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Long-time Charlottetown Chinese food waitress heads into retirement Sept. 27

After 44 years on the job as a waitress at Unique Wok in Charlottetown, Jean Pineau will retire on Sept. 27. She calls most of her shifts as being chaotic, but fun and wouldn’t change a thing.
After 44 years on the job as a waitress at Unique Wok in Charlottetown, Jean Pineau will retire on Sept. 27. She calls most of her shifts as being chaotic, but fun and wouldn’t change a thing. - Dave Stewart

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — After 44 years of what she calls fun chaos, Jean Pineau, 69, of Long Creek is hanging up her apron as a waitress at a long-time Charlottetown restaurant.

Pineau will finish off her last shift at Unique Wok, previously known as the Golden Wok and also Union Wok, on Sept. 27.

She jokes that much of what she’s seen over the years isn’t fit to put in a newspaper, but she’s loved every minute of working at the Chinese food restaurant.

Pineau said at one time there were only two Chinese restaurants in town, Unique Wok and the Canton Café, both popular spots with the late-night bar hopping crowd — all in search of some egg rolls, rice and sweet and sour chicken.

“Just foolish young fellows,’’ she laughed in an interview. “One fellow got up and danced on the table one Saturday night, it was just crazy. I’ve seen lots of action, lots of fights. I think I worked about 10 years (on) nights and we had the police a lot. They couldn’t control the young fellows at all. Not only the young fellows, the women too.’’

Until Pineau hit 60, a typical shift for her would be 5 p.m. to almost 4 a.m.

“And we never sat down. Many a time if we got a bite to eat we’d eat standing up because it was so busy. It was packed continuously and around 2:30, 3 o’clock (in the morning) they’d be lined up out the door and up the street. It was just chaos, chaos, and I loved it. I love working with the girls.

“You had to have a good time in order to get through the shift. We’d have four waitresses on and never stopped. You’d be so tired at night you could hardly see.’’

Pineau would head home, have a shower and go to bed, so tired she could still feel her feet moving. Then she was up at 6:30 a.m. to get her kids off to school. A nap in the afternoon would help. Then, many times, it was back to work.

And, on to more oddities.

“We used to have a lot of people try to get out and not pay but we knew who was going to do it. If they ordered great big meals . . . you just knew . . . so, we’d lock the door,’’ she laughed. “Sometimes, they’d make a run for it and hit that door. They never knew it was locked.’’

Pineau said the Chinese food restaurant business has changed a lot in Charlottetown over her career. It’s not just Canton and Unique Wok anymore. She estimates there are 12 Chinese food restaurants now in Charlottetown.

After retirement, Pineau said she’s going to head out to British Columbia to spend some time with her daughter before returning to P.E.I. Then, she’ll spend her time with her grandkids and hit the coffee shops with friends.

Pineau said she won’t miss the chaos. She’s ready for a rest.

“I’ve always enjoyed it, but my time is up. I’m tired.’’

dave.stewart@theguardian.pe.ca

Twitter.com/DveStewart

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