BY LAURENT d'ENTREMONT
As of the year 2014, it will mark the twenty-fifth year that my features have appeared in the Yarmouth Vanguard.
In the last 10 years many of my features have also appeared in the Annapolis Valley Transcontinental papers.
If we go back some years and on a much smaller scale, I began writing around 1970 when I wrote and published a small booklet called “The Two Acre Farm.” Happily, it was well received and I’m sure that every older home in the Pubnicos and area has a copy. This was not my best writing but it was a start on something dear to me, saving my grandfather’s stories.
Other articles were published over the years, but my writing never really caught on until my stories began appearing in the Yarmouth paper.
This is how my feature writing all began; or at least this is how I remember it. On a hot sunny day I was at a summertime parade with my 1927 Model T Ford pickup truck. Along the parade route I came across a good looking young man, sporting a paint brush moustache and lugging enough cameras to sink a 14-foot dory.
“Want a ride?” I offered. I had never met him before but I asked if he was Fred Hatfield, the Vanguard editor? “The one and only,” he replied. We struck up a conversation and I told him I had just published an article in the Halifax papers called “The Busker from Port Hilford.” He had read it, he told me, and he said “Why don’t you write articles for our paper?”
Then he told me, our historian, Father Clarence d’Entremont was writing 100 historical pieces for the Vanguard and he (Fr. d’Entremont) had made it clear…100, not one less and not one more.
Fred felt that readers would love my Acadian tales. I was not so sure but I told the editor that I had enough material for two features and that I was willing to give it a try.
The first feature was not strictly an Acadian story, but all readers could connect with this one. It was about 85-year-old Wilf Carter who was touring the Maritimes on his farewell tour. I had spoken with him in Kentville earlier and had plenty to write about. My next feature was about Adelbert d’Eon and his many careers. He was 78 then, with no plans to retire, although he had sold his restaurant and motel business. My feature was mostly about his bus-building business, how they had built the first “shopmobiles” for the education department of our province. They had also built the first Walter Callow coaches for disabled veterans at their West Pubnico shop. A young reporter, Eric Bourque, came to Pubnico and took some pictures to go with my feature. A few years later, a very young Tina Comeau took pictures as I drove a Model T fire truck near the Firefighters Museum and I wrote about it later. (Vanguard gardening articles by Carla Allen started appearing at about the same time.)
At first my features were rather long, with lots of details, perhaps unnecessary details. It took me a while to catch on that shorter articles had a much better chance of being published as space is of the essence in newspapers. Another thing that I noticed is that people like to read about themselves or about things that they already know. In the hundreds of articles published, I don’t think there was one that I did not hear from readers afterwards. Many times these conversations gave me enough details for the next feature. In the hundreds of “old timers” (anyone older than me) that I interviewed I never met one who would not talk fondly about the old days. All volunteered, with pride, pictures and showed scrapbooks. “We were young back then” is a line I heard many times.
Some of these stories would have been lost forever: Regina d’Entremont at 95, told me about the little ferry boat and the first gasoline lobster boat in West Pubnico. Lorette d’Entremont at 98, her son Delbé and Roseline LeBlanc were like encyclopedias. They knew dates and details and had pictures about a much earlier Acadie. Lorette told me what Christmas was like during her school days. Edouard S. d’Entremont from Lower East Pubnico explained about the ice houses and the “Henry T store”. Jerome d’Entremont, Hilaire Pothier and Mandee d’Entremont were World War One veterans with good stories to tell. Desire’ d’Eon had French articles in “Le Petit Courrier” dating back to 1937; he was very helpful as well. There were hundreds of others, no longer living.
Some became main players in my features, like my farmer/fisherman grandfather Adolph; Robbie the blacksmith, Stillman the barber and his wife Rosa. There was Reggie the barrel fixer, who enjoyed the occasional “nip” of the good stuff, in the barn, with my grandfather.
These and many more are the people who contributed to my writing. I’m grateful to all of them and especially to Fred and Belle Hatfield and Tina Comeau who put my articles in print (about 250 so far) for all to read.
And to the readers – to one and all a big Thank You! Now onto the next 250 features.