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Cannery work remembered

By Arnold C Anderson


February 18, 2014
Tuesday PM

Many years ago in 1948 I went to Ketchikan Alaska to work in the Ketchikan Packing Company. I was a college kid out of work and had gone up there at my own expense.

It was a time when fish traps were allowed for their last year. The traps were used everyday except Sunday. It was amazing how many fish were caught and were brought in by fish trap tenders

I was a part of the gurry gang, who had a job of unloading the fish. There were three of us in the gang. There was Leonard Barnhill, a college kid, myself Arnold Anderson, and Bob Hind, an Englishman. They said he was a remittance man.

At first our job was just a clean the place up get ready for the Pack. When the fish began to come they poured through in quantity and we worked day and night to unload them. We had one large scow, many times filled to the brim with salmon. Other little boats called tenders had fish in their hold that had to be thrown out onto a conveyor affair that would carry them up into the cannery. A belt carried the fish through the cannery where Bob and a Filipino would sort them into different bins as fast as they came through.

Barnhill and I did the hard work of unloading the fish into the cannery by means of a conveyor working as fast as we could.

Some days and nights we had but one meal to eat and we'd be hungry and tired but that didn't make any difference, so we drank coffee. The coffee just about chewed a hole my stomach when what it needed was food.

The pack was to last 4 weeks. One weekend no fish were brought in because they didn’t Braille on Saturday or Sunday, the cannery put up over half 1 million cans.

The bookkeeper was a fellow by the name of McGee,; that is all I know about him everyone lived in the cannery. Most of the work dealing with flaying and preparing salmon for market was done by the Filipino crew, which had a good union and had their own cook.

I came to know Ernie Dobzinski when we were preparing the fish traps; that took about two days of hard work. Ernie was a quiet fellow, and wore glasses. His brother always wanted to go fishing for Coho.

Leonard Barnhill went on to become a physician. I lost track of him after he graduated. His wife passed away sometime later for some reason.

I worked for Ketchikan Packing Company only one summer but that gave me enough money to cover me for two years at the University of Washington. I was graduated from the U December 1950. By this time I was 25 years old.

I wish that I could go back and visit the old Russian Orthodox church that belonged to the Russians before Alaska was purchased by the United States.

The Dobzinski family was left over from the time when Imperial Russia owned Alaska.

Arnold C Anderson
Bellevue, Washington



Received February 13, 2014 - Published February 18, 2014


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