Project Jukebox

Digital Branch of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Oral History Program
Orin Seybert

Orin Seybert was interviewed on December 27, 2018 by Katherine Ringsmuth and LaRece Egli at the Alaska Aviation Museum in Anchorage, Alaska (previously known as the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum). In this interview, Orin talks about growing up in Pilot Point, Alaska, getting interested in flying, and starting his own flying business, Peninsula Airways (PenAir) to provide service to people in Bristol Bay. He also discusses the importance of aviation to the canneries in the region, landing on beaches versus on airstrips, and working with George Tibbetts, Sr., another well-known Bristol Bay pilot, to service the needs of the canneries. Orin also talks about the connections between the canneries and local communities, and how things have changed in the region.

Digital Asset Information

Archive #: Oral History 2018-13-12

Project: <NN> Cannery History Project Jukebox
Date of Interview: Dec 27, 2018
Narrator(s): Orin Seybert
Interviewer(s): Katherine Ringsmuth, LaRece Egli
Transcriber: Noel Miller
Location of Interview:
Location of Topic:
Funding Partners:
National Park Service
Alternate Transcripts
There is no alternate transcript for this interview.
There is no slideshow for this person.

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Becoming a pilot, and founding Peninsula Airways (PenAir)

Growing up in Pilot Point, Alaska

Learning to fly as a teenager, and being inspired by Jay Hammond

First airplane, flying back and forth to Chignik Lagoon, and flying people to the hospital

Best airplanes to fly in Bristol Bay region

Stories about Novarupta Katmai volcanic eruption, and the Spanish Flu pandemic

Stories about Father Hubbard, the "glacier priest," coming to the region

Connections between people, salmon, and the landscape

History of Alaska Packers Association

Importance of aviation to the canneries, and construction of airstrips

Using King Salmon as aviation base, and working with George Tibbetts, Sr.

Canneries as self-sufficient communities, and reliance on airplane support

Fish spotting

Cannery superintendents

Ethnicity of cannery workers

Memories of Gary Johnson when he was superintendent

Flying into Cannery in South Naknek, and medical care at canneries

The cannery operation, buildings, and employees

Fishing in the sailboat days

Aviation and fisheries management

Connections between canneries and communities

For the love of flying, and importance of preserving history

Fuel cans and their storage boxes

Reindeer in the Pilot Point area

Importance of the cannery history project

Memories of Sam "Salad Sam" Egli, who flew produce to villages

Why PenAir did not utilize helicopters

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KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay, ah, today is Thursday, December 27th, 2018. My name is Katherine Ringsmuth. I'm the Director of the Cannery History Project and today I am interviewing Orin Seybert, founder of PenAir.

And we are here at the Alaska Heritage Aviation Museum in Anchorage, Alaska. So, thank you, Orin for taking the time to talk with me today.

ORIN SEYBERT: Well, thank you for inviting me, Katie.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Well, let's first of all start, um, and have you state your name and make sure that we have the proper spelling. Can you spell your name for us? ORIN SEYBERT: Yep. I'm Orin. O-R-I-N. Seybert. S-E-Y-B-E-R-T.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay, so, um -- What -- let me just ask you, what is your professional title? ORIN SEYBERT: Uh, right now, I'm unemployed. KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs)

ORIN SEYBERT: But, I was the President/CEO of Peninsula Airways. Which became abbreviated as PenAir.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay. And, can you describe to me where you are -- where we are right now? ORIN SEYBERT: The museum? KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yep.

ORIN SEYBERT: Well, um. Well, first of all, I -- I founded the airline in Pilot Point. I was brought to Pilot Point when I was thirteen years old. My mother was a schoolteacher there. So, I basically grew up in Pilot Point, Alaska, a little village, um, on the south end of Bristol Bay.

And then, I started flying because this little village had about sixty people. Still to this day, it's about the same. Two of my children still live there.

And, uh, as I became a teenager, um, I saw this beautiful country around. The mountains and the rivers, and the lakes. And -- and the only way to get out to see all of that was by airplane.

And I was fortunate to be in one of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery rivers, Ugashik River. Was the smallest of the five, but still it was -- was -- it was a lot of activity there. Got a lot of money.

I mean, a sixteen year-old kid could make a couple thousand dollars in a month's fishing. That was amazing. So, I decided to learn to fly.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, let me just -- before we start talking about aviation, let's talk more about Pilot Point. Can you just, uh, explain where Pilot Point is in relationship to Anchorage, where we are now?

ORIN SEYBERT: Pilot Point is 400 miles southwest of Anchorage. It's 80 miles from south of King Salmon. Again, on the Ugashik River.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: And, um, can you describe the village that you remember as a child? ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah, like I say about -- between 60 and 80 people, permanent residents, mostly Aleut Native.

And my mom was -- was the teacher. And in those days, the government, the Alaska Native Service, um, staffed the schools, furnished the schools, uh -- this was through the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

And so, they hired my mom and -- We lived in, uh, Puget Sound dur -- during the World War II. And after the war, mom decided to move to Alaska. She was kind of adventurous. And she had the teaching background.

So anyway, -- so, we got to Pilot Point. There was a -- there was a --an old salmon cannery there. It was no longer operational, but it was a fish station.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Was it APA? ORIN SEYBERT: Alaska Packers Association.

Because it was a -- a nice run of fish, but the cannery had to shut down 'cause, uh, it was too shallow. But they still wanted to catch the fish and process them.

So, there was a pretty active fishery every -- every summer. And that's what we did.

And in the wintertime, we could go trapping, make a few extra bucks that way. But, there was nothing there. But, the cannery had a store and there was a post office, and then there was the school. And that was it.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, how old where you, when you moved there? ORIN SEYBERT: Thirteen. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Thirteen, when you moved there. And -- ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah, we lived there for four years.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: And you went to school there. And were there other -- ORIN SEYBERT: I went to the eighth grade. Through the eighth grade. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: But, my mom -- it was just -- There was no high schools in the villages in those -- That was before the Molly Hootch decision. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.

ORIN SEYBERT: So, it was the first eight grades. My mom had anywhere from fifteen to twenty students each year. With a one room classroom. Eight grades.

So first eight grades, one room and she taught -- taught everybody. And I went there though the eighth grade.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: And how many children were in -- in the -- the full class? ORIN SEYBERT: Between -- it varied from year to year between fifteen and twenty. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay. ORIN SEYBERT: She would have students --

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, you had some playmates? ORIN SEYBERT: Oh, yeah, yeah. I grew up with the Native kids. And we became good friends, and have -- have been ever since.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, when did you decide to fly? ORIN SEYBERT: Well, probably one of the points was, uh, meeting Jay Hammond. Uh, that was the next year. I was fourteen.

When Jay came flying -- after -- after he left the military service, he decided to come to Alaska. He was from back East, New England somewhere.

And he found Bella in Clark's Point. She was from Clark's Point. Married her, and they settled in Naknek, but he was -- had a job flying for the Fish and Wildlife Service, and so, he used to -- he would fly into Pilot Point.

He didn't like for me to tell this part of the story, but his job was to hunt wolves. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. ORIN SEYBERT: So -- And he had Jimmy Drew as his gunner, and he would fly a Super Cub and they would go and find wolves. There was a lot of wolves around Pilot Point, but you -- Mother Goose Lake area.

And he became friends with my mom and dad, so they invited him to stay with them, with us, in the schoolhouse. And we had the teacher's quarters as part of the schoolhouse, but there was an extra room.

So, Jay spent nights with us, quiet a few, in -- in the wintertime. And he was my hero and my idol.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: And, of course, he'd go on to be -- ORIN SEYBERT: And -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- governor of Alaska. ORIN SEYBERT: Yes, and much more. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: But, anyway, so, he was a part of the reason I decided to learn to fly.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, how old were you? ORIN SEYBERT: I would have been fourteen that year. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Fourteen.

ORIN SEYBERT: But then, fifteen I started -- see I -- and then, of course, there's no high school again, so for me to go to the ninth grade, my mom had to send me out, because I didn't qualify for any of the Native programs. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Mm. ORIN SEYBERT: Like Mt. Edgecumbe or Chemawa or -- So, she sent me to a military school in Kansas, where I was born.

And my grandparents still lived there, and so I spent two years in that military academy, and they had a flying program with the local operator.

And I'd made enough money again fishing. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: That I could afford to pay for the lessons.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Wh -- What was your dad doing at this time? ORIN SEYBERT: Well, they hired couples. And -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay. ORIN SEYBERT: -- and she was the teacher, he was the maintenance man. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay.

ORIN SEYBERT: I mean, the school was totally self-contained. KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, he didn't fly? This is just something -- ORIN SEYBERT: Oh, no. No. KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- you did entirely -- ORIN SEYBERT: Oh, yeah. KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- on your own.

ORIN SEYBERT: No, they had -- So, he -- he maintained -- we had the generator. It was the only gas engine in the whole village at -- at that time.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, this is right after the war? ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah, '49, '50s. KATIE RINGSMUTH: '49.

And was anybody else flying at this time that you would of, uh -- you would've been inspired by or copied? ORIN SEYBERT: No, not really. It was -- it was the -- Jay, Jay's example -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: -- showed me.

And then, the other thing was I got -- by the -- later on I got to be fifteen, then sixteen, then seventeen, (background announcement from speaker) and there was no girls my age in the village. And, uh, and I thought, "Well, I gotta look around."

And I heard there was a lot of pretty girls down in Chignik and whatever. So, this is my side story. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay, that's good. ORIN SEYBERT: (laughs)

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, did you find any pretty girls? ORIN SEYBERT: I -- I found one. I found Jenny in Chignik Lagoon. Married her. I was eighteen when I got married.

And we had forty-two wonderful years. We have eight children. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Wow, that's wonderful.

ORIN SEYBERT: And anyway, that's -- and then I'd -- I'd be flying back and forth to Chignik to court her, and somebody'd walk up to me and say, "I'll give you thirty bucks if you'll take me with ya." And I thought, "Hey, that's a pretty good deal. I'm gonna do it anyway, somebody's gonna give me money."

So, that's basically what started PenAir.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, what kind of plane -- what was your first plane? ORIN SEYBERT: Well, the very first one was a Taylorcraft. A two seater. Like that one out there. Not Jack Carr. The other one out -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Oh, yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: And, um, for that first -- first winter. But then the winter of '55, fifty -- The other thing was, um, was, um, I'd be down in Chignik. Chignik had virtually no air service at all.

Re -- Reeve (Aleutian Airlines) had a Goose (Grumman Goose) base clear down at Cold Bay the other direction. And their schedule was once a week, and they made it maybe once every three weeks.

So, I would be there, and somebody would be sick or hurt and they needed to get to the hospital. And the hospital was up in Dillingham, Kanakanek. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.

ORIN SEYBERT: And so, uh, I mean, they needed help. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: And I was there with my airplane. So, I had to say, "Oh, I -- " I'd throw him in the airplane. It took me all day to get back up to Dillingham. (phone rings) And, um, take him to the hospital. I did that four or five times that first winter.

And pretty soon the doctor in charge, George Wagman (sp?), called me aside and said, "Son." I was nineteen by then. "Son, if you'd get one of these commercial certificates, I got a budget. I can pay you for these trips."

And that got me thinking. too. So, with all those factors, why that’s when I decided to go into business.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: And what year did you found Pen -- ORIN SEYBERT: Mar -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- Peninsula Air? ORIN SEYBERT: -- Mar -- March of 19 -- I actually started in '55. That's what we claim. But, I got legal in March of 1956. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay, gotcha.

ORIN SEYBERT: (laughs) And then I graduated to a Piper Tri-Pacer. So I tripled my seating capacity.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, was there a special kind of -- I mean, so, I guess the question I'm -- I'm asking is, I was interviewing several pilots out in the Wrangells and one of 'em had started in Bristol Bay, and he told me that the planes out there are very different because of the winds. So, is that something that you had to consider?

ORIN SEYBERT: Well, we had, not at -- not at first, but, it -- it -- it -- I realized that the advantages of a low -- low-wing airplane. I started with a Tri-Pacer, which is a high-wing airplane and -- yeah, it -- you get a lot -- we get a lot of wind out there.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: You can't blow it over. (laughs) ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah. KATIE RINGSMUTH: You need to have something stable.

ORIN SEYBERT: And -- and a low-wing airplane like a Cherokee. So, we transitioned to the Cherokees. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Gotcha.

Alright, so I want to switch directions a little bit here. We'll get back to the aviation story, but I do want to talk about s -- um -- some significant events that are associated with Bristol Bay, and if you have any memories or stories, please share. If you don't, no problem.

I just want to get your perspective on some of these episodes, that kind of help us with context.

One, of course, is a biggie. Is the Novarupta Katmai eruption in 1912. ORIN SEYBERT: Well, uh, no, I don't know much about that e -- e -- except what's written in -- in the books. I've been up there, I've landed on the ash. And, uh, it's spectacular.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Are there any other stories, especially down in Pilot Point, Ugashik, about volcanoes generally? ORIN SEYBERT: Well, I got one about Katmai.

And that is, there was a village on the Pacific side, on the Shelikof Strait side, called Katmai. Native village.

And wh -- when the mountain erupted, um, it spewed out all this lah -- lah -- ash and uh -- uh they had to evacuate the village.

So, the Coast Guard sent a cutter in to pick up the people. There was, I don't know, eighty or so. And -- and move 'em down the coast. To relocate the village.

And they settled on Perryville. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Perryville ORIN SEYBERT: And the, uh, the skipper's name was Captain Perry. KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) ORIN SEYBERT: So, that's how Perryville got its name.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. And, of course, Pilot Point you have -- you have volcanoes, uh, some -- ORIN SEYBERT: Yes, we have Chiginagak. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: Which is right out my living room window. It's beautiful.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Alright, so the 1919 Flu Pandemic. Are there any lingering stories about the flu? ORIN SEYBERT: All I -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: I know Ugashik/Pilot Point got nailed by that.

ORIN SEYBERT: Yes. All I have heard, and I -- and, of course, I wasn't there. (laughs) All I've heard was that Ugashik, particularly up at Ugashik village, up the river from Pilot Point, was, uh, one of the, if not the, largest Native village in the whole Bristol Bay region.

And they just basically got wiped out. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: In -- in the flu epidemic.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, you -- ORIN SEYBERT: Do the -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- pretty much went to school with many of the survivors then? ORIN SEYBERT: Yes. The -- the same families.

Uh, a lot of them had Russian names from the Russian influence from the seventeen and eighteen hundreds.

Um, oh, when you fly around, there's actually three rivers that come into Ugashik Bay. The King Salmon, the Dog Salmon, and, of course, the Ugashik River itself.

They have bluffs along the river and every one of those bluffs to this day even, you can still see the -- the depressions where the barabara houses were. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Were, yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: And there must have been a -- so, there had to have been a lot of people living in that area.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. Yeah, it was a -- an event that changed everything. ORIN SEYBERT: Yes.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So moving, um, the next year, uh, of course, in World War I, the canneries were canning fish to feed the troops fighting in the trenches in France. And what happened in 1919 is that there was a combination of the flu pandemic and then the red salmon crashed, because they overcaught in '14, in '15, and then by '19 the red salmon fishery crashed.

Are there any stories about that? ORIN SEYBERT: No -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: That you know of?

ORIN SEYBERT: I don't know anything about that. The -- the only -- the only thing what I would know about after the turn of the century is the formation of Alaska Packers Association. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right. So, um, we'll get to that in a second. ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: But, I just wanted to talk a little bit about, um, Father Hubbard. He's another -- now, we're kind of moving forward in time. ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, we've gone up -- move into the 1930's.

What do you remember about Father Hubbard? ORIN SEYBERT: Well, just that -- that after I was -- well, as I grew up, I did hear stories from the old timers there about this priest and his floatplane pilot from Fairbanks, which was Frank Dorbandt. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: Spending the night at Pilot Point.

They spent at least one night, maybe more, at Pilot Point to make -- to jump off to go into Aniakchak Crater. Which is only thirty miles from Pilot Point.

And land in that lake. It's a beautiful lake, Surprise Lake. I've been there many times. That -- I just rem -- some of the old timers remembered this priest that spent the night there. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, that's a pretty extraor -- historic event in kind of aviation history, is Father Hubbard -- ORIN SEYBERT: Yes. KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- landing in that -- or he didn't, it was Dorbandt who landed. ORIN SEYBERT: Right KATIE RINGSMUTH: And, of course, there's an account of that.

Now as a pilot, ho -- would you say that that was a -- how would you compare? Was -- is it a pretty extraordinary aviation feat to land in that thing in the plane that they had? ORIN SEYBERT: Not really. KATIE RINGSMUTH: No? (laughs)

ORIN SEYBERT: The lake is beautiful. It's -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: -- it's like a mile and a half long. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: And the -- the carter is like three miles in diameter. So, there's lots of room to operate the aircraft once you get there.

But, the walls are like at -- at least two thousand feet high, and if there's any weather, you can't get over the walls.

Although there is the gates where the -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. ORIN SEYBERT: -- the Aniakchak River runs out of the lake, down to the Pacific side. And you can go through those -- those gates, we call 'em. But, it -- it can be difficult to get in there.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, the story is they got blown out by the -- the volcano. ORIN SEYBERT: Well, the -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: -- and the winds. Yeah, well, hm.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: It had just -- the '31 eruption, I think?

ORIN SEYBERT: Ahh, no, I think that it was formed long before that. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Oh, yeah, the event, but there were the -- the little mini volcanoes that had formed in the -- in the crater. ORIN SEYBERT: Oh yeah, the little cone? KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: There's a cone right alongside the lake. I've climbed to the top of it. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah? Wow. ORIN SEYBERT: About four hundred feet high.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, um, are there any other kind of historic events that are, um -- that you've -- that have occurred, that shaped local perspective that, um, that you might want to pass on? ORIN SEYBERT: I don't know, Katie.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Alright, so let's move on then. Okay. Bristol Bay. How would you describe Bristol Bay from that bird's eye perspective? ORIN SEYBERT: You mean, uh -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: From that air -- ORIN SEYBERT: -- geographically?

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, well, how would -- what -- what -- just when you close your eyes and you're in that plane and you're flying over Bristol Bay, what do you see? ORIN SEYBERT: Well, of course, there's five rivers systems that comprise the main -- the Bristol Bay sockeye salmon fishery.

And the key -- a sockeye salmon has to have fresh water. They're different from the other salmon, most of them.

So, they need a freshwater lake, and usually this -- this freshwater stream feeding the lake or along the lakeshore. And it -- it's well-known now that, uh, each salmon goes back to exactly where it was hatched, and. uh, it -- it -- every year.

So anyway, the -- the -- the key to the Bristol Bay salmon fishery is that there's so many freshwater lakes. Each one of those systems has its own freshwater lake. The Nushagak has two systems. Kvichak has Iliamna and Lake Clark, of course. And Naknek has, uh, Naknek Lake and others. Egegik has Becharof Lake. And at Ugashik we've got two: upper and lower Ugashik Lakes.

And that is probably the largest acreage, square foot acreage, of freshwater in a compact location of anywhere in the world. And that's what we're -- what we're -- (inaudible) the Bristol Bay salmon.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: And, of course, when the salmon came so did the people who -- ORIN SEYBERT: Yep. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Processors that came in to catch it, and can it, and send it to tables all over the world. ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah. KATIE RINGSMUTH: And that -- that's how you got -- that’s -- they needed aviation.

ORIN SEYBERT: Well, uh, you -- you want to talk about Alaska Packers? KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, sure. ORIN SEYBERT: Uh, by the turn of the century, the late 1800s, people realized the value of the sockeye salmon. And they'd salt it, they'd can it, or whatever.

So, in all these -- not just Bristol Bay, but even down the Chain (Aleutian) further, individual operators built their own canneries, salmon canneries. And they would harvest the fish, and can the fish, and market them themselves. But they were all individuals.

And then, about ‘nineteen -- you know better than I, ‘15 or 1920, uh, the Del Monte Corporation thought that they would -- wanted to have a sockeye salmon canned salmon along the shelf -- alongside their vegetables and fruits.

And so, they got together and they bought up all these individual canneries and they formed Alaska Packers Association. What 1920? KATIE RINGSMUTH: It was a little earlier, but, yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: Okay. And so, they -- they operated these -- these canneries. Uh, where was I going? KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, well, APA started in the early 1890s. ORIN SEYBERT: Oh, okay. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah, well, I wasn't around then. KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) ORIN SEYBERT: (laughs)

KATIE RINGSMUTH: But, yeah, no. And so, they formed -- so they have all these canneries and -- ORIN SEYBERT: Oh, yeah, and -- and so to support the canneries -- Del Monte is in San Francisco. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.

ORIN SEYBERT: To support the canneries, they assembled a -- a fleet of what, eighty or so, four-masted sailing ships. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.

ORIN SEYBERT: And they based them in Alameda across the bay from San Francisco. KATIE RINGSMUTH: In Oakland, right?

ORIN SEYBERT: And every spring, they would, uh -- I guess the -- the days of the steamship -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right. ORIN SEYBERT: -- was coming along, and the iron ships. And these wooden vessels weren't worth much anyway, so they were able to buy 'em and assemble them.

And every spring, they would load up this fleet, and this being in San Francisco, they would get Chinamen from Chinatown. They would get the Italians from North Beach to be fishermen, and the Chinamen canned the salmon.

And then they would load the -- all the tin and the cartons and salt, and sail to Bristol Bay. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: And each ship would go. And sometimes, two or three ships probably to . Uh, and -- and -- and the -- the Italians would go fishing and the Chinamen would run the cannery.

They'd spend six weeks producing the fish, and then they would load all the canned salmon back and the guys back, and sail back to San Francisco every fall. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right.

ORIN SEYBERT: But, the thing is -- so those ships laid there for this month or two, couple of months, while the fish was being caught and processed.

And there was a crew of ten or twelve guys, at least, on each ship. They had nothing to do, waiting for the fish to be processed.

So, they would go ashore and mingle. And, lo and behold, a lot of the sailors found local girls in the village and married them. And that's why there's so much Caucasian influence in Bristol Bay.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Sure. Yeah. Well, quite -- it's the Scandinavian and yeah, yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: Scandinavians.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, you talked about the transportation northward with the sailing ships and, uh, when did aviation become part of that -- that story?

ORIN SEYBERT: Well, I suppose there was planes flying in as early as the 1920s. Or, nah, 1930s, actually. Dorbandt being one of the first ones to go in and take Father Hubbard, that was '35. And then, there was some operators started in Dillingham and Naknek.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, and the military base out there by then, too. ORIN SEYBERT: And then the war came along. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: Yes, and the war came along and they built King Salmon Air Force Base. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: Uh, and so that created a lot more activity.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, when you were serving the canneries, what did that mean? What did you do? How did you serve the canneries? What were you providing them? ORIN SEYBERT: Well, they -- they had to have all the workers flown in and flown out, 'cause it was seasonal. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right.

ORIN SEYBERT: And nobody lived there, they just went there to work. So, they had to be flown in and be flown out. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: And that's what I was able to take advantage of. And --

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Did you bring groceries and things like that in? ORIN SEYBERT: Uh, fresh produce, I guess, and break down parts. Uh, parts for the -- to keep the cannery going. But, the main thing was the people. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right.

ORIN SEYBERT: All the stuff came in on -- on boats. The -- the major supplies. LARECE EGLI: Barging, yeah.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, when you started PenAir, right -- It's one thing to have the airplane, you gotta land somewhere, right? So, where were you landing? ORIN SEYBERT: Oh. (laughs) There was no runways. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Oh, okay. ORIN SEYBERT: (laughs) KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs)

ORIN SEYBERT: So, I had to learn to land on the beach. And the most important document I had to have in my possession when I was flying was a tide book. KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) ORIN SEYBERT: Because you can't land on a beach when the tide is high.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right. And you're talking about some historic tides, right? Some of the biggest -- ORIN SEYBERT: Well, in Bristol Bay it is. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: But, on the other side, Pacific side, there were only about ten foot tides. But still, they're substantial. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: And in Chignik Bay all -- there was no runways anywhere. Perryville. Perryville had a terrible beach. Very soft sand and dunes and stuff. Had to be careful there. But, yeah, I had to land on the beaches.

Until the early '60s, I -- I realized I needed to have a seaplane, so I could land, particularly at Chignik Bay. 'Cause the Alaska Packers Cannery, uh, took what, a couple of hundred people to operate that cannery in the summer and they all had to fly in, they all had to fly out.

Plus, the -- the in and outs of medical reasons, whatever reasons, all summer long. So --

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, you landed there right there in the Bay? ORIN SEYBERT: So I got my Widgeon, and I was able to land in the Bay, and put the wheels down and taxi up on the beach and park. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. ORIN SEYBERT: And then, take off.

A straight floatplane wouldn't work there, because of the tides. If you have a floatplane and you pull up on the beach, the tide's either coming in or going out. Either way, you've got to stay with the airplane. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: But with the Grumman (Goose), I could just put the wheels down, taxi up on the beach, and park. KATIE RINGSMUTH: It's an amazing plane.

So, let's start -- let's talk a little bit about King Salmon. How did you get started up there? ORIN SEYBERT: Well, because that was the transportation hub. KATIE RINGSMUTH: For the military base?

ORIN SEYBERT: Well, uh, for commercial connections to Anchorage and the outside world.

Pacific Northern operated and Northern Consolidated operated. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Oh, okay. Yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: And they both started with DC-3's. I used -- we flew into King Salmon with a DC-3 in 1949. A Pacific Northern.

But they -- that was it. They went into the Air -- the Air Force Base. The Army base, I guess it was then.

And, uh, but there was no way to get to the villages and that's where us small planes came in.

So, that was the hub, and I needed a contact there for people coming and going to and from Anchorage and beyond.

So, I -- I bought the -- an operation in 1965 for Peninsula Airways to operate and connect, uh, from the villages to the airline services.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Did you work with the, uh, George at that time, Tibbetts? ORIN SEYBERT: Oh, well, okay.

Tibbetts started -- him and Julius Herre started at Tibbetts-Herre Airmotive before I -- long before I did. They were like '49.

They were there in the military. At least, George was. And he met a local gal, married her, decided to settle down there and learned to fly.

And so, they provided the local service around the Naknek, Dillingham area. And particularly Alaska Packers.

George was the -- the only -- practically the only mode of transportation they would use. Both South Naknek and Egegik were the two primary ones.

I know what parts my -- so, you see, he was well established and he had all that business. But, I grew up going to Chignik, and Chignik had a pretty substantial cannery, too. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. ORIN SEYBERT: Just one, but it was a lot.

So, I -- I got all that work, because George didn't like to fly that far. So, I -- I did all the Chignik business and he did all the local Naknek/Egegik business.

And I thought, you know, we ought to get together and -- and put it all into one pot. So, that’s what we did in 1969. Tibbetts became part of PenAir. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay.

ORIN SEYBERT: George was our vice president. And Georgie to this day -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. ORIN SEYBERT: Well, he -- he recently finally quit flying, I think. (laughs)

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Well, my -- my very first memory of flying to -- well, going to Alaska, of course, was in an airplane, and it was George Sr. and he had his cigar. ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Unlit, but it was in his month. ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: And I was four, and he, uh, he -- I remember was writing, and I was like, "He's not flying." You know, I couldn't understand that. And he'd turn around and he'd talk to me.

And we landed at the strip above the cannery there, and we got out and he handed me fifty dollars. That's -- That is my very -- ORIN SEYBERT: Huh. KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- first memory of uh -- ORIN SEYBERT: Wow. KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- of -- of landing. And I thought, well, heck that’s great. Every pilot should give a kid fifty bucks. So --

ORIN SEYBERT: And, of course, each cannery was basically its own little village. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: They were self-contained. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: Carpenter shop, Mess Hall, Bunk House, everything.

And their own airstrip. Each cannery had its own little airstrip. KATIE RINGSMUTH: And that's important. Be -- that really signifies the importance of aviation to the canneries, because every cannery built an airstrip.

ORIN SEYBERT: 'Cause there was no -- no road access at all. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. ORIN SEYBERT: Very limited boat access. It was -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: -- very unfeasible.

So the airplane was what supported those canneries. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, when you think that that tide goes out, you know, twice a day. ORIN SEYBERT: Yep KATIE RINGSMUTH: It's -- you know, you could almost walk across the --

ORIN SEYBERT: So -- so yes, each cannery basically built its own airstrip. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: And -- and had its own airstrip. That's where that picture was taken. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yep.

Do you have any memory of when that strip was built? ORIN SEYBERT: No, it was -- it was before my time.

'Cause it was already there when I started flying in the mid-'50s. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Oh, it was already there? ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Huh, interesting.

ORIN SEYBERT: So, uh, yeah, it was three air -- at least three airstrips on the south side of the river.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, do you remember when the -- the -- the -- the main South Naknek airport or airstrip was built? ORIN SEYBERT: Oh, that was only about twenty years ago, maybe.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Well, it was re -- it was re -- I know was a -- about twenty years ago they added the -- the cross -- ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah. KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- strip.

ORIN SEYBERT: Well, maybe it was built before that. But Peter Pan had its own strip up at Nornek. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. ORIN SEYBERT: had its own strip. Columbia-Ward's had its own airstrip at Bumblebee. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. ORIN SEYBERT: So, there was three of them on the south side.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. That just speaks to the importance of aviation. ORIN SEYBERT: Yes, Pede -- Peder, on the other side, Pedersen Point had its own airstrip. Diamond J up at Kvichak had its own airstrip. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: And that's how we supported the canneries.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. So, uh, really quickly I want to talk about spotting, fish spotting. What -- what is that? And did you ever do it? ORIN SEYBERT: Well, no, because the -- the salmon -- Bristol Bay is almost all muddy, real muddy water, and you can't see them anyway.

So that -- spotting is more like herring over on the Kodiak side. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. ORIN SEYBERT: In the spring time. I never did that.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, they used to do it though in Bristol Bay, didn't they? ORIN SEYBERT: Not for salmon, I'm not -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, 'cause I remem -- they tell -- ORIN SEYBERT: Hm. KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- two -- two planes crashed and that was, uh, yeah --

ORIN SEYBERT: Boy, I -- I -- I don't know, Katie. I -- I don't -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: You don't re -- remember?

ORIN SEYBERT: You can't spot salmon in Bristol Bay. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, it would be -- ORIN SEYBERT: I never did it.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. Well, I imagine it's very, very dangerous. ORIN SEYBERT: Yes, I've lost two good friends over in Togiak. Herring spotting. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.

Um, okay, so let's change gears one last time. You doing okay? ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay. Let's talk about the cannery history.

We talked a little bit about the airstrip and, of course, the photo with the -- and we'll post this, too, and we'll make sure it's there. Um. with Norm Rockness, the superintendent, picture taken in, you said 1964? ORIN SEYBERT: Ju -- No, July of 1962. KATIE RINGSMUTH: '62

ORIN SEYBERT: And I was taking -- Don Cooper was the -- the Alaska superintendent or the Alaska VP in charge of Bristol -- I mean, he was the man, the big shot, that Del Monte appointed to run Bristol Bay. And he was actually. I -- I think his main office was in Seattle.

But, he would go up, particularly during the fishing season, and trip -- made trips around to the various canneries.

And again, the Tibbetts side trans -- did all the local transportation, South Naknek, Egegik, and even as far as Pilot Point, Clark's Point.

But Chignik was mine. I was the only one that flew to Chignik. And, uh, so that particular day I was taking Don Cooper and a guy named Harlen Shane (sp?). Harlen was the, uh, the director of quality control for Alaska. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.

ORIN SEYBERT: And they were -- they were going to Chignik to make their inspection trip, where their --

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, do you remember other people who were working at South Naknek at that time? Norm -- there was Norm Rockness, of course. What do you remember about him?

ORIN SEYBERT: Oh, Norm was a quite a guy. He actually was the superintendent down at Egegik to start with for -- That’s when I first met him. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay.

ORIN SEYBERT: For several years at Egegik, then he got promoted and moved up to South Naknek.

And, yeah, he was -- he was -- quite a very strong man and a very good, uh, superintendent. He ran a tight ship.

And did Gary come after, right after -- right after Norm or was there -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Well there was -- ORIN SEYBERT: -- somebody else?

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Tom -- Tom Takeoka, who -- who replaced Norm -- ORIN SEYBERT: Oh, Tom Takeoka. KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- after he passed away. ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: And then, he was there one year and dad came in as the store keeper and he was also down at Pilot Point.

Did you know dad when he was at Pilot Point? ORIN SEYBERT: Barely. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: Yes, I do know that he was at Pilot Point. KATIE RINGSMUTH: And then he was at Egegik. ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: And then he -- he, uh, was the -- managed the store, and then worked his way to bookkeeper and then eventually assistant superintendent under Takeoka. And then became superintendent.

ORIN SEYBERT: I remember Tom being -- he had something to do with quality control, too. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: Before he became -- I forgot about him being superintendent. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, I think it was just one year.

ORIN SEYBERT: And then, before that, there was, um, I think somebody else, but -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hank -- Hank Bison, I think. ORIN SEYBERT: Oh, Hank Bison, yeah.

But the -- the name that really strikes out is Frank Phillips. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Phillips, yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: Frank Phillips. KATIE RINGSMUTH: A lot of people talk about him.

ORIN SEYBERT: Well, of course, every cannery had a superintendent's private quarters, a house. And they were usually painted white, so they were called the White House. Every cannery had this White House, where the superintendent lived.

And Frank Phillips was noted for his extravagant habits. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Such as?

ORIN SEYBERT: Eh, well, he would hold, uh, fantastic dinners. Candle light dinners with steaks and baked potatoes. The whole nine yards.

And invite guests, particularly women. Somebody was visiting, like Don Cooper. And white linen table cloths and --

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, at the White House there? ORIN SEYBERT: At the White House.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. And I remember that -- the -- that building. The -- ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah. KATIE RINGSMUTH: And it's all still there. ORIN SEYBERT: It's still there, you're right.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, in fact, what I find really interesting is there's quite a bit of Japanese figurines. And I'm wondering if that would have been a -- gifts that -- that Japanese buyers or -- would have brought and they can -- ? ORIN SEYBERT: Would have been buyers, exactly. Yes. KATIE RINGSMUTH: When they were doing these -- these -- uh -- ORIN SEYBERT: 'Cause the workers that were -- the Oriental workers were all Chinese. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Filipinos and -- ORIN SEYBERT: Filipinos, yeah.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. You know, actually, this is a surprising thing talk -- talking about the workers. Would it surprise you if I told you that the biggest number of, you know, of ethnicities who worked at the cannery. You know what it was? Mexicans. ORIN SEYBERT: Oh, really? KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: No I -- it would surprise me. I didn't -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, I think my -- ORIN SEYBERT: I didn't see that in Pilot Point.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: No, I -- I think that -- my theory is you had Del Monte. Central California area, and they did -- did a big rebuild of the cannery in the 1940s during the war. And which is actually where most of the buildings were built today.

And I think what they did is they brought up, um, people who were probably working in the picking vegetables and fruit for the -- you know, Calpack and then -- ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: I think they were probably brought people -- people up to -- to help do the construction and the -- ORIN SEYBERT: That makes sense. I had -- I hadn't thought about that.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, I -- I don't have the historic ground truth yet, but I -- that’s my theory and -- ORIN SEYBERT: Huh. KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- it makes a lot of sense. ORIN SEYBERT: It does make a lot of sense, yeah.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: And what's interesting is, you know, the area that they call the Chinese bunkhouses? ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah. KATIE RINGSMUTH: In the report, the APA reports, they refer to them as the Mexican bunkhouses, so -- ORIN SEYBERT: Huh. KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- they were definitely there. They were prevalent, but they have since kind of disappeared, uh, in memory.

ORIN SEYBERT: We've still got Chinatown in Pilot Point. I think the building is actually gone now, but, yeah, we had our own Chinatown.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, and I think that's important because we still remember that there were, you know, the Chinese processors and workers, and know -- Now we know their importance and role because of the names and location, but because the Mexican workers -- those buildings didn't hold the names. They've -- they've -- ORIN SEYBERT: Hm. KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- been kind of erased from that local memory. ORIN SEYBERT: Interesting. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, I find that fascinating, too.

So -- so, you -- do you remember -- you remember, of course, Bison, Frank Phillips, Norm Rockness, Tom Takeoka, and then --

ORIN SEYBERT: Gary (Johnson). KATIE RINGSMUTH: Gary. What do you remember about him? ORIN SEYBERT: Uh, he was kind of laid-back, kind of quiet, you know. But, he was -- he was very, very smart, and ran a very tight ship. And I think he was a great superintendent. LARECE EGLI: Yeah.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Trefon Angasan remembers him as the -- the superintendent in tennis shoes. ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah. (laughs) KATIE RINGSMUTH: That -- ORIN SEYBERT: I can -- I can picture that.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) That there was kind of a -- he represented a -- perhaps a -- a change or a different type of superintendent.

ORIN SEYBERT: Oh, totally different than Norm -- Norm Rockness. KATIE RINGSMUTH: How -- how so? ORIN SEYBERT: Well, just that Norm was very assertive and -- and he made no bones about throwing orders around and how he felt.

And your dad was more laid-back, and he would speak softly but carry a big stick.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) So, um, what I have always been curious about the fairly, uh, recent, uh, the main South Naknek airstrip. There's, um, there's graves out there, Japanese graves.

Do you have any recollection of those? ORIN SEYBERT: No, I -- I didn't have any idea. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, okay, so --

Do you want to take a little break? Are you okay? ORIN SEYBERT: Well, no I -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay, you good? ORIN SEYBERT: I'll probably be getting a phone call here pretty quick. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay. Well, we will then move on.

So, South Naknek, cannery, how many times do you think you've flown into that cannery? ORIN SEYBERT: How many thousand can you count? KATIE RINGSMUTH: Ha, many thousands of times. ORIN SEYBERT: Not as many as Tibbetts.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: And -- and what was -- what would be the reason for flying into that cannery? Again, seasonal workers and that was primarily the main reason? ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah, exactly. KATIE RINGSMUTH: You --

ORIN SEYBERT: But, of course, I think in those days that was the closet runway to the main village, meaning the post office. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Oh.

ORIN SEYBERT: So we would fly the -- so that was year round. We'd fly the mail in there. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Mail in. ORIN SEYBERT: And then we used that airstrip. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay.

And there was a hospital at that cannery. They -- there's a hospital there that served all through the Spanish, uh, the Spanish Flu pandemic. And it was a --

There was a doctor there right up until they turned it into a women's bunkhouse in the '80s. ORIN SEYBERT: Hm. KATIE RINGSMUTH: No reason to -- ORIN SEYBERT: I -- I don't know. KATIE RINGSMUTH: You didn't -- ORIN SEYBERT: I -- I -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- fly people in there?

ORIN SEYBERT: I know that -- each cannery, of course, usually had its own doctor. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right. ORIN SEYBERT: But just for the season. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: And once the season was over they -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right. But they -- there -- you didn't fly anybody there for any sort -- 'cause I know they had a full served -- ORIN SEYBERT: No, if I had medical people from down the Chain, they'd go to Dillingham. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Dillingham. ORIN SEYBERT: To Kanakanak. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay. And what do you --

ORIN SEYBERT: Then the Naknek clinic started, uh, later on. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, right.

And, um, what do you remember about the cannery? When you -- when you flew in, did you stay or did you just immediately -- Did you have a -- ORIN SEYBERT: No, I -- I usually didn't stay. I'd just fly in and out.

But sometimes, I'd have these V.I.P.s -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. ORIN SEYBERT: -- from other companies that were wanting to look at the cannery and learn about it. And, of course, they wanted me to wait. And they -- they just spent a couple hours and then go move on. So, I would go along with them through the cannery.

And that machinery operation was pretty amazing. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: The iron chinks. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: And --

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, what do you remember about that cannery? What sticks into your mind? ORIN SEYBERT: Just all the activity. And, of course, that was what about a five line cannery? KATIE RINGSMUTH: At one time, yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah. Five lines all going with iron chinks and -- and workers preparing the fish, processing it, putting it in the cans, putting it in the retorts, and taking it out in coolers. The whole process is pretty interesting.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: It was one of the bigger canneries. ORIN SEYBERT: Yes, that -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: -- was one of the biggest ones, I think. Uh, maybe King Cove. Peter Pan had King Cove. But, uh, was one of the biggest canneries in the state.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: What about the Mess Hall? ORIN SEYBERT: Um. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Did you go ever have dinner there? ORIN SEYBERT: I don't know. Maybe -- probably lunch. Yeah, well, I had lunches there.

Yeah. Rockness would take me into the Blue Room. KATIE RINGSMUTH: The Blue Room. ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right.

And the Blue Room was, uh, separate from the -- ORIN SEYBERT: Again, yeah, an elite -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: -- place, where only the big shots could eat.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Now, one of the things we're gonna do is name our exhibit, title it, "Mug Up." When I say that word, what does that mean to you? ORIN SEYBERT: It means ten o'clock in the morning and three o'clock in the afternoon.

We'd go down and have a cup of coffee, or chocolate, or donuts, or whatever. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, those coffee breaks. ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah, coffee break.

When I was a kid, that was to me -- that was really something to be able to go down to and -- and have a cup of chocolate with the -- with the men, and the workers. That was pretty cool.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, do you remember any of the other kind of seasonal workers and laborers, like Filipino bosses, or -- ORIN SEYBERT: Hm? KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- any of those kind of stories about the -- ORIN SEYBERT: Not really.

Course the fishermen were mostly Italians. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Italians. ORIN SEYBERT: From San Francisco. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Scandi -- a few Scandinavians. ORIN SEYBERT: And a few Scandinavians. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: And I was just a kid, and -- and that was in the sailboat days. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: I got to fish the last year that we used straight sailboats. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: 1950. '51, I guess.

Uh, is when they started allowing power on -- on the boats. And that was interesting. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, how so? ORIN SEYBERT: Just that it was a different way of life.

And we would, uh, we would, uh, put the net out and drift and then pull the net in and sail to the scow where we could unload the fish.

And if the tide was wrong, they had what we called Monkey Boats. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right. ORIN SEYBERT: The little tug boats that would tow us sailboats up -- up against the tide and so we could deliver our fish.

And then, when we quit fishing, where this mast was and the sail, there’s a little foc'sle (forecastle). This is the twenty-eight-foot double ender sailboat.

And there was a little space up under that bow where we could put out our sleeping bags and -- and sleep.

But the mast was in the way, so the mast had to -- the sail had to come down, and then we could put the tent up, and then we could camp -- camp -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Nice. ORIN SEYBERT: -- for the night. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, right.

Now, I just want to talk about one other area. Final -- last area of the importance of aviation to the fishery. And that occurs, of course, after statehood. I'm thinking with, uh, fish and game and the management of the fishery. Which often times gets left out.

You know, we talk about the fishermen, we talk about the canneries, but often in that kind of trifecta is the story of managing that fishery. And how the biologists were, you know, keeping index -- ORIN SEYBERT: That’s -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- and counting.

And aviation plays a role in that, doesn't it? ORIN SEYBERT: That's good, because that was a -- that was a significant part of my business. Was doing, particularly, stream surveys. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Mm-mm.

ORIN SEYBERT: And you talk about spotting fish. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: Well, we didn't spot fish out in the ocean, we did the stream surveys where we'd fly the biologists and they'd count the fish. And we had to follow the stream at about a hundred feet.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So did you have cameras attached to the plane or -- ORIN SEYBERT: No. KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- how did they do that? ORIN SEYBERT: No, he had a Tallywhacker. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Oh, okay.

ORIN SEYBERT: And he would physically count the fish, looking at -- at 'em.

And -- and, in fact, their system was there'd be -- oh, you know, salmon were big schools in these little creeks.

So, uh, I think the technique I was told by one of the biologists was that to count ten fish, determine how big an area that was and then use that to determine approximately -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: -- how many fish. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: And, uh, so, yeah, they had to determine the escapement in every stream.

As to how they managed the fishery, and we were an important part of that in that we flew the biologists up the streams to count the fish. And so they could manage the fishery.

And then, there was the enforcement part of it, too. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right. Which that plane right out in front there, was -- wasn't that used for -- ORIN SEYBERT: The Goose. KATIE RINGSMUTH: The Goose, right.

ORIN SEYBERT: Ye -- yeah. Well, that was more of a -- that was a federal. KATIE RINGSMUTH: The -- yeah, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, wasn't it? ORIN SEYBERT: Yes. Fish and Wildlife Service. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: Would fly over and they would spot a -- a boat. This is more, well, yeah, anyway, Bristol Bay area, the other side. Fishing illegally over the line. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right. ORIN SEYBERT: And -- and -- and identify 'em and site them.

And I did some of that, but I had to be careful, because here's all my costumers, the canneries, with their fishermen and their employees, and if I fly over and identify 'em and -- and they're turned in and sited, that didn't make the cannery happy.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right. ORIN SEYBERT: So, I -- I was pretty careful. I had to be.

Well, I learned the hard way. 'Cause I actually did that. Down in Chignik side. And their -- uh --

KATIE RINGSMUTH: You had to serve a lot of different interests it sounds like. ORIN SEYBERT: Well, I just wanted -- I would take a buck from anybody that would pay me. KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) ORIN SEYBERT: Right.

Whether it was a fishermen or whether it was the government, I didn't care. Their money was all the same. So, I kind of -- I had to be careful about that.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, well one of the things that I found when I did my aviation study is you can still live, you know, quote unquote remotely, but aviation gave people not just a physical connection, but also a physiological connection. ORIN SEYBERT: I think so. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Do you think? ORIN SEYBERT: Yes, absolutely.

And I remember in -- in the -- the -- before the -- the 1970s, actually, there was no phones. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right. ORIN SEYBERT: There was no phones.

Everything was -- we had -- all had two-way radios in our houses, in our living rooms. And I had it in -- in my airplane to talk to the customers.

Our phones didn't come along until '74, I think. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: When the satellites started.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Some ways we were more connected in those days, 'cause you really were dependent on --

ORIN SEYBERT: And, of course, when you're talking on a two-way radio everybody in the country is listening. KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) Yeah, right. ORIN SEYBERT: (laughs) KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) That's right.

Yeah, no one's business is, uh, too private in those days, huh? ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Well -- ORIN SEYBERT: And each cannery had its own two-way radio. And that was their communications.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Well, and I imagine that’s where you really see that connection. I mean, the -- the airstrips and then the airplanes really did connect the community and the canneries. I mean, they were -- ORIN SEYBERT: Absolutely, yes. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.

So, how, did, wh -- what would you -- You know, I think what's important isn't just from the cannery perspective, but also from the community perspective.

How important is -- were the canneries to the local community? And vice versa, how important were the local community to the canneries?

ORIN SEYBERT: Well, of course, the canneries did use up as much -- some local labor, but most of 'em were out fishing. And so, that's why they had to import all the workers to the canneries.

But the cannery was everything to the community, because that's the source of revenue for everybody. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right.

ORIN SEYBERT: Whether you were fishing or -- not so much working in the cannery, but it was -- it was a very important way to sustain those communities.

That's why we have such better economics in Bristol Bay than say up in the Yukon or Kuskokwim.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, just a few final thoughts here. Kind of looking back now. How old are you? You mentioned -- you said -- ORIN SEYBERT: I'm now eighty-two. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Eighty-two. ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: And you started back when you were fourteen, fifteen years old. ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah, got serious at about seventeen.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, looking back on this long career. What would you say are your biggest successes? ORIN SEYBERT: Still being alive. KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) That's a good success, absolutely. ORIN SEYBERT: (laughs)

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Any -- Anything else? ORIN SEYBERT: No, I -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Or that you're really --

ORIN SEYBERT: Because -- because flying is all I know, and it's all I've done, and it's all I care about.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Any regrets? ORIN SEYBERT: No, no regrets what so ever. KATIE RINGSMUTH: No, no regrets.

ORIN SEYBERT: Read the title of my book. KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) That’s right. "You breathe. I fly." ORIN SEYBERT: And I fly. LARECE EGLI: That’s right.

ORIN SEYBERT: That’s all I know, and it's all I've done.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, what advice would you give us? What do you think are some of the most important things that we really need to inform a public that may not know anything about what -- what, uh, you know, these experiences, you know, accumulate to or --

You know, what -- what are the things that you think we need to inform that visiting public about in our "Mug-Up" exhibit?

ORIN SEYBERT: I don't know, Katie. I think you're way ahead of me. You -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) ORIN SEYBERT: (laughs)

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Well, you -- I -- I can just kind of interpreted the history, and like you said, you've -- you've lived it, you breathe it.

ORIN SEYBERT: Well, you're doing a great job at re -- I appreciate what you guys are doing. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Well, thank you.

ORIN SEYBERT: I -- I just think it's important to preserve that history, and it's what helped build Alaska.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Absolutely. Well, we will make sure that aviation strip is on the National Register Nomination, because it played an absolutely crucial role. And we want to thank you so much -- ORIN SEYBERT: Absolutely. KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- for your contribution and your stories, and if there's anything you want to -- last final thoughts. Otherwise --

ORIN SEYBERT: No, I just appreciate the work you're -- you guys are doing. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Well, thank you very much, Orin. ORIN SEYBERT: You got it.

LARECE EGLI: Okay, I'm totally inspired by being here and getting to see all the wonderful exhibits here in the aviation museum.

And, if I can get my way, and there's -- we get a couple of the gas boxes that we found the cannery workers had repurposed as furniture. What can you tell me that would help us describe those appropriately in the exhibit?

ORIN SEYBERT: Well, first of all, when we started flying, of course, there was no gas stations.

So Chervon manufactured, furnished, fuel for us in two five-gallon cans. Two five-gallon square cans.

And they built a wooden box to surround the can. And -- and two five-gallon cans just fit each box, and they would ship the boxes all over. Naknek, and our store in Pilot Point.

And we'd -- we'd buy the boxes of gas. And then we'd gas up our plane. And the cans were kind of, uh, one thing, but the boxes were very useful. And we used them for shelving in our houses.

Uh, so, uh, uh, and then, of course, then we had the fifty-gallon barrels of gas, but -- but the -- the boxes were part of our life. KATIE RINGSMUTH: I --

LARECE EGLI: Were -- were those for sale at the cannery store? Is that where you -- ORIN SEYBERT: Yes. LARECE EGLI: -- would go buy them? ORIN SEYBERT: Yes, yeah. They would ship it in on boats along with all the canned goods and groceries. And stock the store.

LARECE EGLI: So you were a customer at the cannery store? ORIN SEYBERT: I was, yep. Buy 'em at the store.

LARECE EGLI: And then food, you'd store -- ORIN SEYBERT: Canned goods. LARECE EGLI: -- winter provisions -- ORIN SEYBERT: Yes. LARECE EGLI: -- there?

ORIN SEYBERT: Yes, which would all have -- be shipped in every summer. And they'd stock the store enough for --

And most of us had our own orders from where ever, in Seattle, and our whole winter's provisions would be loaded on the ship in Seattle and barged up and brought up to probably Naknek. And then transported on the cannery scows to the village. And that's how we lived.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Did you guys do much with the reindeer? I know, you didn't -- ORIN SEYBERT: No, I never got involved with reindeer. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, I've been curious about that.

ORIN SEYBERT: I -- I do know -- Oh okay, I do know that, uh, Pilot Point is the only village south of -- clear up to Bethel, I think, that has a separate little side community of Eskimos.

And that was done in the 1920s, I believe, or maybe a little earlier even.

The government used the Coast Guard to get a whole bunch of reindeer up around the Nome or Kotzebue area, and bring them down to Bristol Bay. It's supposed to be a way to help feed the people, I guess.

And they used the Eskimo herders -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. ORIN SEYBERT: -- that were up there.

And there was a lot of fencing built, which you can't see any of it anymore, but I used to see the wooden fences they built for -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Corrals. ORIN SEYBERT: -- miles and miles. Corrals. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Wow, yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: And to keep the reindeer. This is in the Pilot Point/Port Heiden area. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.

ORIN SEYBERT: But there was a group of Eskimos that settled in Pilot Point. And they settled about a mile away from the main village. And we still call it "Eskimotown" -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: -- to this day.

'Cause the Eskimos and the Aleuts didn't get along that -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right. ORIN SEYBERT: -- well together.

And -- but Pilot Point has the only settlement of Eskimos. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. ORIN SEYBERT: But that was from those days -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right. ORIN SEYBERT: -- of the reindeer. I'd forgotten about that.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. There was a corral up in Katmai, too, or up on the -- near Lake --Naknek Lake, and -- ORIN SEYBERT: Oh, okay. KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- I have some photos of that. ORIN SEYBERT: Oh.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: And they were moved -- moving reindeer by aviation, so I was curious if they would -- ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah, I didn't know about that. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Interesting. Very cool. ORIN SEYBERT: Okay. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Well, excellent. LARECE EGLI: Thank you.

ORIN SEYBERT: Well, this has been interesting, actually. Thank you. Thank you guys for your efforts. I think it's important to -- to preserve this history. KATIE RINGSMUTH: I do, too ORIN SEYBERT: Just like our aviation history.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Well, I think, you know, that's -- You know, I know my dad he -- he had a hard time with this, to be honest with you.

'Cause he left in, you know, not under his own -- you know, it was with the accident. ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah, I -- I understand.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: And, uh, he never -- and -- and he actually did go back once for Carvel Zimin's Sr.'s funeral. And it was really hard on him. ORIN SEYBERT: Oh. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Really hard.

And he -- he didn't want to have anything to do with this. And I, you know, started this project, and -- and I think now he's finally -- um, he's okay. You know, because I think what he's seeing is -- is not -- it doesn't have to be the end.

You know, I think what happens is sometimes, you know, a hundred and twenty-nine years (laughs) is a long time. ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: And -- and, you know, eventually everything comes to an end, but what's wonderful with what we're -- you know, I think what we're doing and seeing is that what we're creating is something new, you know, from the end of this cannery.

And -- and if we can -- and do something that gives the communities a new direction or a new something, you know, to -- to think about then -- then that's a pretty cool thing.

ORIN SEYBERT: Well, more power to you. Both of ya.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Well, thank you. And, yes, I -- that -- that airstrip will definitely be on the National Register. It's --

ORIN SEYBERT: So, are you going to do anything on Salad Sam? LARECE EGLI: I am actually -- ORIN SEYBERT: (laughs)

LARECE EGLI: If you can think of anybody who might have some photos of Salad Sam throughout the Peninsula, I want to put together a gallery on my touchscreen at the King Salmon visitor's center.

And I've got a very few. I think five, but if you have someone.

ORIN SEYBERT: Boy, I -- I sure can't think of any off hand. But I'll -- I'll think about that.

But that was really neat for him to come with that Beaver to each village and selling vegetables out of his airplane.

LARECE EGLI: Oh, yeah, it was a big deal for me, too. You know, uh, we'd get -- Well, "A," we got to get out of school. That was the best part. (laughs) We made a dollar to go flying with dad.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, who -- who was Salad Sam? LARECE EGLI: Salad Sam is, um, my dad. ORIN SEYBERT: Her father. LARECE EGLI: Sam -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: That's your dad? LARECE EGLI: Sam Egli. KATIE RINGSMUTH: And who was --

ORIN SEYBERT: That -- that's how he started. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: He started with a fixed wing. He had a Beaver, and he would fly around the -- and I thought he was crazy. How the hell -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) ORIN SEYBERT: -- how the hell -- LARECE EGLI: You're not far off. But -- ORIN SEYBERT: (laughs) How the hell can you make money flying a -- a expensive plane like a Beaver.

LARECE EGLI: Big and slow. ORIN SEYBERT: And big and slow. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, they fly like twenty miles an hour. ORIN SEYBERT: And for selling groceries. LARECE EGLI: Yeah ORIN SEYBERT: Selling fresh produce -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: -- is what it was.

That's why we called him Salad -- Salad Sam. KATIE RINGSMUTH: That’s great. I didn't know that they called him -- LARECE EGLI: Yeah, he had those nicknames. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Nice.

LARECE EGLI: Yeah. And it's amazing to me, you know, as I get -- since returning home and getting out to some of these villages, the recognition I have of these airstrips and these beach landing locations, because, you know, I -- I grew up landing in all these places. ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah.

LARECE EGLI: As I go to conferences and am reintroduced to people from around the region, I have to go, "Wait a minute, where do I know you from?" And then, put it together.

I -- I've learned to ask. "What village are you from?" KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. LARECE EGLI: And quite often we probably played together. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. LARECE EGLI: And the memory is -- ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah. LARECE EGLI: -- still there. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right.

ORIN SEYBERT: I -- I'll-ask my daughter, Susie. Uh, she still live -- has a house in Pilot Point. She still lives there.

KATIE RINGSMUTH: How come -- did -- Pilot -- uh, PenAir didn't get into like the helicopter business where they would fly -- ORIN SEYBERT: Oh. KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- to the processors? ORIN SEYBERT: I don't -- I didn't trust helicopters. (laughs)

KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, the -- the whole processor scene and the support back and forth. ORIN SEYBERT: No. KATIE RINGSMUTH: 'Cause that’s --

I remember Lambert. Do you know a fellow named Lambert? He used to fly for, I think, it was ERA in those days. Off Unisea. He would fly, I remember, uh -- ORIN SEYBERT: Mm. KATIE RINGSMUTH: He flew, uh, the -- the processors and gear.

ORIN SEYBERT: Bundrandt had his own helicopter. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: And pilot, Tim. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, Tim. I remember him. ORIN SEYBERT: Yeah.

But, no, I never -- I never liked them. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: And they were very expensive. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: And I didn't see how anybody could make any money with them. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.

ORIN SEYBERT: But, your dad gave us a ride when he was -- he tried hooking up with that hotel downtown. LARECE EGLI: Yeah. ORIN SEYBERT: Uh. that one winter. That guy's -- that's another story.

But -- but Sam tried -- tried to help him, and, uh, had a base on the rooftop of the Holiday Inn down there. I still call it the Holiday Inn.

And he gave us a ride one wint -- that one winter, uh, four or five years ago. And that was scary. KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) ORIN SEYBERT: (laughs) To be in a heli -- I've only been in -- LARECE EGLI: To be in a helicopter?

ORIN SEYBERT: I've only been in a helicopter -- but I trust Sam, totally. But I've only been in a helicopter three, four times my whole life. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Huh, that’s interesting. LARECE EGLI: It feels different. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, it does. LARECE EGLI: It's really -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: I've been in there once.