Betty the Bartender

Keltic Lodge

After accepting an invitation to speak in Halifax, Nova Scotia, I asked the association president who invited me where we should visit. Her answer was immediate, “The Keltic Lodge, Cape Bretton Island; I’ll make the reservations.”

It’s a five-hour drive from Halifax to Cape Bretton Island; not very exciting and not a lot to see until you turn onto the Cabot Trail—one of North America’s most beautiful Roads—and approach Cape Smokey. Jutting into the Atlantic Ocean, the Cape demands a 1,000 foot climb from the base to the summit.  The climb requires driving a winding road where in places the rear of your car is ahead of the front. From the Summit you can view the peninsular where the Keltic Lodge is located and the fishing village it overlooks.

The Keltic is a unique place. Located on a peninsula and framed by Cape Smokey and the village of Ingonish, the waters on either side are filled with lobster boats and an occasional pod of whales. After checking in, Terri and I decided to go to the bar; after all it was a long drive and  a long drive up Cape Smokey. I watched the bartender walk around the bar and approach where we were sitting on a couch. Expecting her to say “What would you like to drink?” I was surprised when instead she reached out her hand and said, “I’m Betty and who might you be?” We introduced ourselves and in turn made the acquaintance of a remarkable lady.

We visited the Keltic the following two Junes and then did not return for 15 months. When we did return, we were accompanied by our daughter Krista, who I asked to join me for a drink in the lounge, while Terri was unpacking. As we entered the lounge, although her back was to us, I recognized Betty and was glad to find that she was still tending the bar. When she turned, she had a smile that faded as she glanced at my good-looking daughter and then turning to me said, “Hello Bill. How are you?” Then looking directly at Krista, she inquired, “And where is Terri?” Fifteen months and not only did she remember who I was but who I wasn’t with.

Betty had a remarkable memory. When she met Krista, I was part of a planning session with 30 other people. During our closing banquet, when Betty came to the room to say goodbye, one of the attendees challenged her to name everyone present. Not only did she name everyone who had frequented her bar, she also recalled what he or she had to drink; an unforgettable performance by an unforgettable lady.

When you entered Betty’s lounge, she called you by name and asked if you wanted her to prepare your regular drink. That Betty made a point to know her customers and what they liked is a lesson in relationship building. Families, friends and businesses are all about relationships and relationships are dependent upon a true interest in other people.

Recently, at a party I ran into a woman I hadn’t spoken with in over 20 years. During the course of the conversation, I learned about her favorite restaurant; where her children were working; her grandchildren’s names; even the name of her favorite wine. Her parting comment was, “It was nice catching up with you.” No—to be accurate her statement should have been, “It was nice bending your ear about what is going on in my life and I could care less about what’s going on in yours.” Not once in our conversation did she inquire as to what was going on in my life; it was obvious, she didn’t care.

People know when you are truly interested in their lives: they recognize insincerity and are repulsed by self-centeredness. To build relationships a person must be willing to set their needs aside and focus on those of others. As my father use to say, “If you want a friend, be a friend.”


Friendship is essentially a partnership.”-Aristotle

4 responses to “Betty the Bartender

  1. Gail DeVilling

    Billy, your Dad was obviously a very wise man !!!

  2. Hi Bill,
    Great sentiments and excellent description of Cape Breton. I still remember the excellent lobster feasts you and I both attended in Halifax one year. Greg and my family toured Cape Breton for the first time last summer. What a delight. We highly recommend trying tidal bore rafting on the Shubenacadie if you haven’t tried that yet. It’s amazing! Best to you and your family! Miss seeing all my BMAE friends and hope I’ll have the opportunity to see you soon.

    • Vicki,

      Oh how I miss those lobster feasts. PEI mussels, Malpeque oysters, Digby scallops: surely the best seafood in the world can be found in Nova Scotia. Terri and I keep trying to get back—maybe this fall. Nice to hear from you; hopefully we will get together soon.

  3. This to is great. To me, nothing could be more flattering than having someone like Betty remember all of this as it pertained to me; the very reason why I demanded of all of my former employees at the pharmacy that they ,too, be a “Betty” where my customers were concerned, for they are they lifeblood of anyone’s busines!! There is nothing more flattering as far as I am concerned.

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