While the Charlottetown waterfront of my youth was a pretty seedy place, being run-down and abandoned with crumbling wharves and distinctly beyond best before date boats, I hardly imagined it as a hot bed of vice. But at the turn of the twentieth century it was seen as the equivalent of a pool-hall in River City. Or so thought the author of a letter to the editor of the Charlottetown Guardian printed on 11 June 1901:
Sir, – People who have always been taught to “remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy,” must have been shocked on Sunday to visit some of the wharves of this city and see how it was being observed here.
To be plain let me call the attention of the authorities to what was taking place. The first wharf visited was that of Messers Poole & Lewis to which the Plant Line Steamer Olivette was tied. Here could be seen a number of boys with complete fishing gear, catching smelts or what ever might take the baited hook. As the Olivette was approached a stage was seen, put out over the side of this always welcome steamer and very soon men with paint and brushes descended and began the work of painting on her hull.
The next wharf visited was the Connolly Wharf where the S.S. Greenlands lay and there we noticed a case worthy of the attention of the society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals if we have such a society. The forward deck of this steamer was literally crowded with cattle and the state some of those poor animals was in was pitiable. They were tied as close together as possible and one could not but see the state of perspiration, panting, etc. and a hot sun shining down on them with no covering that they could not get that sufficient quantity of fresh air that nature demanded.
Again in the afternoon the tug Wm. Aitken (which I understand left Pictou in the morning) steamed into port with a barge in toward to see the crowd on men, women and children on the wharf to meet her on arrival and examine the machinery on board the barge, on could not but recall his recollections and wonder, is this surely the Sabbath Day!
This no doubt is a busy world, but as God has given us six days for work I think the good people of Charlottetown should see to it that the Sabbath in future is more strictly observed, especially around our wharves.
It is likely that the author waged a severe struggle within and mindful of the dangers of throwing the first stone must have thought long and hard about the wisdom of even venturing onto the docks for fear of contamination. It is a brave man indeed who walks the waterfront of Charlottetown on a Sunday.