Elliott Daniels recently turned 90-years-old. Well, not exactly. That happens on May 23, but for his family and friends he made an exception and celebrated early.
Some family members were heading out of town — but he didn’t mind.
He laughs and smiles warmly, sporting his iconic pom-pom hat, his face is lined with past and present joys.
He has a mischievous twinkle in his eye, his personality, humour and generosity of spirit are instantly infectious.
He’s lived in Windsor Forks for most of his life, now just across the road from the house he was born in.
“I grew up on a mixed farm and we were in the process of building a dairy herd, and an old cow and I never did mix well,” Elliott says with a giggle. “I didn’t particularly care for grooming a cow; I liked machines better.”
Elliott grew up in the shadow of the Second World War, which saw a major transition between horse-power to metal and oil, and he enthusiastically embraced the new age.
“I dived in that direction as quickly as I could get there,” he said. “I was ready for the smell of burnt gasoline.”
Daniels’ family continued to raise cows for a time, but they also looked ahead, encouraging the children to think beyond the herd.
“As soon as we were able to get out a little bit on our own, we built glassed-in greenhouses and grew vegetables,” he said. “That was wonderful, except it was a crop and a half a year and there was a long period of time when things just weren’t working well.”
They began the greenhouse project in the late 1950s, which lasted until approximately 2000.
They eventually approached Avon Valley Greenhouses and started growing flowers for them as well as their vegetable crop. It was going well for a time, but that eventually changed as modern transportation transformed the industry.
But he and his wife Jean decided to open Daniels Flower Shop, which still operates today in downtown Windsor.
Another turn, as Daniels describes it.
Ever the entrepreneur, Elliott gravitated towards construction and opened a company of his own.
“I thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it,” he said. “I was a better operator of the machinery than a manager.”
Bulldozers and backhoes and other machines were his world, a whirling dervish of gears, oil and springs.
A WORKING MAN
Wanting a break from being his own boss all the time, Elliott eventually took a position at the Halifax Dockyard as a safety officer.
But it wasn’t long before he found himself starting another venture.
“Because I had to travel to the city every day, I didn’t care much for travelling alone, and I suddenly found myself in the busing business, with a 15-passenger van,” he said.
Soon, D-Line Services Ltd. was born, which he would eventually sell to another driver of his and turn it into the Green Rider, which still operates today.
Never worried about getting his hands dirty, Elliott also played a role with developing Ski Martock’s lift system and sculpting the land.
“It gave me something to do that didn’t actually tie me down to a life’s work,” he said. “I loved that ability to go from one project to another.”
At a point, Elliott was licensed to use dynamite for the project, something his daughter Jennifer says was a bit of a running joke in the family for a time.
Elliott also helped to found the West Hants Historical Society and as the former chairman of the building committee, he helped turn a former church into a fully functioning museum, which was no easy task.
“It has taken a lot of time, but, it was a good time and I enjoyed every bit of it,” he said. A constant theme of his labours.
But before all that, Elliott said he had a spell of ‘itchy-foot’ disease and wanted to head out and see the country with his own eyes.
So, at 17, he got in a car with Earle Crowe and they set off for opportunity and adventure.
“We left for Alberta, and we took trips there during the fall season and worked on farms and various other things,” he said. “We were in British Columbia for a little while and did carpentry work for a while.”
One memory of that time that sticks out in Elliott’s mind is tying Christmas trees.
“I never expected to do that in my life; it was Kirk’s Christmas Tree Yard in Kamloops, and I spent a whole fall tying Christmas trees,” he said.
“That in itself was enlightening and something I know I’d never have done at home,” he said.
“I found that it was broadening, it gave you insight into almost everything that goes with becoming an adult and maintaining yourself,” he said. “It’s a bit hard to describe, but because we drove there in a car, we went through all of those communities between here and the West Coast.”
It was his first time outside of Nova Scotia, and it was an eye-opening experience.
“One day we were driving, and we looked at a distant mountain and we saw all of these massive faces carved in it, and I had never heard tell of that before, but it was the presidents of the United States, it was Mount Rushmore,” he said.
“And the badlands of South Dakota and then up into the farmlands of Alberta. It gave us an idea of how those people lived. It was a vast contrast between what I grew up in and what I encountered when I got up there,” he continued.
“Quite frankly, I loved it.”
Daniels tries to keep busy, but now at 90, it gets a little more difficult every day. He points to his intricately carved cane as a way to keep gravity from winning.
He’s a loyal patron of Tim Hortons, stopping in several times a week. The staff and fellow customers have become “almost a family” to him.
“At this stage of the game, I don’t want to get involved in too many big projects,” he said.
He also visits his sister Betty twice a week in Kentville.
He used to help out with delivering flowers from Daniels Flower Shop to customers but has stepped away from that role. He thinks back fondly on that time.
“There’s no satisfaction like taking the lady of the house a bouquet of flowers, no matter who sent them,” he said with a giggle. “After all, you are the face that they see. So many of them are so appreciative and friendly. I miss that very much.”
On the whole, Daniels said he has great pride in the wider community. “We’ve been a very industrious lot.”
It’s fair to say that Elliott has been a pretty industrious person too, looking back at all of the things he’s had a hand in establishing in the community.
“I had a wife that said, ‘get at it,’” he said. “And my parents encouraged every bit of ingenuity that they could pry out of you. It paid off.”
Jennifer Daniels, Elliott’s daughter and current owner of Daniels Flower Shop, said her dad is a familiar face to many, no small thanks to his signature hat.
“He left a mark, but I never really thought about it that way, you just sort of grow up around it and it’s the norm,” Jennifer said. “He even ran for municipal politics; unfortunately, didn’t win.”
But after Jennifer was first elected, representing the Windsor Forks area, one of the first things she thought was that her dad could live vicariously through her experience.
“I’ve gone to him for advice and talked things over before many times,” she said.
Jennifer said her father’s flower delivery was a real treat to witness, not just for him, but for the customers too.
“It made the gift of giving that much more special,” she said.
“A lot of people didn’t know his name but knew him as the man with the little pom-pom hat,” she continued.
“He would get thank you cards, tins of cookies; he faired very well delivering the arrangements,” she said with a laugh.