WEST PUBNICO, N.S. – Through four generations and almost 50 years, Nancy d’Entremont has seen a lot of changes as bookkeeper for Inshore Fisheries Ltd. in West Pubnico, Yarmouth County.
D’Entremont began her career with Inshore Fisheries in February 1969, working for Mercedes d’Entremont and her business partner Lester d’Entremont.
“The office was in her house,” recalls d’Entremont. And the pay was good. “I started at $40 a week.”
In those days, buying and selling lobsters was the main focus of the company.
“It was very different than it is today,” says d’Entremont. “When we did payroll, it was all cash. We had to figure out how many $20s, $10s, $5s and how many coin to get and go to the bank and get it. We paid everything with cash.
“We had a plant in Jordan Bay and we would send the driver down with a bag of cash. We always had these big amounts of cash to deal with. If we tried to do that today, it would take forever, of course they weren’t making the money they do today, and the catches were nothing comparted to what they are today.”
With lobsters fetching about 50 cents a pound back then it certainly was a very different type of fishing than it is now, says d’Entremont.
Getting used to a computer was a big change, she says. Aside from dealing in cash, back in the day all the ledgers and books were kept by hand so it meant a lot of writing.
“Now it’s all computerized,” says d’Entremont. “Even in the plant itself, our machines to cut fish over the years have improved,” as has the freezers, ice plants and other components.
Mercedes’ three sons Larry, Eric and Bernadin were the next generation of the family to operate Inshore Fisheries.
“Larry ran the fresh fish plant so he wasn’t right with us in the lobsters,” says d’Entremont. “The other two boys were in the lobsters.”
During the 1970s, the company got out of the lobster buying business as well as salt fish production, and concentrated their efforts on fresh fish production. D’Entremont made the move to the office at the plant on the Dennis Point wharf. The main species processed at the time was yellow tail flounder.
“That was our big thing for many years. It wasn’t haddock,” says d’Entremont. “After Georges Bank got divided, it seems all the yellow tail flounder stayed on their (U.S.) side more than they stayed on our side. Now we do a lot of haddock. We have three boats, draggers, and buy a lot of fish from other plants that don’t do processing.”
The haddock is processed into fillets and a lot is sold locally to restaurants as well as local major grocery chains like Sobeys. Some is also shipped to Boston and as far as Ontario.
“We used to freeze a lot of fish,” says d’Entremont. “We still freeze a bit but nothing like we used to do.”
By the 1980s it was time for the next generation of d’Entremonts to take over the helm at Inshore Fisheries with four cousins Shawn (Eric’s son) Jean Guy (Larry’s son) and Yvon and Claude (Bernadin’s sons). After a few years Jean Guy left so it was the three of them for many years.
Over the years, Inshore Fisheries has grown into one of Yarmouth County’s largest employers, with close to 100 employees on shore and on the water.
“Our captains have been the same captains for many years,” says d’Entremont. “We don’t have a big turnover on our boats.”
In the plant there are about 75 people employed year-round, but as is the nature of the fishing industry, it all depends on the weather related. If the boats can’t go out, there’s no work.
Throughout the decades, and the business’s family generations, d’Entremont has been a constant in the office for Inshore Fisheries.
“I’ve enjoyed my work. They are a great bunch of guys to work with. They’re very accommodating, very good. I can’t speak highly enough of them,” she says. “Obviously, they’re doing something good if I stayed here this many years.”
The feeling is mutual.
“She’s been a loyal employee forever,” says Shawn d’Entremont. “She might know us better than we know ourselves because I’ve never known anybody in this capacity except Nancy since I started. When we come to work we never have to worry about the office. We could concentrate on the other things we had to do. The administration was well taken care of. We never had any problems. That means a lot.”
When asked if Nancy is like family, “Absolutely,” says Shawn.
“She’s very close to our workers as well. Our workers see her a close friend, the captains, especially, who have been with us for many years. She’s a very good listener and caring person. A good sounding board. It’s going to be different that’s for sure.”
The difference he talks about is when Nancy leaves.
She will be officially retiring in February, 2018, marking 49 years as the bookkeeper for Inshore Fisheries, but not before working with a fourth generation of the d’Entremont family; Shawn’s two sons Marc and George, and Yvon’s son Andre.