Harvey Henry was interviewed on August 9, 2018 by Anjuli Grantham at his home in Deming, Washington. Harvey's wife, Janet, also participated in the interview, where she periodically chimed in from the background. A fan running in the room where the interview took place created a disruptive background noise on the recording. The original recording has been manipulated to try to reduce this noise and improve the overall sound quality. In this interview, Harvey talks about working in canneries in Alaska as a seamer man, a filler man, and a machinist. He describes the process of making cans, filling the cans, cooking the salmon, and palletizing the finished cans, with specific emphasis on the different types of machinery used, and talks about the important role of the machinist in keeping the whole operation running smoothly and efficiently. He also discusses the different types of foreman in the cannery, the influence of the union on the working conditions, and the general living and working conditions in South Naknek. Finally, Harvey shares his experience of seeing a ghost in the cannery. Part of this interview focused on Janet's experiences working in the cannery at South Naknek, 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 9, 2018
Narrator(s): Harvey Henry, Janet Henry
Interviewer(s): Anjuli Grantham
Transcriber: Emily Mueller
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Becoming a cannery worker, and early experiences at Larsen Bay and Excursion Inlet
Getting hired by Alaska Packers Association, and going to work in South Naknek
The process of making cans in the can shop
Maintaining the cannery's machinery and equipment
Duties of the seamer man, and checking to make sure the operation is running properly
Duties of the filler man, and the process of getting fish into cans
Duties of the first machinist, and changes in the types of cans, machines, and number of employees
Changes in uses of space and buildings at the cannery
Difference between American Can and Continental Can canning machines
Machinist responsibilities, and different jobs along the canning line
Cooking the salmon, and use of steam
Bright stack machine, and palletizing cans for shipment
Use of rail cars for moving cans around the cannery
Power generation at the cannery
Other cannery jobs, including plumber, port engineer, shop machinist, welder
Duties of the cannery foreman
Different types of foremen: cannery foreman, machinist foreman, indoor foreman, outdoor foreman
Working as shop machinist
Belonging to a union, and shifting to non-union job when cannery was sold
Differences in union versus non-union work, and deciding to leave cannery work
Incorporation of freezing into the fish processing system
Differences between working at South Naknek and other canneries
Changes in technology and machinery
Living at the cannery
Access to private living quarters and being allowed to bring family
Ghost in the can shop
Graveyard at South Naknek
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ANJULI GRANTHAM: It is August 9th, 2018. This is Anjuli Grantham, and I am in Deming, Washington with Janet and Harvey Henry. And we're going to be speaking about cannery work this afternoon.
Harvey, could you begin by talking about when and where you were born, and what early experiences led you to become a cannery worker?
HARVEY HENRY: Well, I was born in Bellingham. And my parents -- I'm not sure how they made acquaintance to Bob and Betty Gorton, but my dad and Bob Gorton were friends. I think it was just -- I think it was just a neighborly acquaintance. I think they both were neighbors in La Conner right after my parents were first married.
Bob Gorton was established in the cannery business even at that time. And he -- he approached my dad on numerous occasions.
It was my dad being a competent auto mechanic, Bob being his friend, thought he could take him north and transition him into a -- maybe a portage and air position, which he eventually did the year that I turned 18.
And probably the only reason that my dad did go ahead and take Bob up on that offer was to, sort of, segue me into being able to work in cannery if I wanted to. 'Cause the agreement was, when he agreed to go up and work for Bob, was that I would go up as a machinst apprentice at the cannery.
My dad hated it and he never went back again, until, oh, probably around 1990 or '91, when we talked him into comin' up to South Naknek for a season. And he hated it again.
But -- So, that was 1976, that my dad and I went to work for -- at that time was it -- boy, I think it was still Alaska Packers.
I can't -- It may have been Kodiak Island Seafoods. But it was wor -- It -- But it was being operated cooperatively with Alaska Packers at that time still.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And that was the Larsen Bay cannery then? HARVEY HENRY: That was the Larsen Bay cannery.
So, my dad worked as a port engineer there, you know, that 1976 salmon canning season. And I worked as a machinist apprentice, both in the Fish House and in the -- in the main cannery.
So, I -- I helped the chink man, the iron chink man, that was what the -- that title position was for the Fish House, that was the machinist's position title.
And -- And then I also helped the filler man and the seamer man in the cannery during that season.
I think I also -- I think I also helped somebody from Seattle Boiler Works and the boiler man re-tube one of the boilers that season.
So, as I said, that was my dad's last season. But, I went back for the return season in 1977, and by 1977 -- boy, my memory's a little goofy here.
Ok, so I went back there in 1977, but -- but for -- at that time, Dexter and Van Johnson had already taken over the -- the management duties there at Larsen Bay.
Actually, I don't know that Dexter -- I don't think Dexter had any kind of management position at that time.
But Pete Marinkovich (sp?) would've been an old Alaska Packers guy, and superintendent at that time.
That was -- I think he was the superintendent of the plant there, and then, of course, Van Johnson.
In 1978, then, Bob Gorton talked me into going down to Excursion Inlet, where I spent two long -- two six and a half, seven month seasons canning salmon at Excursion Inlet.
To return back to Larsen Bay in 1980, again with Van and Dexter.
That's when Janet -- my wife, Janet -- that's where we met, was there, and she can expand on it a little bit, but Van's -- she was Van's mother's hairdresser. And that's how she knew that the job was available.
So, in that -- I think in that year in Larsen Bay, I don't -- I don't know what all -- I don't really remember what my job title was in Larsen Bay that year, but I did a lotta welding there that -- that year. A lotta boat work. And -- And cannery stuff.
Anyway, in the winter of 1980, Jim Johnson -- Jim Johnson was working for, I think, still Alaska Packers. At the -- At the Semiahmoo Spit during the winters. Doing machine overhauls and boat and tender overhauls.
And Jim employed me the winter of 1980-81 there at the Semiahmoo Spit in Blaine, where we -- I think we rebuilt some seamers and some fillers and whatnot.
And, subsequently, Jim was the -- then the foreman at Alaska Packers, South Naknek. So -- So, I went to work for him after that winter s -- season of overhauls in -- in Blaine.
And I worked for Jim at South Naknek first as a -- a -- a can shop man. First season, not a can shop man. That would've been Mick and Tom Connelly (sp?).
So, first season -- first season, maybe I was their seamer man. Think a seamer man there. For (inaudible) machine's position, a specialist position in the -- in the -- in the ca -- in the actual canning. Actually, the -- another name for the seamer would be the closing -- the closing machine, the closer, whatever.
So, that 19 -- summer of 1981 season, then, I would've worked as a seamer man there. To move up into the can shop the following year, 1982, and --
The can shop in 1982, you spoke about the line shaft drives. The can shop in 1982 at South Naknek was all still completely line shaft driven.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Could you describe that system? HARVEY HENRY: Well, typically, the lines would all, you -- you know, you had -- you had five pieces of machinery in each can-making line.
And the cans came off into -- in a way in three pieces, but the cans came up as a -- as a flat piece of tin that was either sa -- soldered or in later years welded together. Originally soldered. And then probably in the mid 1980s, they started welding them together instead of soldering, but it was flat.
And so, you had a couple of -- and so you -- you stacked the the cans in a hopper and they were a -- a flat piece. They were just like you took the lid off of a can on both ends and you smashed it flat. So.
So, you had an operator on each machine and the operator would load this hopper with these flattened cans. And you had a machine that was named a reformer.
In our case, we had American Can manufactured reformers. Continental Can also had a reformer. It was actually quite innovative and I ran one of those for a time in Uganik Bay, but we didn't have their style machinery at Ugan -- or at South Naknek.
But, the reformer base -- basically a slide pushed that onto a horn and spun, and made that -- made that into a cylinder. Made that flat can into a cylinder, where it was transferred through a conveyor system to another machine, put a flange on each end of that can.
And from there, it was transferred to a closer, a seamer. And the seamer would load a lid on to it, and then, basically, put a curl over that flange to create a seal, a hermetical seal, on the can.
And then it went into a conveyor system that delivered it by gravity feed to the cannery itself downstairs, as an open container ready to be loaded with fish.
So, each of these lines in the can shop, in our case, had -- because the -- it was an American Can style that the -- the Continental line would be a little bit different dynamic.
But, the American Can style, as I recall it, had two reformers, one flanger, and two seamers in each line. So, total five machines. The way --
And elevators to deliver that up and then allow gravity to deliver it back down to the next machine in the process.
The elevators and the five machines were all -- in each line -- were all driven by one central electric motor in this case. That electric motor would power a series of pulleys that transferred that electric motor's power through a big flat belt, generally four -- three, four inches, even five inches wide depending on how big the machine was, what the load was.
And transfer that power from that central motor to each machine. So, one motor basically ran the whole line through a -- through a transmission of -- of belts.
It also operated the elevators. And the elevators were also quite inovative in that they -- they had this mercury switch system that would -- would load up with the weight of the cans and then when it had enough, it would trip the mercury switch and that would -- that would deliver power to a magnet. A magnetic clutch that would close and allow new cans to be delivered over it.
So, the whole thing, though, ran off of this one central motor.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Was it someone's job to care for that? HARVEY HENRY: Well, that was part of my job, was to care for that. Yeah.
So, basically, in each department there would be a head machinist, and then typically an apprenticed or a helper or both.
And so, really, in the Fish House, for example, the -- that specialist's machinist's title would be the chink man, the iron chink man or the chink man, and his duties would be to keep that -- keep that machinery, the iron chinks themselves, in good running condition.
And also to adjust them to make them clean fish as efficiently as possible.
So, obviously, the cannery bought fish, and we wanted to put as much good fish in the can as we can, we don't want to send a bunch of it out the gurry flume.
So that chink man's job is to keep those operating as efficiently as possible and recover as much fish from each cleaning as possible.
But to expand on that, his job would also be to see to it that all the conveyor belts were in running order and that the motors and the guards and the -- the gurry flumes, and the pumps and everything else that -- that was encompassed in that Fish House was in running order.
That would be the same case in that can shop, in that all of those transfer elevators, all of that can-making machinery, etcetera, would be taken care of by -- by the can shop man, basically.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And you said that -- So, the five pieces of machinery is the hopper, reformer, flanger, seamer? HARVEY HENRY: Well, there was more than five pieces of machinery, but there were five pieces of primary machinery of -- That's --
So, there was -- there were two reformers, one flanger, and two seamers. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok. HARVEY HENRY: The rest of the machinery would be for the transmission of cans from one point, from point A to point B. So -- So there we would have elevators and gravity chutes.
And then, after the process, there was a long cable runway that the -- the seamers delivered to the can -- that -- that can runway. And then, the runway would probably at any given time be -- each runway, depending on number of lines you're running. Sometimes you're running three, even four lines, depending on how big your crew was and what your demands were.
Each of those runways at any given time might -- might have a couple thousand cans in 'em. Which kinda helped create a little bit of a buffer in the event that you had a momentary shut down, the cannery could keep running and you could --
you had that little buffer of extra cans while you go it'rollin' again.
So, the -- that can runway was also part of the can shop man's responsibility to make sure it operated properly and, you know, didn't jam up or whatever the case.
So, as I said, that -- I think the season of 1981 and 1982 I was -- I was that -- let's see. So, we went back there in 1980. I was the seamer man.
And then, in 1981 and '82 I was probably their can shop man, but geez, it's been a long time ago. So I -- You know, I don't -- I don't remember how the transitions -- when they were.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, when you say that you're the seamer man. Your responsibility was to make sure the seamer was properly running all the time? Or was it more than that? HARVEY HENRY: Yeah. Well, there's more to it than that because the --
The seamer is a -- is one of the more complex machines in the -- in the cannery, in that that hermetic seal has got --
We spoke earlier, you -- you said, "Was that during the botulism crisis?" Well, actually the botulism crisis, now that I think about it, went -- was back in the '70s.
But that -- There's very narrow parameters in that seam about whether or not it will create a proper hermetic seal or not. So everything in that machine has got to be adjusted within a few thousandths of an inch. To consistently close that can without any danger of -- of a breach of that hermetic seal. Hm-mm.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: How would you test the cans? HARVEY HENRY: Well, of course, the seamer man has a responsibility to cut a certain number of cans open every couple of hours.
To cut the seam open, measure a cross section of the seam, measure a cross section of the can.
So, I mean, I've still got tools out there in the garage. If we had a can, I could show ya. I could show ya the external -- I could probably show you all the measurements.
So, you have external measurements across the top of the seam and then you also have external measurements across the width of the seam.
Obviously, there's only so much material in that lid. So, if you have too much material in the width of that seam or the depth of that seam externally, that must mean you're missing some material on the inside.
So, you can tell a lot just by -- just by the width and the depth.
Also, if -- if anything's out of adjustment inside of there, if -- if your -- if your chucks or your rolls are not per -- are not properly lined up in there, you can, even though your measurements are right, you can squeeze a sharpness into that can that can actually create a leak.
And then, of course, as I said, ultimately you end up cuttin' the -- the can apart. Tearing the seam apart and measuring the inside of it.
So, the seamer man does that and if anything's not in the right parameters far as the seam's measurements go, you, basically, you're gonna have to shut down and you're going to have to adjust it.
You may have to replace parts. Parts wear out, obviously, you -- you know, you're -- literally millions of cans going through there. So, parts wear out.
Since millions of cans are going through there, it's not a perfect process. Some of 'em get caught, some of 'em get jammed up some --
Sometimes you open the door and there's salmon all over everything and there's tin all over everything, and there's cans jammed everywhere and you're in there with hooks and you're pushin and shovin' and pullin' and eventually ya yard all of that stuff out of there, and sometimes even have to take part of the machine apart to get the stuff out of there.
And sometimes a wreck like that will bend parts.
So, you're always checking immediately after a major jam like that, to make sure that your seam is still in parameters. If it's not, then you're going to shut down. You gonna try figure out what's going on.
What's been -- what's -- what is now out of adjustment because of the wreck. Maybe there's -- maybe there's even still some tin caught in there that's -- that's causing the -- the problem.
But whatever the case, that's another part of the seamer man's responsibilities.
Along with that, every cannery employs a competent quality control crew that is also going to be following up on those same seams. They're gonna be doing the same teardowns.
They're -- they're sor -- sort of going to be a -- a third party to keep that seamer man accountable to a -- a quality closing. You know, a safe, hermetically sealed can, basically.
They're gonna to check vacuum on -- on the can, make sure that -- that your seamer's drawing the right vacuum. All those things are taking place.
So, I mean, those are kind of the seamer man's primary responsibility.
With an American Can piece of equipment there is a -- there was another really antiquated piece of equipment that had kind of been tried to kep -- keep up with a process, called a "clincher," that kinda set that lid on the -- on the can before it went to that seamer.
That was a really problematic piece of machinery, but it was also -- fell within kind of the seamer man's responsibility to make sure that that was operating properly and wasn't getting jammed up and wasn't causing its own defects to the can.
Along with that, if everything is workin' great for the seamer man, he's got a companion up there on the other end of the line, a filler man, who's responsible to make that machine put a good-looking package of fish in each can and get it the right weight.
And just like that chink man, make sure that he's not putting too much or too little in there, because, you know, we don't -- we don't wanna make a one pound can with one pound and -- and one-tenth of an ounce more, 'cause that adds up at the end of the day.
So, all of that stuff, you know, we need recovery there, too. And so, at any given time that that filler man might be having a problem and that seamer man isn't, he will probably transition himself up there, try to help the guy out. As that filler man probably will do for that seamer man.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So the filler is where the Fish House -- the salmon -- HARVEY HENRY: So, the Fish House is going to deliver fish to -- from once it leaves that iron chink, it's going to be delivered to what's called a sliming table, which is really just sort of a quality control table where a group of employees will -- will review each fish and see to it that that iron chink didn't miss a fin, didn't miss a belly fin, didn't miss a gill plate, didn't miss some guts -- whatever.
So, that that's a clean -- efficiently cleaned fish, still maintaining as much weight as possible. And will be g -- generally delivered, once it leaves that fish house by a -- a conveyor belt
And in the case of Naknek, that was a really long conveyor belt, because the Fish House was quite a distance away from the -- the cannery itself.
And so, the fish would be transferred from that conveyor belt to a -- a hopper, a bin, whatever you want to call it, that sat immediately away from the filler with a chute.
And cannery workers that loaded the filler would -- would generally -- it'd become a mechanical or a -- or a pneumatic air-operated style door that would open up and allow a few fish to flow out onto a table, and then they would load them onto this filler.
They would -- and they would go into the filler and be transferred -- chopped up and transferred into a can.
And that would be the -- the filler man's job, would be to -- to maintain and adjust that piece of machinery, so that it -- it did it right. It got that can of salmon looking purty at the right weight, the whole deal.
Now, it's been too many years, so I've forgotten at what point -- I don't know if the can shop -- 'cause in 1984 I went to Uganik Bay, and when I came back to -- when I came back to South Naknek, I think I worked as a first machinist.
And a first machinist is kind of a -- kind of a move from all about the cannery. And, you know, oversee the -- the can shop man's process, and the filler man's process, and the chink man's process and -- and maybe even be there in the event that they're sick for a day, in their place.
But also, you know, help them if they have a question with their issues or just -- just be there as a second set of hands.
So again, I -- I kind of forget when that took place. But the reason I bring it up is because that -- that can shop position more or less ended somewhere in the mid-80s, when the can manufacturing process changed to what we call the nesting can.
So, the cans were no longer sent up in, basically, three pieces. A top lid, a bottom lid, and a -- and a flat. They were now a formed can.
They were formed -- they were formed down here in -- typically, down in Tukwila, most of 'em. Most of the cans that went to Alaska I believe were -- were formed in Tukwila.
And I actually worked briefly in Tukwila for Continental Can -- or, with Continental Can. I was actually working for Kodiak Alaskan Seafoods, but I worked for them at C -- Continental Can in Tukwila on Continental seamers.
But, where I was doing that was in a plant that manufactured tapered cans. And the tapered can allowed them to now efficiently ship an already formed can body up there because the tapered can worked like a Dixie Cup. They all nested together.
So, that eliminated the necessity for those two reformers, that flanger, and those two seamers. Those machines went away and never came back again.
And what -- what was put in its place was nothing more than a little machine that separated the -- the Dixie Cups, so to speak. Separated the nested cans, and delivered them to that -- that conveyor that -- that can way. So --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What was that machine called? HARVEY HENRY: I think we called it a de-nester. I think that machine's called a de-nester, as I recall it.
And, you know, it was such a simple piece of machinery, but, really, it rarely needed to be worked on.
And, it kinda was one of those things where if it did, it was kind of just -- it -- it kinda fell to, typically, probably the first machinist or the shop machinist. Whoever was kinda f -- free at the time, 'cause you just didn't need a can shop man anymore.
So, whatcha ended up with was a -- a can shop with, oh, probably, only about a total of maybe, six -- six people and -- and a can shop boss, basically.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And before how many were there? HARVEY HENRY: Well, it would have been. Well, there may -- There might not have been a whole lot more employees up there.
There would've been a shop machinist. Or, rather a can -- can shop machinist, a helper or apprentice, a person for each reform -- for each reformer.
So, if you were running four lines, there would've been eight people just for the four -- just for the reformers.
And then, I believe you had to have a person -- the -- the seamers ran slow enough downstairs that you could utilize one person to feed two seamers. Feed lids.
So, you needed somebody to feed lids on that. So, you would've had -- if you ran all -- if you were running all four lines at a time, you'd have had eight people at reformers and four people at -- at seamers, so you woulda had 12 people.
Generally, you had somebody on the conveyor line. Thirteen. Plus your machinists, 14, 15. You had a minimum of 15 people in there if you were running four lines. Which you usually didn't do.
Usually, you only ran two to three lines, but there were seasons when we did run four lines. So --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Do you think that the can shop was also -- before the sanitary can came around, do you think that that's where the cans were made in the -- at the turn of the 20th century?
HARVEY HENRY: Well, at the turn of the century, the cans were -- they were -- there was no can shop, they were soldered together.
So, I don't remember now whether they would've been shipped up as a flat like that and reformed, but the lids were soldered on at that time.
So, you didn't really have a can shop in the same realm, 'cause you didn't -- there was no seaming process.
So you wouldn't have had a seamer either, and even the filler -- the original fillers were quite a bit simpler piece of machinery.
In fact, the Continental filler was quite a bit simpler piece of machinery than the -- than the American Can one. But it -- it worked pretty well, but it was quite a bit simpler piece of machinery.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: I'm just thinking if they used the same space, as -- as the process changed over time and as machines were added and then taken away -- HARVEY HENRY: Yeah. ANJULI GRANTHAM: -- if always having the can shop there? (inaudible)
HARVEY HENRY: Well, it's a good question. I mean, you know, actually the -- the warehousing areas were a lot bigger than our needs by then, so it would suggest that maybe in earlier years, they had to have a huge crew there to be making those -- those cans. Yeah.
Most of -- Most of the area that the can shop operated at in Naknek, was used as net locker. The vast majority of that building was used as a net locker. That entire up -- upstairs floor, except for maybe the -- the last, I don't know, one-third of the building, at the most, was utilized for a can shop.
The rest of it was all -- was all web locker. But, it could've been that at the turn of the century, that was all utilized for all the people that -- to solder all those cans together. I really don't know. Don't know the answer to that question, so.
But, yeah, they weren't -- originally, they weren't done that way. So --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Who made the de-nester? Was that an American Can or a Continental? Or some other, do you remember? HARVEY HENRY: Golly, I don't remember.
I -- I -- I got a hunch they probably both made them, and I -- I think that the -- I think the nested can -- I think that American Can may have been producing the nested can in California.
And Continental Can was producing them in Tukwila, if I remember, right.
So, I guess that part of it depended on -- I mean, it didn't really matter which -- the -- the cans were identical, even though the machinery is different, the process is the same.
So, it didn't really matter whether you're running a Continental nested can in an American Can machine or vice a versa. Yeah.
Anyway, I -- I guess at Uganik Bay -- in 1984, we went to a Uganik Bay. The one season I worked there, shop machinist or filler man, I can't even remember. Filler man, I think.
JANET HENRY: I think you were a filler man. HARVEY HENRY: No, no, I was seamer man.
I was a seamer man. I was a seamer man at Uganik Bay, again.
I was a filler man some -- Well, I was a filler man at -- at Excursion Inlet for a season or two, two seasons, I guess.
But, yeah, it would have been a seamer man, because that's -- that's why I was in Tukwila, was to familiar -- familiarize myself with the Continental seamer being considerably different than the American Can seamer and being the equipment of choice there in Uganik Bay. That's what -- that's what they had there.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And what was the difference? HARVEY HENRY: Well, you know, the outcome was the same. It was just the process to get there was -- was different. I'm --
So, the -- the Continental seamer was simpler. It -- it was a simpler piece of machinery in a lot of ways. And, I guess it also kind of eliminated the need for that clincher, as I recall.
But, I mean, the -- the underlying difference was -- it was a different -- it was a machine made by a different manufacturer, really.
It did the same thing. It put a seam on a can, hermetically sealed a can. Yeah.
If there was -- the -- the -- the filler -- The Continental filler was a ton simpler. Probably not quite as efficient. But easier to work on, easier to -- easier to work with.
The Continental reformer was an amazing piece of equipment. And, it -- it's too hard to describe. I would have -- I would actually have to show you -- show you -- Google a picture of it or something, and show you the differences.
But it -- it was a remarkable piece of equipment in that, the way -- the way the can was fed onto it and reformed.
And it had a single long horn on it that was flat on the end, that that flat can was sent down to, and then it graduated up to a round -- a round solid piece of steel as you got further and further along and the can was pushed along that, and that horn sort of floated in space, so to speak.
And that -- it had this elaborate camshaft setup that allowed that horn to be suspended on four points at any given time that were in constant motion so they would get out of the way of that can as it moved along that horn.
And I -- You know, really, all of that equipment, whether it was Continental Can equipment or American Can equipment, was just really full of ingenious, in -- innovative mechanical marvels. They really were.
There was really, and -- and they were -- they were huge pieces of cast iron and steel that, you know, ten thousand pound pieces of equipment that -- that were really remarkably complex. Hm-mm.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And were they all quite old when you are working on them? HARVEY HENRY: Well, you know, The iron -- the iron chink G's that I ran down at Excursion Inlet, those probably dated back to the -- the 19 teens and 1920s.
And then the American Can fillers and seamers, those -- those were probably in the '30s and '40s that most of that equipment was developed.
And -- and I don't -- I'm sure a lot of that equipment is still being -- running today, although I have not been in a cannery for quite a few years.
And I don't -- I have no doubt that in a number of foreign countries, South American countries etcetera, that that equipment is -- is being used today. Hm-mm, hm-mm.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: You mentioned that the departments -- in each department, they had a machinist. When you say departments, are you talking about can shop, Fish House, and then cannery? Or -- what -- what are the departments here? HARVEY HENRY: Well, so -- so -- Well, so really that -- that Fish House machinist, that iron chink man, his stuff kinda -- his duties kinda started at just about where that elevator started lifting fish out of the -- out of the tender until they left that Fish House.
So, that would be one machinist's position. And then, where those fish were delivered, that would be the filler man and the seamer man.
And that being kind of maybe the most complex area of the process, typically that's where the first machinist would hang out, as well.
Not just to make sure all that stuff was working, but there's a lot of equipment happening in there and -- and those two guys and a couple helpers, they really needed that first machinist in there to be coverin' those bases and seeing to the other seamer or whatever.
'Cause if -- if one seamer was down and that guy was -- and that seamer man was trying to make that -- that thing make quality seams again, that first machinist might be called upon to do it on the other seamer.
Or maybe everything's running good on that end, but that filler man's having a real problem, but there's another filler having a problem. That -- that first machinist is gonna have to be -- accommodate that need. Or the weighing machines, or anything along the process.
So, you know, the first machinist was somebody that needed to be able to kinda have a pretty good working knowledge of all the equipment in the cannery.
So, I mean, the cannery might be running beautiful and smooth, but the -- but all of a sudden the -- the chink man's over his head in alligator. So, that first machinist, he may spin out there for a little while and do that.
So -- so you had the iron chink man out there, and a helper. You had a -- a seamer man, a filler man, a helper. In some cases, more than one helper. And a first machinist, typically, in the cannery where the -- where the fish was actually being delivered to the can and hermetically sealed in the can.
Once it left the cannery, then you have what -- what was called a "salmon cook" or a "bull cook." And his responsibility would be to, basically, monitor the cook with a -- and the crew that did the cook.
So, he'd kind of -- even though he was a machinist, he kinda had to operate as a little bit of a boss over the folks that were stackin' all the retort trays.
And the -- the retort -- the -- the cans would be delivered right out of that cannery, down a little conveyor way, where they would kind of fall out into a spill shoot, and that spill shoot would deliver them into a tray.
And you'd have a couple of folks workin' each of those trays on each line. They'd have a stick on either end and they would allow the cans to come in, line up on the stick, and then they'd -- then they'd layer it out, and they -- and they'd layer that thing until it was -- 'til that tray was full, and when -- when -- and then they would transfer that to a car.
And when when those rail cars were -- had the right number stacks on them, they'd load into the -- the long retort, the -- the big cook tube. Doors closed.
The retort man -- or the -- rather, the bull cook, the salmon cook, had to -- I -- I'm making a mistake. I don't think the bull -- I don't think bull cook is the proper term for that. Salmon cook was it. Bull cook's a different job.
And salmon cook had a -- a clock that was attached to each one of those retorts, that literally got feedback from the -- the steam, the whole -- the whole deal.
So, the -- the -- the time and the temperature were recorded perfectly when the -- when the cook came up and when the cook came down. Anything more, anything less and you -- you didn't have a safe product. So that -- that was basically the salmon cook's position.
Of course, in order to cook that salmon, you need to deliver steam to those retorts. So, you also have to have a boiler man. You have to have somebody responsible, to see to it that those boilers are up and running first thing in the morning, you have steam on board.
Not just for the retorts, but, typically, most canneries, and Naknek was among them, during the salmon canning season itself, would utilize steam for the kitchens and sometimes for other needs around the cannery.
So, you had -- some -- some canneries heated with steam in certain areas. They cooked with steam one way or the other.
In Naknek, our coffee pots were heated with steam. So, you literally use steam to heat coffee water.
So, there you had a salmon cook and a boiler man. So, there's two more machinists there.
Then you had a -- was there a bright stack? I don't think there was an actual machinist position titled for the bright stack.
Bright stack was a relatively simple piece of equipment, but one of us, typically a first machinist or a shop machinist or somebody, always would get to -- get the nod when something was wrong with it.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And what did that machine do? HARVEY HENRY: Well, after -- after the -- the salmon was cooked, then it needed to be what we call palletized.
So, the trays that -- the trays that they would put in the retort in were considerably smaller than what you would stack them -- the way that you would stack cans for transport to the marketplace.
So what the bright stack's process was, was once the cans were cooked and cooled. And they have to be cooled. There's no -- there's no handling cans until cans are cool.
It's not safe to handle cans 'til they're cool, really, because, you know, you could literally -- you could have vacuum draw something, although it's not -- it shouldn't be. If everything's sealed up, it shouldn't happen. But, you really should avoid handling cans a lot 'til -- 'til they've at least started -- started cool.
If you're ever in -- out there once they're all cooked, you'll hear the cans the whole time. It "pop, pop, pop, pop." 'Cause all of the can -- all the -- all the -- the vacuum of the cans is equalizing after the cook.
So -- So, once they were transferred by rail -- by rail car -- manually delivered by rail car to the bright stack machine, the -- they would be tipped upside down so that those cans were all delivered onto a big wide belt that indexed them to the size that they would ultimately be when they were palletized.
I don't remember exactly the dimensions, but think of a pallet being like 42 by 48, something like that. So, they would be indexed into like a 42- by 48-inch platform.
And an electric magnet would come down, pick 'em up, scoot 'em over to a pallet board, set 'em down on the pallet board. The magnet would release, allow all the cans to stay in that indexed fashion on that pallet board, return back to the belt, pick up another stack of 'em, and set those on top of the first layer of cans, until you had a full layer of cans.
At which point, they would either be covered with cardboard, in some cases, or in most cases, wrapped with a shrink wrap. ANJULI GRANTHAM: And that --
HARVEY HENRY: Ultimately, they'd be stacked up on top of each other and transferred into container vans to be shipped to the marketplace.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And so, you called that the bright stack? HARVEY HENRY: That would be called the palletizer or the bright stack. Yeah. Mm-hm. Yep. So --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Was the retort at Naknek or other canneries that you worked at just -- did it have two doors, one at each end? HARVEY HENRY: Yes. ANJULI GRANTHAM: So you just -- HARVEY HENRY: Yeah, I -- There --
It's my understanding that there were -- there were vertical retorts, but I -- I don't remember. I may have seen vertical retorts somewhere, but I don't remember ever operating in a cannery where there were vertical report -- retorts, where the cans were loading, sort of dumped in.
But -- but, yeah, in -- in -- in the case of Naknek and all the canneries that I was at, the retorts were basically a huge pipe that -- that was oriented horizontally.
And, gee, they -- they were probably a hundred feet long or more with a door on either end. Loaded on the cannery end and unload it on the bright stacker end. Mm-hm.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And how many retorts? I'm just -- HARVEY HENRY: Var -- Varies from cannery to cannery. At -- At -- At South Naknek it seems to me like there were either nine or ten retorts, as I recall.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And, would they all be cooking at the same time? HARVEY HENRY: No. No, because you would never -- at the -- at the end of the day, you might -- you may end up -- you may end up, at times where all the operational retorts might be all cooking at the same time, briefly.
But, remember, they didn't all fill up at the same time. So, they're not all going to unload at the same time.
Cook time was roughly an hour and a half. So, by the time you got the one -- by the time -- by the time you got the one on that end full, that one was ready to be empty, or vice versa. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok, so --
HARVEY HENRY: So, yeah, it was pretty unusual to have all the retorts going at the same time.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And so there'd be one rail car for the loading and one rail car for the unloading? HARVEY HENRY: Yeah, well there was rails that went into each -- into each retort. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok.
HARVEY HENRY: So, then -- so then you would have another rail that would -- that would intersect, or whatever the case might be, so that you could transfer them to the -- ultimately the bright stack.
But at the end of each canning line, you would have a rail, and then you would have -- you would have an intermediate rail, so that you could transfer from -- from retort to retort. Yeah, so you'd have -- you'd have an intersection of rails. ANJULI GRANTHAM: And then --
HARVEY HENRY: I need to -- I need to watch my video tapes so I can jog my own memory, because I haven't -- I haven't been in a cannery since 1994 and that's a while. Yeah. ANJULI GRANTHAM: And so -- JANET HENRY: '95. HARVEY HENRY: '95? Ok, that's still a while.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: That's -- That is a while. And so, that's the end of the purview of the machinist? Once the -- HARVEY HENRY: Well, you still have other machinists. Because there's a machinist that -- that is responsible for the generation of electricity.
So, every cannery's different. Naknek had, I think either two or three main generator sets, and maybe a -- and then maybe one or two lesser generator sets that would be back up or pre-season generators when we didn't need as much power.
And in Nak -- And in Naknek, unlike a lotta places, you could also operate off of the public power grid.
In Larsen Bay, you didn't have a -- you probably do now, but at that time in 1976, you didn't have a public power grid. And same goes for Excursion Inlet. There was no public power grid.
JANET HENRY: No phones. HARVEY HENRY: Right. You didn't have -- you didn't even have phones, right. If you want -- If you want to call out, you used ship to shore radios. And -- And a patch. You could use a ship to shore to telephone patch.
But -- So, you had a -- a machinist responsible for the -- pretty much solely for the generation of power, although, oftentimes, powerhouse machinist would -- would moonlight a little bit along with an electrician, because usually the powerhouse machinist is a competent electrician, as well.
But any cannery I was ever at also had a -- a machinist who was -- We call it a machinist, but he's really an electrician. We call him a machinist because he's part of the same union. Same -- Part of the same crew.
But every cannery had at least one electrician, dedicated electrician, and usually one or two electrician's helpers, along with a powerhouse machinist who could do electrical work in a pinch or perhaps help the electrician out with a -- a large job. And if it was a big enough job, there was contractors to go along with that.
Also, a plumber. Every cannery generally needs a dedicated plumber. There's gobs of plumbing in a cannery, and there's usually all -- always numerous malfunctioning plumbing issues. If they're not in the residential spaces then they're in the -- then they're in the production spaces.
But usually, that plumber was -- his duties were for all of it. Whether it was -- didn't -- whether it was a -- a toilet in bunkhouse A or -- or a -- a flume, a -- a, you know, a -- a -- a pipe delivering wa -- water that it wasn't happening to a flume in the Fish House. It didn't matter. That's -- that's the -- that was -- there was a plumber dedicated to that part of the process.
Along with that, the port engineers were also machinists. So, the -- the group that took care of the fishing fleet were a machinist, and my -- I don't remember how many years toward the end, but my position that I chose to have during the last few years was shop machinist, which is usually -- the primary duties there are usually to man the machine shop itself, which is to manufacture parts.
Whether it's manufacture parts for the -- the cannery, or perhaps the welder fabricator, 'cause you also have a welder -- a dedicated welder.
So, typically, you have at least one person, and a lotta times depending on the needs of the cannery, may have two or three full-time welders dedicated. Not to mention usually one, two, three maybe a number of the machinists might also be competent welders.
So, you may draw -- if you've got a big project, you might have a shop machinist, a first machinist or even a filler man or somebody else that knows how to weld, come in and also be welding, depending on the size of the project. So that wel -- Those welders, they're also part of the machine -- the machinist crew.
And -- And as I said, the shop machinist may -- in my case, do welding, manufacture parts for anything in the cannery that might break, 'cause a lot -- you keep a huge cache of parts for all that machinery.
Plus, you have other canneries all over the place and, you know, readily available air transportation. So, oftentimes if you have a broken part you -- you might -- you might bum from another cannery.
But you may also just end up up against the wall, where you -- you're down and -- and you have to manufacture it, you don't have a choice 'cause there's just not available.
And the same goes for the boats. There may be some sort of mechanical part or equipment that m -- might need both machinist and welding skills to -- to re-manufacture a part that will get that boat back on the water or that piece of canning equipment back on line. Whatever the case might be.
So -- So, those were other machinist positions, as well, would be, like I said, you sort of had the core of the cannery, and then after that you had powerhouse man, electrician, plumber, shop machinist, port engineers, electricians, etcetera.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, how many machinists would you say? Like fifteen people working about in the canneries? HARVEY HENRY: Well, like I say, chink man, filler man, seamer man, can shop man in the early years, salmon cook, boiler man, powerhouse man, electrician, plumber, at least two port engineers, but almost always three. We're up to what, 12?
Shop machinist, thirteen, first machinist, fourteen. The cannery foreman was usually a machinist, also. So, in Naknek he was. Fifteen.
At least in -- pretty much in any given cannery, you're gonna have at least fifteen primary machinists, and at least, probably, four to six helpers. Four to six machinist helpers or apprentices, whatever the case. Yeah.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What did the cannery foreman do? HARVEY HENRY: Well, you know, for one he was responsible to hire a competent crew.
He was -- he was responsible to a -- advise management on who the competent crew was, how many people he needed.
Depending upon what management had decided was the needs of a given season, the foreman would be responsible to make decisions about how soon the crew needed to be there in order to get the jobs done in time for the season start.
He would be responsible to see to -- I -- I mentioned the -- the parts that needed to be in inventory in the event that they were -- you had a breakdown, he would be responsible, see to it that that inventory of parts was -- was adequate.
He would be also responsible to see to it that that -- all of that equipment was in working order. Thus, typically, he was always a machinist also.
So, cannery foreman would, as I said, be -- be the last word in evaluating whether or not -- and it doesn't matter what the piece of equipment was, whether it was that iron chink or a filler or a seamer or a can shop piece of machinery or even that bright stacker.
Whether or not that piece of machinery was, during the season, in good working order and if it wasn't, what needs to be done to it, and at the end of the season whether it was in good working order.
And if it's not, is it something that we need to do before we leave, when we come back, or do we need to take it home with us and work on it.
The cannery foreman would be responsible for all of that. Along with that, the cannery foreman would be basically responsible to see to it that his crew was at -- to work on time every day, doing the work in a diligent way. How many hours. How many hours need to be worked.
The cannery foreman would be, typically, along with the superintendent, they would generally brainstorm, "Season's fifteen days away. Do we need to add some hours here or are we really caught up maybe we need to cut back a little bit here?"
Usually -- usually, it's the other way around. Usually, a couple of weeks before the season starts, you're going to have a cannery foreman goin' -- gettin' a little itchy and goin', "I don't feel like I'm ready. Let's -- let's -- let's start workin' some midnight's here for a little while." Stuff like that.
And he may, you know, decide "Well, you know, I just -- I just need my -- my filler man and my -- and my shop machinist, or my filler man and my seamer man to work 'til midnight. Every place else is in good shape now." Or -- Or he may have a big pro -- But, ultimately, the -- the cannery --
It's a little bit of a misnomer from cannery to cannery. In some canneries, you have a cannery machinist and a machinist foreman. So, you have a cannery foreman and a machinist foreman.
And in other canneries, you have just a machinist foreman who operates as a foreman of the whole cannery, basically.
But then, you, typically -- you have, basically, even in that event, you have an indoor foreman and an outdoor foreman.
So, you mentioned that you had visited with Bob and Sylvia -- Sylvia Metivier earlier. In the case of South Naknek in the later years, we actually had three.
We had Bob Deere as a machinist foreman. Sort of the inside foreman, but that doesn't mean everything's all inside.
Bob Metivier, sort of an outside foreman, but that doesn't mean everything's outside.
So, your outside foreman, he's going to -- he's gonna look after the -- the duties of the beach crew, the beach gang, the folks that go out and get fish delivered to the tenders, the folks that deliver them off the tenders, the folks that drive the pilings.
And the outside foreman is going to take care of -- As I said, it's not all outside. He's going to look after the carpenter crew.
You're gonna have a complement of carpenters, as well, at a cannery like that. He's probably going to -- that outside foreman and that inside foreman, machinist foreman, I should call him --
So, you're kinda gonna have a beach foreman and -- and a -- and a machinist foreman. They're gonna work cooperatively with those port engineers, that powerhouse group, those welders, and that shop machinist. 'Cause those are all gonna cross over.
Sometimes they're gonna be wa -- workin' on things in the kitchen, sometimes they're going to be workin' things on a boat. Sometimes they're going to be working on things in a cannery.
Remember if -- if we need some fiberglass work inside the cannery, well, that's a carpenter. So, now we need that outside foreman to come in there and -- and help direct the needs of -- of this inside job.
So, then, as I said, in the later years, in the case of South Naknek, we also had a cannery foreman, and her duties were the -- the actual processing crew. The processing people, the -- the slimers. The people that fed the fish into the fillers, the -- kinda to coordinate all those people.
The machinist foreman's got enough to do, without having to deal with that, as well. But, in a lot of canneries in the earlier years, the machinist foreman, in fact, in -- in Dexter's case, operating as cannery foreman, he was the machinist foreman and the -- and the processing crew foreman.
As was Jim Johnson at South Naknek when I first went there.
So, they didn't really have a person whose title was simply to look after the processing crew in some places, depending on the size of the operation and the needs. Yeah. So.
Well, this is all fine and dandy, but, I mean, there is not a VHS machine in here, dear. JANET HENRY: I know. HARVEY HENRY: Yeah. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Found. HARVEY HENRY: I do have one out -- ANJULI GRANTHAM: Tapes are found.
HARVEY HENRY: I have a VHS machine out in the shop and I just have to go through this stuff.
This is -- This is Bristol Bay fishing, 1970 to 1985. This is a master tape of Naknek canneries, as is this one. I'm not sure what we got here.
This is -- This is the new line we installed in Naknek. Probably in about, hm. You can put that in Naknek. Probably about 1989, 1988, 1989. Anyway.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So, you went from being first machinist to shop machinist. And is that where you stayed, or were there other jobs that you've gotten over the years?
HARVEY HENRY: Well, you know shop machinist, you -- you still end up kind of floatin' around, because there aren't that many things that need to be made all the time, especially once the -- you're finally -- Once the cannery's finally operating, hopefully stuff isn't breaking that much.
So, you float. You float from need to need.
I had gotten to where I -- I didn't really want to -- I think -- I think my title was shop -- I think my title was first machinist at that point in time, but I think I was operating as the shop machinist as w -- as well, 'cause I don't remember us having a first machinist those last couple of years.
But I -- I -- I had gotten to where I kinda didn't want to do the hours that were required for those specialist positions that -- 'cause they were just -- they were pretty rough and I didn't wanna do 'em.
So, had enough hours as it was. We still worked 'til midnight every day, but didn't want to work till 3:30 or 4 in the morning every day. So.
Only to go to bed for an hour and get back up and work some more. So --
JANET HENRY: And we had both kids up there. HARVEY HENRY: Yeah, I had my kids up there, and -- and Janet. Yeah.
So yeah, that was the last position. 1995 was the last year I was there, and I pretty much worked in the capacity of a shop machinist during that -- those last couple of years, I think. So --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So from 1981 to 1995 you were at South Naknek, except for the year -- HARVEY HENRY: Except for 1984. Yeah. Except for 1984. We took a detour. Yeah.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: To go to Uganik? HARVEY HENRY: Right. So what fourteen years? Thirteen, fourteen years? Yeah.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What was the union that you belonged to? HARVEY HENRY: That would've been the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. So, it would be the same union that the Boeing machinists would be in for example.
But in 1986 -- 1986 or 1987, the -- South Naknek was first cooperatively run, I think, and then ultimately purchased from ConAgra.
So it went under -- it -- it operated under the name Sealaska in 1985 and maybe in 1986 it -- For certain, it operated under the -- the name Sealaska Seafoods or Sealaska Fisheries, I can't remember, in 1985. Possibly in 1986.
At that point -- And -- and Sealaska was in part subsidiary to ConAgra, I think, and in part Fisherman's Co-op. And then it was bought by Trident Seafoods.
And when it was bought by Tri -- When it was bought by Trident Seafoods, Gary Johnson called me and said he wanted to arrange a meeting, wondered if I could come down to Lake Union.
So, I drove down there and he said I got some good news and some bad news. He said the -- the bad news is you're fired. He said, in fact, the bad news is everybody's fired.
He said the good news is if you're willing to come back to work for us with these benefits but no union, you can have your job back. So, that's how Trident broke the union when they bought the plant.
JANET HENRY: I thought that happened up at South Naknek. HARVEY HENRY: That was South -- No, but the meeting was insi -- It was in Seattle.
The meeting was in Seattle, probably in like February or March, prior to the season, because they -- they broke the union. They separated from the union.
And there was no way that they were going to be able to hire somebody under the pretense that they were a union. They were union help, then get them up there and then (inaudible).
So, they needed -- you needed to clear with the union down here anyway, typ -- typically before you could go up, but --
But I mean, that -- that is -- that's literally how it was presented. It -- Your -- You no longer have a job here, unless you're willing to come back to work for us. In other words, that --
So, you know, they couldn't say, "Well, we're changing the platform. From now on, if you want to work here, you have to work here as a non-union employee."
That -- I don't think the process was legal that way. I think it had to be that you needed to be terminated and rehired. ANJULI GRANTHAM: And what did you (inaudible) HARVEY HENRY: In order for that to be a legal process.
Well, I wasn't happy with it at all. But, you know, we -- In -- In my case, we'd established this pattern where my wife and my kids were comin' up there and we were being accommodated.
You know, they were payin' their airfare and their room and their board, and they're employing Janet, and -- and the kids were well accommodated.
And, you know, it's already February or March, and I don't wanna lose my union, but, boy, you know, trying to regenerate that whole process with a union plant on that short timeline was more than a tall order.
So, you know, I didn't even try. I just said, "Okay. Well, we'll do it."
And, you know, parts of it looked better and parts of it looked worse. Retrospectively, I would be better off had it stayed union the whole time.
I -- I end up with a -- a vested pension from the machinists union, but it would have been a lot better vested pension if -- if -- Yeah.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Did anything else change because you were no longer a union shop? HARVEY HENRY: Oh, you know the -- they had the ability to change a lot of things, and I think -- I think probably at other Trident plants things changed a lot more than they changed at South Naknek.
Gary Johnson tried really hard to kind of protect the process there and keep things kinda the way that they were when it was a union plant.
'Cause all of those things kind of came into question all of a sudden. The union guaranteed a lot of things, like shipping your tools up without a fee. They guaranteed that room and board. They guaranteed that laundry was done.
They guaranteed that if you didn't get four hours off the clock in a 24-hour period that the following day was time-and-a-half in addition to your normal wages. Because the union guaranteed -- guaranteed a minimum.
So, that was maybe one of the most glaring things, was -- is that with the union -- been too many years to know there may have been -- the -- the company may have had an out in the short run.
In other words, if you were hired and then, let's say, the cannery burned down a week later. Maybe they were hold harmless there.
But, if you were there for six weeks and the cannery burned down, you still got your union contract. You got paid. That was part of the deal.
As a non-union plant, you were swinging in the wind with respect to that you -- it -- it -- it was an honor deal. You know, what -- if the company wanted to pay it to you they could, but it certainly didn't have to and that's what I mean by --
Gar -- Gary Johnson was pretty diligent about protecting a lot of things that we had become accustomed to as union protections. But, of course, that was all still just kind of handshake stuff.
The one thing that -- that was added in was there was now a 401K that was available, but there was no pension plan anymore.
So, the -- the double time and a half thing, so to speak, I think -- I think at South Naknek that kind of stayed intact in spite of the fact that it wasn't a union plant anymore.
But I -- I doubt if Trident -- I doubt if Trident honored that anywhere else. And -- and --
And really, Gary's accident had a -- had a lot to do with my decision just to quit going north. Was kind of burnout on process anyway, especially the part about having to take my family up and all of the rest of it.
And when Gary -- first he had the accident, and then, ultimately, the -- the plant started looking more and more like it was becoming less and less viable.
I -- I was looking at the whole process like I'm no longer -- I don't -- I don't have -- I'm not afforded those same protections anymore.
Gary's not going to stand between me and -- and Trident upper management. Chuck.
And I -- and -- and if I go -- If I go try to -- try to -- to play hardball with Chuck Bundrant, he's gonna to laugh at me.
So, that was kind of the -- that was kind of the -- for me, that was kind of the -- the inspiration, I guess, to -- to just kind of give up the -- the Alaska thing.
It was either that or search out another company. Preferably a union -- a union job again, that was willing to take my family on.
'Cause I didn't want to go up without 'em. I'd gotten used to going with them and I didn't wanna do it any other way.
So, Gary was good enough to protect that that whole time, including the family going up and the whole thing, you know, and -- you know. As long as he was there and he was as viable as he had been, I probably would've continued to go indefinitely, but after his accident that all fell apart. And that was kind of kind of the beginning of the end of it for me.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Were you a part of when the cannery started to really incorporate freezing into the process? HARVEY HENRY: No. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok.
HARVEY HENRY: At -- Excursion Inlet was a freezer processor all the time that I was there. And at Excursion Inlet, some of my duties did include maintenance issues in the freezer plant.
But everything at South Naknek, even when -- even when the -- the frozen market started to get really more viable than the cannery market, their fish was either contracted, shipped across the river and frozen, or, of course, Trident had quite a processing fleet -- quite -- of freezer processors afloat.
So, I don't know that even after we were gone that South Naknek ever became any -- a freezer -- freezer. I think maybe they put some little plate freezer in there or somethin' after I left there for a year or two, but -- 'cause it didn't run that long after I left there, so -- But --
But no, it wasn't -- it was never really a freezer plant. They -- They had a couple of freezer vans there, and they froze a little bit of fish, but that wasn't a freezer plant.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: How did South Naknek compare to the other canneries that you worked? What made it different or special? HARVEY HENRY: Well -- Well, I think probably the -- the biggest difference between South Naknek and all the other plants is that South Naknek is a community.
JANET HENRY: It's a village. HARVEY HENRY: It's a village.
And, you know, it's in proximity to a much larger village, and that much larger village is in proximity to a much larger village yet.
So, the other canneries were -- truly were a self-contained -- As I said, at South Naknek, you had -- you had a public power utility, you had a little village with employee -- with locals who would employ at the cannery every year.
You had a little bit of that at Larsen Bay, but not nearly as much as you do at South Naknek.
Larsen Bay, when I was there -- I know it's a completely different place now than it was then, but when I was at Larsen Bay, it was a primitive -- a very primitive Alaskan Native village. There was no stores. It was truly a -- a subsistence lifestyle for the residents there.
And, of course, at Excursion Inlet and Uganik Bay there -- Excursion Inlet, maybe has a slight village in that there were a few of us displaced southerners that spent most of the winter up there as caretakers and stuff.
So, it -- there was a little bit of a contingent of folks like -- folks like us from the south that had been displaced there, or at least part-time.
And, well, the beach boss there Norman Derosier (sp?), who would have kind of been the closest connection to what Bob Metivier's job was at -- at South Naknek, he -- he bought a piece of property. He owned land at Excursion Inlet.
And then he got -- of course, he also owned land down in Georgia. And -- and -- and so -- I think Georgia. But anyway, Excursion Inlet was a -- a slight village, but not -- not really not -- not -- not a -- not a village with culture.
But, of course, South Naknek is a village with -- with a culture. And a school, and a -- and a -- and a bar, you -- you know, so -- JANET HENRY: Church. HARVEY HENRY: And a church. And so, it was different in that way.
And it actually changes things quite a bit, is that, you know -- again I mentioned the Norm Derosier (sp?) dynamic as being sort of comparable to Bob Metivier, but Bob Metivier came in late April or early May, and left in late July or early August, and that was that.
Norm Derosier (sp?), at the other place, was kind of a part-time full-time. You know, he -- he owned property there, he lived there much of the year. Just as Carvel Zim -- Zimin Sr. would have been in that position at South Naknek.
So in other words, in a way, Carvel Zimin was -- was more like the Norm Derosier (sp?) than Bob Metivier was, in that Carvel Zimin was there all year round and was sort of an outside boss, sort of an outside caretaker maintenance person, etcetera, of that plant, year round.
But, that -- that changes a lot of things about a plant, when you have a liaison that has that much clout, that much working knowledge of the place, everything else.
So, in -- in some seasons, Carvel would take his village beach crew and assemble the whole water flume assembly thing from the lake before the down-south crew even got there. Make the place ready before everybody even got there.
At other places -- I mean, when we flew into Uganik Bay, we threw our -- we threw our bags out of a float plane into a seine skiff, and we -- we threw our bags onto a palette that was hoisted up onto the dock.
And we crawled up the dock ladders, and when we got there -- there was about six of us in -- that probably included Jeannie, who lived across the bay, who had decided to hire on and cook for a few days, and we got it all goin'.
I mean it was -- there was nothin' there. I wasn't -- you know, there -- there wasn't electricity until we showed up and started up the generator. I mean, there wasn't nothin'.
So, some of those canneries were a lot more primitive, as far as accommodating you than South Naknek. South Naknek was pretty accommodating.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What about the size or the scope of the cannery? Was that similar? HARVEY HENRY: South Naknek's a really huge, sprawled out cannery. That was another thing that makes it complex.
But at the same time, having that -- having the ability to have part of a crew be there year-round and have that kind of a working knowledge.
Like I said, if -- you might have a different plumber every year, but Carvel Zimin knew where every pipe in the place was. Yeah, so -- Mm-hm.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Was it different also working, just as a machinist, the difference of having such an intense and short season in Bristol Bay? HARVEY HENRY: Absolutely. ANJULI GRANTHAM: -- (inaudible) versus Nushagak? HARVEY HENRY: Absolutely. Oh, for sure. Yeah, it's -- it's -- I mean, it -- it's --
It's pretty intense. South Naknek's pretty intense. Yeah, but that -- that run is so short and so big that --
Yet, none of the other cannery -- Well, no, Uganik Bay, there was a -- there was a fair number of sleepless nights there. But that was more about the fact that that was a shoestring operation and shoestring crew, and -- you know.
And it was a big run. It was an unusually big pink run that year.
But, you know, at South Naknek you can pretty well figure that from about June 15th until July 15th to July 20th, you probably gonna to be putting in a 16 to 20 hour day, every day. Hm-mm. Hm-mm.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: For over the years that you were there, what would you say are the major changes to the canning line and the machines? You mentioned a reformer going away. Was that (inaudible)? Were there other shifts in technology or processing that you noted or that impacted your work?
JANET HENRY: I remember one time you had to do recanning. HARVEY HENRY: There was a lot of shifts in technology.
During the time I worked there, the -- the means of delivering fish to the -- to the Fish House from the tender, the -- forget the name of the equipment. I think there was two different manufacturers, but one really kinda -- one really kinda monopolized the market.
They created, basically, a huge vacuum cleaner. So, you could basically -- They're still in use today.
Basically, the beach gang no longer, necessarily, depending on the type of tender they were working with, didn't necessarily have to shove all the fish off the tender through a little gate.
They could now suck them through a humongous tube, through a vacuum cleaner, basically. And blow 'em into the fish house.
So, that -- that's certainly a significant technological piece of equipment that was changed.
The -- basically, in the years that I worked there, everything changed from -- Larsen Bay was all line shaft drives and much of South Naknek was line shaft drives.
When I started working for them, just about everything was individually motorized, per machine.
And by the time I stopped working there, South Naknek, Gary, they kind of decided to try and reinvent the wheel a little bit there, so they came up with some innovative patching table stuff that when we finally got the bugs all worked out of it, might have worked better than the old way. But it certainly had its problems for a time.
They installed some weighing machines to replace the gravity weighing machines with electronic weighing machines, so that's a significant change.
The old style had a -- a was a fairly -- fairly complex piece of equipment. I forget now how many scales were on it, but if you can just think of a beam scale, the can was delivered basically onto a -- onto a machine that rotated in a long, oval rotating fashion.
And had, as I said, I should remember 'cause I've taken that thing apart from the bottom of the top, but I don't remember it's been too many years. How many were actually on it.
But there was a couple of dozen beams on that, that you set with a can that you'd already weighed to scale. A too light, a too heavy, and a just right.
And -- And it was all a mechanical beam scale operation, where all the cans went around this long rotation and were weighed.
In later years, that machine was eliminated and a machine that just sensed the can coming through, weighed it, and if it didn't like it, it had a little hammer, a little trigger with a rubber bumper on it, that come out and smack the can out. Just knocked it out and said "Nope, you're too light." And -- and on they went.
And then on the other end, too, I don't remember everything -- I don't know that American Can seamers even would've been compatible with it, but we had a sensor that was designed in Germany.
And actually, the -- the -- somebody from the German designer came out and -- and tried to install these things in the seamers to help them m -- monitor pressures on the seams. I don't think they ever got 'em working' right.
So, I think that was a technological advancement that probably failed. Didn't -- I don't remember it ever -- them ever getting it working right in my time there. Seems to me like they gave up on it.
Bright stackers got more efficient. They developed a -- a -- a better means of doing that.
That didn't mean they didn't use the old ones still, because the equipment was expensive, but they -- they came up with better bright stackers, better gen -- generators.
I mean, yeah, I mean, over the course of from 1976 to 1995, there was a lot of -- a lot of things. Throughout the process and -- and in the boats, as well.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Where did you live in the cannery? HARVEY HENRY: Well, when -- this is -- this is a picture of the old office. This is the original office at -- at South Naknek.
And -- I -- I -- you've been there I assume, so you're familiar -- you're familiar this building.
So, we -- we inhabited the whole left side of that office. After this door, basically. JANET HENRY: No, that was the mailroom next to that window. HARVEY HENRY: Hm. JANET HENRY: Remember, there was -- HARVEY HENRY: Well, there was apartments on the other side in the later years. JANET HENRY: Hm-mm.
HARVEY HENRY: But that was where we lived. That was where we lived in the later years when the whole family went up. When -- JANET HENRY: That's the mailroom.
HARVEY HENRY: The first year I went up to South Naknek in 1981, I lived in a -- just one of the bunkhouse rooms as I had.
Machinists, typically, they always had bunkhouses that were kind of sectioned out for the longer term help, and the shorter turn help, and the fisherman.
So, usually, there would be a machinist bunkhouse that would be exclusive to machinists and carpenters.
Occasionally, they might have the cook livin' in there or somethin' else like that, too. They might have the beach gang livin' in there.
But rarely, if ever, would -- would you have a member of the -- the greater cannery crew living in that bunkhouse. So -- So anyway, I lived in those bunkhouses in --
The first year I went up I actually lived in the -- in -- right next to the White House with my dad, briefly, but then I -- I ended up goin' to a bunkhouse.
But then, again, at Excursion Inlet in a bunkhouse. Same at Uganik Bay. At Uganik Bay, we both had a room in the bunkhouse and it --
In 1981, when we went to South Naknek, I went up, she came up a month later, and we lived in a bunkhouse room, in the machinist bunkhouse. Until my oldest daughter was born, and I -- then I moved into the old office.
JANET HENRY: That was '85, '80's HARVEY HENRY: That would've been in 1986. JANET HENRY: 1986.
HARVEY HENRY: 1986, I moved into the old office, and -- and I stayed in there from -- from then on, although I think I -- I -- I think that I started out with a little bit less space and expanded over time.
I -- I -- I --Yeah, I think I -- I glommed onto some extra rooms in there as time went by. Remodeled a little bit and everything. Hm-mm.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Nice. HARVEY HENRY: And so it was actually a pretty comfortable apartment. JANET HENRY: It was. HARVEY HENRY: Pretty much had everything. All the accommodations we needed.
And our own bathroom, bathtub, shower. And two bedrooms, a living room, a foyer, a little place to cook.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Wow, that's luxurious. HARVEY HENRY: Even put a -- I even put a kitchen sink -- and I put a kitchen sink in there. So yeah, it was -- it was pretty -- pretty comfortable for the family to be in it.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Who else was able to have their own living quarters outside of bunkhouse? HARVEY HENRY: The cannery foreman, Bob Deere, would've ha -- there, and pretty much --
Generally, that -- that -- that benefit was usually extended to cannery foremans to have their family come and stay.
And, usually, not always, but usually, the cannery foreman was us -- was usually accommodated with a house of some kind, as was Bob Metivier and Sylvia Metivier.
And oftentimes, the first machinist was -- would -- would also have his family accommodated. And so -- As in this case. So --
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Hm-mm. And the superintendent, of course. HARVEY HENRY: Now, obviously, the superintendent would -- would be accommodated with a house and his family would be accommodated, as well. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm-hm.
HARVEY HENRY: And so -- Yeah. Other than that, I don't -- there really weren't any families there.
My -- my brother-in-law worked there for a couple of seasons as the powerhouse guy. The guy that ran the generators. And he had his family up there in the little --
JANET HENRY: Chicken coop. HARVEY HENRY: -- the little -- yeah, the little chicken coop just down -- just down the walkway from the White House there. Yeah, just up the walkway from this. Hm-mm.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: What did they call -- ? HARVEY HENRY: From the backside of this. ANJULI GRANTHAM: What did they -- did they just call your house the old office then? HARVEY HENRY: Yep. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok. HARVEY HENRY: Sure did. Mm-hm.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: And you moved in after they brought in trailers and moved the office into the trailers? Is that how -- ? HARVEY HENRY: I -- Well, no, I mean the -- the --
There was -- there was an office that the -- there was an office before the trailers, on the -- it's probably -- I'm sure it's still there. Downstream.
Downriver from the White House there was another house that probably accommodated about four or five office spaces.
JANET HENRY: A hotel. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Oh. HARVEY HENRY: Hm? JANET HENRY: Is that what you're talkin' about? HARVEY HENRY: The hotel? JANET HENRY: The hotel?
HARVEY HENRY: Was that what we called the hotel in later on? JANET HENRY: Has to do with the -- ? HARVEY HENRY: Because in earlier -- JANET HENRY: -- the Crow's Nest and then there was the hotel. HARVEY HENRY: Earlier on, that was the office. JANET HENRY: Yeah, it was. HARVEY HENRY: Before -- JANET HENRY: And then it got changed into -- HARVEY HENRY: -- Before the trailers were brought in, that was the office.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: The hotel? JANET HENRY: Then it was called the hotel. HARVEY HENRY: Yes. Yes. Yes. JANET HENRY: Where the --
HARVEY HENRY: The hotel was a -- was originally an office. So, this was originally the office.
And then the hotel in later years became the office, and then the trailers were moved in. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Ok, I see. HARVEY HENRY: Yeah. And the trailers were moved in at the time of Trident.
I probably moved in here a year before Trident took over. In -- At least a year. Uh-huh.
And that was -- When Trident took over, that was -- that's when the office -- the offices expanded to trailers, as well. Yeah. To the -- Mm-hm.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: So Katie asked me to ask you about the ghost of the can shop. HARVEY HENRY: Mm-hm. Okay, so -- JANET HENRY: He woke me up in the middle of the night.
HARVEY HENRY: So, we spoke about the -- that line shaft drive thing. And the -- the cans were elevated from machine to machine, so, they would come out of a reformer, for example, or a clincher, they would go -- they would be sent up on a belt -- a belt would -- under tension would tension them, would drive them up into a gravity f -- feed chute.
And each of these elevators, can elevators, had a magnetic clutch on it. And they would need maintenance periodically, as would this -- the belt shaft drive itself.
And one morning, real early, like couple hours before time for the cannery to operate, so maybe five, six o'clock in the morning. And, I was in the can shop and I went to go up there to just -- either do maintenance or repair something that was broken and I climbed up the -- 'cause there was a ladder -- there was ladders periodically along the way so you can get up there and maintain that stuff.
And I climbed up that ladder, and just as I got to the top of it, I just glanced towards the end of the building where the -- the web locker was and I saw the upper torso of a figure. Not a face just a torso.
It was as if there was a face, but it had turned before I could see it.
And, I guess the most -- I guess what printed on me the most was just that it -- it -- it was a large figure.
And a large upper body torso., and it was wearing like a -- like a large quilted shirt. Like a -- like a plaid red or orange-ish, plaid-ish shirt and -- and it was sort of like this fleeting thing, or -- across the threshold of that ladder.
I looked that direction and it was like there was a person, but in the blink of an eye it wasn't there anymore.
So, it was this apparition of this -- this torso and this shirt and whatnot.
And, I mentioned it to Mick -- I mentioned it to her. Maybe the same day or the -- or that night. JANET HENRY: That night.
HARVEY HENRY: I mentioned it to Mick Connolly, who had worked up there a couple of years earlier in the coming days.
I just asked him, I said, "Hey, Mick. Have you ever seen a ghost up in the can shop?"
And it was -- matter of fact, he just turned around smiled, he said "Fleeting glimpses now and then." Whether he was serious or it was just a joke.
But it was only -- probably not more than a week or so, and Kathy -- I'm forgettin' Kathy's last name.
But I'd mentioned that at South Naknek we had a cannery foreman, and an outside foreman, and the machinist foreman, and Kathy was the -- the cannery worker foreman. And I think it was unconspired that Kathy's -- JANET HENRY: And there was a Scott, too.
HARVEY HENRY: Well, Scott was a little bit later on. And Scott claimed to have seen it, as well.
But the thing about it with Kathy was, she said something -- I -- I had not conspired with her at all. All she knew was that I had mentioned to Mick that -- about this joke there -- about this -- this deal and whether it was a joke or not a joke etcetera, etcetera.
And she said, "I saw your -- I saw your ghost last night." And I said, "You're kiddin' me." She, "Nope. I saw your ghost last night." I said, "Well, if you saw my ghost, what color shirt was he wearing?"
And she said, "I think it was like a red plaid shirt." Well, her and I had not had a communication over this apparition. Other than that she knew that I had seen a ghost but as far as -- Janet was the only person I had mentioned the color of clothing to. And she had not talked to anybody about it.
So, that -- that was kind of that ongoing ghost story of the strange apparition, where both Kathy and I had witnessed the same basic vision. All the way down to the color of clothing.
Now, there was a really old safe in the office. From the 1800's. A free-standing safe that undoubtedly that's where Alaska Packers kept all the gold back in the 1800s.
And that was in that office. And the last year, or a year or two before I left there, I mentioned to Gary that I'd like to have that safe.
And I ended up bringin' the safe back home with me and -- and I had it in the basement of my house when I lived in Fairhaven.
And when we moved out here, I didn't have a good place, and it was heavy. It was hard to move it, and I didn't have a good place to put the safe.
So, I gave it to my neighbor who happened to be a locksmith.
By that time, we had already opened the safe. But before we opened the safe, I had a dream one night.
And in the dream, we opened the safe. And, of course, I always hoped maybe there'd be something cool in the safe. There was nothing in the safe when we opened the safe. But I had a dream one night, when we opened the safe, the only thing that was in that safe was a plaid shirt.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Wow. But there was nothing --
HARVEY HENRY: No, there -- Ultimately, when we did open the safe, there was nothing in it. But boy, you can imagine when we were opening the safe, the anticipation -- the possibility that there would be a plaid shirt in that safe was high.
JANET HENRY: I remember you telling me that you almost yelled at the person that -- that apparition, because you were wondering what they were doing up there.
HARVEY HENRY: Yeah. Well, I mean it -- it was -- it was very real in the moment. Yeah. Yeah.
But at the same time, it was mid-season and -- and I -- I mentioned to Janet later that day, I said, you know, I've only had like, you know, 10 hours of sleep in the last 10 days. So who knows, you know?
I might just be seeing things here. Yeah. It wasn't until Kathy conspired it that I really took it seriously at all, so. Mm-hm. So.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Thank you for sharing that. HARVEY HENRY: Hm-mm.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Is there anything you'd like to say before we move on to Janet? HARVEY HENRY: I would say that ghost sightings at South Naknek are not uncommon.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: I'm curious, when you first arrived, did you ever go to the Chinese cemetery? HARVEY HENRY: Oh, for sure. Yeah.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: How many graves were there, that you remember? HARVEY HENRY: Well, there was -- there was a fenced-in area of Chinese graves, seems to me. That was -- there was a lot of graves there.
JANET HENRY: I took a rubbing of one of the -- I wonder if I still have that? HARVEY HENRY: Probably. JANET HENRY: I have probably still have it up in the -- of one of the -- HARVEY HENRY: One of the stones. JANET HENRY: One of the headstones.
HARVEY HENRY: But, of course, they weren't all Chinese graves, there were graves of other cannery people, as well. Expired while they were up there. ANJULI GRANTHAM: I see. HARVEY HENRY: You know, but -- but I think probably most of it was Chinese.
There was a lot of graves. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Mm. HARVEY HENRY: Hm-mm. There -- I mean, by a lot, I don't know. I wouldn't be surprised if there was fifty graves there. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Wow. JANET HENRY: There were quite a few. HARVEY HENRY: Yeah. Yeah.
ANJULI GRANTHAM: Now it's absolutely overgrown by alders. And so -- HARVEY HENRY: Is it? ANJULI GRANTHAM: You can't see anything. HARVEY HENRY: There's nothing? You can't see anything? Oh, really?
JANET HENRY: I'll look for that rubbing. HARVEY HENRY: Hmm. Hm. Wow. JANET HENRY: It would be up -- it would be up in the filing cabinet. The brown one. HARVEY HENRY: The brown filing cabinet? JANET HENRY: Yeah.
HARVEY HENRY: Well, I can walk up there and look while you're talking. JANET HENRY: Yeah, in a manila envelope. HARVEY HENRY: Mm. I'll -- I'll -- I'll look through that. I'll go up and look at it. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Great.
HARVEY HENRY: Hm-mm. Mm-mm. I will have to review these (referring to photographs that Anjuli brought). ANJULI GRANTHAM: Yes.
HARVEY HENRY: I'll get back to you on that. I'll -- I'll get -- I'll get with Katie on this when I get these reviewed. Maybe we can -- maybe we can recommit these to discs or cards or something and -- yeah. ANJULI GRANTHAM: Hm-mm. HARVEY HENRY: Hm-mm. ANJULI GRANTHAM: That'd be great. HARVEY HENRY: Yeah.