Maritime Packers in 1950
Laura Langille was 16 years old when she went to work for Maritime Packers in 1950. She worked as a “cookee” or cook’s assistant in Cape Tormentine, New Brunswick where her mother was the cook. Over the years, she worked in fishermen cookhouses at Cape John, Toney River and Caribou. At the Caribou factory there were 400 men and women working in the processing and canning of lobster. The plant there also processed scallops and herring. In the fall there were times when she worked on herring at Caribou, peeling the skins, pickling the fish in vinegar and salt to make Solomon Gundy.
When Laura started working she earned wages of $55 a month. At the Caribou factory people came from Shediac, Yarmouth, Charlos Cove and other fishing communities along the Northumberland shore and the South Shore of Nova Scotia. Her day started at 5:45 a.m. when breakfast was prepared. Breakfast was served at 7 a.m. and the menu consisted of biscuits, eggs, jam, bologna, baked beans, oatmeal, ham, bread and always stewed prunes and gingerbread. Lunch was the main meal of the day. It was served at noon sharp and sometimes included dozens of chickens, half sides of pork or beef, cod, stew, potatoes, vegetables, pies, cakes, cookies. It was hard work at the factory but people never went hungry.
In Caribou, Acadians from New Brunswick made up a large contingent of the seasonal workers. They would all have a great time in the evenings. Everyone from fishermen, cooks, and workers would cram into the bunkhouse and play guitars and fiddles and have a sing song. Although people worked hard and long 12 hour days, they enjoyed themselves and made their own fun.