Nick Mavar was interviewed on August 9, 2018 by Anjuli Grantham at his home in Anacortes, Washington. In this interview, Nick talks about his career as a commercial fisherman in Bristol Bay, Alaska. He discusses fishing for canneries versus being an independent fisherman, what it was like living in a cannery bunkhouse and eating at their mess hall, how changes in processing techniques drove changes in fishing equipment, and how fishermen fought for and negotiated over the price of the fish harvested.
Digital Asset Information
Project: <NN> Cannery History Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Aug 9, 2018
Narrator(s): Nick Mavar
Interviewer(s): Anjuli Grantham
Transcriber: Emily Mueller
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Personal background and growing up in Croatia
Immigrating to the United States and getting into commercial fishing
Starting to fish in Alaska
Starting to fish in Bristol Bay, and types of fishermen encountered
Leasing a fishing boat from a local cannery, and relationship between fishermen and cannery
Living at the cannery
First season fishing in Bristol Bay
Fishing gear and nets, and how they were maintained
Learning about Bristol Bay fishing from more experienced fishermen
Switching canneries, going to work for Alaska Packers Association (APA), and differences between canneries
Building his own boat versus leasing a boat
Fishermen's strike over prices in 1969
Becoming a delegate in the Alaska Independent Fishermen's Association and negotiating with canneries over prices, fishing methods, and harvest limits
Fishermen strikes, and continued negotiations
Benefits of boat ownership
Services cannery provided to fishermen, and off-season boat storage
Fishing out of South Naknek, staying in a cannery bunkhouse, and using a net locker
Eating at the cannery mess hall
Describing his boats, and boat maintenance
Hiring his fishing crew
Taking his sons fishing
Response of fishermen in Bristol Bay to presence of foreign fishing fleet, and effect of protection efforts
Fisheries issues in Alaska, such as price fixing
Effect of changes in fish processing on fishermen, and opposition to farmed fish
King salmon fishing, and timing of different salmon seasons
Cash buyers versus cannery buyers
Timing of when traveled to Bristol Bay, getting ready for the start of the fishing season, and putting everything away at the end of the season
Working in the off-season
Crab fishing in Kodiak, death of fishermen, and fishing safety
Types of communication used
Receiving mail at the cannery, and buying food at the cannery store
Life in the bunkhouse, and relationship with people in the village of South Naknek
Differences in the cannery between different owners
Stopped fishing in Bristol Bay, and changes in fishing and processing over the years
Importance of the South Naknek cannery
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ANJULI GRANTHAM: It is August 9th, 2018. My name is Anjuli Grantham, and I am in Anacortes, Washington with Mr. Nick Mavar. NICK MAVAR: Mm-hm. ANJULI GRANTHAM: This interview is taking part -- is -- is part of the NN Cannery History Project.
And Nick, I'm hoping you can begin by talking about when and where you were born and a bit about your childhood.
NICK MAVAR: I was born in Croatia on Dugi Otok, which translation's "Long Island." And my dad used to have grape farm and olive tree farm, and we had a little boat to catch some fish.
As a early child, when I used to go to school there, in grade school, we used to put books away, and when we come home, dad used to say, "You have to work. If you don't work, you cannot eat."
So, soon as we used to come from school, my -- I had my brother and me, and cousins that live in same -- same family -- same family house.
And after -- after grade school, I went to city to get high -- in high school. And after high school I went to technical school, which is in city of Zadar, Z-A-D-A-R.
And then after that I went capital Croatia, which was Zagreb, and I finished technical school and -- or college, and after that --
And there was communist regime there, and we -- most young people tried to get out from country, which was Yugoslavia that time. But, Croatia was one of the states that was -- that was within Yugoslavia.
And, we were lookin' -- I was lookin' to get -- get 'way from there, and I got permission somehow to go in France, and to be on the -- because I have some knowledge of the maritime and technical school, that I could be employee on the boat. On the foreign ships.
And that didn't happen, so I went in France with the -- some of the frie -- my friends -- friends -- in France with my friends for about two years.
And then I have uncle in California, which he used to have a tuna boat. Which was -- his name was Bob Mavar. M-A-V-A-R. And he said, "Would you like to come United States?"
After I was eighteen months or two years there, I said, "I would." And as an immigrant you have to wait long time, because that was long procedure.
But then -- then I came as a foreign student. And I came, actually, from Le Havre to New York in a American ship, which was "S.S. America."
It took us about -- I think about eight days to came from Le Havre, New York.
And at the ship, I met American students that we -- they'd lived in France, in Paris. So I say, "I can -- I don't know how to speak English, one word." So they translate for me.
I met them on the ship, they translate to American immigration from French to English, so they help me those first step to go through California.
Then when I came in California, I enroll in Long Beach State College. I took mechanical engineering for three years.
And part time I was fishing when I didn't go to school, and that's how I start fishin' there. And work in the cannery nighttime, when we used to work on machinery and so forth, so I could make some money for the rest -- for the school. It --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What year was it that you immigrated? NICK MAVAR: I immigrate in 1959. Day 59. I was in Paris for 'bout two years.
And when I came to San Pedro I have aunt in Gig Harbor, Washington. And during the summer, I didn't go to school, he said, "Would you like to come and make some money in summertime in Washington?" And that's how I was introduced into commercial fishing, beginning with in state of Washington.
And from then on, I went to southeast Alaska for 'bout, two, three years, then after that I start fishin' in Bristol Bay.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: OK. But you were still living in San Pedro at -- at -- in the early years of your -- NICK MAVAR: Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: -- fishing career? NICK MAVAR: Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: OK.
NICK MAVAR: And after I was married, I -- we had two kids, and one was on the way, I say I'm going -- I'm going north. I put everything in U-Haul, we have apartment down there. There was --
My oldest kid was almost three years old, Brian. Nicky was about nine months old, and one was on the way.
And everybody say, "Oh, Nick, you crazy. Yeah, you put in everything U-Haul, you --" I say, 'I'm leavin', I'm goin' north." I didn't like California anymore.
That's how I got introduced to Washington, and after that to Alaska and Bristol Bay.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. Mm-hm. So, you said that you started fishing in Alaska in southeast. Were you a salmon fisherman to begin with, or -- ? NICK MAVAR: Yeah, I fished with the other people in the seining. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm.
NICK MAVAR: And that was just two, three years. But was -- rain over there like forty days and forty nights in southeast Alaska, so I didn't care that much for it.
Then, some of our friends was in California. He was building boats for Alaska, for the Bristol Bay. And he asked me, would I like to go fishin'?
And a after -- his name was Tony Ruich (sp?). He was Croatian, too. And he was buildin' wood boats.
In 1964, I went to Egegik. That's my first year of fishin'. And we leased the boat. I didn't have my own boat.
And 1969, first time I build the "Brian NJ," which is my son's name. On the bo -- ANJULI GRANTHAM: Brian NJ. NICK MAVAR: NJ. ANJULI GRANTHAM: OK.
NICK MAVAR: And I start fishing kings in Nushagak after that. That time we were -- most guys were fishin' alone on the kings. That was before sockeye season. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok.
NICK MAVAR: And was fishin' like at three, four weeks before -- before the salmon -- before sockeye starts.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. So, before you went to Bristol Bay, what was the reputation, or what did you think that you would encounter when you went up there? What did you hear from your friends that were fishermen up there?
NICK MAVAR: Well, it's not just that they were makin' some money, but it was more like camaraderie and everybody kinda tried to help each other in the fishin' industry.
And he said -- he'd say, "You gonna have great time." There is -- you know, we have -- that time cannery was open. There was mess hall, there were -- we were all together. We used to have barbecue on the beach in front of Alaska Packers there.
All the people that were workin' there mostly students in summertime, mostly college girls and boys. And we used to bring salmon there, put big fire on the beach in front of Alaska Packers, and have -- everybody have good time.
We have -- used to -- company used to supply sometime -- whether it's Fourth of July or -- holiday, they used to supply some beer, some soft drinks, and we used to just make fire on the front of Alaska Packers. And everybody get together.
Cannery workers, superintendent, everybody. Was kind of those days of together. Now is a little bit different. In the same wall (Interesting wall?), different direction. But from beginning everybody was together.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. Mm-hm. And when you first went up there -- Could you talk about what -- the fleet? Was it a lot of Croatians, or were there a few Croatians? What did you encounter as far as the other fishermen?
NICK MAVAR: I think at first I met some Italians. Actually, they speak French.
I went to Egegik -- When I was fishing Egegik, I got tangled up with the -- he name -- his name was Pierre. I don't know his last name.
We got tangled up in the nets, and he was speaking French. And he was from Algiers. Right? That time, I think France -- that was France colony, in Algiers that time.
And I was hollering you -- you know, in English, "We got tangled up in nets." And he said, "Oh, no." He was hollering, you know, and I say, ''You speak in French!" He say, "Oh, oui, oui, oui!"
Then I start speaking French with him. But that time was more Italians than Croatians that I met.
But there was about -- Croatians that have a boats are around twenty, twenty-five or thirty boats that they have that time. And that was in early '70s -- '60s and '70s. That time.
After that, some of them -- well they -- they retired, they have different pro -- professions. Some of them give up fishing and -- and they give their relatives or son permit or so forth.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm. You said that you first leased a boat. Did you lease it from a friend, or was it a -- a cannery boat?
NICK MAVAR: Actually, we lease from Brindle (superintendent of the cannery), from Red Salmon (cannery), boat. And I think we fish couple a years for them. 19 --
First time we went to Alaska Packers was 1983, I think. From -- Whitney-Fidalgo (Seafoods) was up north, and I moved -- Gary Johnson was superintendent that time in South Naknek, and I think I contact him, he said "Nick, why don't you come? You got -- You boys start fishin', why don't you come to South Naknek?" And that's how I move.
And Gary was really good with us, as a superintendent. Of course later, was (Chuck) Bundrant on, you know -- he bought Alaska Packers and that evolved again in different direction.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm. What was your relationship with the -- with the Red Salmon when you first started, and leasing the boat? Ho -- What sort of relationship did you as a fisherman have with the cannery?
NICK MAVAR: With the cannery, we used to have -- We live in the cannery, we liv -- cannery used to own the boats. There was --
They called them "yellow bellies," they call them. Because they were all same color. They -- They were yellow color, all the cannery boats.
But after -- After 1960s, '70s, people -- I mean fishermen, start to buy their own boats, rather than leased from the cannery.
And cannery, they wanna keep the boats anymore because cost them lotta money, too. And they were concentrate most in canning fish that time.
They were canning fish and freezing fish rather than being the business with the boats. That's how fishermen start to buy their own boats.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm. And -- So, you would go out when there was an opener, and then would you deliver every day, an -- and then sleep in the bunkhouse, or how -- ?
What was the, kind of, day in the life of a fisherman back when you would live at the cannery? NICK MAVAR: Actually, we used to -- yeah. We --
Used to be open like, eight hours, or -- or twenty-four hours -- or depends how the fishin' goes. How much fish is there, or depends on Fish and Game. Whether there was no escapement first or between -- between fishing.
And we used to come and deliver, come in the cannery, tie the boats, and sleep in the bunkhouse.
And next opening -- when it's opening we just go on the boats and go out fishin', and next day come back in the cannery and sleep in the bunkhouse again.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Would you bring food from the mess hall out fishing with you? Would they have, like, a picnic lunch for you, available, or would you bring your own food out for -- for eating when you were fishing? NICK MAVAR: We used to bring --
We eat lot of fish. I prefer eat a lot of fish on the boat anyway.
And we used to buy some grocery from tenders where we deliver fish. If we -- If it's extended fishing, we stay on the fishing ground, we sleep on the boat.
If it's not -- If it's closed for day or two, we go -- we went to cannery and sleep in the bunkhouse 'til it's next opening.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. So, how was your first season fishing in Bristol Bay?
NICK MAVAR: First season in Bristol Bay we -- That was 6 -- 1964, I think. In Egegik. The -- There wasn't --
Not that much fish over there, but we used to come at the Coffee Point, which was Coffee Point, Egegik there. And on low tide we used to pull boats on the beach as much as we could.
And we used to go on the beach, make fire and, you know, go in Egegik, in town, and so forth. And -- And visit the Natives and talk to them and so forth.
We used to have good relation with the Eskimos there. They're so peaceful people. They -- They never have a problem with them.
No matter what you said they al -- always smile. And, actually, I can tell you that I --
When I learn mend the nets, I was young -- coming back to Croatia. My dad teach me. He used to get tangled up nets, you know, the -- that go on the bottom, you catch bottom fish.
And when I was probably ten, twelve years old, I learn how to patch and mend the nets and everything about nets. So, when I went to Alaska I teach Native how to mend the nets.
And after thirty years, he recognized me. Twenty or twenty-five years. And he said, "Nick, oh you -- " He -- "I gonna bring you some fish that I -- that I smoke." You know, Natives used to smoke.
That's my big present for you, because I remember you teach me in Nushagak how to mend the nets. A lot of them they didn't know, but I knew from my childhood how to mend the nets.
And I used to do for my boys and some other guys that -- when we used to have a time between fishing and sitting on the beach.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. Was there any -- did you discover that there were different techniques in net hanging and net mending between Croatia and Alaska? Or was it all the same? NICK MAVAR: It's all same technique. Well, maybe use different little bit technique.
But you have to mend the same nets, so it's pretty much same. All depends. Some people like to hang them, uh -- more tighter, some wider.
Some people think if you have a different setup, you -- your fish tangle up and you cannot take 'em so -- so quick out.
So, we used to have difference on how to hang sometimes. So, you can shake the fish out, instead of take every one out. So it's a little bit different technique between fishermen.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Did you -- Ha -- You had different gear for king fishing than you did for sockeye fishing? NICK MAVAR: Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm.
NICK MAVAR: Because mesh is much bigger. Is about -- 'bout seven, seven a half inches mesh, and for sockeye you have about five, five 'n a half -- five. It all depends.
Used to be illegal for different mesh. If you put different mesh, smaller or bigger. You have to have exactly what they prefer. Fisheries describe.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. Is that still the case? NICK MAVAR: Uh, no -- Yeah, for some -- To some degree, yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Hm-mm. NICK MAVAR: For different mesh.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Hm-mm. So how many nets would you use over the course of a season, usually? NICK MAVAR: Years ago we didn't u --
We used to mend them, you know. And we used to -- That's why I tell my boys, you know, we --
Of course, we had different fish areas that time, because we didn't compete on the line. Now everything is line fishermen.
We used to call those guys who fish on a line "shoemakers," because they don't know how to catch fish inside the bay. Rather, they have to go on the line and watch each other.
And seasoned fishermen who have lot of experience, they knew where -- when tide is right to fish, position where to fish, and so forth.
So, we used to differ from new fishermen that they come to fish from seasoned fishermen who knew where the fish is at any time.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. How did you learn that? NICK MAVAR: I learned from some of the old fishermen.
When I start fishing, you know, they tell you where the tide is, whether it's a low tide or high tide. Where fish come in the different channels at different time of the tide.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And who were some of these people that taught you? NICK MAVAR: There was some Italians that I was in the camp with them, and there was few Croatians.
But there was some Italians that I learned from quite a bit. 'Cause they were there long time and they were really good fishermen.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What was it -- Did they tell you about their stories, about how they came to Bristol Bay to begin?
NICK MAVAR: I think they came -- Some of them came in sailboats, then later on they have some they start with the powerboats. But I think first the -- when they come in the bay -- cannery, all -- all the boats, they used to come and fish for three, four wee -- or month, whatever fish is -- I mean, season.
And they used to load can or whatever, because they used to work for cannery, and they used to pay them so much, you know, for the season for the fish.
And plus, when they were working for the -- you know, to load the fish on the end of season, I think they paid them for that, too.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm. So, what was it that made you decide to stop working for Brindle and to move to a different cannery?
NICK MAVAR: I -- Because they -- on the Brindle we -- there was way in the river cannery and we didn't like -- Because you have to get out early on the tide and was way in the cannery. Not just because of that.
I -- I usually didn't care to fish for that cannery. I don't know, there're probably different reasons.
And there was some friends that I have in Alaska Packers. And there was li -- quite a few Croatians, old Croatians, fishermen before me, that were in Alaska Packers there, too.
And one of the reason is that, too. Not just that I didn't care for -- to fish for Red Salmon. But there was other interest that I knew some fishermen who work for Alaska Packers, and they were happy there. I mean, they liked to fish for them.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, after Red Salmon, you f -- where did you go after that? NICK MAVAR: Whitney-Fidalgo -- ANJULI GRANTHAM: Okay. NICK MAVAR: -- was on north side, which is Trident now. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Okay, mm-hm.
NICK MAVAR: And I was in '70s with them.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And what were the differences that you noticed between fishing for Red Salmon versus fishing for Whitney-Fidalgo?
NICK MAVAR: Whitney-Fidalgo was smaller company. There was only about thirty boats.
When we start fish in 1960 -- let me see -- 69 -- 1970 was big season there. They pay us dollar a fish at that time.
And there was about thirty boats in whole cannery, Whitney-Fidalgo.
And we produced more -- they were all -- they call us all "Highliners." Not that I'm bragging about, but there was 30, 40 boats.
We deliver more fish than some cannery that have hundred boats. 'Cause I remember I get 'bout 35,000 fish. That's 35,000 dollar.
That for 1970. That was "Brian NJ." And that was a high boat, I think. Highest boat in the cannery was guy from Lopez Island. I don't know his name. His name -- His name was John.
He got about forty -- forty. He was highliner, way high. And it was about 42,000 fish.
I got about 35. I was between ten -- ten, fifteen boats high -- you know, in middle of there.
But some of the guys have over 40,000. I think I got 35, but that was my second year with "Brian NJ," so I thought I did okay.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm, mm-hm. And so, working for a smaller operation, were there benefits to that?
NICK MAVAR: The -- Yeah, there was some benefits because there is less boats over there, you got better service sometime, and less -- less hassle to get out, to come in, to tie the boats for the cannery and so forth.
So, there's advantages, too, in that. And you can deliver fish faster if you don't have hundreds of boats, rather to have thirty boats.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Hm-mm. So, what was it that made you decide to build your own boat?
NICK MAVAR: Well, to lease the boat, you know, they -- you lease for the company, but there's company -- usually company -- But they didn't take care of those boats. So you have to put some money in it, and you own -- you don't own the boat, you have to pay for lease, plus what they take, you know, sometime price of fish is not very good.
So, you better off I think to -- to be on your own and -- and you -- you know your equipment. You can put on the boat whatever you want, rather than lease equipment or a boat from somebody else.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: How much was it to lease the boat? NICK MAVAR: I think we were a percentage. I think was like from beginning, one -- used to pay one-third I think. One-third of the catch, something like that.
And, some -- some people used to have different -- different cut. You know, depends maybe how much fish they catch, or they, you know, better superintendent, or they have better connection, then, you know, how -- that used to work that, too.
But usually they have pretty much set rules how, you know, how much they would be charging or not.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm. And how did you go about designing your boat?
NICK MAVAR: There was Commercial Marine Seattle. Dave Clark, he built commercial boats. Beautiful boats.
They have lot of flair. You can see it on "Brian NJ" there. And actually, I -- I --
That was better for the sea, for the ocean, as far as I'd seen. Wood boat and was fiberglass. 'Cause they -- they don't -- they hold --
When they sway, they have slow motion. And when you get fiberglass boat, they, you know, when it sways come they -- they go higher and there's more action to it than was wood boat.
And I used to fish for the kings about 30, 40 miles of in -- on the kings, because if it's calm weather we used to stay in the -- in the river. If it's calm weather, you cannot catch kings. But it have to start blowing.
I remember a friend of mine came from Croatia and he was fishing with his son. And he said, "You guys are crazy. In Croatia, when it's nice weather we go out. And you guys on (inaudible) when it’s nice weather, and you go out when it storm." I said, "Because we cannot catch fish when its calm weather."
King usually you go deep in the water and they come up and swim and you can catch 'em. That's a difference.
But that was funny how he put it. He said, "You guys are crazy. You go out when it's windy and you stay in when it's calmer there."
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So if the boat -- the "Brian NJ," that was a -- a wood boat then? Or -- NICK MAVAR: That was built by Dave Clark in Seattle at Commercial Marine. ANJULI GRANTHAM: And it was -- NICK MAVAR: I -- I -- ANJULI GRANTHAM: -- made of wood? NICK MAVAR: Made Alaska cedar. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Okay. Mm-hm.
NICK MAVAR: And I just bought hull, then I finish myself inside. And my dad came from Croatia that year. 1969. And you can see him probably in the picture there.
And he -- he helped me to finish the boat, too. And I brought him to Alaska. 1969.
He just came for a visit. And he was fishing with me, but we were on the strike that year. So he said, "What is a strike?" You -- You know, he came from communist country. You don't strike there. You go in jail if you strike.
He said, we strike because we didn't know the -- the price and fishermen usually stay together before they had -- before they got -- settle a price.
And actually, mention in Whitney-Fidalgo, I was one of the delegates on the board of directors for the fishermen. Fisherman association. We used to have -- not the union, but fisherman association, who -- boat owners.
And each cannery -- each cannery have so many representatives. We used to negotiate price, with -- whether it's Brindle, with Whitney-Fidalgo. Trident was at that time, when I was delegate.
We used to have meetings in wintertime, and in spring we used to negotiate. Whether it's Brindle, whether it's Peter Pan, we used to sit down on the table and we used to say, "This is much -- how much we should have."
If we can -- you know, because if our equipment cost that much, and if he don't make that much money, you know, relative what it is sold on the market, we cannot, you know, we cannot exist. I mean, we cannot produce as we should.
And we used to pretty much come to agreement. You know, sometime we have to argue, we have to -- and sometime we didn't have to go on the strike, because agreement between us, you know, maybe we are ten cents different, fifteen cents different. Then we settle it before fishing season start.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What was the name of the association? NICK MAVAR: AIFMA. Actually, MAFIA, when you -- Italians were mostly there in the -- AIFMA was a -- a fishermen's association. Alas -- Alaska --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Was it Independent? NICK MAVAR: Independent Fisherman Association. Yes. Alaska Independent Fishermen's Association.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And you said it was mostly Italians that took part? NICK MAVAR: Lot of Italians was helping to form that. Because, you know, they -- lot of them live in San Francisco, California, some of them.
Well, the shoremans, too, you know, and they had great -- good union, all the shoremans. And they usually learn from there and they bring that trait over there.
And I think they start -- Italians start thefisherman association.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And how were you recruited to take part in as a delegate? NICK MAVAR: We -- depends how many boats you have in the -- That time, we have about 40 boats in Whitney-Fidalgo? We start start with thirty, we get 45.
And whoever -- fishermen vote whoever it gonna be. And I was representing mostly Croatians that were fishermen there, too, but then everybody -- you know, they got -- you got two, three delegates and whoever have most votes he became delegate.
They call board of directors. But they -- we used to have meetings in wintertime and see what we gonna come up in the next season. ANJULI GRANTHAM: And so --
NICK MAVAR: We used to negotiate. Excuse me. We used to negotiate deliveries, how much we should have. Usually 12,000 pounds within 24 hours. 'Cause they used to put us on limit.
But we used to negotiate that we could have least 12,000 pounds within -- within deliveries. Whether it's 24 hours or eight hours period.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. So what else would you negotiate from the limits and price? Was -- Were there other things that you would negotiate as part of that?
NICK MAVAR: Actually, we did negotiate that you couldn't put net closer than 55 fathoms to the other fishermen. Now is -- we don't have that kind of association, so ever -- everything's mess.
You know, they cut each other, they net tangle up, and fisheries have to, you know, come on fisheries patrol and they got more mess now.
That time, we have pretty much a good relation between fishermen, between canneries. Cannery kept, kind of, or -- order, right order, something. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm, and --
NICK MAVAR: That's supposed to be part of association. Not just price, but, you know, between fishermen suggestions and, you know, and cooperation between fishermen.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: I see. And would you then only negotiate with Whitney-Fidalgo, because you fished -- you sold your fish to Whitney-Fidalgo? Or were you involved in the negotiations with other canneries? NICK MAVAR: With every can -- I was just delegate. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Okay.
NICK MAVAR: And we -- we used to have meeting with the other. Whether it's Brindle was that time, but there was Peter Pan, whoever was superintendent.
We used to negotiate with the -- all the canneries. Not just -- you are a part of delegate from that cannery, but the -- we were probably fifteen, twenty delegates, and we get -- get together to negotiate that.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. Were most of the delegates -- Did they live in Washington in the wintertime? Or -- NICK MAVAR: Yeah, some of them in California. And actually, we have meeting in San Francisco one year. One year in Portland. And one year in Water Edge in Seattle. You know, is hotel there.
And so, it's different places, depends -- depends on where the director choose where meeting gonna be.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And would it be the same agreement with every cannery then? NICK MAVAR: Yes. Will be the price for all the fishermen. Same price. At that time.
Later on, fish -- you know, association, you know, disappear. Not disappear, lot of people fish on the strike, and then some of them -- some of them did, and there was animosity between fishermen.
And that's how association kind of -- no disintegrate, they still have association, but not as many members now.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, you would know then before the season began, if you would be starting on a strike? NICK MAVAR: Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-kay. And so -- but so --
NICK MAVAR: If we -- If we don't come with -- with agreement between canners. At that time, when fishin' start, then there was voting for strike, whatever.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. How -- How long would the strikes usually last? NICK MAVAR: One year, 1980 -- 1980 was up to July 8 or 10.
That's how we got too many fish in Kvichak. Because fish came, usually, in the mass with the Fourth of July. By eight, we have already the over escapement.
And after we went fishing, there was not that many fish, I don't think. We got 'bout 40, 50 thousand pounds after all.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm. So that was one of the longest strikes, huh? NICK MAVAR: That was one of the longest I remember. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Hm-mm. What --
NICK MAVAR: And fishermen -- I mean, nobody liked the strike. I mean, it's no fun. It's animosity between companies and between fishermen, between who wants to fish, who doesn't wanna fish.
And usually is not good relation between all the segments, of -- whether is -- whether is cannery, whether is fishermen, or different, you know, entities.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Was there a problem with some fishermen fishing during strike? NICK MAVAR: Well, yeah, there was problem -- people didn't talk to each other, and next -- you know, there was some people who did damage to some -- some of their boats.
I mean, association didn't condone that. I mean, we didn't like none of that. But you know how some people are hot to do different things.
So, strike was never good for anybody. Whether is for fishermen or the canner. Because everybody -- Because, you have to know that they spent a lot of money to come there, too, canners, before season. And the fishermen, too.
So, nobody like the strike, but you had -- sometime you have to get paid, you know, decently, where you get a -- you know, where you can live with it.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. What -- When you would go to the negotiating table, what were the main considerations that the fishermen would bring and that the -- that the canners would bring from year to year to determine the price? How would you come up with the price?
NICK MAVAR: Well, they come -- Because, it said on the market that that's what we can sell at. We cannot sell more than that.
And on the fishermen's side, if we don't have close to that price, we cannot buy equipment, we cannot buy nets, we can -- you know, we cannot produce -- it's no good for canners, it's no good from fishermen. That's was our side.
But we understand their side, too. You know, you can't be just one way. We used to have with Bundrant, too. You know, lot of meetings together, we used to argue, but then we come to agreement. He never liked strike, neither did we. You know, but sometimes come to it.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm. So, did you find, when you built your own boat, and I'm wondering if other fishermen, when you went from leasing the boats from the cannery to having your own boats, were you making a whole lot more money?
Or -- Or was it that your money then just -- just went back into your boat, and so it was kind of the same?
NICK MAVAR: Well, because -- You are pride that you have owner -- you know, that you own your boat, you can do -- you can do different things.
When you have canner -- you know, lease the boat, you have to think about that you don't damage the boat, or you might be charged for this or that.
So, it's -- it's a pride to ownership, too, and it's -- I think you have more free hand to do as much with your boat where you cannot -- wh -- where you cannot do with the leased boat. That's a difference, I think.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, when you owned your boat, and let's say there was a repair that needed to be made, would you do the repair in the season, or would the shipwright at the -- or the foreman at the cannery help with the repair? How did that work?
NICK MAVAR: We -- We used to pull the boat on the dry, actually, it -- Wood boat, you have to cork sometime if it's leak and you have to, you know, do some work.
We usually did ourselves, unless is -- you have to change plank, there was carpenter there.
They -- usually they were -- in each cannery have either carpenter or they have professional mechanics, so if you cannot do yourself, you have to -- somebody else had to do it. Professional.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And would you pay the cannery for that? Or would they just do it because you were fishing for them? NICK MAVAR: No, they -- They would charge per hour. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm.
NICK MAVAR: How much was, you know. Whether is 30 dollar, whether is 20 dollar, I don't know, it's -- different years was different price.
Price is now, I think, for mechanic was over 150 dollars an hour. That time was probably 30 dollars. Everything is relative to the, you know, to the time and price, so --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So how many years did you fish with Whitney-Fidalgo? NICK MAVAR: I think, Whitney-Fidalgo we are fishing 'bout 10 years? 'Til 19 -- From '60 -- '60 -- '67, 8, 'til -- 'til about '80 -- '82, '83 that we move to Alaska Packers.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And why did you move to Alaska Packers? NICK MAVAR: Well, I -- I think they were better cannery -- I mean, w -- I have friends over there, and some of the things that we have in Whitney-Fidalgo we didn't care for it.
Whether it was deliveries, whether it was superintendent, whether it was personality with the superintendent or something like that.
I know I -- me and my son move over there 197 -- 83, to Alaska Packers, and, of course, Trident got -- bought Alaska Packers after that. I don't know what year was exactly when Bundrant bought it, but ConAgra was with the Ala -- with the Trident, too, before that.
And I know when Gary was there, I think, it was 80 -- in '80s, '83, 80 -- Se -- He was in seventies there, too.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So what sort of services did the cannery provide to you as a fisherman?
NICK MAVAR: I think Trident was one of the best service that they had. Alaska Packers and Trident after that.
They provide -- sometime after they have helicopter, if you need parts sometime. If you have a broke down, you order hydraulic hose, or you have some parts, they used to deliver, you know, to the tender, then you pick (up) on the tender.
Tender is who buy the fish, delivery of the fish.
And I think they were one of -- that was one of the reasons, too, to move to Alaska Packers and Trident, because to -- they had better service than most of them.
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: You'd be able to charge your tickets, your -- NICK MAVAR: Yeah. UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: -- nets and -- ahead of time. Get your purchases out there, and then they'd deduct it when you'd get paid down there. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Gross.
NICK MAVAR: Actually, they were good with us, with our family. Alaska Packers and Bundrant and -- and Trident after all, we have really good relation between family -- between our family, our boats and -- and the Trident.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. Where would you keep your boat at the end of the season? NICK MAVAR: In the cannery -- in the -- we were pulling them on the dock. Then my boat, like "Miss Colleen," was all time in -- in the warehouse.
You know, I think that time we pay like, a thousand dollars? Now they pay on a -- I think three thousand dollars to be out on the field.
Which is on nor -- North Naknek, because is nothing on South Naknek. Fishermen love that. We were were pretty sad when they closed that cannery there.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So they would store the boat in the warehouse? NICK MAVAR: Yeah, we were in warehouse. They pick them up on the dock, and we come week or two weeks before, we stay in the bunkhouse while we are working on the boats and gear.
After we launch the boats and start fishin', whether you go to Egegik, Nushagak, or wherever you are, you mostly live on the boats if you go to Egegik.
If you stay in Naknek, you still have bunkhouse. When it's no fishin' time, you could tie the boat on the tide and dock and you go in your Hyatt. We call Hyatt.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. And -- So when you first started working at South Naknek, they assigned you like a net locker and a bunkhouse, then -- ? NICK MAVAR: Ye -- Yeah. ANJULI GRANTHAM: -- or how did that work?
NICK MAVAR: Yeah, we asked -- If -- Some fishermen didn't wanna, because they didn't wanna pay for bunkhouse. From bunkhouse, from beginning, we didn't pay. Later on, I think they charged us thousand dollar? A year. Which is not bad. We keep equipment there, we pick -- keep radios and your clothes -- fishing -- whatever it is in the room, and in the locker.
We had locker that we pay for, I -- I think it was three, four hundred dollars a year. And a room was later 'bout -- was six hundred, later was thousand a year.
Which wasn't that bad for fishermen, because you have your own thing, you know, you come in the room, you have everything there when you came.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm. And which bunkhouse did you live in? NICK MAVAR: I think number one. That we -- There's three bunkhouse. There's bunkhouse was for cannery workers, and two -- I think one or two bunkhouses for fishermen.
And we live way on the hill out there, on the tallest. Like is 72 steps all way up. ANJULI GRANTHAM: That's quite a bit. NICK MAVAR: Quite a bit.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And so, you were assigned a s -- a room in a bunkhouse, and then you were given a net locker in one of the warehouses? NICK MAVAR: Right. Ju --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Which warehouse? NICK MAVAR: Just across, above Provision. You know, "Provision," we call? Not too far from kitchen out there.
Actually, we used to -- I used to have on the window, and used to be across -- cannery workers used to come there. They used to have long steps, too, there, just across. And we used to kid, you know, with each other, "Oh, the girls are coming up there." They're boys.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What would you keep in your net locker? NICK MAVAR: Net -- You keep nets and some equip -- rain gear. And --
Mostly nets, rain gear, and if you have some extra equipment that you kept from, you know, year to year. But mostly nets and -- and gear.
Rain gear and -- 'Cause every year that you -- And benches. You got your own bench to hang the gear. I have couple of benches. You have benches, you got measurement and -- for the nets, for the cork line, lead line, whatever. So you keep them there.
But I was -- South Naknek was really good for fishermen, because you know when you come, where you have your equipment, your boat. Everything was great. And cannery was great.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm. Would you then -- For the mess hall, would you pay for each meal, or how did that work? How were you able to do that? Was it --
NICK MAVAR: Yeah, we pay -- I think was like ten dollars, toward the end. A meal. You -- you no have to eat three meals. If you wanna eat one meal, if you wanna eat on the boat.
But we used to have tickets for the meals on the -- And use -- used to have coffee time at like -- then donuts, whatever. It's coffee time.
You don't pay for that. But you pay for the meal, actually full meal that you have. Whether is dinner -- Some people choose to have dinner, some people just to go on the lunch.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: I see. So you would pay -- You'd buy a ticket, and then pres -- Would you buy the ticket from the office or from the mess hall? NICK MAVAR: Uh, office. Usually on the main office you buy ten, 20 tickets, whatever you -- you know. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Hm-mm.
NICK MAVAR: Whatever you wanna go. Sometime you got tickets left, because you go fishin', so use them sometime for next year.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm. And where would you eat in the mess hall? Was -- was it kind of -- was it special areas for fishermen versus other people, or -- ?
NICK MAVAR: I -- I think it's about -- I -- No, they -- Cannery workers usually come earlier than we do, because they have to go to work before we do if we don't fish that day.
But they used to go half hour before we did. But is same area.
We have tables, you know, and everything's there. Then, you have to get -- take tray and go pick wh -- you know, on the line, whatever you want.
Whether it's fish, whether it's potatoes, whether it's steak, whether is -- each -- each day is different meal.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And how was the quality of the food? NICK MAVAR: I think it was good. Lot of guys liked -- well, some people didn't like this, didn't like that. They say, "Oh, today I don't wanna go. I don't wanna waste ticket because I don't like that meal."
And other people like steak, some people say "Oh, there's a fish, there's something else." And they would choose whether to go or not to go.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Would they post the menu every day then? NICK MAVAR: Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Oh, okay.
NICK MAVAR: There's on the menu on the -- right on the door outside, what the menu is. So when you walk by you see, well, whether I gonna go today or not.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Hm-mm. And when was it that you built the "Miss Colleen?" NICK MAVAR: "Miss Colleen" was 1990. I --
Before that, I -- I got three boats. First was -- I think was there -- I -- on the picture. "Brian NJ," "Blue Adriatic," that later on Brian took over, my oldest son, that boat. And "Miss Colleen" was latest one.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Okay. NICK MAVAR: So, I had three different boats that -- that I -- brand new that were built.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Did you also build the "Blue Adriatic," or did you buy that from someone? NICK MAVAR: No, I bought from La Conner -- was La Conner company that they build it.
It was nice boat. I think I got picture there. Did I show you? ANJULI GRANTHAM: Yes, I saw it. Mm-hm. NICK MAVAR: You sure? Yeah.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, what made you decide to get a new boat from the "Brian NJ?" NICK MAVAR: Well, Brian have wood boat before that, and he said, "Dad, I gonna need different boat." So, I --
So I decided to build "Miss Colleen" and I give up that boat. And he pay me some for it, but you know how is in the family. That goes --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, your son got the "Blue Adriatic?" NICK MAVAR: Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. NICK MAVAR: And then I have "Miss Colleen" 1980. 1990. 1980, "Blue Adriatic" was built. And --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm. And how did you change -- what was some design considerations that you made from boat to boat? What sort of upgrades did you make?
NICK MAVAR: It -- It's -- Fiberglass, you need -- have to -- you do lot of work. Wood boat is work, you know. You have to do each year. Whether is cork and whether is plank, whether is some damage.
Fiberglass you don't have to, unless you crash into somebody. And it's better equipment. You have better --
You know, you put different engine, you put different reel. You have more space. And then, "Miss Colleen" was again upgraded from "Blue Adriatic."
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And did they get progressively larger?
NICK MAVAR: They got wider, but not longer. 32 is the limit boat for Bristol Bay. But some people had wide -- wider, like 14 feet. And length is stay same and you get more room.
Work -- on the work wall like aluminum. My son have aluminum boat. Brian. Now. And there's lotta room between pilot -- between house and the stern give you lotta room to work if you got three, four guys to work there, you have lot -- you know, they don't push each other by the, you know, smaller space.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm. So, was it the "Miss Colleen" that was made in La Conner, is that what you said or -- ? NICK MAVAR: In -- No, in Bellingham. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Okay.
NICK MAVAR: We finish lot of it, you know. But engine was installed and, you know, hydraulics, everything else. But I did lotta work with the boys inside, too.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm. And that was your last boat then? NICK MAVAR: That was last boat.
Then Nicky, he change everything when he got from me boat. He put about 100,000 dollars in it. New engine, new hydraulics, new tanks.
You know, after ten, twenty years everything's -- There's better equipment come up, and, you know, some of the -- deteriorate some of the stuff that you had before.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, would you do that work in Naknek, or did -- would you bring the boat back down here to do a lot of boat work? NICK MAVAR: Last time we brought "Miss Colleen" down here in Anacortes. I think we ship -- Yeah, we ship down and we shipped up.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, you put it on like one of the cannery -- or the -- barges? NICK MAVAR: No, one of the barges that was Crowley. I think Crowley barges. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Okay, mm-hm.
NICK MAVAR: They bring, then you pick them in Seattle. Duwamish, I think they drop them there. Then you bring them here and bring them back to ship them again.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm. To go directly to Naknek then? NICK MAVAR: Right. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Okay, mm-hm.
And, tell me about -- In the early years, how would you hire a crew? NICK MAVAR: Ah, huh. Some people call you, you know, if you -- you know.
First time I have my crew that -- when I have "Brian NJ," they knew nothing about fishing. They -- Mostly they were farmers. But, of course, I was young that time, I was foolish. I have to pull --
You know, you have to be skipper, but you have to work on the -- you know, when you pull the nets, too. But --
But they were good, too. After that they have some experience and they were hard work -- you know, farmers are hard-working people.
Although it's different work on the farm and different to work on the -- picking fish from the net. So, you have to get adjusted.
And I used to keep -- pick mostly young crew. And I used to get along -- along, whether is students, whether is young people. Much better than older guys.
I don't know. Still today I get along with young people better. Because older people are set up their own way. And young people, you can teach them, you can --
And I have always good relation with young people. And is good to have young people because they can move faster, they can do things that the other people can't.
Of course, some older people have more experience, but if you tea -- if you have crew that you pick and teach them your own way, you are much -- you are ahead.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So would you -- NICK MAVAR: Ahead of the ball. ANJULI GRANTHAM: -- would you hire them from Anacortes, or where would they usually come from?
NICK MAVAR: Well, some of them from Alaska. You know, they know the boat, they know -- they heard you on the radio, they know what you produce, what you don't produce. And they usually call you.
So, you say whether you have somebody already or not. And some of them -- that they -- that for somebody else refer to them.
Or I pick usually from Anacortes, too, crew, because they, you know -- they -- I know them long time, or I didn't, you know.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm. When was it that you started fishing with your sons? NICK MAVAR: Oh, Brian start -- he was nine years old. First time. I had Blue Ad -- No, I have "Brian NJ" that time.
And he -- That time, in '70s, was pretty poor fishin' because of foreign fleet was devastating, you know, Bering Sea, the salmon, everywhere.
And a lot of ki -- a lot of people have kids aboard, because you need -- for each net, you need different permit. So I --
Sometimes Natives used to have their three, four kids aboard, because each kid have a permit for one net.
And when Brian came with me 1970 -- '74? First time, and he -- he got permit, too. That's why I try to have unlimited permit came, I try to get for him permit too. 'Cause I got free permit because I had enough points. You had to have 20 points that time to get permit, unlimited permit.
And Brian have only about 10, 15, so I went to Juneau and -- and testify.
A guy for me was a superintendent who said Brian was there that time, but he didn't have enough points so he couldn't qualify. So he had to buy permit, I think was like, two hundred -- highest that time 230,000.
Actually, Nicky, too. All of them, I have to guarantee. With the -- everything that I have.
When we were on the strike here, Nicky was almost crying, "Dad, you gonna lose house, you gonna lose everything you have." You guarantee for us for permit, because -- you know, for the -- to buy permit.
They have to get some money to put down, but you have to guarantee with your -- how much is permit worth?
So, when we were on the strike, when we were in 19 -- we were in Trident. My kids was really worried about, "Dad, we on the strike, you gonna lose everything." So that was pretty tough time, too.
But we went through, then strike were over, and you know, it's -- It was alright.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Hm-mm. So, you said Brian started when he was nine with you. And -- As a crew. NICK MAVAR: Yeah, as a crew but not every year. You know, later on I --
And Nicky was fishing with me, too, when he was like -- I don't know, he was like eight years old when he start Puget Sound. We used to fish in Puget Sound. And I --
One night, I thought I lost him, because was storm coming, and these nets are in Puget Sound. I'm turning to Puget Sound now, 'cause I -- when he start fishin'.
And was stormy that night. And I try to pick the net overboard, and smelt was coming over and was fulling, you know, the stern, and I say, "I cannot pick the net." But usually in Puget Sound when is wind westerly is worse than even Alaska because is big tide. So, I --
In nighttime everybody was in Alec Bay there. They call Alec Bay or Mud Bay. And they call me, the other fishermen, "Nick, where are you? It's stormy here, is no fish at all. What the hell you doing there?" But I didn't wanna let it go, net, 300 -- there is 300 fathom of the net behind.
And Nicky was with me, but he was a little kid. And after midnight tide -- I mean wind start to come down. So, I drift all night, all the way almost to the Canadian border. Not that close, but, you know, that was --
Ice was there, then you got Salmon Bank, and you drift over Victoria.
But not -- you know, you have to be careful you are not in the Canadian water, because they gonna pick your boat, you gonna lose everything. They -- some people used to lose the boat by going over.
And so I came down -- In the morning, I came down to -- Actually, my name of the boat was "Star Track" in Puget Sound.
I came down on the -- from pilot house and there's no Nicky anywhere. I look, I -- "Oh my god." Door was open. I said probably he get out, he fell overboard.
Then I look under the table. I had table in the galley, and poor thing, he was like this (moves) under the table. Oh my god, I almost -- my heart busted.
Because I look on -- everywhere. In the bunk, he was nowhere. But he got probably scared, he was under the bunk.
In the morning, he came out, he was such a -- I was picking fish all, you know, morning, and full of fish -- boat was full of fish.
That night, I catch enough fish to take all the family in Europe. That was my fir -- To see my dad, to see my brother.
I think I got, like, I don't know, five, six, seven, eight hundred fish. And it was $2.50 a pound that time.
But that was my worst experience, with the storm, and I didn't know where the kid was in nighttime, because I was on pilot house. I have to watch that I don't go over the Canadian border, And when wind start down, I start picking net. So that was -- that was my worst experience there.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm. But you -- But you con -- continued to bring him out? NICK MAVAR: Yeah, right. Yeah, well, he's pretty -- you know, he likes danger. Li --
Like, he's in -- in "Deadliest Catch." I said, "Why you fishing'?" He doesn't mind. He like tough weather, he was in the water, you know, with me when he was little, and so they all get used to that.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm. How was it fishing with your sons? NICK MAVAR: I think they were -- I think they were best crew when I have them three, when they grow up a little bit.
Because they know exact -- I train them, and -- and they ask me sometimes, "Daddy, who is best three?" I know that I try to tell them, compliment, but I think they were best crew that I had.
Because they know exactly what I wanna do. They knew from beginning where they were with me, and so --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And all -- Are all three of your sons fishermen today? NICK MAVAR: Yes. Brian -- They all have their own boats.
But Nick is fishing crab in wintertime, and Brian was skipper on the dragger, too, in the pollock in wintertime. I don't really see going wintertime this year, but --
And then he usually go on the Oregon coast with the hag (Pacific hagfish). They bring boat down, and they got mothership, so they fish three, four weeks down there.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Hm-mm. Could you tell me about -- Before you mentioned the foreign fishing fleet. How did fishermen in Bristol Bay respond to the foreign fishing fleet fishing right off shore, before Magnuson-Stevens (Fishery Conservation and Management Act)?
NICK MAVAR: Well, we were sendi -- I -- Actually, we used to call senators, representative. I think one of them came in our meeting there -- on fishermen's meeting, too. And we were urging them.
I say, we are sitting on the beach, in a -- in '70s, from 1971 to '79, we didn't have much fish in Bristol Bay at all. 1974, nobody fish there.
The superintendent told me, I was fishing kings. "Nick, I think Bristol Bay is done." There's no more fish. And they closed the season, but I was fishing kings and I didn't ship the boat down.
So, he said, "Nick, there gonna be four days open in season. You better stay." There was only 20 boats in whole Bristol Bay that stayed there. No --
Not many boats were there, because there was no fish. It was only open for four days.
And from 1971 'til '79, we have first year that was lot of fish. And -- And eight -- Yeah, '79. And '80 was strike, and so forth.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And you attributed that to the foreign fleet? NICK MAVAR: Fo -- You know, they have like, nets mile long, two mile -- five miles long.
There were Japanese, there were Koreans, there were foreign fleet from everywhere, and there was eight, nine miles of the Alaska shores.
And, you know, there's a donut hole, that they call, where the sockeyes milling in wintertime, you know, before they -- it's -- before they come to the rivers, where they designate the river.
And -- But they used to catch them right there, and in Bristol Bay. And if -- if we didn't have the Magnuson-Stevenson (Stevens) to -- hundred miles limit, we won't probably have a Bristol Bay today. Because wasn't enough fish to come to spawn.
There were -- Before, they come in the -- you know, in the bay they used to catch them, just before they try to come in the river. ANJULI GRANTHAM: And so, you --
NICK MAVAR: But fishermen were together. Actually, we suffer for that hundred miles li -- because we stay on the beach while they were fishing out there.
We were protesting. We tried to call senators, we tried to call representative. There was --
In Bellingham, representative, I think Ste -- Ske -- Stiff was his name. Stiff, last name (there was a representative Al Swift, so could mean him).
And I have meeting at my old house there in West Forest there, that Nicky owns that house now. We have meeting with him, and I'd call lot of fishermen there.
And he was instrumental, too, to push legislation. Not just senator that we have Stevenson (Stevens). We call representative, everybody we could.
And association, too, that was part of it. We lobby it, too. For that two hundred miles limit. So it's came input from fishermen and representative to accomplish that.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And then you noted that fishing improved, huh? NICK MAVAR: Yes. And improved hundred percent after that.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What other ways were you engaged politically, or with the union, and all of these -- with fisheries issues in Alaska? Were there other -- other issues that you took part in, aside from the foreign fishing fleet and the -- and being a delegate?
NICK MAVAR: I have some, but -- Some of the probably -- Companies don't want to hear some of that.
First time we had lawsuit against canners, that Bren -- I mean, Trident wasn't there. Price fixing. That was in '70s.
There was not much fish there, but there were evidence that they was price fixin', because we knew how much fish was sold on the market, how much we had.
And my attorney -- I was that -- I was called on the court, because there was 'bout twelve lawyers there. I was one of the delegates, so I have to testify.
And they were threaten fishermen. If they were against company, they were throwing them -- They didn't give them market.
They didn't threaten me, but they did some of them, and question was, you know, whether I was threatened when I was director that time. You know, the delegate.
And they called me on the court, too, to testify. And -- And the question was, "Were you threatened?" I said, "No, but I know the people who were, and they -- they didn't let 'em fish anymore for company."
And my attorn -- attorney that was for the company, Whitney-Fidalgo was that time. Trident wasn't there.
And he told me, "Nick," he said, "If you -- If you guys --" We -- I said, "We don't want a cannery go out of business, we want a just -- fair, you know, that we have fair shake."
And he said, "If you guys win the case, you gonna own the cannery." I say, "We don't wanna own the canneries, we wanna that they stay in the business."
But they find them guilty, and I think we got some in 1970 paid, you know, back some of the money, but --
We didn't like the case, and we brought the case because attorn -- our attorney say there was evidence. That was pure evidence that they had that was price fixing, that time.
Later on, they -- (Chuck) Bundrant was involved in that, too, later on, but I -- I wasn't involved in that. You know.
I think they were -- Bundrant didn't pay for, but some canners settler for Japanese and all that. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Were there other --
NICK MAVAR: But that was a little bit different. Little bit -- That was not good relation between canners and fishermen. That was kinda low point. You prob -- I don't actually remember that.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Were there other moments that you recall getting engaged with the fish politics in Alaska? NICK MAVAR: We tried to get better price, I know.
I flew on airport on my own expense, on -- on 19 -- what was that year? We tried to get market -- better market, you know, and we negotiate with the -- the ASMI? ASMI (Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute). Is it ASMI? ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm.
NICK MAVAR: Yeah. And the guy was -- he was attorney. No. Yeah. He was attorney, and he said maybe we gonna try to be the ASMI to get a better price, to get a -- you know, negotiate with the foreign buyers and so forth, so I flew on the airport there, on the Anchorage airport.
Bundrant was there, and lotta companies. And we didn't accomplish that much on that meeting. That wasn't against the canners, but we tried to -- they asked me to get a better price, because price was down the tanks. Pretty bad price. For -- Forty cents for sockeye was -- couldn't live with that.
So we tried to fou -- get a market through the ASMI. ANJULI GRANTHAM: When was that? NICK MAVAR: I think -- that was in '80s. Or '90. '90s. I don't know exactly what year. But I think was in '90s.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Hm. I'm curious -- NICK MAVAR: After the strike. That was after the second strike.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, okay. I'm curious about how changes in processing impacted you as a fisherman?
NICK MAVAR: Processing. I don't know. I still like that can. I mean, they -- company doesn't want no more can. I -- I -- I love the Rubenstein (Rubinstein's Wild Alaskan Red Salmon), that can. I gonna show you. I have one.
I think I gonna give you that. That was best can that we ever have. But, now they wanna freeze it, they wanna fillet it, you know, company. And they wanna get out -- out of canning.
But in wintertime, England, France they all buy cans during the -- you know, during December and January.
So, I don't know about company beside the -- the -- they don't wanna can. So -- (Pause, walking around, noise)
See, that's the best company, that Trident. You know, actually, I buy these in -- for wintertime if I don't have sockeye. And you open that, you have lunch, you have some bread or crackers, and you have glass of wine, you think you goin' to heaven. Isn't it?
ANJULI GRANTHAM: I -- I think canned salmon is great. NICK MAVAR: Actually, I gonna give you that. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Thank you. Thank you. NICK MAVAR: For present. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Thank you very much.
So, did you notice wh -- when they started to do more freezing and everything, did that change anything in your operation? NICK MAVAR: I don't think so. I don't think it effect us. Although, we are still --
I'm still sentimental about canning, although they said -- of course, they called the shot, they are the producers, they know what the best for the market, but market does not look like's better. Fillet, fresh, and --
We didn't used to have -- We used to have just brailers that throw the fish, not RSW (refrigerated seawater system) or anything. Now, most of the fleet have RSW. You bleed fish, too. You know, for the gill, you poke them on the gill. You bleed them, because they don't wanna --
It's a better quality if you bleed them. Blood doesn't go through the steams under the skin. And so, it's lasts longer and is fresher.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: When did they start doing that? Or when did you need to start paying more -- NICK MAVAR: We -- ANJULI GRANTHAM: -- attention to quality? NICK MAVAR: I think we start quality ten, fifteen years ago, but each year involve they wanna more and more. You know, so, I don't know if we got --
We got better price actually now, but market is better, too, because most American eat fish. Everybody want a wild fish. Not everybody, but if they know what's good for them, they would. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Hm-mm, hm-mm.
NICK MAVAR: You know, I talk to lady that was in Washington, D.C. She -- She was in Croatian embassy in Washington, D.C. And I didn't send them --
When they have opening, they send big king salmon in Washing -- You know, in the opening embassy. So, she was there, and she said she thought she went to heaven when she eat salmon from Bristol Bay.
After that, she went to Canada, and sh -- somebody gave her farm fish, she went to hospital for three weeks. She broke in hives everywhere. From -- Allergic to farm fish. 'Cause they put lotta junk in it.
So, the guy who was from Seattle, he was Croatian, he was in embassy, and she ask him, "Anybody can tell me about wild salmon from Alaska?" So he said, "Nick Mavar is one we're gonna give you. He been there long time."
So, she came in contact with me, and I sent her some really -- you know, wild salmon over there. And she wrote everything what is bad about farm fish. About -- Funny different things when they put -- they put antibiotics, they put color in, they put this --
And she -- she wrote in the -- you know, in the book. Then she went to Canada, and there's biologist there that farm fish escape and whales eat them. They got sick.
I don't know if you hear that. They got sick, and there's biologist -- What's her name, she wrote the book --
Anyway, and she found out everything was bad about farm fish. So, she help.
Of course, I'm fighting against farm fish for last 30 years. I testify in city hall in Mount Vernon against the farm fish that escape here. You heard that. That was 30 years ago.
Me, and was a lot of even older fishermen than me. And we went courthouse, I said -- we said, "Don't give them permit." The fishermen (meant the fish) escape, and they go -- you know, they gonna pollute bad. Is polluted behind those nets, down this high on the ocean, right now.
And I -- Some biologists came from California, University of California. And I brought them there on the farm with friend of mine on the -- you know, with the boat.
And all the flies were flying on top of the net pens. You know why? Because they feeding with the pellets.
And the guy holler, "Get away from here! Why you takin' picture?" I have biologists with me, couple of them from California and so forth. 'Cause I fought against the farm fish for the last 30, 40 years.
And I say, "If you have good products, why you ashamed to take a picture?" He said, "No, no, keep away from -- " You know, keep away from farm fish.
So, anyway, that's how I, you know -- And, this lady helped, you know, to write about what is bag about farm fish.
I went to Costco couple of times and lady ask me, you know, "Which fish should I buy?" I said, I say, "See how bad this -- Don't buy that one, buy this, this is sockeye." And she did. "Oh, I didn't know that." So --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm. Did you -- Thinking about quality, did you install RSW onto your -- onto the "Miss Colleen" when you first built it or -- ? NICK MAVAR: No. No, we didn't that time. No, we didn't have -- We improve -- improve quality, we improve brailers, we didn't throw fish, you know, we just slide them in and push them, but after that, Trident and most the companies, they wanna emphasize quality. Which is good.
Quality to put RSW, and we did just few years ago. And some people did before that. You know, ten years ago.
But now, it’s over 60 percent of the fleet, they have RSW. And that's why maybe we have better price.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. Hm-mm. You've talked about how you do king fishing, and is that at the begin -- before the red season begins? NICK MAVAR: That's in the -- in June, in the beginning of the June, or last part of May.
But, you know what, used to be lot of kings in Nushagak. Now is mostly for sport fishermen. There is very little for commercial.
Because lot of draggers and -- on the high seas, they got -- they catch kings, that's why they move the fleet from different place to -- to drag for the pollock.
'Cause my son is fishin' there, too, and he's dragging, plus he's in Bristol Bay. So they move them in the area where ki -- would be less king fishermen. Will be less devastating for the kings.
So now, the sports fishermen mostly have di -- in King Salmon, in Dillingham, or Nushagak.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. So, were there many other fishermen that would go up there early to fish kings, or were you one of the few people that did that? NICK MAVAR: Not too many. There was about --
From the cannery that I used to go, there's about ten, fifteen boats. One time, was only one that was in Naknek. He was post office working. Norwegian guy. And he --
Him and I was the only two boats that went from Nak -- Naknek into Nushagak, fishin' there. That year.
But 1980, I stay there because was strike. On the sockeye, not on the kings. And I made more on the kings than sockeyes, because we start fishin' late on the sockeyes, but kings was really good.
One day, I have about eight brailers of kings, and guy came. He said, "Nick, you association and you fishin' sockeyes?" I say, "No, you come on my boat, that's not part of agreement. We fi -- fish kings, but that's not part of agreement."
So he came, he couldn't believe that I have eight brailers of kings aboard.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm. And you'd catch those with the gill net as well, correct? NICK MAVAR: Yeah. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Wow.
NICK MAVAR: On a big mesh, you know, got -- You got like, seven inch, seven a half. Depend -- You know, depends. Some fishermen have bigger mesh, some less.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, I'm curious, because it's so early in the season, the cannery isn't really up and running at that point much -- NICK MAVAR: They buy -- ANJULI GRANTHAM: -- is it? NICK MAVAR: -- Usually buy cash buyers. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Okay.
NICK MAVAR: Or sometime companies buy, too, you know, early kings. But usu -- We used to have cash buyers for that. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm.
NICK MAVAR: Different buyers. There would be regular season sockeye.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. So, could you tell me about the cash buyers? They would be there specifically for king salmon only? Or would they be there year-round, or -- NICK MAVAR: Nah, they used -- ANJULI GRANTHAM: -- season-round, or -- ? NICK MAVAR: They used to be for sockeyes, too, but few years ago they -- they didn't come.
Because most people fish for company, they tied up with companies. Like, you buy gear, you provide -- they provide P -- PO and all that. So, you kinda little bit tied up to the -- to the companies, rather than, you know, in cash fishermen, or where they buy they didn't have incentive because they didn't have enough fish from fishermen.
But used to be lotta cash buyers, years ago. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Hm-mm. NICK MAVAR: For sockeyes, too.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And were the cash buyers -- They were totally different from the canneries then? They were just individuals, or -- ? What was their -- NICK MAVAR: They was not tied up to cannery, no.
Couple a times they were, but -- I -- you never -- we -- you never found out exactly who they tied -- what company they tied up. But usually they were independent. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. Hm-mm.
NICK MAVAR: But -- But we like that, fishermen like that, because that would differ in price. They would pay better price, you know, and different price, so that was push companies to adjust their price, too.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. Hm-mm. When did you start fishing for king salmon? Was that at the very beginning of the time when you went to Bristol Bay, or is that something that you eventually started doing? NICK MAVAR: I think from beginning. Not really from beginning, but after few years I find out that you could go early fishin' there.
We used to go last part of the May. And used to be iceberg floating still there.
You know, when we used to travel from Naknek to Nushagak it's about, seven, eight hours, traveling. It's about ss -- 80? 70, 80 miles to go in. So, it's --
Used to be pretty cold when we used to go early there. And used to be bunch of us from Nak -- not too many, maybe 20 boats, 15, 20 boats.
And lotta people who live in -- who have canneries in Nushagak, they -- they got bigger fleet that fish kings. But from Naknek, not that many.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. So, when would you usually travel up to Naknek? What was the -- the summer season? When did that begin for you? NICK MAVAR: That usually start beginning of the June. For regular season. First of June or at latest fifth of June.
Because takes you week or two to, you know, to get ready boat. At least two weeks. And season start about 15 of June.
You know, from beginning slow, you know, you catch few fish, not many, but you have to try the gear, try the motor, try that everything works beginning, rather than in middle of season that you don't break down.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, when would you leave Anacortes, usually? NICK MAVAR: I usually about first of June. That's -- If you don't fish kings. Which we don't, anymore.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. But when you did fish kings, when would you leave? NICK MAVAR: About ten -- tenth of May? ANJULI GRANTHAM: Okay. NICK MAVAR: Sometime, fif -- ten, 15 of May, you fish 'til about tenth of June, whatever.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. And so, you'd arrive at Naknek and you would be one of the few people there. There'd just be some other of the -- the foremen trying to open the cannery. But it probably was a quiet place at the beginning of the season, huh?
NICK MAVAR: Oh, not too many people. There was -- They would launch your boat, yeah, but there were mechanics there and there was some cannery workers, but not too many, no.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm. And what would you do -- How would you get ready for the season when you first arrived in Naknek?
NICK MAVAR: First, you go in the locker. And you check the boat, of course. First thing is to see if your engine gonna start. And if don't, there's mechanic that you have to see.
And then you go in the locker, you -- And we used to hang the gear, lot of gear in the locker. Now, we -- lately we have gear fixed here and shipped to Alaska. So you don't spend that much time in Alaska.
But when I was fishin' more, I get my gear usually fish -- I mean, mend over there and then finish out there.
It's cheaper than ship from here everything, and you have to pay, you know, for whoever bring, you know, tender, or -- Not the tender, but you have to ship the containers. With the company. So --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, you'd make sure your boat was running, hang gear -- ? NICK MAVAR: Yes. Hang gear. Make sure that everything worked before you -- before you launch the boat, too.
Then after you launch boat, you have to try everything, of course.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And then what about at the end of the season? What would you do to prepare to leave? NICK MAVAR: I have to winterize everything, you have to take every -- clean the boat, you have to take all the gear out, take radio out, disconnect everything.
Usually disconnect the battery, disco -- you know. And get ready for next season.
But usually mechanics, whoever is there, they check that you have enough win -- that you winterize right, that your boat is in good shape, all your engine in good shape and so forth.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm. And so, what would you do in the off-season, when you were not in Bristol Bay? NICK MAVAR: Off-season? I didn't -- you know.
I didn't work that much bu -- in -- down here, but usually -- I was in wa -- little bit in real estate, too, in wintertime.
And I -- You know, we used to buy -- buy some acreage, a little bit develop. You know, not -- not develop, but you divide, you know, land and you sell it a little bit. And, well, you could.
And sometime you no make much profit because you did put more work in than is -- You know, now is -- land is worth more, but years ago wasn't.
But then you work on the -- some gear, too. We used to fish down here.
Soon as you come from Bristol Bay, we used to have season here. Summertime and fall season.
But now, for last -- how many, ten, 15 years, I don't fish down here. I used to have bowpicker here, and Nicky still have -- my son have that bowpicker. But is in the yard. He doesn't even use it.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm. So, you would do real estate, and you would do salmon fishing down here as well? NICK MAVAR: Yes.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Did you do other fisheries? Outside of salmon? NICK MAVAR: No, I didn't crab. Lot of my friends -- some of my friends, they get crab permit, they did crabbing.
I did with somebody else, guy that was here when I used to come down, crab a little bit. But not, not that much. Years ago.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm. How 'bout elsewhere in Alaska? NICK MAVAR: To fish in Alaska? No, I didn't. In wintertime, you mean? ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm.
NICK MAVAR: No. No, not beside when I fish in Kodiak in -- in the late '60s and '70s.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: How many years did you crab in -- out of Kodiak? NICK MAVAR: Mm, let's see. 'Bout five years? Five, six years.
And you know the -- to tell you the truth, most of my people that fish with me on the boat, they die on the boat. If not all of them.
But one, two -- four, five of them, they got lost on the sea. You know in Kodiak, that one winter, we lost about 20, 30 fishermen when I was there. 'Cause boats were not as good as now.
And Coast Guard didn't, you know, they didn't have equipment what they have now. They were not warning signal, they not PRB, whatever they have. Survival suits and all of that.
And there were wood boats that came from California, tuna boats. All of them went down. There was "Sunbeam," there were "Marsha Anne." There was -- used to be tuna boats.
And, you know, in California, sea is lazy, kinda. They don't have big of tide, like in Alaska is pretty devastating in wintertime. And all of them went down in Kodiak.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Hm-mm. How 'bout in Bristol Bay? How was the fishing safety in the early years? NICK MAVAR: Not as good as now. It -- It was up to you, usually.
Now we have Coast Guard regulation, we have -- you know, you have to have training that you can give CPR, at least skipper, one of the -- on the boat have to know. Somebody have heart attack or whatever.
And by early day, we didn't have much input from fisheries or from Coast Guard. And e -- as year progressed, we got better in it.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: How -- When you were on the fishing grounds, back in the '60s, how would you communicate with the other boats and with the cannery? NICK MAVAR: Actually, we have radio that -- that was marine radio, it could reach.
But they were out -- line -- FCC, later on they didn't let us use them, because they could reach with the Russia, with everybody else, you know.
And I spoke some Russian, too. And when I was in Kodiak, guy wants me to -- There was Russian boats that they would fish close to Kodiak that time.
And he said, "Nick, you know -- " I learn in school in Croatia, Russians, too, because we had to that time. Four, five years. So I know Russians.
And so, he said, "Why don't you talk to Russia?" I said, "FCC don't allow." "But just tell him few words." And I said, "(speaking Russian)." I tell him I --
In translation, I was kidding, you know, because nobody liked communism that time. And I said -- which, translation sometimes hard to translate exactly. But is -- it says, "I don't know any country that -- where people are so free and happy like Soviet Union." And guy was laughing other side.
And skipper say, "Don't say anymore, don't say anymore." I was joking with him.
And the other guy, skipper on Russian boat was start laughing. Because he knew probably that I was -- what I was saying.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: That's funny. So, you used -- NICK MAVAR: Because I learned that from my teacher in Russian when I was in school in Croatia there.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm. So, you started using the marine radio, and then what did you -- What shifted over time for communication?
NICK MAVAR: Marine radio, we could even hear in California fishermen, with that marine -- Could reach lot of them.
Then we have that radio, what they use in the car. In the trucks, what they call?
ANJULI GRANTHAM: The CB? NICK MAVAR: CB's, yeah. CB, and the other radio that couldn't reach beyond Bristol Bay that much.
Private radio. We got group radio. We had like, seven, eight boats in the group.
And you help each other, you tell 'em where the fish is, in case some -- you know, one of your group need something. You -- You know, you can help each other. So, that's a group radio.
And then we have can -- for the cannery radio, too. You know, to call them to delivery and so forth. And CB. You know. Pre --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: With the cannery, did you use different code words? NICK MAVAR: They have their own channel, you know. And then you can call them on -- you know, each cannery, they have different channel.
They have -- they call codes, how much fish they catch, so nobody knows. Romeo, Alpha, all of that, you know.
Sometime you have to know the numbers, you know. But they don't tell you exactly what it is because you will tell maybe other guys, other fishermen. So, they have their own codes.
But usually we -- we communicate with the radio that they stay on separate channel.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm. And how would you communicate with Maureen? NICK MAVAR: With Maureen? You -- We -- I -- You know, we didn't have that time that you can call like now, you can call with the -- you know, your own phone.
That time, you have to go on the shore to call -- to come for the regular telephone. Whether is on Trident, whether is in -- if you in Egegik, you go on -- on payphone.
And that's all -- or you write. On those early days. But you could call by telephone.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Were there many phones in Egegik, or was there just a -- NICK MAVAR: You have to go on the beach. You have to go on the Egegik city. Or you have to go Coffee Point on the beach or wherever.
And there was not that many -- You know, that you could reach. That you could go to call from.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Would you stand in line often? NICK MAVAR: Yeah, you did. Especially at Naknek, too.
Oh, guys used to bitch about line. "Hey, who the hell you talking to? Your girlfriend, to your wife. Stop that."
You know, guys were -- you know, complaining behind the line.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm. So, you would get mail, though, sent to the cannery, as well. Would -- NICK MAVAR: Yes.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Did -- Did you have a mailbox, or how would they distribute the mail? NICK MAVAR: Actually, mails come to the -- you know, each cannery come to cannery, and if you on the ground, the tender bring you mail.
You know, when you -- If you're in Egegik and your mail comes to Naknek -- when you in Egegik, they would bring you with the tender, or wherever. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. That's nice.
NICK MAVAR: If you're in Naknek, you pick it up there.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm. Did you have your own mailbox in Naknek, or would you just go to the office and they would give it to you? NICK MAVAR: Oh, you just pick it up. And -- Usually they have either in office, or in parts room. There where they have parts room, where you buy things. Mail is a special place there.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Hm- mm. When you first started going to South Naknek, would you -- Did they have the store in operation at that point, at the cannery? NICK MAVAR: They have their own store, too. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm.
NICK MAVAR: And you buy food there. Then you don't have to buy from tender. Before you go fishing, you got provision, we call provision there. You buy --
You got your own card, you know, and you charge to the company, but on the end of season when you make settlement, you pay all the charges, whatever is there.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm. And was there a good variety of -- of food that you could buy, or of things that you could buy at the store? NICK MAVAR: Mm, not always.
Like, we sometime like fresh bread. We used to have some French bread, but they used to bake in the cannery, too, bread. That was the best, if you can get that.
And -- But most of it -- You buy potatoes, you can buy vegetables. Not as good, you know, not as much.
You can buy some apples, and -- but were expensive. You know, we paid dollar one time, each potato. Can you believe it? ANJULI GRANTHAM: Wow.
NICK MAVAR: Food is expensive there. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm. Could you tell me --
NICK MAVAR: It cost them lotta money to ship there, too, so -- ANJULI GRANTHAM: Yes.
NICK MAVAR: It's not just that they charge us. They have to charge us because they pay for it.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm. Could you tell me about your bunkroom? NICK MAVAR: Bunkroom? You know, there is a big hall. When --
They used to call me "Hall Monitor." I don't know if I should say this. Because young kids, they used to smoke pot.
And I used to say, "I can smell the skunk." Because to me, it smelled like skunk, you know. You say --
They used to hide when I used to come to the hall, everybody -- "Oh, Nick is coming." They used to -- Everybody put away everything.
Because I -- I said, "You can't -- you can't smoke here, especial in the room is -- " This was prohibited to smoke anywhere, regardless, because it could burn. You know, you can burn the -- would go the -- in the fire in minute.
You know, plant -- everything's dry from -- Everything's made -- bunkhouses, from wood, so.
But, they used to call me "Hall Monitor" for years. They say, "Where the hall monitor? That's Nick."
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And so, you had the same room for many years then, huh? NICK MAVAR: I have it about 30 years, all the time that I was in there. I never move from same room. It was upstairs. They got -- downstairs was rooms, too. They got --
We got laundry there, you wash your own laundry. And used to be table there that I used to -- we used to either play -- when we don't fish -- cards, or chess -- I used to play chess with some -- some of them. Some of them were better than me.
But I teach my grandson. He was five years old -- six, and I teach him chess. He was pretty smart. When he -- When ten, twelve years old he beat me to it.
And he used to put -- He used to get mad if he don't win. He used to put all the -- everything on the floor. I said, "You have to win." He said, "Ded -- " Deda. He called me Deda. Is grandpa.
"What else is there? Everything's winning. If I don't win, I -- I don't like to play." I said, "You have to learn how to lose to get a win." Probably I shouldn't -- You can delete all of that, but --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And, how did -- Did your sons stay in the room with you at the beginning? Did you build them a bunk, or how did you accommodate your kids in the room?
NICK MAVAR: Actually, we got three or four bunks in -- in a -- I have bunk that is no -- nobody's over me, in the corner. On the one side, we got nice window there. Like, you say, you'd seen some Croatian insignia there. There's a lot.
And there's -- on the other side, two bunks. So, we usually stayed two -- you know, two crew members.
If it's not my son, it's other crew members that stayed there after -- you know, before we start fishin' and after we put boat away when we come in the cannery. We stay there for a week or two before we go home.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. And were there bathrooms and showers in all of the bunkhouses? NICK MAVAR: Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Or would there be a large -- another place for showers and all of that?
NICK MAVAR: No, they -- we have showers. We have showers in each bunkhouse.
Whether is -- we have upstairs and we got downstairs showers. And laundry.
They're actually, pretty good -- good accommodation, for -- you know, for time being, when you're there.
And, they provide -- you know, the Trident provide, you know, that you have clean sheets. You go in the laundry day, you can give to ladies there to wash, too.
You pay maybe ten, 15 dollars to them, if you don't wanna wash. So --
And is Natives. Mostly Natives there. So we used to give them extra money, too.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm. And would you spend a lot of time in the village of South Naknek? NICK MAVAR: Yes, lot. I used to know them all. My god. I knew some of them that were -- when I start fishin', they were born there, they were little kids.
After 30 years, my god, they -- they are there.
And lot of people didn't -- they heard me on the radio, you know, and he said, you know, "I didn't meet you, but I heard you on the radio, a lot of time. You're Nick."
You know, and we get along with the -- those Natives really good. They all good people. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Hm-mm. Hm-mm.
NICK MAVAR: Like a family when we used to come there. Like a families.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And, was there a -- What sort of difference did you notice from when APA sold the cannery and -- Was it Trident then purchased it, or was it ConAgra? NICK MAVAR: I think ConAgra came with the -- w -- after Trident. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Okay.
NICK MAVAR: There were arrange -- Financial arrangements, too. ANJULI GRANTHAM: I see.
NICK MAVAR: Then, Trident bought their share. Or ConAgra -- ConA -- ConAgra was out and Trident won everything. ANJULI GRANTHAM: I see.
NICK MAVAR: Yeah, I mean, 100 percent. But I think ConAgra was short time there. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Okay. Was it --
Were there changes in the way that the cannery operated, or the way that you related to the cannery from owner to owner? NICK MAVAR: Mm. Yeah, I think the -- A little bit different, yeah.
Bundrant have a -- you know, he was operator. He was different operator than you would see before when I was in different canneries.
And he was pretty strict and -- and kept everything going. Whether is fishermen -- He wants fishermen to deliver on time, to have clean boats, to have, you know -- One --
One time, superintendent, it wasn't him, but -- I think Gary, or somebody came on my boat and said, "You have to have gloves when you go in Nicky's boat. Everything's so clean."
I said, "I hate dirty boats." I know, you know, you got fish aboard, but you can wash everything, and you have to keep, you know clean everything.
But he was -- Bran -- you know, Bundrant was pretty strict about whether is delivery, whether fishermen, to kept, you know, their boats and everything else, and -- I like --
I liked Alaska Packers and I -- every -- and everything what they did, how they operated, and Trident, too. I think that's the best cannery that I fish anywhere in South Naknek.
That's why I'd like to be preserve and to stay like it is, because I had a lot of good experiences there.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And what made it such a good cannery? NICK MAVAR: Cannery -- because was cooperation between -- between fishermen, and between canners' staff between office.
Rosemary was there long time. Rosemary Wilson. And she's one of the top bookkeepers, top ladies there. She was always nice to us.
To us, she couldn't be better than she was. And, I get along with everybody in the office. But they kept everything, you know -- relation between fishermen, between canners, to stay, you know, stable. Not to have ups and downs and so forth.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm. And when was it that you stopped fishing in Bristol Bay? NICK MAVAR: I stopped fishing about six, seven -- about is -- five, six years ago. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm.
NICK MAVAR: I was almost 50 years in Bristol Bay. When I start, and between, you know. And, I actually miss it.
You know, when I -- you know, when you in the -- in the w -- whatever you work, whether you work in the company, on the beach, or whether you fisherman, you -- you accumulate lot of relationship and you missin' those things that you -- when you quit. Or you quit, or you -- You think you gonna go forever.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm. And over the years, when you think of all of your experiences, what were some of the main changes that you noted in fishing and in processing?
NICK MAVAR: In fishing, you know, like, years ago, we used to just dry boat, was dry. Nothing else there. And we used to pitch fish with the -- with the pick and put in the brailer. You know how much damage was that.
But, they were only canning fish. There was no fresh market. So they could, you know, that -- y -- you could put up with it.
And as a market evolved, as different buyers came along. Used to be canned fish, and then Japanese came in '80s, frozen. They were buying frozen, Europe was buying canned fish. And that's -- that's a change that came.
Then, later on, we have better brailers, but we didn't have our RSW. We have better quality. Then RSW came, and bleedin' fish and that, one step above all of that. And that's big changes in years to come.
I mean, between when we start in dry boats fishin' just throw them like that, in the -- in the hatch, and pitch them by -- by pick, or now, I mean, is a huge difference.
That's why fishermen think that we should have much better price, because we -- in '80s, we had two dollars and something, and fish wasn't very good quality like now.
And now, we have 100 percent. They always said -- When I see -- read paper, Fishermen News, or everything. Quality, quality, all the time.
And I think, over 30 years, we improve 300, no 100 percent, quality. Yet, price didn't reflect that.
I know there's part of farm fish. Farm fish got a lot of input there. That's one of the reason I was fighting against farm fish, too.
Not only that, it's, you know, cut price for the wild salmon, but it's not healthy for you, too. I found out a long time ago.
Like I said with this lady in Washington, D.C. She was wri -- she was editor in "World and I." And she send in -- she sent me couple of copies of that. I think I have still some -- some copy of that, of her. I wish I can find and give you.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm. And, what was your reaction when you found out that Trident was closing South Naknek? NICK MAVAR: That was sad, for fishermen, even for mechanics.
I know they decide what's a best interest, their interest, business-wise. But, even mechanics that was there, they didn't like north side to move there.
Because they grew -- I mean, for years we were there. And de -- develop with the -- with the families who lived there, with the Natives, their relationship with the cannery, with the people that come in the office there.
And when everything they move up north, is like a different world. You know, there's not that much connection between fishermen, between companies. Everything's estranged. That's a huge change.
That's why I don't know if I wanna -- I mean, I love to fish over there today. But all those changes, I don't think I would --
Like, friend of mine who is in Europe. He said, "Nick, we won't like anymore. Because everything changes." South Naknek was there, we put boats inside, we got Natives there. What -- Develop big relationship.
Huge relationship between families, and between cannery there and people that work there. Between office and the staff and everything else.
And then suddenly that disappear, you know. So, I don't think that would be that much fun, even, fish for me there.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, mm-hm. So, when you think back on the years, what does the South Naknek cannery mean to you and your family? NICK MAVAR: I think, mean to us -- Because, every year, you know, in summer, I spent summers in, you know, like, June and July for last 30 years in Alaska.
It's home way -- home 'way from home, what they say, isn't it. And --
So, to my family, mean lot, too. Because they -- my kids grew up there, too. And they knew where to come, what to expect, and everything was prearrange. For --
Was like a safety cove, you know. Or, I mean, business-wise, and friendship-wise, and all together. But everything changes, suddenly. Big change.
So it meant lot. I mean, whether is relation, whether is working relation, whether is po -- boat put away, put the gear away. And you come over there like you come home, you know.
Like I say, home away from home. 'Scuse me, can I get one minute today? ANJULI GRANTHAM: Oh, yes, yes, yes. Here. I -- You know, I think -- NICK MAVAR: I be -- I be back, sorry.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: I think that unless there's something else that you want to share, I think that we can finish.
NICK MAVAR: So, you wanna talk about cannery more, or -- ? ANJULI GRANTHAM: Well, I -- NICK MAVAR: -- how to preserve?
ANJULI GRANTHAM: This is pretty, this is pretty good, unless -- unless -- Here, we could take a break and -- NICK MAVAR: Yeah -- (Recording paused)
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Okay. Could you talk about the preservation and why you think that's important?
NICK MAVAR: Preservation of South Naknek cannery, I -- I think is very important for history, posterity, whatever.
I mean, it's -- it's home 'way from home. Not just for fishermen, but for South Naknek people that I know for -- for last 34 years.
It's -- It's my home, like, 'way from home. But it's not just my home, it's feeling of lot of fishermen that I met there that are not livin' today.
We used to have great time, not just -- we used to have rec hall there, we used to play games there.
We have the upstairs bunkhouses that we used to get together there. Used to prepare meals. There were Italians there cookin' spaghetti upstairs.
And we used to play ping pong tables. We used to have rec hall. We have great relation with the company staff. Mechanics.
And relationship -- ship -- with the ship -- with the office and everybody, all concerned. I would very much like to preserve that for the future generations. Thank you.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Yes. Is there anything else that you want to say?
NICK MAVAR: I -- I like that I met you. You're a lady.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Well, thank you very much, Nick.
NICK MAVAR: And if we can, you know, if fishermen, more fishermen, can contribute to that, to preserve as it is, I -- I would like very much. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Great. Well, thank you so much.