Cape Breton's Magazine

> Issue 69 > Page 75 - George Leonard & the Fish Business

Page 75 - George Leonard & the Fish Business

Published by Ronald Caplan on 1995/8/1 (203 reads)

respect, or was it really an art?) Oh, it was an art--absolutely. And they could do it with their eyes closed. But they would sometimes make a mistake--it could happen! But it's certainly an art and a skill, very definitely. The guy off the street can't do that, and bring it up to speed, so that he can earn his pay. For instance, spent a good many weeks be? ing trained. How to even keep the knife sharp is a big proposition. You know, we never had anything more than a steel. And if you've ever tried to sharpen a knife with a steel, you know, there's a knack to that. Things like that. (How did these men feel about--were they old men or middle-aged men or kids your own age who were teaching you?) It was a mixture. I well remember that. There was a mixture. A few older men, and there were a few younger men around my age. But there seemed to be a mixture. And eventually, when I got involved in running the place, we taught women to fi? let fish. And they could do it just as well as men, but they couldn't do it as fast. Then we got into trouble with the unions, because of the equal-pay-for- equal-work proposition--so we had to give it up. (Oh, you couldn't give women equal pay because they couldn't produce what a man....) Couldn't produce as fast as a man. They could do it as well. In other words, there's a certain yield that you're supposed to get off a fish. And they could certainly do that as well as a man. But they couldn't get the speed up. This was the base of the problem. And the water was cold, my dear. Cold wa? ter coming in with these--everything was flumed by water, right out of the taps. You know, in the wintertime, coming from Pottle's Lake out there. (That's here in North Sydney.) Here in town, yeah. I don't think the women or anybody else appreciat? ed that too much. Cold water. (So you had to give up hiring women to do the work.) Doing that particular job, be? cause there was just no way-ryou were in conflict with the unions. And quite right? ly so. So, just forget it. (Your father--did he want you to go out there and get tough, and really learn? ...You're 16. Were you out of school al? ready?) No. I used to work in the summer? times. And I used to buy fish, when I was 16, 17. Go out with the people that he had been buying, in the little buying sta? tions. We always had a man in Ingonish. I spent a summer down there with him. I had lots of fun, but at the same time we had to work. I well remember that. There was no electricity in Ingonish in those days. All we had was a little gasoline genera? tor. Almost burned the place down, getting that going one night! (Fileting fish, that's all right. You could learn that watching, I suppose.) No, no. You have to do it. There's no way you can--you had to learn the game from the bottom up. (How did you learn--when you filet fish, did you have to pack it, too?) No, no. No, no. The fillet itself goes to the skinning person--person who's taking the skin off it. And very quickly after that, they had skinning machines coming in, made in Germany. But before that, there were men that did it. And there used to be--I well remember, there was one guy skinning for every two men cutting. And that's what it took. And they could take that skin off a fish--you wouldn't believe (the speed)--off a filet. And the skin actually went to--was taken over to a big saltfish tank that would hold about 30,000 pounds, and salted in the tanks. And eventually taken and shipped by carload. And we dealt with an outfit in Bedford, I think it was. And they used to take those fish skins and they would make glue out of them. They would make fish glue. That's what happened to the skins. Interesting. (I see. What about the bones--what was happening to them?) They went into fish meal. They were taken out to the fish- meal plant--the bones, and the head--they call it the "frame," actu? ally, is the right Leather Works by John C. Roberts Buckets Visit Workshop and Store at • INDIAN BROOK • CAPE BRETON ISLAND BOC IHO On Cabot Trail between Baddeck & Ingonish DAILY 9-5 SUNDAY 10-5 (May thru Oct] Telephone (902) 929-2414 PIPER'S TRAILER COURT Featuring: Fully Licensed Dining Room Laundromat Mini-Mart Ocean-Side Campsites Swimming Pool 929-2233 929-2067 Indian Brook on the Cabot Trail (Halfway between Baddeck and ingonish) From either direction on the Cabot Trail, plan for comfort and welcome Piper's Old Manse GUESTHOUSE with Bed and Breakfast , OPEN YEAR ROUND ,
Cape Breton's Magazine
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