup truck down a Tancook road, thought the locals getting upset about younger drivers had forgotten what being young was like.

"They don't think back to when they were young and they used to do the same thing," he told CBC News.

"They used to drive fast, I guess, when they were younger, but they don't think back to that time."

'Freedom, Tancook-style'

For many years, the driving arrangements on Nova Scotia's Big Tancook Island had been quite relaxed. (Midday/CBC Archives)

Gordon questioned if "the rule of law" could really change the laid-back nature of Big Tancook Island.

"After all, Tancookers are islanders," he said.

"For years, they've shunned the mainland in favour of the ferry and freedom, Tancook-style."

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