This oral history project highlights stories of people associated with the 127-year-old <NN> Cannery in South Naknek, Alaska. The <NN> Cannery is situated on the south-side of the Naknek River, one of the five major rivers that constitute the Bristol Bay salmon fishery—Alaska’s largest and most sustainable commercial fishery. APA assigned the cannery the initials, NN, possibly for NakNek, and drew a diamond around the cannery abbreviations—hence, APA’s well-known trademark: “the diamond canneries.” The <NN> Cannery functioned almost continually between 1895 and 2015, and for over a century served as the centerpiece of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery.
The <NN> Cannery employed hundreds of residents and thousands of transient workers who produced more canned salmon than any cannery in Alaska. Over time, these cannery people developed unique identities and stories, which today remain little known or understood. This project aims to shed light on the lives of the cannery people and why they matter today.The oral histories include the perspective of people who worked at the cannery in various capacities, including fish processors, laundry and kitchen workers, machinists, office administrative staff, and superintendents, as well as commercial fisherman and local village residents. These oral histories demonstrate the diversity of cannery workers and honors their contributions as a labor force.
The oral histories are part of the larger <NN> Cannery History Project that includes development of an exhibit about the cannery and cannery workers, nomination of the cannery to the National Register of Historic Places, and a digital storytelling project. The hope is to create broader public understanding of and appreciation for the importance of canneries of this type to Alaska's economic, social, and cultural history. The jukebox component of the project has been funded by the National Park Service Maritime Heritage Grant Program.
Brad Angasan is originally from South Naknek, Alaska. He is the grandson of Vera and Trefon Angasan, Sr. and the son of Trefon Angasan, Jr. His father moved the family to Anchorage in 1975, when he began work at the Bristol Bay Native Corporation. However, Brad grew up playing around the <NN> Cannery in South Naknek, and has strong family ties to the community and the cannery, as he and many of his relatives worked there. Brad has also worked as a commercial fisherman since the age of... Read More
|Trefon Angasan, Jr.||
Trefon Angasan, Jr. was born in South Naknek (Savonoski), Alaska in 1947 to Vera and Trefon Angasan, Sr. His parents worked for Alaska Packers Association cannery, so he grew up around the cannery facilities and lifestyle. Vera Angasan ran the cannery laundry for many years, and his dad worked in maintenance and as a fisherman. As soon as he turned eighteen, Trefon began working for the cannery. He worked on the spring/fall crew, on the beach gang, and as a fisherman.
Mary Brown grew up in Blaine, Washington and got her first job as a cannery worker in 1976 on the slime line at Alaska Packer Association's cannery in Larsen Bay, Alaska. She continued to be a summer seasonal employee at canneries in southwestern Alaska, including for tanner crab and shrimp at Dutch Harbor, packing eggs at Uganik, and as a receptionist, expeditor, mail clerk, and laundry worker at <NN> Cannery in South Naknek. In 1981, Mary married a local fisherman, Bill Brown, and... Read More
Harvey Henry was born in Bellingham, Washington, and in 1976, at age eighteen, he began working in the Alaska salmon canning industry. Throughout his career, he worked seasonally at canneries in Larsen Bay, Excursion Inlet, Uganik, and South Naknek, Alaska. Harvey held a variety of positions through the years, including seamer man, filler man, can shop machinist, first machinist, and shop machinist. His work involved making sure the machinery and equipment used in the cannery was operating... Read More
Janet Henry was born in Seattle, Washington. In 1980, she got a job at the cannery in Larsen Bay, Alaska, where she worked in the Egg House. She met her husband, Harvey, at Larsen Bay, and starting in 1981 traveled with him every summer to work in the cannery at South Naknek. She worked in the Egg House, was a waitress in the mess hall, and worked in the laundry. After having her first daughter, Janet was able to bring her to work with her, and her two daughters have fond memories of growing... Read More
Gary Johnson was born and raised in Centralia, Washington, where his father worked in the woods and had a farm. When he was about twelve years old, the family moved to Port Angeles, Washington, where he father operated a sawmill. Eventually, they settled in Port Townsend and his parents ran a bowling alley. Gary came to Alaska in 1964 as a college student and got his first cannery job packing crab in Kodiak. He then worked as the storekeeper for the Alaska Packers Association cannery in... Read More
Wayne Matta was born in Brainerd, Minnesota in 1930 and moved to Seattle in 1944, when he was fourteen years old, when his parents came to the area in search of jobs. He graduated from Renton High School and served in the U.S. Army for four years. After working in the naval ship yard in Bremerton, in 1956 he got a job at American Can Company. Wayne worked as a maintenance machinist at American Can's Seattle plant, and later as a serviceman traveling to canneries around Alaska to work on and... Read More
Nick Mavar was born in Dugi Otok, Croatia and immigrated to the United States in 1959. He arrived in California as a foreign student and took courses in mechanical engineering for three years at Long Beach State College, while fishing part time. One summer he went to Washington to earn money commercial fishing, which led to him fishing in Southeast Alaska for a few years, and by the late 1960s he was fishing in Bristol Bay. At first, Nick leased a cannery boat and fished for specific... Read More
Bob Metivier was born in Blaine, Washington in 1927, where he grew up surrounded by a busy fishing and cannery industry. After he graduated from high school, Bob got involved in boat building and in 1954 was hired to work at the Alaska Packers Association (APA) shipyard in Semiahmoo, Washington. With mentoring and more practice, Bob became an excellent shipwright and carpenter, who built and repaired many boats and buildings for APA over the years. Starting in 1968, Bob spent the summers... Read More
Sylvia Metivier was born in Dickinson, North Dakota, and at age three moved with her family to Washington. After graduating from high school in Blaine, Washington, in 1951 Sylvia got a job with Alaska Packers Association (APA). She worked as a bookkeeper and accountant in the Blaine office, and was responsible for purchasing for all of their Alaska canneries. In 1957, Sylvia married her husband, Bob, and in 1976, she followed him to South Naknek, Alaska, where he spent every summer working... Read More
Oscar Penaranda was born on the island of Leyte in the Philipines in 1944, and emigrated with his family to Vancouver, Canada in 1956 when he was twelve years old, and moved to San Francisco in 1961 wehre his father worked as a diplomat for the Philipines government. In 1966, at age 21, Oscar got a job working at the <NN> Cannery in South Naknek, Alaska, and returned every summer for over fifteen years. His jobs varied from being a driver, to being a cooler man, to working in the Fish... Read More
Shirley (Grindle) Zimin was born in Egegik, Alaska and moved to South Naknek, Alaska in 1962, when her father started working for the Alaska Packers Association (APA) cannery as a machinist. Her mother is a descendent of the Katmai people who moved when the Novarupta volcano destroyed their Savonoski village in 1912, and settled in South Naknek. Shirley worked for APA on the fall/spring crew cleaning the buildings and doing the laundry, and worked in the cannery's mess hall and laundry... Read More
|Carvel Zimin, Jr.||
Carvel Zimin, Jr.was born in South Naknek, Alaska to Annie and Carvel Zimin, Sr. He has a long family connection with Alaska Packers Association (APA) cannery in Naknek, with his grandfather, Nick Zimim, being winter watchman starting in 1927, then his father, Carvel Zimin, Sr., being winter watchman and storekeeper, and finally, his older brother, Clyde, being winter watchman. Carvel, Jr. officially started working for the cannery in 1977 after he graduated from high school, but as a young... Read More