Bob Metivier was interviewed on August 8, 2018 by Anjuli Grantham at his home in Birch Bay, Washington. Bob's wife, Sylvia, also participated in the interview, where she periodically chimed in from the background. The original recording had some audio problems, so it has been manipulated to try to reduce the background noise and improve the overall sound quality. In this interview, Bob talks about working for the Alaska Packers Association in Blaine and Semiahmoo, Washington and in South Naknek Alaska. He discusses his job as a shipwright, where he built and repaired boats, and his work as a carpenter foreman, beach gang boss, and outdoor foreman. Bob shares many interesting details about how the boats were built, maintained, repaired, painted and named, and how the cannery facility and buildings were cared for. Part of this interview also focused on Sylvia's experiences working for Alaska Packers Association, and although it is all one recording, this has been included in this project as a separate interview.
Digital Asset Information
Project: <NN> Cannery History Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Aug 8, 2018
Narrator(s): Bob Metivier, Sylvia Metivier
Interviewer(s): Anjuli Grantham
Transcriber: Emily Mueller
After clicking play, click on a section to navigate the audio or video clip.
Getting involved with the fishing industry, and learning to be a shipwright and boat builder
Working for Alaska Packers Association as a shipwright and carpenter
Designing and building boats, and types of material used
Numbering and naming of APA boats
Obtaining and storing of wood
Maintaining and repairing the cannery buildings
Planking a boat, and the process of building a double-ender
Common types of boat repairs
Working in the shipyard in Blaine, Washington, and going to South Naknek to work at the cannery
Being carpenter foreman, beach gang boss, and outside foreman
First impressions of the cannery, and first things to do when arriving for the season
Boat storage and transfering them to the water
Water and power supply for the cannery
Building and rebuilding the dock, and being a jack of all trades
Living at the cannery, and the Chinese cemetery
Being a member of the carpenters union
Separate dining areas and mess halls at the cannery
A typical work day and prioritizing tasks
Changes to the cannery buildings, infrastructure, and processing technology
Oldest buildings at the cannery
Converting sailboats to powerboats
Key tools used in boat repair and building maintenance work
Effect of changes in cannery ownership
Closing the cannery up for the winter
Importance of the
Changes in the amount of canning done, and effect of poor fish runs
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After clicking play, click a section of the transcript to navigate the audio or video clip.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: I am Anjuli Grantham. I'm sitting here with Bob and Sylvia Metivier in Birch Bay, Washington at their home. This is August 8th, 2018. And this interview is being recorded as part of the
My name is Anjuli Grantham and I have the joy of spending time with these two folks today to talk about their time at South Naknek, and their experiences as cannery workers.
Bob, could you begin by introducing yourself and telling us -- telling me your name and where you're from, your birthday?
BOB METIVIER: I'm Bob Metivier, born July 3rd, 1927. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Where were you born? BOB METIVIER: Blaine.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And how is it that you got into the fishing industry? BOB METIVIER: Well, where I was born and raised, I looked right across at the cannery. Across -- So, it's always been part of where I'm -- the industry.
And when I got involved, working, I -- First year I worked in Alaska, I went to Copper River Packing Company in Prince William Sound for Joe Most (sp?). Worked one year there.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What year was that? BOB METIVIER: 1944.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And before then, what was your involvement with the fishing industry or with boating? BOB METIVIER: Well, no, I was just kinda -- when I started after school there.
I started there from school. Yeah. Basically, that was about it. Just watching, just being around with 'em. And I took it.
When I worked with Alaska Packers in 1945, then I work in the shipyard.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And where did -- Where was the shipyard? BOB METIVIER: Right there in Semiahmoo. You see the water tank there? Was right there.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok. Could you tell me, when you were just beginning as a shipwright, who taught you how to work on the boats? And -- and what were some of the important lessons that they taught you?
BOB METIVIER: Well, who taught me? A foreman, his name was Dar Dickerson (sp?). He was the shipyard foreman, carpenter foreman. And learned the basic trades right through from the beginning.
And then, the company had -- it kind of seemed like it happened, or just that, but, each year I'd have -- I was the helper to the -- the shipwright they would bring in. One from Pearl Harbor and California, and I learned my trade right through with those people. All the way, the rest of my life. Yeah.
Basically, that's kind of the way you learn it. Learn everything from the bottom up. Handling and launching boats, palling boats, lifting. Building 'em.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What were the boats that you were building and repairing here back in the '40s? BOB METIVIER: Well, the boats then, when I first started, they were sailboats. Twenty-nine-foot Bristol Bay sailboats that we built for Naknek and the Bristol Bay.
The power scows. We had a fleet of power scows. Repaired those. Serviced 'em every -- they were on about a four year cycle, the fleet.
And tugboats, barges, flat barges. This is when everything was just single barges. You loaded everything from the barge out in the Bristol Bay to the ships.
Salmon went that way, too. And cases of salmon went -- loaded at the cannery and took it right out to the ships.
The Alaska -- Alaska's -- I guess it was Alaska Steamship Company, I guess, was the ones we went up with and we were up in the ship, first year.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: From Blaine? BOB METIVIER: From here, yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: So the boat --
BOB METIVIER: Everything worked from here. This was our home port. We worked around this. The office she was at was our office then, and we get to Naknek, it was a -- they took care of us up there.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, would you be employed all winter long by APA in the -- in the shipyards? BOB METIVIER: Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok.
BOB METIVIER: Well, in the shipyard and the carpenter. I was a carpenter, too.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What sort of -- What were you working on as a carpenter, as opposed to as a shipwright? BOB METIVIER: All of the buildings. They're all wooden buildings, and all -- everything that would come up.
Building roofs, Whatever. Docks. Kinda nail it down to any one thing and just a -- Everything.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Hm-mm. Could you tell me, back in the '40s when you first started as a shipwright, were you building new boats for APA, or were you mostly repairing boats that already were around? BOB METIVIER: Primarily repairing, but we built some boats new. Lots of skiffs for set nets. Used to build a 16-foot skiff a day. There's a model of it right there.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Oh. And what would you base these designs on? Were they just handed down over the years, or -- BOB METIVIER: Yeah. ANJULI GRANTHAM: -- did you innovate or -- Could you tell about the design of the boats?
BOB METIVIER: Well, each design was basically that -- well, you could put it kind of just it come out of your head, yes, I guess.
Basically, what -- what required for the size boat and what it was tasked. Power. So, kind of a hard situation -- to answer that one 'cause just about everything you see on it is what you were doing.
On the boats, you started with a stack of boards. Timbers, big timbers. That's why I have two worn out shoulders.
Small-ish boards were three by twelve's from there on up to six by twelve. Heavy. Bigger the barge, the heavier the timbers.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Where would you get the wood? BOB METIVIER: Well, it was milled out and was hauled in from around here.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, local -- All came from Washington? BOB METIVIER: It pretty much, yeah, uh-huh. All fir. Pretty near all fir. Oh no, lots of oak and stuff, but that was shipped in from -- from a number of yards and all that had it.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What was the preferred boards and wood for making the Bristol Bay double-enders, versus a skiff, for example? BOB METIVIER: Well, the first ones were Port Orchard cedar.
And then they were red cedar. Primarily. Port Orchard (on the Olympic Peninsula) got -- you couldn't get it anymore.
So that was the basic oak, oak ribs and either red cedar or Port Orchard planking.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And what was good about those types of woods for the construction that you were doing? BOB METIVIER: Well, they're stable and can hold their -- from the drying -- once the wood is -- one of those boards has seasoned, it holds it, it doesn't shrink and fall apart when they store it.
Strength of it, and the weight. So, that's basic -- basically mo -- most of the fishing vessels were built in Douglas fir, red cedar.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Did you build seiners for the APA, too? BOB METIVIER: No. Repaired, that's it.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok. What -- Where were the seiners being dispatched to? Were they mostly fishing locally, or would you build seiners for the Alaska fleet as well, or -- or repair? BOB METIVIER: They didn't have seiners when I -- the part -- the way -- Bristol Bay was all sailboats. Primarily. Everything with sails there.
So, everything we built -- we used to build a sailboat every four days, complete. Twenty-nine footers.
And, in fact, I've got a one I built for myself. Rebuilt when I couldn't -- when we bought 'em years later.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Would you assign a new number for every new boat, or would you -- if one kind of went -- sunk, or was beyond repair, would you just make a new one and give it the old boat's number? How -- How did the naming happen? BOB METIVIER: No, no. Numbers are -- were either carved in or put it on a plate in small boats. And the big boats they're carved into their timbers. Main beam.
And the outside names were carved into the -- around the hull.
Boy, by the bigger boats, their port -- their sailing port, which is "San" for Alaska Packers. San Francisco. And one of the penguin -- penguin of San Francisco. When a "Pipit" of Seattle, that was the primary boats for here in Blaine.
In Alaska, we had the tugs that were, "The Quail" and "The Brandt" and "The Carue" and "The Raven," and, oh, that's a big fleet of -- to -- Those -- Those we maintained.
And they had a -- we had a shipyard at Diamond J, Kvichak. For a bigger wage, we could haul those boats there and work on 'em. We flew back and forth then to the -- from Naknek over to there to --
We'd stay there for a week, whatever we needed, then go back. Brought our cook and everything out, because that cannery was closed then.
First year I went up, I was -- Kvichak was operating. But that was the last year for that. Nice place.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And that was 1945, you said? BOB METIVIER: Uh, that would've been later than that. That's clear up into the -- probably '60.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok. So, for the boats that you were building and repairing, what did it take for a boat to receive a name, instead of just be assigned the Dimond NN number or --
Because I know that some of them were named, but many of them just had numbers assigned. Was it just about size, or -- BOB METIVIER: All the larger -- All the larger ones were birds. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok.
BOB METIVIER: And then the bigger -- And the barges, they were whales. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ah, whales. Hm.
BOB METIVIER: Sea lion, and the sea lion was a -- with a black fish, orca. Yeah.
Man, I'll have to remember all the names of them. Brandt, 'cause that's a bird. They were either birds or -- or whales.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Were the scows named? BOB METIVIER: No. ANJULI GRANTHAM: They were just given numbers then, or -- ? BOB METIVIER: Just the flat scows.
The ones that power scows, were all named. They were vessels. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok.
BOB METIVIER: They were power. Instead of being round like a hull, a regular hull, they were flat barges. Got pictures of 'em.
Twenty-four by -- I think the average on them was 24 by 72 foot. The barges.
Had a couple of larger ones, a hundred and five footers. The Lois Anderson and the -- ooh -- Balena. That's the two biggest of the barges.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, were the barges -- Did they sometimes have bird names and sometimes have whale names, or how were they usually named? BOB METIVIER: You know, the last two big ones they were -- they'd been military. And after the war was over with -- and they get -- inherited us both vessels.
So those were named -- The Balena, that's a whale. The Lois Anderson, married that to some -- some pretty girl, I guess. I don't know.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So did you store all of the wood on site here in Semiahmoo to season it and everything or -- BOB METIVIER: Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok.
So did you just have a large warehouses full of timber? BOB METIVIER: Yeah, a -- a lumber shed. A big, open shed. Right by the office building there. Yeah. Which is not there anymore. But that -- that's by the water tower, too. That water tower's kind of the central spot for locating.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: How many board feet do you think you would go through in a year here in Semiahmoo for the building and the repairing of the vessels? BOB METIVIER: Oh, boy. Depend on the vessel you were on. Probably a hundred thousand board feet all over with everything, with the barges and all. Something like that. A lotta boards. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm. BOB METIVIER: Timbers. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Yeah. BOB METIVIER: Not boards, timbers.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So -- 'Cause you'd cut them once they arrived they arrived, huh? BOB METIVIER: They were cut -- Then you cut what you wanted out of 'em. Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. Hm-mm.
What would you ship to Alaska? Would you ship the timbers, or would you ship the boards? BOB METIVIER: Well, both. They had lumber. Each community -- when we'd get to Naknek we'd have it --boards for the dock and everything else. And boat number. To sent -- sent in its sizes you needed, in order of each sizer.
When they were all sailboats, a lotta it's planking lumber. When it's mostly like that for boats. About an inch and a half. But it -- Had everything. Two by fours.
All the lumber you'd need to rebuild the cannery, because you'd rebuild a lot of it every year. It's pretty rough weather up there, so --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What was their -- the preferred building material, then, for the cannery? BOB METIVIER: What was the building material? ANJULI GRANTHAM: Yeah.
BOB METIVIER: Well, all the canneries then were corrugated iron outside, and fir timbers. The main, basic buildings were six by twelves, some of 'em up to 60 feet long. Pretty -- Lotta boards.
But then the three -- three by twelve dock planking. You'd use lots of that. Few hundred thousand feet. Every few years it'd get broken up.
And then piling for the docks. Timbers for the docks. That was all imported. I'd say a barge is leavin' Blaine here loaded if the lumber for there. It'd haul most of our equipment up.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Would that be on the same shipment that the boats would head north as well? BOB METIVIER: Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Or would there be many barges going back and forth? BOB METIVIER: Loaded and take it right north.
And they'd bring the boats to re -- be repaired back down, loaded for bringin' down for repair, machinery and everything else, that way.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: How would you decide if it was a repair job that you could do on site in South Naknek, compared to something that had to come down here? BOB METIVIER: Well, basically what it would require -- yeah, for time. And, the material -- well, the material you could get.
But, you decided for what the boss said. That was almost always done from up -- from up above. Some from San Francisco.
So, did what you were told, in other words.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, Semiahmoo was the place where all the boats and everything went up to Bristol Bay, but San Francisco was still the corporate headquarters at that time? BOB METIVIER: Oh, yes. Yep. Yeah. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mmm.
When -- When did that end? When -- Do you know when San Francisco closed down? I don't know. BOB METIVIER: I don't know if -- When did it close down? Del Monte Corporation's what you're talking about. It's what they -- They're still in business, but it's a different company now. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. Hm-mm.
BOB METIVIER: RJ Reynolds Tobacco bought 'em out. And I still get a check from 'em. They -- They retire -- retirement. So, dates, I couldn't tell you. (recording cuts out)
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok, we're back. So, of -- You mentioned all of the different boats that you were building. What -- What was your preferred boat-building project? What did you like to do more than other tasks as far as repair or building? BOB METIVIER: Well, my major job was -- most of the time if something come in had a planking job, that I was always the head planker. Did the planking on 'em. Repair, replace, what was my -- kinda my -- one of my primary skills.
And then after that, when I took it over, then, it was everything. So, no -- no -- no -- just get it fixed and get back into the --
Everything was on a schedule. How much money was directed to do it. Just like -- just like the way it was. I don't know how you'd explain any more than that?
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Could you describe the process of building one of the double-enders, the sailboats, from the ground up? BOB METIVIER: Sure. You make a stem and a sternpost. And they -- Oh, let me see, with the three by --
I guess three by ten single iron bark plank. That was the center piece of the keel. That was -- had a slot cut in it for the center boards, they were sailboats.
And -- and basically that always set the stem up and the steering post up, the knee to hold 'em and -- And we made a jigged for all of it that lands upside down, and with it had a mold for the frames and bent the ribs all over that.
That's -- call clamp strakes in to hold 'em, then start planking.
And the bottom -- the keel down and the bottom up, shear up. Garboard planks and shear planks and then from then on down, down.
It was about sixteen planks up on each side. And then the shutter plank. That's, you finished. That make any sense? That's the way it's -- that's the way it was done.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And what was required to finish out the boat? BOB METIVIER: Well, they had -- we rolled 'em back up, put 'em up -- up -- well, they were sanded out and caulked, all caulked tight.
Then they were rolled over and upright, and clamp -- the clamp strakes, they call it, with a piece around the edge, all the way around. They call it a shear.
The deck -- There's no decks on them. They're just had a cover board around the edges and a small deck on the bow, where they actually used to sleep under these short --
And the mast step, that they were that step, the mast all laid down and ya picked 'em up into the step. Rudders dropped in over the stern, and was made of wooden oak rudders. At least then.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Did you paint them as well? BOB METIVIER: Pardon? ANJULI GRANTHAM: Did you paint them here in Semiahmoo, or -- ? BOB METIVIER: Oh, yeah, finished boats when they were done here, they left. They --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And what color would you paint them? BOB METIVIER: Well, Naknek's were white. Oh, I -- Diamond -- Clark's Point where -- they were --
Anyway, they all had their numbers painted on them, too. NN or one of the -- whatever cannery. Naknek was NN. Diamond J was -- Diamond -- Yeah. Clark's Point -- Did you get to Clark's Point. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-mm. BOB METIVIER: That's nice.
I guess that's about it. That was a finished boat, painted up, all ca -- all -- away she went. Four, five days, it was done and gone.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What was the most common repair that you would do? BOB METIVIER: Broken planking. Yeah. They'd hit and bash in planking.
Main -- main thing it'd be a broken rib or two, and then as they aged, the deterioration they'd have to replace. But some of them were quite old. They got -- Started out with a -- I don't know what year they started, but some of 'em got to be quite relic.
I was there a long time myself, so -- Watched them age out. I was -- About thirty years there, I think. Thirty-some years. So, that was about --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Do you know -- BOB METIVIER: Pardon? ANJULI GRANTHAM: Oh, go on. BOB METIVIER: No, I -- That's it. ANJULI GRANTHAM: I was gonna ask if you heard anything about the original designers, of those who came up with the design for the double-ender, or for the gillnet skiff, or any of these boats that were used up there?
BOB METIVIER: The original boats were -- They called 'em Columbia River, when they started there, and sailing and fishing in the Columbia River.
That's basically what they were designed, and then pretty -- pretty much the same design. The -- the length had to be right on, couldn't be any longer. That was the legal length and size, nine by twenty-nine. Was nine foot wide, twenty-nine feet long.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Were there any design considerations for any of the boats that -- that you thought about in response to the conditions of fishing in Bristol Bay? BOB METIVIER: No, they were built -- Well, the sail. Their center board, they pulled the centerboard up 'cause the shallow water.
You run -- the mud -- you're on the beach half the time. Basically, that's about the same design on everything. Had to be, 'cause no power at all for the fishing. It becomes automatic, it's hard to even try to separate it.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: How many people were working in the shipyard here in Blaine? BOB METIVIER: Well, at times we had about, what, 25, 30 men. Basically. Two --
Had a machine shop group. The power -- the -- all the engine then -- and then the carpenters.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And who was the foreman for the whole shipyard? BOB METIVIER: The whole -- The superintendent, cannery superintendent was, yeah. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok. So there wasn't someone that -- that was a --above the shipwright or above the machinist that -- BOB METIVIER: No. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Aside from the superintendent? Ok. BOB METIVIER: Each one had their foreman. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok. Mm-hm.
And so, what is it that brought you from being in the shipyard in Semiahmoo to Naknek? How did you get up there? BOB METIVIER: How did I get there? ANJULI GRANTHAM: Yeah.
BOB METIVIER: Well, they asked me to go several years ahead of that time, when I was workin' there. And I said -- I just basically said, "A foreman?" "Oh no, we just need -- No." And I says, "I'm not interested. I'll stay right here."
The second year they made it worth my time. So, I stayed there ever since.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And what year was that? BOB METIVIER: What did I go to Naknek? SYLVIA METIVIER: '68. BOB METIVIER: '68. Yeah. So.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And so, from the '68 until 1996? BOB METIVIER: Yes. So.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: That's a good tenure. And so, you went up to be -- to be beach gang boss, or for some other job? BOB METIVIER: Ship -- Carpenter foreman, the boss. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok.
BOB METIVIER: Beach gang was kind of underneath them with work. They basically moved equipment, beach gang. And then unloaded fish.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok. So your -- your job then was carpenter foreman? BOB METIVIER: Then later it became outside foreman, over all of it.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Could you tell me, what were the responsibilities of the carpenter foreman at the -- at the cannery? BOB METIVIER: The carpenter foreman? All of the dock work, all of the building, everything needed to be done. And housing, through the bunkhouses, through the cannery buildings, office building, walkways.
That was quite consuming. You see, the size of the place. That's about it.
And then, the coordination with electricians and the plumbers. That part of it then. Yeah.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And what was the responsibility of the outside foreman? BOB METIVIER: Ooh. I had a list of it that filled two pages. It was kinda overwhelming.
It was just about water supply, unloading fish, and un -- and loading and all that. Handling the boats, loading the boats.
Doing all the carpenter work, road work, dock work. Everything in -- and everything that needed to be done in the carpenters or the boat mechanics.
They're called port engineers. They were -- The -- They weren't in the fishing, canning operation. We were just out of the cannery buildings. From there on out was mine.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: I see. So the outside foreman was in charge of the beach gang, the carpenters, the mechanics? BOB METIVIER: Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: The shipwrights? BOB METIVIER: Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: And electricians? BOB METIVIER: Basically. Electrician was both ways. So he was -- ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok.
BOB METIVIER: And the power -- and the power house man and the boiler man. They were all kind of a dual purpose. They worked for each of us.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And -- So then you reported directly to the superintendent? BOB METIVIER: Right. ANJULI GRANTHAM: As the outside foreman.
And when you were the carpenter foreman, you would've reported to the outside foreman? BOB METIVIER: Didn't have an outside foreman then. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ah, ok. BOB METIVIER: We just -- foreman, basic foremans. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-mm.
BOB METIVIER: It wasn't working that great. When I went there, we were havin' trouble coordinating. Everybody was against everybody. Kind of how it evolved.
They just shortened it down to one man, and the rest of them did what they were told. They -- Very smooth operation. It wasn't the problem. Wasn't anything that was ever argued about, or -- didn't step out of line. You did what you were told.
Didn't have time to do any -- you basically had so many hours to do all this thing, and start in the cannery from nothing in the spring time to close it up when you left.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: When did you become the outside foreman? BOB METIVIER: Hm. Take -- Tom Takeoka was the superintendent then. I'm not too sure. Just kind of evolved. I just kind of -- I don't -- Do you know what -- when Takeoka was -- ? SYLVIA METIVIER: Wasn't too far after you were up there. BOB METIVIER: Before -- before Gary Johnson.
SYLVIA METIVIER: Gary was '76, I think. I think, probably '71, probably. BOB METIVIER: 'Bout then. SYLVIA METIVIER: '70, '71. Must be. It kinda wor -- You worked into that position, more or less.
BOB METIVIER: Yeah, they kinda just worked it around. And just -- You were basically all the time, but then they put the titles on it.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, tell me about when you first arrived in 1968 at South Naknek. What were your impressions of the cannery? BOB METIVIER: I wanted to get in an airplane and go home. First impression. Oh God.
It looked pretty sick. It hadn't had any maintenance to speak of, and the buildings were all -- paint was all red roofs that were gone, a color, and docks were bad.
And it wasn't running very well. Everybody was on -- And lots of alcohol. Which ended when I got there. That didn't make me very popular at times.
So, a dangerous place. So, you have to be on foot on everything. There's so many places to get hurt and killed in. And off the end of the dock, you know, it's just -- you fall overboard there, you're gone. That's all. There's no comin' up. Sandy in the water, you don't come up and swim, so --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What other dangers were there? BOB METIVIER: Just about everything you could think of. Yeah, well --
It's a basically -- I guess that's the main -- Equipment, but that was pretty well taken care of. Forklift drivers. Not too much. Not too much. Carpenters get cut and things like that.
Do what they're told and they don't have any problem. One fellow I was on -- he got a big wide joiner there, and he was making a little board, and I walked over and I says, "You don't do that." "I'll have you know that I was doin' this before you ever -- just a pup." I says, "Not from now on. Don't do it."
And he went the next day, he did, and he cut off four fingers. And he was a tennis player.
Yeah, he apologized. I says, "Well, I tried to tell ya." Big machine ate up a board and threw it at him and tore his fingers off.
So, that's kind of what the job was.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, what was your first main task when you arrived at South Naknek? BOB METIVIER: First main task? Well, I guess ma -- main -- first main task was just getting -- we were the first people. There were only four of us went in. Two, a cannery foreman, myself, superintendent, and the cook.
So, it was just getting all of the ga -- the mess hall and that going. Operations. And a boiler room man had come, and powerhouse man. That was it.
Start with -- until the crew started arriving in a week or so later as you got -- you know. Basically, when you started out you were just a few people. Start it's like the abandoned place to a -- to a cannery.
When you left it, you left it the same way. Abandoned. Put away, except for the winter crew. The visit -- or, the live -- ones that lived there. Carvel Zimin, he was a winterman. So, that's what it was.
This evolved from then on up to whatever you had to do. Whatever came up, it was never the same project every day, so -- Get 'er done and get it on the next one.
Go to bed at 11 o'clock and get up at 6. That was a regular day. Then you had over -- then you worked over lots of hours.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So when you would arrive, what month would you get up there, usually? BOB METIVIER: The first of May, I guess the first years. They increased it.
The later years, they changed the hours. But it took longer to get organized at first. Get it all -- things got -- become more modern, power of more and everything.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: In the first years that you flew up then, instead of taking the barge? BOB METIVIER: Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: And would the material that you'd shipped be there waiting for you, or would that come later? BOB METIVIER: Basically, what was left over from the year. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok.
BOB METIVIER: They always had enough carry you through to the spring again. Which you didn't -- you know, it had a lot of repair works to do.
But everything was just about there. Then a lot of it was shipped in the barges -- got there -- our barges got there just about the same time we did, so it was scheduled just about right with it unloading and putting -- putting everything away and --
And the warehouses were jammed as -- for stored as boats. We had to start moving boats out of the way for freight. Get that all done.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, the boats were stored in warehouses instead of on the ways? BOB METIVIER: Yeah, the small -- the fishing boats. The big boats were put at Diamond O down the river from the cannery, and then one at Diamond J.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, large boats were not stored at Naknek? BOB METIVIER: No. No, it didn't have any ways there. It used -- the early years, there was, but then they got rid of it.
Diamond O handled, oh, what -- I don't remember -- six, twelve barges, somethin' like that.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: How did you get the barges off of the ways? BOB METIVIER: They all rolled -- wheels -- slide. Called "butter boards." Timbers and planks that are oiled, greased. And then the ways are all wheels -- railroad wheels. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok.
BOB METIVIER: Pull 'em up, up to where you want 'em, then slide 'em sideways on the -- I don't know if you've ever seen pictures of it. That's --
They call bents (sp?). They bring -- the river of the banks are that high. So, each -- bring them up a layer for that one, then up another layer, 'other layer.
Steam winch pull them up. It's just a -- it's just so basically boring after a while.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And you said the water supply was five miles away? What would it take to get -- BOB METIVIER: Well, that was the main power -- That was the main cannery power, water. That had a 14-inch wooden pipe. It was not the right thing to have there, and we would --
After we'd get into operation for the first five or six or seven years, every time you get into production, somebody'd shut some valves off quick, and it'd blow a big section of the pipeline out. It shot.
Finally, I told 'em myself, I said, "I'm not comin' back next year. I can't -- I can't keep the thing goin' there with what you got."
The next day -- the next week, there was a San Francisco engineer up there. "What do you need?" So we -- he measured it all out and he sent aluminum pipe, 10-inch aluminum pipe. 5000 feet of it. So, we laid that and it's still -- some -- I guess it's still there. Was a small chore, too.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: It was above ground, or was it buried? BOB METIVIER: Oh, yeah. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok. BOB METIVIER: Well, at first they buried it. Well, then it'll never thaw. Couldn't -- It froze so deep that all that -- all that pipe was frozen.
That's a learning thing there for them, too. I don't how they buried it. I don't know how they put the wooden pipe in. It was a wooden, wrapped with wire, pipe like that, yeah.
They just break a water and break a section right out of it as it got older. I don't know how old it was, but that's how that evolved.
It was me or you. And I'm not -- you can't -- I -- you can't live through this and do it. So, try as much as you could, you can't keep up.
"Well, then shut the cannery down, we're in operation." I says, "We do the best we can, and you're so far lucky. You got it."
Go two or three o'clock in the morning and get a crew out to get up. And it's two miles back. You walk most of it, so --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Did it come from -- the water come from a lake or -- BOB METIVIER: Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: -- a stream. BOB METIVIER: The lake there. We got pictures of the lake.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What's the name of the lake? Was there a name? BOB METIVIER: Blue Lake, I think it was called. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Blue? Mm, mm-hm.
BOB METIVIER: Shallow lake. It was quite -- a pretty nice place. The land up there is so flat and as over -- evolve the time, I used to push -- push the edges up, push and make a lake.
The whole country up there is lakes. But this was a pretty good-sized one. It supplied -- It was a good supply of water. Ninety pounds of pressure at the cannery, so --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And the water then, was -- How -- how did it generate power? BOB METIVIER: Well, then we had generator -- diesel generators. Yeah, it wasn't -- it wasn't used as power. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Oh, it wasn't? It was used for --
BOB METIVIER: Well, it was used -- It made steam for the boilers. Yeah, basically was for the water and for canning -- cannery -- cannery requires a lotta water. Hose, everything's got water running.
And as you shut down at night with the crew -- a crew that's tired, and they all run to get their bed and they'll slam a valve shut. Well, three or four of them happened, and you -- you stopped 4,000 feet of water comin. That's a lotta tons. Break it right off.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And so, then you'd have to get up, find the source of where -- where the damage was? BOB METIVIER: Right, finding it was a project. Yes. And --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: How would you repair the wooden pipe? BOB METIVIER: Well, we had -- we had sections we packed with us. It was two foot or three foot. They cut it -- cut the wood right out, snap a new piece in, and then over the top.
And clamped -- made clamps and clamped 'em and put 'em over an overpatch over the -- over the break. Usually, it'd be one or two boards that were blown out of it.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: How did you build and rebuild and design the dock, based on the fact that the tides are always coming in and out and the ice problems? How did you do that, and -- and design based on the location of the cannery? BOB METIVIER: I -- That was before me, was all the design. We just followed it through.
The tides -- well, the ice would hang on the -- and just hang there quite a while into the season but --
It -- I think in 20 -- about 22 feet, 24 foot for the bottom of the dock to the water -- to the bottom of the riverside -- shore.
But that -- it pretty well-maintained itself. Except when ice would come down the river and break chunks out of it. Big, big chunks of ice, like this house. Eight-foot deep, thick, kinda like that.
All the canneries were the same up there. That big tides. Two tides like that a day. Twenty -- Well, up to 22-foot tides, so --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What was the process for repairing the dock if it had been damaged by a big chunk of ice? BOB METIVIER: Just chop a piece out, put more in. New one. You had to sta -- just break 'em up, yeah, put new timbers in, new piling.
And that also broke out half the windows in the cannery, when the ice would hit the dock and the cannery and all these windows. And that would breaks --
Well, the windows were 14 by 16, I think. They'd just divide (?) right in the buildings and break a few hundred of those every year.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, did you have panes of glass, and then you would -- BOB METIVIER: Oh yeah, cases of it.
It was basically means everything that could be replaced right on the -- outta the box and putty 'em in.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Wow. So you were a window glazer, as well? BOB METIVIER: Everything.
And then they had birds that came in in the winter and picked half of the glazing out. What'd they call those, camp robbers? I think it was. There was nothing --
And they'd pick, go ahead and pick. There was nothin -- And then glass would fall out. Steel frames in the windows.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And where did you live in the cannery? BOB METIVIER: Well, at first I'd had a -- we had a foreman. There was two foremen. Cannery foreman and myself, the carpenter. And then the cook, the main cook. We had a room right down by the -- Our little bunkhouse, right down near the mess hall.
Then later when Sylvia came, we got a house up on the hill that had been reserved for the diplomats from the can -- California. So --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And was that right next to the White House? BOB METIVIER: No, that was up on top of the hill. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok.
BOB METIVIER: Other side of the cannery. White House down below on the cannery level, and so it was up, top level. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm, I see.
Was that on the same hill that the Chinese cemetery was located? BOB METIVIER: Yep, just a little ways from the cemetery.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Where -- When I went there, the alders had overgrown, and so I couldn't really see the cemetery. Back in 1968, were there many people buried there and many graves -- BOB METIVIER: Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Or just a handful? BOB METIVIER: Quite a few.
They had a -- I don't remember what year, there was a Chinese diplomat came up, and he saw that neglect and they had to get busy and straighten it all out again and clean it up. But I don't -- there was quite a few people there.
Then, that -- below that, over back by the mess hall, there was called Chinatown. The little buildings that they all lived -- Chinese crew lived.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What were they used for when you arrived? BOB METIVIER: What was that? Oh, we just stored them -- just stored parts. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Hm-mm.
BOB METIVIER: That's -- Everything changed, the crews changed. It must have been a lot of people at first. Hand labor everything.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Were there only Chinese people that were buried in the Chinese cemetery, or were there other cannery people over there? BOB METIVIER: I -- I -- I don't know. I think I was mostly -- mostly Chinese.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Hm-mm. Did anyone -- I'm sure by the time that you were there, when someone was injured or -- or died they were buried. They would be shipped back to their home instead of -- BOB METIVIER: Oh, yes. Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: -- buried in Naknek, huh? BOB METIVIER: Only -- I don't know of any --
I don't know of any local -- of any outside crew that was buried there. I know a lotta people that were buried there, but that's quite a process, too, when it's frozen, so --
SYLVIA METIVIER: Those Chinamen were ones that came up on the steamers from California. BOB METIVIER: Yes. SYLVIA METIVIER: (inaudible) BOB METIVIER: Come up on the sailing ships. SYLVIA METIVIER: The sailing ships. But, you saw that picture?
BOB METIVIER: See, that's the only transportation there. SYLVIA METIVIER: They were never sent back, they were just buried there. BOB METIVIER: It was -- only way out was --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Did you ever hear about any of the bodies being removed over the years? BOB METIVIER: No, I never have. They'd tell me -- and -- and I don't know, this is a -- they said they used to salt bodies down in barrels that were shipped back to China, I guess. But that's more of just a rumor.
I never heard -- saw it. But, they had to have done something with 'em.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Were you a member of a carpenters union? BOB METIVIER: Yep, always have. Still am. ANJULI GRANTHAM: And what is the union? BOB METIVIER: United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners. It's --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Were all -- all of the carpenters affiliated with APA a part of the same carpenter union, or how did that contract negotiation work? BOB METIVIER: Well, carpenters were carp -- where the other were machinists. Mechanics or machinists union.
But everybody was pretty well covered with a contract, union contracts. Which is never a problem, so -- you know.
I don't know if any cannery workers had their own unions. Which I stayed away from. Which I did not get involved with any of that.
There's three or four carpenters, machinists, were primarily the union-operating people.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And was the union headquartered in Seattle? BOB METIVIER: Probably was, I'm not sure. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. Hm-mm.
BOB METIVIER: I still -- but I belong to the union here in Bellingham, and then we were a branch affiliated with the marine carpenters. And I've still -- I stayed with that all my -- all my life, and I started -- with the -- must've had to when you started.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: It was required to be a member of the union to work for the cannery? BOB METIVIER: Well, that -- was it required be a worker at a job, yeah. Through -- not by the companies, but --
And it was a good idea. It was a good idea. People complain, but the ones that did it all -- all profited, so I can never understand why there was -- be a problem. Nobody wanted to be told anything. Politics.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What -- Where would you eat? Were you in the Blue Room or the white -- with the -- with the -- BOB METIVIER: Blue Room. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok.
Who ate in the Blue Room? BOB METIVIER: Office staff. Some of the office staff, bookkeeper, radio -- ocean radio operator, superintendent, cannery foreman.
Which was -- and then the beach boss and myself, that was it.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Do you know why that there was a separate dining area for the foremen? BOB METIVIER: That was the -- that's where we were, with the foreman.
Then, the rest of them were -- the mechanics, and then they all ate in the Gray Room. That was a -- And that was a different from the two -- from the c -- outside crew, from the cannery crew.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: The mechanics ate in the, you said "gray room"? BOB METIVIER: Cannery -- Mechanics and the carpenters, yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok.
So, there was the Blue Room, the Gray Room, and then the general mess hall? BOB METIVIER: General mess.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And was the general mess hall for both fishermen, white people, and the Filipino crew? BOB METIVIER: No, Filipinos had its complete separate quarters and mess.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And were they connected back in -- when you first started, or were they -- BOB METIVIER: No, it was always that way be -- I guess that's what the contracted. Filipinos, laborers -- Orientals, I guess, mostly Filipino.
And then the carpenters and the machinists, mechanics, they all ate together.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Where did the fishermen eat? BOB METIVIER: Fishermen ate with, I guess, in the general mess, didn't they? Yeah. Well, no, not the general -- they -- in the general mess, yeah. That was the main mess hall, part of the hall.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And when -- When did your day begin, and did it begin with breakfast in the mess hall or with work before -- before you started eating, or how -- how did the -- what was the day in the life? BOB METIVIER: Well, basically just like everybody else. It started -- it started at eight o'clock.
We had -- we had bre -- we ate at the mess hall. And our three meals a day would be in the -- in our -- in the general mess hall.
The -- The mug up, you know they call it, they had that at room -- we'd have -- we'd have -- everybody would go with that one. Mixed.
I guess, then the day's mealtimes would be regular schedules. But as you worked, it's when you could get there, so --
On -- Onward to twelve, one o'clock in the morning, start back again at six. So, quite a long days.
And under full production. 'Cause production stop, we'd go back to normal.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What would you prioritize if -- knowing that there were so many things that could happen over the day and you were pulled in so many directions? What were the most critical things to keep going? BOB METIVIER: Your heart. I -- I -- Water and power, that's the main things. From then to that, you would branch out from that. And as things are required.
But the basic things was water and power. Electricity. Without that, nothing ran.
Powerhouse managers and the motorman and myself and the water. Water was my -- one of my main projects, always. Filter the -- we had filters to change, and --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So were you then responsible for the -- the pipes that would then pump the gurry out and all of that, as well? BOB METIVIER: No, it went right through the cannery, right down into a grinder and ran overboard. So, no, I wouldn't have to touch that.
We had sluice ways down through in the cannery that all of the parts would go right through to grind -- ground up and -- and go over into the -- into the river.
Pretty well ground, it was small. Huge grinder. One of my worries was just -- somebody disappear if they went through the grinder. But that was down under the floors. It's --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What were some of the main changes to the cannery complex itself that you noticed or that you took part in over the years? BOB METIVIER: Well, one of the main things was we changed the complete -- the Fish House. Fiberglassed it all out, put fiberglass, made them into -- They were wood, and it made fiber -- fiberglass it all.
Walkways. All the fish was brought up and sluiced in with water to the conveyor and then right into each of the bins.
Air compressors to blow -- blowing air into bins later. That would keep the chill ice. Keep it down. Chill, cool.
That's one of the main, uh, movin' the fish with water, basically. Flumes instead of havin' to -- belts.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. When did that happen? BOB METIVIER: Well, probably the last ten years of the cannery operation.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So did they -- before that, was it the whole belting system? BOB METIVIER: Pretty much. Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok.
When did the Fish House project happen? BOB METIVIER: The last time it happened, I -- When we -- when we -- when we completely redid it, took the whole floor out of it, everything out of it, what Steve -- just Jones went up with me.
My -- one of my other carpenter foreman, he went back to work for the aluminum -- aluminum plant. He went back up with me, 'cause he was my fiberglass man over here in Blaine.
He ran the fiberglass operation. So, I'm not sure the year of that. Probably eight to ten years before we shut down. Yeah.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Any other major projects as far as new bunkhouses or -- BOB METIVIER: Built a girl -- girl's bunkhouse for the cannery girls up on the top of the hill. One of the major ones, for me. Let's see. This major, keeping the thing together.
And then changing the routing of the cans, from the after they were canned and -- and then cooling and moved in to get -- from there down and then back into the warehouse.
And the system all changed pretty much after that. They started putting vacuum pack over the -- vacuum over the -- pallets of salmon.
Changed that whole system from -- into -- first, well, they were put into wooden boxes, then later they went into cardboard boxes, and then it just kinda --
In the first years, they were four-wheel wagons, and they towed 'em with a little power lift. Then they all went into pallets and forklift. All shipped it that way. Much faster.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What the -- You said the vacuum. What -- What do you mean by the v -- the vacuum? BOB METIVIER: What was that a based on? ANJULI GRANTHAM: It was after the -- with the -- after they were cooled. You said something about a vacuum.
BOB METIVIER: I reckon -- I don't remember ta -- Cooling the cans. Gettin' the air to move it away from -- outta the -- the heat out of it. To chill it.
They put a whole system in that the floor was open underneath. The river was right below it and the air came up and cooled it.
They tried to -- Later, the year afterward, I told 'em it wouldn't work. "Now, you have to -- " "Well, and if we can use that storage." Well, it didn't work. The pack would scorch. So they don't get cool and so forth.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What did they do? BOB METIVIER: I don't know. I left. I was gone.
They got rid of some of the people that did it, I guess. I don't -- I washed my hands of the whole thing, and --
I was developin' a heart system. I had to have a heart -- valve job, and that was -- And that was the end of it. So --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, when you said that the whole -- that you rearranged the -- the way that the movement, it sounds, of the cans and the -- BOB METIVIER: Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: -- facility. What did you change? Was it that you put different workstations in buildings, or how did that work? BOB METIVIER: Yeah, different -- different -- different beltings system.
We put in -- Can't remember what they call the big belt, that big wide belts that -- conveyor belts, where -- that you could -- all the fish and things would go through. That was in the raw product.
From the Fish House after it's processed, after it was gone through and cut and cleaned, and then to the cannery, into the canning machine. The -- changed all that.
Changed a lotta the cannery machinery around, the way it was oriented. Changed my mind a lot. I -- I --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What prompted the change? BOB METIVIER: Speed. High speed machinery required lots faster movement.
And the canning with the machines, much faster and handled much, much more -- much more product at a given time. Had to move all of that.
Had to cool -- that all get cooled. Get it ready to -- to go back in the warehouse.
We put an aerial overhead from the cannery can shop building clear to the warehouse. And everything was moved over the top of that and then taken down into the warehouse, and there's your -- then the can encased -- or not cased, put into a pallet.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Oh. So, like a aerial -- sort of like a walkway thing that -- BOB METIVIER: Yep, had a walkway and a -- and a conveyor across it.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Oh, so to go from the cannery -- or from the Fish House into the cannery, into the cooling shed? BOB METIVIER: From the -- oh, what was it -- Fish House to the cannery, up to the can -- see the cans were all made, too.
Cans came -- big pack of cans. And it -- And it would form and made the cans. Then they went back down to the cannery, then they come back up and through -- pallet -- to the pallets. After -- well, it cook -- cooked, and then back up to the pallets.
Missing an operation there, but --But it, basically -- it broke down a -- primarily conveyors and forklifts, fast. Lot faster equipment.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Did you have to make any changes to the cannery buildings after they started using the stackable can instead of the reformers? BOB METIVIER: Uh, lemme see. We gained a lotta room, 'cause it shortened the -- That was upstairs in the cannery.
Did you go to the plant at'all? ANJULI GRANTHAM: Yes. BOB METIVIER: You saw where the lunchroom was upstairs? Or, called -- the mug up room was? ANJULI GRANTHAM: Yes. Uh-huh.
BOB METIVIER: Well, right there, up there, that's the top. That's -- That level is where the canning was. Right down through the ca -- out to the power outlets.
So, we -- Yeah, we did -- did -- redid that pretty well. Opened it up so you could move through it.
It seemed like just a long, steady one thing after another, all the time. Had to repair the b -- buildings that are gettin' old and falling, and --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: In your mind, what do you think are the oldest buildings on site? BOB METIVIER: Oh, I think that the -- the cannery probably itself was -- the saltery that was over a hundred then. Years old, so.
And the carvings in the beams and stuff in the war -- by the warehouses.
I don't know what year it would've been, but a lot of age involved before I got there. Went from sailboat days, sailing ships days to the sailboat days to the powerboat days.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Could you tell me about the conversion? Were you involved in making the sailboats into powerboats? BOB METIVIER: Yep.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, what did the shipwrights think about that? BOB METIVIER: Nuh, they didn't care. It's just -- it's just another -- just another project. Strip 'em out, cut the stern off. Put up metal -- metal --
We'd designed a piece that fit right in with the tail shaft and all the propeller stuff there, and the rudder. Got that bolted in.
That was the main part of it, and then put a metal cabin on 'em. Each one pretty well fit. They were pretty well uniform, so --
Seems like I'm kind of a rough to go into a boat and cut a chunk right out of the back end of it, for this new apparent metal piece to fit into it, but it worked. Converted a lotta boats.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: How long would it take to convert one of the boats? BOB METIVIER: Oh, probably two days, three days. With a crew.
I had a crew at -- at Clark's Point doing it when I was a foreman there. Clark's Point when we'd converted it.
Had three plants that redid the -- Naknek, Clark's Point, Naknek and Egegik, I guess, had a crew that went in. We went in from here as a crew to do that job, and then we left.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: I see, so you didn't actually do it in Semiahmoo? The conversions happened up in the Bristol Bay? BOB METIVIER: Ma -- Mainly. We did some here, but mostly up there.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: How did -- how were the fishermen paired with boats? BOB METIVIER: I don't know. Depend on the favoritism of the fish boss, which is another whole regime itself.
They were -- When I first were there, they were company men, then later they become independents, so --
Sicilians. Our -- our groups were proma -- primary Sicilian fishermen. Wonderful guys. Some of my best friend I ever had, from the Sicilians.
They're all great fishermen, but that's -- and then they had their own boats. When they converted one to power -- when the sailboats went out and then the power came in, that didn't last only a few years.
They all converted to different style boats. Bigger boats. Not really bigger, but bigger-bigger. More capacity. The length is the same. It -- (engine starts) Somebody started the house up.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So the fish boss then, was almost like another sort of foreman? BOB METIVIER: Yeah, just with the fishermen. I don't know, they were -- I don't understand their whole work stuff. I didn't -- You know, I stayed clear of all that.
Just did what they net -- we -- needed done. We'd do their work for them and sign a contract when you'd had some work done and they'd do it and get 'em out to get the next boat.
There'd be always a line up with repairs. They get injured out in the pick and their fishing or when they're unloading, and banged around.
Then the boats went to fiberglass for a little bit, then they went to aluminum, and that changed the whole -- took most shipwrights out -- out of it. The woods, they were.
The wooden boats pretty well phased out, time I left. Fade into aluminum and some fiberglass. But a fiberglass couldn't stand the abuse of the metal boats beatin' against it. It's stronger, but it's weaker, so --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, you would spend most of your time if you weren't out and about in the carpenter shop. And did the boats that you repair, did you bring them up on the -- did you repair them on the beach, or would you -- BOB METIVIER: No, into the warehouse. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok. So you'd -- (inaudible) BOB METIVIER: They had a big door right in the warehouse, right to the carpenter shop.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok, and you had a crane there that could lift 'em? BOB METIVIER: No, put 'em on wheels. They can -- lifted 'em off the dock and a hoist, set 'em on the cart, and then roll 'em in.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-mm. That's a big cart. BOB METIVIER: Not too big. It's kind of a -- It's a long long channel iron w -- with the wings on it and a heavy-duty roller -- hard rubber rollers.
Wheels about that wide and that high. And they set on that, and then on each end is swivel wheels.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, what do you think were -- if we're -- Since we're doing this exhibit, looking at cannery work, what are the most important tools or objects that come to mind for the outside foreman and the carpenters at NN?
What are some good things to represent that sort of work? Warm shoes? BOB METIVIER: No, it wasn't that -- it wasn't that cold. It's fairly dry.
Tools, just basic hand tools. Welding equipment, saws, skill saws and band saws. Kinda the basic -- the whole thing, 'cause each job was different, so --
And the welders were portable, most of 'em, lot of 'em, so -- We had a welders that were always -- built a welding shop for 'em. That's --
They mostly did their own painting, so -- We also had a building out in the back that was a paint house. About every kind of a color you could think of in there for -- Everybody had a different choice for colors. The fifty different colors of gray and they all have a different choice.
I dunno, I guess basically, that's just -- just basic hand tools. Did require a lot of other equipment. A forklift to lift, move around, and power cords, and drills. Still have the same thing in my own shop here, so --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And over the years as different owners came on, how did your job change under new ownership? BOB METIVIER: It was pretty well, basically, stayed the same.
They were going to change me out with the -- with the other earlier crews, and that's when San Francisco stepped in and says, "No, no." Then they leased me out and leased me back to the owner to -- the last ones -- people that took over for a few years.
It's kind of how that -- it worked. I just --
My job stayed the same. Ownership changed. They come around to my way of thinkin'. I don't know.
What else could you do? Something that's been done for a hundred years and somebody comes along and wants to change it in a -- in a season. Don't do it. It won't work. It -- Don't have time to do it. Go from a bare place to a busy place to a bare place in three months.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, what would it take at the end of the season to close it up for the winter? BOB METIVIER: Oh. All the piping had to be drained. Yeah, all the building had to be taken off.
The latter years, there weren't as much belts, 'cause they eliminated that. Individual motors on everything instead of belts, which was a big change.
Just bring the boats in, clear out, stack everything, load the warehouse for the boats, storage. Everything, and the winter storage and winter places where it's all put in pretty well, dried out, and when -- drained.
Boats had to be drained and fueled up. Never put 'em in away empty tanks. They sweat and full of moisture.
It's, basically, lay out each boat. Each -- Each individual would hire a mechanic to winterize it, they called it. Antifreeze in it. Each one of them.
As you went through the fleet that about pretty well -- all the barges that stayed, they had to gone through and winterized. Drained, and dried. It sounds too simple.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Did you board up windows ever, or anything like that? BOB METIVIER: No. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok.
BOB METIVIER: Did for a while, then they found out that wasn't the thing to do 'cause they sweat. And havin' it all dark, it would sweat, and then it would -- harder on the build -- on the buildings. So we didn't board 'em up anymore.
Another learning curve. Even the house we lived in up on the hill, that was -- they boarded everything up on it, and it rot the thing right out. So, changed all that. Let the sun get in.
It's a lot of sunshine hits up there. Short season, but it's bright. It's quite bright country. Dry.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, what do you think of the canneries, of the APA canneries and the canneries you've been to, what do you think makes South Naknek an exceptional or special cannery or place? BOB METIVIER: Well, access to the place, in the first place.
Then water supply that they don't use anymore because they don't use that much water, was the main thing. Put the plants where they're at.
The plants were all built into gulches, all of the canneries and the land up around 'em is high. Up above them.
So they had the cricks all came do -- from the tundra. Everything's surrounded by tundra.
So, they had a, basically, whenever water would run, there be water running there somewhat. That's about it, I don't know what else.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And how long did the -- the shipyard here at Semiahmoo continue? BOB METIVIER: When did we shut down? SYLVIA METIVIER: '82. BOB METIVIER: Hm? SYLVIA METIVIER: That was '82. BOB METIVIER: '82. Yeah.
SYLVIA METIVIER: That's when you came back. '82. BOB METIVIER: Yeah. Last year we came out of Alaska, that -- SYLVIA METIVIER: (inaudible) They might've -- was it operating when you got back? I don't think so.
BOB METIVIER: Did some work over here for another year or two, didn't I? SYLVIA METIVIER: Was it? BOB METIVIER: Yeah. Did some private work for boats -- other outfits. We had a facility to handle it, we did that. But --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Why did they shut down the shipyard? BOB METIVIER: Everybody wanted to move to Seattle, sound like it. I don't know. I don't know what makes companies think -- SYLVIA METIVIER: -- they moved to Bellevue. And -- and that's when they decided they were gonna sell property.
BOB METIVIER: Yeah, they sold everything, Sold everything. They sold -- you -- down there and see those nice new homes out there. One of those houses cost as much now as that whole piece of land. What they got.
Shareholders kinda took it there, didn't they? So. And that land comes clear up over the back, over here. As you come around, there's wood -- trees back up there. Some of that was clear up to there.
SYLVIA METIVIER: And they sold that for about a million and a half. And now those houses are worth a million, just individually. So you're seeing --
BOB METIVIER: That's how -- And they walked away and the left machinery and everything just like it was. Walked away and left everything sitting. Kinda break your heart. See some of that.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Well, that was -- that was I think a pretty bad year. I'm thinking that that might have been about the time of the botulism outbreak. BOB METIVIER: Well --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Wasn't that in like '82 or something around there? '83? BOB METIVIER: Could -- I didn't know about that part.
But it -- it had gone -- evolved that way over the years, as a salmon would -- Not every year was a good salmon year. Some -- They had some pretty good long, dry spells.
So, that would leave it just left alone, abandoned in that climate, in that weather. You start over again and have to do half of it over again, so -- It's expensive operation. But it was a great -- a lot of fish canned, so --
The largest run of salmon in the world, I guess. (music plays) ANJULI GRANTHAM: Oh, at Bristol Bay? Mm-hm.
BOB METIVIER: Have you ever heard how much they did this year? Any rec -- ANJULI GRANTHAM: It was a very good year, I know. BOB METIVIER: Was it? ANJULI GRANTHAM: Yeah, it was -- it was not record-breaking, but one of the best years in a long time, especially the Nushagak.
BOB METIVIER: Okay. Yeah. Okay that --Yeah, 'cause a lot of my -- some of my friend -- One of my fellows that took my job over still works up there, so.
He works at across Nelbro over across the -- Well, not Nelbro, but Sealaska. Is that not Sealaska. What is it?
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Maybe Icicle? BOB METIVIER: No, the one that's there right now. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Oh, um --
BOB METIVIER: Bundrant owns it. What -- What's the name of the can -- the com -- SYLVIA METIVIER: Trident? ANJULI GRANTHAM: Trident? BOB METIVIER: Trident Seafood. Yes. See nobody could think of it either. SYLVIA METIVIER: Yeah. That's Trident?
BOB METIVIER: Trident. Still has a operation, across the river. They own -- they did own -- they own both sides. They had it all. SYLVIA METIVIER: On the north side. You have probably been over there, on the north side (inaudible) ANJULI GRANTHAM: Well, that's where we stayed, of course, but -- I stayed one night at South Naknek, but we didn't actually go to the Trident Cannery in Naknek.
SYLVIA METIVIER: They do ma -- mainly -- I don't think they do canning there, I think it's all processors. Frozen fish.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: They might, because Randy Johnson, he's still working as the -- BOB METIVIER: Is he? ANJULI GRANTHAM: -- foreman. And I -- I think that they're canning. BOB METIVIER: They probably are.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Bristol Bay is like one of the main places still for canning in Alaska, just because there's such production in such a short period, you know? BOB METIVIER: Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: It's like --
SYLVIA METIVIER: Well, they must've started canning after they quit there at South Naknek. They used to -- They weren't a cannery.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Were they canning through the whole time that you both worked there at South Naknek? SYLVIA METIVIER: Yes. Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Yeah. BOB METIVIER: One year we didn't. They just canned -- SYLVIA METIVIER: That's right. '74. BOB METIVIER: Just canned Egegik can and Naknek didn't. SYLVIA METIVIER: '74 was the year that we stayed home and (inaudible). That was --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: There -- it didn't operate at all in '74, or -- SYLVIA METIVIER: No, I -- I -- BOB METIVIER: Just as a fish camp. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok. SYLVIA METIVIER: Yeah, just (inaudible) BOB METIVIER: Maintained the foot -- the fleet, but the canning. SYLVIA METIVIER: We didn't do any canning then.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And so -- No -- And no processing at all then in '74? Hm. SYLVIA METIVIER: No. BOB METIVIER: No. SYLVIA METIVIER: No, 'cause (inaudible) ANJULI GRANTHAM: All the freight and stuff came through there mostly, but --
SYLVIA METIVIER: Yeah, it was just a fish camp, wasn't it? BOB METIVIER: Fish Camp. And then the fishermen stayed -- the bunkhouses were open, lot of 'em, and -- SYLVIA METIVIER: They just didn't can.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. Hm-mm. Bob, is there anything else that you'd like to say before I turn over to Sylvia? BOB METIVIER: Nope, I've said about -- I've said more than -- said more than I can remember now.
I'm 91 years old by the way, so it -- it might sound like cheatin' a little. ANJULI GRANTHAM: I -- I'm amazed, all that you can remember. SYLVIA METIVIER: Yeah, I was gonna say, he did well. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Yeah. SYLVIA METIVIER: He can remember --