Page 3 - Lobster Factories around Cape Breton
ISSUE : Issue 20
Published by Ronald Caplan on 1978/8/1
weighed and finally a pickle went on every can. We used to use the ocean water, that would be best. And we'd have a special ladle to put it in. And then another woman covered it with a paper liner and the top went on. It sounds important, but any of the women could do it. I didn't have a special job, but I used to try to get to the claws. Because you would have to be pretty quick at the tails to keep the one that was packing going. I guess she would get three tails into a pound can, two in the half-pound can. Of course it was the big lobsters that were going in the pound can. You'd have to work pretty fast to keep her going. And picking, too. I used to take a spell at picking. You didn't have to work so fast at the claws. The women would have to wear caps, we used to call them dust caps, we'd make them at home. There'd have to be elastic to keep them on. And we'd have to wear white ap? rons over the dress. It wasn't hot there. (Jessie Mary MacLeod told us that at D. B.'s lobster factory, Breton Cove, it would in fact be quite cool, for the sake of keeping the lobster fresh. A stove was kept in a separate room off the factory, and the workers would go there or to the boiler for a short spell, to warm their hands.) We'd have the door open that led out to the pond, and I didn't seem to mind it then. And the work would be pretty steady from the time the lobsters came in till about 4 or 5?? I suppose. Depend on the amount of lobster that came in. D. J.: The women used to be through when they'd be all through packing the cans • they would go home. But the men would have to stay and put those cans through. We'd have to finish each day's lobsters every day. There was no refrigeration. One man, the sealer, would be sealing all the cans, soldering them as they came from the pack? ing room, full cases. In those days the covers went down inside the can. And there was no word those days about a sealing machine. They'd have to do it by hand. Seal the cover, put lead all around the The crew at the lobster factory located at Wreck Cove Shore. Photo was ta- lid. They used a soldering iron. Oh, there was a lot of work to that. When they had so many cases, the men were putting the cans down in the other vat of water. They'd have to boil the sealed can for 2i hours. They'd be in for an hour and a half first. Then they'd take them all out and the cans would be put on racks. And a man would come along with a thing • a wooden handle in it and a little nail. He'd have to brogue every can to let the steam out of it. Brogue • that's what they called it. The cans when they came from the vat would kind of bulge out • till you put the little hole in it. Then the man who was soldering the tops on would come back and solder shut those little holes. Then those cans would have to all go back in the water a- gain, into the vat, and boil for another hour. It was 2i hours in all. Then they'd leave them till morning to cool. The men could go home then. It was those vats in the first years. Then came the steam boiler and the retort. The first modern method after the metal vat was the wooden vats with steam. They had one for cooking the lobsters and one for the cans. We built the v/ooden boxes here. There were pipes in the bottom with holes in them and the steam would come out of those holes. Cold water was put into the vats and then the steam would be turned onto the vat and within 20 minutes that water would be boiling. This would be done before the smacks would come in with the lobsters. They'd keep the steam boiler up. And water going into that wooden vat every day kept it tight • it would never leak. And the other wooden vat was for the cans. They'd be lowered in a kind of cage into it with ropes. Then came the retort • it used dry steam instead of the water process. The cans went down into the retort. You'd load pans with cans and there'd be four pans to fill the retort. Then you'd close the cover and tighten it down airtight. But of course steam makes water, so there'd be a valve ken about 1907; factory closed about 1911- Left to right; Kenny MacQueen, Katie MacAskill, John Morrison, Christie Ann MacLeod, John Robinson (owner, from Guysborough). Katie Ann MacQueen, Nor? man MacAskill, Katie Ann MacDonald (?).
Cape Breton's Magazine