Denise Statz was interviewed on December 17, 2018 by Katie Ringsmuth at the Turkey Red Restaurant Store in Palmer, Alaska. LaRece Egli was operating the audio recorder, and student intern, Emily Mueller, was observing the interview. In this interview, Denise Statz talks about growing up in Dillingham, Ekwok and South Naknek around the canneries, and her own experience working in the Egg House and as waitress in the mess hall at the Bumblebee cannery in South Nakenk. Denise feels a deep connection to the Bristol Bay region and the people of the villages, as well as to the diversity of people she worked with at the cannery. Finally, Denise discusses the mutual dependency that existed between the canneries and the local communities.
Digital Asset Information
Project: NN Cannery History
Date of Interview: Dec 17, 2018
Narrator(s): Denise Statz
Interviewer(s): Katherine Ringsmuth
Transcriber: Noel Miller
People Present: LaRece Egli, Emily Mueller
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Family connections to cannery work
Effect of Novarupta volcanic eruption and 1919 flu epidemic
Butch Smith, dog team mail carrier, and flu epidemic
Importance of the Bristol Bay salmon fishery during World War II
Early village occupations prior to canneries
Importance of personal relationships
Experiences as a cannery kid
Influence of cannery people
Seasonal cycle of canneries, and stability it brought to the region
Working in the Egg House
Role of women in the cannery
Working in the mess hall, and serving "Mug-Up"
Switching to working in the Filipino mess hall
Gender relations, and learning from the diversity of cannery workers
Relationships between canneries, and between cannery and the community
Medical care at the canneries
Relationships between canneries and communities, and role of community in cannery success
Vibrant nature of the canneries, and number of people working there
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Note: This interview has been edited.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay. Ah, my name is Katie Ringsmuth. I am Project Director for the
Thank you very much for taking the time to talk with us today, Denise. DENISE STATZ: Thanks for lunch, Katie. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Oh, you bet.
Okay, so, let’s start by having you state and spell your full name, please. DENISE STATZ: So my name is Denise, D E N I S E. Smith, S M I T H. Statz, S T A T Z.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: That was actually going to be one of my -- your -- your second question and what is your maiden name? So, thank you for -- DENISE STATZ: (inaudible)
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Alright, so, um, first, let’s talk a little bit about your biographical background. Where were you born? DENISE STATZ: I was born at Kanakanak. March 14th of 1957. KATIE RINGSMUTH: And where --
DENISE STATZ: My folks are Roy and Harriet Smith.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Can you explain where Kanakanak is? DENISE STATZ: Kanakanak is attached to Dillingham. I mean, it's just down the road from Dillingham. It’s where the Indian Health Service Hospital is located and where -- there used to be a village there.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Can you talk a little bit about Dillingham? DENISE STATZ: Well, yeah, it was home for many years. Home for my family from about the turn of the last century until my folks left in about 1964.
I returned to Dillingham several times. It was always -- the Nushagak is one of those places if you've ever lived on the shores of it, you kind of are always called back. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm.
DENISE STATZ: And so, I returned to work there and they -- for the Native corpora -- or for the health corporation. A couple of different times, actually.
And Dillingham was, when I was growing up, probably, uh, what maybe five or six hundred people. It’s the hub for the Bristol Bay region. For the villages to the south and -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: And then the Naknek, King Salmon area. Levelock area.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Ok. Right. So, can you tell me a little bit more about your parents? And can you state who they were. I walked on you last time you were about ready to --
DENISE STATZ: My dad was Roy Smith. He was -- he came to Dillingham in about 19 -- I’m gonna -- I’m -- I’m gonna -- I have to work on this. Graduated high school in 1934, and went to Southeast in '36. He got to Dillingham in '38.
He was a pilot, big game guide, fisherman, ran a scow. Ultimately, we ended up in South Naknek where he was a -- he and my mom were the winter watchmen, and my dad was a beach boss and continued to fish. Continued to travel. KATIE RINGSMUTH: When did you --
DENISE STATZ: Mother was -- My mom was Harriet Smith. My mom’s association with the cannery was that she -- she actually worked '19 -- I want to say 1943, she was responsible -- she worked on broad one of the first floaters. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm. DENISE STATZ: That was there.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Can you explain what a flo -- floater is? DENISE STATZ: It was a floating cannery. It was one of the older -- You know, I mean, that’s what they do now. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. Yeah
DENISE STATZ: You know, they freeze on floaters, but in those days they canned aboard floaters. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right
DENISE STATZ: And if I’m not mistaken those were old military ships that -- I could be mistaken about that, but, that’s my recollection.
And then, my mom -- well, let me think. She waited tables and she worked in the can loft, and she ultimately ended up being a floor lady for the Egg House. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm.
DENISE STATZ: Packed -- packed eggs. And she sorted eggs and worked one -- very much one on one with the Japanese that were responsible for that. And was -- Loved her work. She took great pride in that role. Very proud of it.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, before we get into the -- the cannery history. I just want to make clear that we have been talking quite a bit about the APA NN cannery, but the cannery that you're talking about at South Naknek is a different one. Can you talk a little bit about that?
DENISE STATZ: My dad’s association, the entirety of his career, was with Columbia-Ward Fisheries. Libby McNeal. Libby was -- I mean, it goes by Columbia River Packing Association, Bumblebee Seafoods. You know, I -- You know probably more about that process. We still call it CRPA. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.
DENISE STATZ: But my dad fished for them from day one, and then ran scows for 'em. And -- and mother and him and Pete Heyano actually had an interesting situation. They leased scows from Ekwok, and then they would attract their own fishermen. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.
DENISE STATZ: And those fishermen delivered to my dad or to Pete Heyano. And then, they, uh, they were in a little different relationship with the cannery than were many of the people than ran scows.
When they were just hired to run scows. And then, would, uh, derive their paycheck from the cannery, where dad was working on a percentage as was Pete.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay. And just to kind of geographically speaking where is Columbia-Ward's/Bumblebee located in relationship to the NN cannery? DENISE STATZ: Well, it's -- it's down river. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right.
DENISE STATZ: Uh, just past -- well, there's Dobbs and Specs (phonetic) -- you know, there’s what we called-- we always called NN, APA. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right. DENISE STATZ: Alaska Packers.
So there's APA cannery that will operate -- there's PAF. Then there's APA, then was Dobbs and Spec's (phonetic) little outfit, and then there was Bumblebee. And then down farther -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay.
DENISE STATZ: -- Diamond O and Diamond M, which were, by the time I was around, were, uh -- they still had winter watchmen, but there were no longer -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: -- functional canneries.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right. So again, just before we get into the cannery history, I wanted to just mention a few historical events, and again these events took place long before your time.
But, really what I’m looking for are, uh, stories or if, you know, they've been memories of that experience that have been handed down. And, certainly, I’m just kind of looking for your perspective on these events.
And, of course, the biggie is the Novarupta-Katmai eruption in 1812 (says 1812, but misspoke. Event was in 1912).
DENISE STATZ: Well, I hope that somebody at this table will take the time today when they get home to go to the Facebook, the wonderful social media that we all are so dependent on now, and read Trefon Angasan's little story that he tells about his -- would've been his grandfather.
It was Trefon's father, if I’m not mistaken, that, actually, when they -- they felt the change in the earth, the shaking in the earth. He got people to prepare their bidarkas and get ready to leave.
I -- I hope that you’ll read that. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm. DENISE STATZ: And actually read that into the history, because it's pretty fascinating. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: We, um, all -- you know, having lived there, of course, you're sensitive to the fact that there was Old Savonoski, New Savonoski, and then the village of South Naknek. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right.
DENISE STATZ: And South Naknek, in my mind, one of the things that was so unique about it is that you had people from fairly diverse background. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm
DENISE STATZ: We had people that had originated up the lake. We had people who had originated from down the coast. And then -- so we had a -- a -- a blending of people in South Naknek. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right, yeah, it’s a crossroads.
DENISE STATZ: More -- more so really than a lot of places in Bristol Bay.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Was -- was there anybody of Japanese heritage living there? Well, one of the reasons why I ask is that I was at a presentation about, uh, Japanese -- people of Japanese background who were interned under Executive Order Section 1-0 or 9066. And South Naknek was listed, and there was one individual who had been take -- and I -- I had no idea about that story.
DENISE STATZ: Well, I do know that it would be worth your while to talk to the Heyano kids.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay. But I think you're absolutely right about the fact that this is a cosmopolitan place. That these -- this is a place that reflects --
DENISE STATZ: Well, I know that the Heyano kids can tell you that they had -- their dad actually served in the military, but was forced to serve in the European theatre. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay.
DENISE STATZ: Because he had family that was interned at the time that he was serving. KATIE RINGSMUTH: He was probably in the 442nd Infantry that -- which fought in Italy. DENISE STATZ: It’s very worth you, um, investigating. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Absolutely.
DENISE STATZ: And I would -- I would suggest that, you know, Robert, Norman, any one of those kids would probably have some stories that they would be able to share. I don’t, uh, I don’t have enough --
KATIE RINGSMUTH: What about the 1919 Flu pandemic? DENISE STATZ: Well, that’s part of the history of our family. So, that’s kind of an interesting thing. Of course, it was a devastating situation. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.
DENISE STATZ: People died very, very quickly. It took -- it -- it -- it took a group of people that you would not expect. It took young healthy individuals. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, people my age. DENISE STATZ: You would not expect that. Yeah.
I know several stories from having sat at the table with Mrs. Zimin and Mrs. Harris who talked about it with great, you know, personal memory of it. They lost their mother to that. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.
DENISE STATZ: My Uncle Butch at the time -- And I have to tell this from the perspective that I -- I didn’t ever know Butch Smith. I didn’t ever have the opportunity. I think he died in 1957, if I’m not mistaken, which is the year I was born.
But, Butch had for many years, uh, several years I should say, run dog team between the Pacific side of the Chain (Aleutian Islands) and Bethel. Running mail. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm. Wow.
DENISE STATZ: Because there was open -- open water there. He'd pick up mail and and he'd take it up to Bethel.
In that particular year, as the story goes, and -- and -- I don’t have this in writing. I only have it in oral history. Butch picked up the mail and when he was going back, two of his dogs died. Which was something unknown. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-hm.
DENISE STATZ: I mean, he -- it -- that -- he -- he took good care of his animals. It wasn’t that he was running them hard, they just died.
And, ultimately, when he came into Bethel they -- he -- he went in -- in the -- in the sled -- he was riding in the basket of the sled, basically unconscious. He was very, very ill.
The people in Bethel didn’t want him in Bethel proper, because they knew that he would be -- he would bring this devastating disease and they couldn’t tolerate it.
And so they assigned him to a woman, whose son and husband had drowned a year or so before while hunting seals.
And I don’t know what her family name was, and in fact it's this project that has inspired me to consider going to the Juneau archives to try to find that because they were married later on.
She took care of him and nursed him back to health, and in the spring, when he was strong enough to travel, she went with him to Bristol Bay, and they were married and were married for a very long time.
They lived up by Ekwok. They lived in Dillingham, they lived upriver, but they also lived in Ekwok. And that’s where the name Butch’s Slough comes from. That -- that was my dad’s Uncle Butch. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Huh.
DENISE STATZ: He was a very, very well thought of individual and fished Bristol Bay.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, so one of the -- kind of other historical events that I think gets left out because of the overwhelming repercussions of the Spanish Flu pandemic was that the salmon runs crash in 1919. Mostly, because of overfishing due to feeding the troops in World War I. DENISE STATZ: Oh, that’s interesting.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, um, are there any stories about -- I mean, I imagine people were just so overwhelmed with the flu, but, um, I’m just interested to see if that one two -- you know, it's like a one two punch. DENISE STATZ: I -- I have nothing that was ever said to me about that at all. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: The flu story was important. The importance of the fisheries was discussed with me many times, from my dad’s perspective, but that was a World War II, when my folks were working on the Alcan highway.
Dad had a small crew of people including Willy Chythlook. Excuse me, I said Cuk -- I said Chythlook, and I mean Coopchiak from Togiak, and -- and another group of people that were from the Bristol Bay area and they went up and worked the Alcan.
But the Corps of Engineers released them to go back to Bristol Bay because that was seen as a priority. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: Was the production of fish. Hm-mm. For the feeding. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: Not only of the troops, but of the nation. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Mm-mm.
DENISE STATZ: And so I -- I’ve always thought it was really interesting that we treat it with such a nonchalance now, but at one point you could be released from a very -- what was deemed a very important project. I mean, think about the short time and the a -- a -- amount of manpower that they put into that highway. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: Um, but they released them to go back because it was more important.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Wow, it was just important to -- to feed people during wars -- DENISE STATZ: Mm- mm. KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- as it was to create access. DENISE STATZ: And -- and salmon was a way to feed people. KATIE RINGSMUTH: And salmon was a way to feed people.
So, I just have one more question about, kind of the history. Going back to South Naknek, you mentioned, you know, you have New Savonoski, PAF, APA, So -- NN, then you have Bumblebee. And then you have the other two canneries. APA canneries, Diamond M and Diamond O.
Are there stories about villages existing there prior to the arrival of the canneries?
DENISE STATZ: I think when you fly that area you can see evidence. I remember my dad pointing out evidence of where there had been villages. I don’t know stories about them.
I think people were -- were somewhat nomadic if you think about it. They would have moved. It's-- I -- I don’t have enough information to be of any value to you in that regard. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: I would think again, uh, some of the older fellows.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Very little bit has actually been archeologically investigated because the canneries, the private owners, have maintained those prop -- you know, that land for so long, that's --
DENISE STATZ: Well, just up the hill from Bumblebee, you know, where the -- where the new water towers were? KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. DENISE STATZ: The up river side. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, yeah. DENISE STATZ: There was a -- people would frequently dig up there. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: And kick up things. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: You know, trade beads and ivory. Various different things, spears, stuff like that.
But, I kind of feel like I was -- my dad in particular felt that you could never own anything in Alaska. It was not ours to be owned. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: And my dad wasn’t a person who collected other people's artifacts. He wasn’t a great believer in it.
In fact, that’s one of the things about Butch Smith that was really interesting that I read about. You know, he traveled with Hrdlicka. He was the fella that took -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Mm-mm. DENISE STATZ: Hrdlicka -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Mm-mm. DENISE STATZ: -- up the -- up the river. And uh -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: The anthropologist.
DENISE STATZ: Yeah. And he didn’t like traveling with him. He didn’t like him digging up graves. He didn't -- He felt bad about that.
And I think that there's a lot about Butch’s sort of teaching that stuck with my dad. That you just didn’t touch other people's burial sites or anything of that nature.
So, honestly there’s nothing, I mean, we don’t -- we left Bumblebee without a cup. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: You know, it's a funny thing, looking back at it -- KATIE RINGMSUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: -- 'cause a lot of people have, you know, they've taken advantage of those old canneries and tore every -- tore the hell out of everything. And my dad was not much for that.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Well, that’s a good segway to the cannery info -- part of this interview. So, set the scene for us. DENISE STATZ: Hm. KATIE RINGSMUTH: When you imagine South Naknek. DENISE STATZ: Oh -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: When you close your eyes. DENISE STATZ: -- you’re going to make me cry. Don’t do this.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: When you -- when you -- you know, you have Bristol Bay in your head, what are you seeing? Paint the picture for us.
DENISE STATZ: Oh, Katie. (chokes up) Well, I suspect that there are very few more Pollyanna people than me. And I lived at a time amongst people that could not have been better people.
So, my world as -- as -- it pertains to Bristol Bay starts in Dillingham. A little girl that was sort of spoiled rotten. I -- I -- came pretty late to my folks, you know.
And so there was a whole bunch of old people that were really good to me. So, its all people, when I think about it really.
I think about summer days being in Ekwok, and picking those peas that grow along down there. And I think about being with Rosa Heyano and walking down and playing with the kids that were Jack and Kuno Savos' (sp?) kids and -- I mean, I -- it's just all very positive.
Going to the White House, you know, because it -- they had Mr. and Mrs. Akron had their place there and my folks were on the scow and, you know, we’d go out and you’d have people tie up -- my dad would tie me on the back end of the scow so I could watch the fisherman tie up.
And, uh, you watch people. And -- and -- you know, the names just come back. Just an incredible force in my mind. I think about just the people. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Mm-mm.
DENISE STATZ: And then, the tragedy of Guy Groat Sr.’s (sp?) passing when he was killed in an airplane accident, and my folks were convinced to move over to South Naknek, 'cause at that point they wanted to have somebody that would -- could fly out of South Naknek to Dillingham in the event of a tragedy or illness or whatever.
And so, we moved over there, and, uh, course, that was another community that just -- I mean, maybe I was just a lucky little kid, but I got to be -- You know, I got to be just a part of the community.
And, I think back and I just think of people. I think of Vera and Trefon (Angasan) and their warm, cozy kitchen, and sitting and beading. And I think of Mrs. Harris and Mrs. Zimin, and I think of Jack and Olf (phonetic) and all their kids rolling through town.
And I think of Annie Zimin. I just think of people. One after the other.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: And so, one of the interesting themes that I find that emerge from these interviews is the experience of -- of being a child in a cannery. You’re a cannery kid. DENISE STATZ: It was pretty great. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Brad was a -- I was a cannery kid.
DENISE STATZ: It was a pretty great place. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, so can you -- DENISE STATZ: I could ride my bicycle up and down the boardwalks and --
KATIE RINGSMUTH: How old were you for the -- when you first went to South Naknek? DENISE STATZ: Well, I -- South Naknek wasn’t my first experience with the cannery because my folks worked at Ekwok, you know, for years. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay. Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: And so, my first memories really are walking. Holding my mom's hand walking up the -- the dock up towards the galley at Ekwok. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm. DENISE STATZ: And getting doughnuts and going over and visiting the -- where the waitresses lived.
My mother would go and visit the women that were waiting tables there, and we’d get cleaned up and go up.
And my mother would always if -- if -- there was a -- a quiet time, mom would always go up and visit with Rosa Heyano between -- between times that there was fishing. So those are my first memories. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm.
DENISE STATZ: One of my -- one of my, I -- I -- I laugh about this because one of the memories that I have, that people can’t really believe is -- so I was on the scow with my folks and -- and I was a little kid and so I was a pain in the butt, right? KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.
DENISE STATZ: And my mother had a tiny -- I mean the kitch -- the kitchen on a scow is -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. DENISE STATZ: -- you know, it's that big. It's so tiny. And, so she’d say to my dad, get this kid out of here.
And so I’d climb up into the wheelhouse. My dad would be doing stuff, and then he’d have something else to do, and he’d get busy and he wouldn’t want me to be bothering him.
And so he’d yell across -- we’d be tied up next to Pete Heyano, and he’d yell over and he'd say, "Pete, you have time for a kid?" And -- and Pete would say, "Yeah, go ahead, come on -- come on over."
And ah, (someone walks over) and, a -- Oh, my gosh. Thank you, Paul.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: We just had a fellow walk in and hand Denise a -- a book.
DENISE STATZ: Oh, this is from my -- actually it's really funny because this is made by the husband to Sharon Ingram, who is the daughter of Bill Ingram. Bill and Lillian Ingram. And Bill was my dad’s fishing partner forever. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Nice.
DENISE STATZ: The longest, longest time. And, they made this beautiful leather bound book for me. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Aww. Very Kind.
DENISE STATZ: But, anyway, dad would toss me over to Pete, and I would go in his -- his galley -- into his galley where Alec was. Alec Kolleeha (phonetic), who was from up the lake.
And I’d draw and raise hell at their place for a little while, and then they’d send me back to my mom.
So life for me as a little kid at a cannery was just a really positive and good thing, you know. All good things kind of flowed from the cannery, if you stopped to think about it.
It was the beginning of the season it -- you know, it brought gobs and gobs of people, young people, and people who’d been coming there for generations. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.
DENISE STATZ: It's where I was inspired to believe that I should go onto college. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm. DENISE STATZ: I mean, it seems weird, but, you know -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. DENISE STATZ: -- you’re surrounded by young people that -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: -- were -- went on to be pretty great things.
I mean, our dishwasher was a guy who later on went on to win an award as a physician in the state of Oregon.
We had a guy named Robby Law, I can say this now because everybody else has gone, right? KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) DENISE STATZ: But, this guy named Robby Law, who was this really awesome, super bright guy, and he did a little newspaper for a long time. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm.
DENISE STATZ: And it was -- it was sort of a -- a tell-all. (laughs) KATIE RINGSMUTH: A gossip rag in the cannery? Yeah. DENISE STATZ: Of what was going on in the cannery, and it was pretty funny.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: When I was a kid I wrote one. DENISE STATZ: (laughs) KATIE RINGSMUTH: I did. I -- We -- we got it -- DENISE STATZ: Well, I would love to share. I would love to say I actually kept one of Robby’s, but I didn’t. But, they were pretty scathing and pretty interesting. (laughs) KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, oh, like the ru -- rumor control.
So, the companies: Ward Cove, the Alaska Packers, PAF, again upstream. Were there other major fish companies in Bristol Bay that you can think of? DENISE STATZ: Well, there’s Nelbro, and, you know, Red Salmon was -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: -- was tied in with, um, Bumblebee. There was Whitney-Fidalgo. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.
DENISE STATZ: I’m trying to think. Was it -- You guys also had Clark’s Point. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. DENISE STATZ: And uh -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Peter Pan. DENISE STATZ: Peter Pan. Yeah, I’m trying to think. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. Uh-hm.
DENISE STATZ: I’m not getting them all right off the bat. But, yeah, there -- there were a lot of companies and people had tight affiliations with their companies. It was -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Well --
DENISE STATZ: It was a source of security, really. In those days, if you stop to think about it, there weren’t cash buyers. There were -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right
DENISE STATZ: And there were good years and there were bad years. They certainly weren’t as -- it seems to me like every year now is just better and better and better.
But, I remember the cycle, and I remember people planning around that cycle. You knew that you were gonna have, you know, -- a -- a -- you were gonna have a trough. And so people would buy food ahead and -- and -- plan during their good years.
But, there were also folks who had maybe, you know, you could have engine trouble and end up with a lousy season. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Mm. DENISE STATZ: Not -- through no fault of your own, but just a bolt breaking down or whatever. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right
DENISE STATZ: And the cannery -- the cannery that you were tied to would -- You got fuel. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: Food. The basics were provided for.
Sometimes even I remember when dad would get done at the end of the year, he’d be billing out the cannery and there’d be people who flew back for example up the lake. And this year, instead of them being billed, it would be billed to the cannery. ‘Cause maybe they had had --
I mean, it could -- it could be other things. I mean, there could be a drowning. I -- I remember a particular instance like that.
Or somebody that, you know, had been -- or a guy had been hurt or, you know, there could be any number of reasons why the cannery would step in and provide for people.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. Actually, during the Spanish Flu pandemic you had people who survived, and I think that’s when the spring/fall crew emerges. DENISE STATZ: Hm.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Because the superintendent writes in his report that people were given, you know, year round employment. DENISE STATZ: Hm-mm.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Because of the -- you know, the hit they took with the flu. So they --
DENISE STATZ: And then -- then the fisheries you said too went -- went kaboom. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, right so --
DENISE STATZ: Well, we had -- we had a wonderful crew. I mean, Bob Hodgkins (sp?) and Mitch and -- Yeah, they were pretty, pretty great guys.
And then there were people from -- that were part of you guy’s program. Freddie Grindle, for example.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, well, and David Hodgkins, I would imagine. Yeah, yeah. DENISE STATZ: David Hodgkins. Oh, David and Bob. Young Bob. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: And Freddie would come down and work on equipment, because that was wha -- his expertise. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Oh, he knew. DENISE STATZ: He was brilliant. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: And, yeah, my mother’s table was never empty of -- of people to visit with.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Just really quickly, when you mention "the lake." Are you talking about Iliamna or are you talking about Naknek? DENISE STATZ: Iliamna Lake. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay, Iliamna. DENISE STATZ: Yeah. KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, I think of it as Naknek.
DENISE STATZ: We had quite a few people that came down from up there that fished for Bumblebee. Nondalton people. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, yeah.
Okay, let's talk about work, cannery work. When did you start working for the cannery? DENISE STATZ: When I was fourteen. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm.
DENISE STATZ: I worked in the Egg House with my mom and I helped her build boxes upstairs, and I hid from the State of Alaska when they came to do their little run through. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Me, too. (laughs)
DENISE STATZ: Yeah, my mom said, "For God’s sake, don’t make a sound or we're all be in trouble."
KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) So, talk about working in the Egg House. What was that like? DENISE STATZ: That was I started -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: That’s what I started with. I -- I -- my mom was a --
My mother was excellent at any job she did, she was a super hard worker. And she had gone in to work -- She used to wait tables before that.
Well, first she was on this -- you know, she was on the scow with dad for years. And she cooked for a huge crew of -- of guys.
And then, she -- when they moved to South Naknek she waited tables for a few years, but then they needed somebody to build those little boxes that they put the salmon eggs in. Little wooden boxes. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.
DENISE STATZ: And so, momma did that in the spring she’d build thousands of those boxes, and have them all stacked and ready for them.
You know, one down, two up, one over and that’s how they -- how she stacked them and she’d keep track of them.
And, then in the summer, she would go down and her job she -- she met with the Japanese early in the morning and they would tell her the specifics of that day, timewise etc., what their expectations were.
They would then go sort of behind their little -- ah, they had kind of a little wall and they would do the brining of those eggs.
And then, when they were put on the belts, my mother sorted number ones. She was the person who took the tops for the finest pack.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Why was that so important? DENISE STATZ: Well, it was their -- it was their economy. It was everything to them. Their -- it was their --
KATIE RINGSMUTH: So why was it -- why were the Japanese there in the first place? What was the purpose of the -- the egg roe? DENISE STATZ: Well, the egg roe had a large value in the Japanese market as -- as food. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: And the Japanese really were the last -- in my mind, the last real investors in the canneries. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. DENISE STATZ: If you stop to think about it. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: Yes, they did put some freezer plants in. But, boy, the -- the -- the investment that went into those egg houses was dramatic. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: I remember that -- that being an enormous change. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Oh, yeah.
DENISE STATZ: Because, you know, before -- when I was a kid, the eggs just went into the -- went into the -- out in the -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Egg grinder. DENISE STATZ: Well, yeah, and just were gone. Seagulls ate them. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: So when -- when they came and they began to do this work, mother served in a couple of different roles.
She was a hostess to them often, in sort of helping to make them have a comfortable place, because they had their own bunkhouse. They -- they wanted -- that was part of their contract with the cannery.
And then, mother would meet with them, and then everyday she would sort these number ones, the finest tops.
They would go into these blue baskets and then she would hand those -- they would be handed to me and I did the tops on all the boxes.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, that’s really important. DENISE STATZ: For fifteen million hours a day. KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) DENISE STATZ: At my mother’s beck and call.
It was a hard -- it was truly a -- a -- hard job. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: And then she would inspect every so many boxes. She would inspect them. And those boxes were what they were going to put out for viewing. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Mm-mm. DENISE STATZ: When they went back to Japan. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: And for many, many years they were award winning -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- product. DENISE STATZ: -- a pack. Hm-mm.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, men typically did not work in the Egg House. DENISE STATZ: No, mostly women.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, women were -- were pretty central to not only that part of the process, but, as you point out, that part of the process was central to all of the -- the cannery. DENISE STATZ: Really, did become that way.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: By the, what the -- the early 1980s. DENISE STATZ: So --
KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, was it typical to have women work in the canneries? DENISE STATZ: Bumblebee had women in the canneries as long as -- as early as the mid-1970s. Prior to that there were not a lot of women at the cannery.
There were waitresses. There was one woman that worked in the office. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. Laundry? DENISE STATZ: Laun -- Yeah, Smitty ran the laundry.
I’m trying to think of who else. There was somebody else. And I’m trying to think who it was. It was -- there was a -- there was a woman that came up and worked in the can -- cannery store one summer. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm.
DENISE STATZ: But I think she was a fisherman’s wife. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Mm, okay. DENISE STATZ: Actually. And I think she was there more by happenstance then otherwise.
And then, ultimately, you know, we had my um -- Jeannie Fitzgerald was our net boss. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Wow. DENISE STATZ: At Bumblebee. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Huh. DENISE STATZ: And she was the net boss way back when.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, that’s interesting.
DENISE STATZ: Janie, I’m -- I’m sorry, I said Jeannie. It's Janie Fitzgerald. She was married to Mike Fitzgerald from Kodiak. She was a really lovely woman, too. Um.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: What about the mess hall? DENISE STATZ: Yeah, all -- all the waitresses. Other than at the Filipino galley, which was men.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: And that -- that is an extraordinary job, I would think. DENISE STATZ: Waiting tables? (laughs) KATIE RINGSMUTH: Well, working in that -- DENISE STATZ: We all aspire to it. (laughs) KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right, but -- but that mess hall, because you are ultimately feeding that entire workforce. DENISE STATZ: No doubt. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: It was hard work. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, so --
DENISE STATZ: So that’s what I aspired to, and ultimately when I was seventeen, I -- I just blew up, I couldn’t work for my mom another day. KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) DENISE STATZ: She was miserable.
Well, my mom would -- my mom was like she was nuts kind of. So you’d get done with this incredibly long day. I mean, you’d be on your feet for eighteen hours, right? KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: And then my mother'd be walking up and she’d say, "Oh, look at that! The tide’s coming in, dad’s gonna be home. Let’s go up and do a little load of laundry." KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs)
DENISE STATZ: She -- my mom had a Maytag. There’s no little load of laundry.
So, the laundry goes in, then it gets rung out, then it gets rung back out of the -- then you take it out and hang it up.
It's like mom, I can't -- I can’t breathe, much less do this with you.
So as soon as I could move on, I'm -- I was moving on, 'cause -- (laughs) KATIE RINGSMUTH: You were in the mess hall. DENISE STATZ: She was a slave driver. But, anyway --
KATIE RINGSMUTH: So tell me about the -- just the schedule. Peak of the season, what’s your day like in the -- the mess hall? How do ya feed that many people? And how many times? DENISE STATZ: Well, you have -- the tables are assigned to you. So you had -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay.
DENISE STATZ: I typically -- we had eight tables each. And there were eight guys to a table.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: And what was the -- the meal schedule? DENISE STATZ: So you would go in, you -- you serv -- If I’m not mistaken, and I could be mistaken, I think you served breakfast at 7:15. If I’m not mistaken.
And you -- and everything was done family style. So, you would take out the french toast, and the eggs, and the fruit, for example. That would might be an example. But, already on the tables were the syrup and the -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Mm-mm. DENISE STATZ: -- butter and all that.
And you would take -- you know, you'd put your trays on, you'd carry three trays to a side. And one in this hand, and you’d put them on to each -- you’d start at the far end, get your table set.
The guys would all come in, they’d sit, they’d eat. They would, at that point, leave.
And, we had a set up where they actually took their plates and scrapped their plates and put their plates and spoons, and then they could be rolled into the dishwasher. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.
DENISE STATZ: Some places didn’t do that. Like if you had the -- the machinists, the carpenters, when they were -- they had the Blue Room and the Green Room, and those rooms they didn’t pick up their stuff, you picked up their stuff for them. That was under union contract. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay.
DENISE STATZ: And I only waited at the -- in the Blue Room and the Green Room a few times.
Under Warren Leonardo, he moved everybody out into the main -- main dining room.
So there was a beach table, there was a carpenter's table, there was a machinist's table, there was a superintendent's table, and he had the people from the office with him.
And then, you know, just from there on it just went back. And I’m trying to think. I think we were sixteen tables deep. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay, yeah. DENISE STATZ: Four rows.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: So you had -- DENISE STATZ: Does that sound right? KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: Six and thirty-two. Sixty-four of -- Eh, maybe it was less than that?
Seems like it was a lot of people.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, you had the -- the breakfast and then you had -- DENISE STATZ: Oh. I’m sorry. Yes, and then you had a Mug-Up. You -- Mug-Up. Mug-Up. Ten o’clock Mug-Up was served --
KATIE RINGSMUTH: What would is Mug-Up? DENISE STATZ: Mug-Up was a snack. It was coffee. Usually, something cold to drink if people -- there was water, at least.
And then doughnuts at the ten o’clock. Typically, doughnuts, maple bars, cookies, something like that. Big trays of cookies.
If you were working up on top. Up -- up away from the cannery, so -- 'Cause Bumblebee, you know, was really set up like that where there’s a -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Mm. DENISE STATZ: -- there’s sort of an upper level and a lower level. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. DENISE STATZ: And the canneries down low. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: There would -- they would have maybe two tables up on top for people who, the guy who was at the hospital or whatever.
And then everything else went down on these -- behind jitneys down the hill to -- and it was just served.
People would just step up, get in line, and then take their food. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay, yeah.
DENISE STATZ: And then, at no -- noon, we ate at -- the whistle went off at twelve, people went up and got washed up, and then at 12:15 they'd eat again.
Same thing. So this time it might be uh -- I mean, anything from you -- you might have -- it generally would be a full hot meal though. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: It would be, you know, vegetables, starch, meat, bread, dessert. It -- it -- it was a full meal. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.
DENISE STATZ: And then at 3 o'clock there was another Mug-Up. Same story. And then at 5:15 there was another meal.
And then at 9 o'clock in the evening there was another Mug-Up. And that depended on how busy things were. If you were -- if you were canning, if you were still in process, that would happen down on the dock.
Then you'd have a midnight meal.
I don’t ever remember having a 3:00 am Mug-Up, but I know that they did them. My mom served them.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, the when boats were coming in probably. DENISE STATZ: Mm-mm. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: I don’t remember it because I’m pretty sure I was probably unconsciousness by then. KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) So --
DENISE STATZ: So, my favorite story about my personal life -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Oh, yeah. DENISE STATZ: -- is that, when I was eighteen, my dad -- something happened in the galley that my dad didn’t like, and my dad was a beach boss and he watched it happen.
And my dad had kept me pretty protected, but somebody had made a comment that dad didn’t like, and so he just came back and said, we're -- we're going.
So he walked me out and he walked me up just one building up to where the Filipino galley was. And in those days at Bumblebee, there was the Filipinos and the -- and the Native crew ate together in that facility.
And the meals they brought -- the Filipinos had their own cooks. They -- when they came in under contract, they had their own cooks. And I think they brought three cooks, just in case. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.
DENISE STATZ: And they had truly fabulous food. I mean, it was really lovely. They -- they had, uh, food of their choosing.
It was, uh, you know the kinds of noodles that they ate, the meat the way they ate it. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Nice. DENISE STATZ: It was really lovely. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: And my dad said to this fellow whose name was Rudy Rudy, I want -- I want my kid to work here with you.
Well, at that point there had been no woman working that galley. To the best of my knowledge.
And Rudy was a friend -- my -- my dad and Rudy had a good working relationship and so he permitted me to go in and wait tables.
Well, it only took about a few days before -- Oh, I know, what was interesting I was gonna tell you this.
So, Rudy said, "Well, we have our own waiters." And my dad said, "Well, Denise would prefer to wait on the Native kids anyway, so -- " KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm. DENISE STATZ: "-- let her do that. That’ll be good."
And so that’s what I got to do. And these guys were great, you know, 'cause they were people that I was super comfortable with and they were a lot of kids from up the Bethel area. Really nice young -- young people.
And so, it only took about three or four days before I started talking to the other young people around the cannery about how great the food was up there. (laughs)
Well, within just a few weeks, we had all the young hippies were eating up at the other galley. Because (laughs) the food was way better. KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs)
DENISE STATZ: So, that was one of the first big migrations at Bumblebee, and sort of boundary changes, if you will.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Well, and I was going to ask you, too, about gender relations. And that kind of hints a little bit at that as some of the perhaps older fellows weren't so inclined to not only have women around, but certainly how to treat them.
DENISE STATZ: Well, it changed. I mean a lot of the older gentlemen were absolute gentlemen. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm DENISE STATZ: They were, you know, they -- they were fathers and husbands, and they were genuinely polite and kind.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: And then, also you were talking about just the diversity of the crews. DENISE STATZ: Oh, they fabulous. KATIE RINGSMUTH: I mean, the Italians. DENISE STATZ: It was fabulous. KATIE RINGSMUTH: The Scandinavians, the Filiipinos.
And it must've been extr -- extraordinary from a sixteen-year-old kid perspective. DENISE STATZ: It was awesome. I mean, it -- it gave me the desire for travel. It gave me the desire for education.
I -- I think a lot of who I was was -- or who I am even today -- certainly ninety percent of who I am came from being raised in a -- in an incredibly loving village.
And -- And I -- And I say that meaning the whole Bristol Bay area, ‘cause I was, you know, I spent time in Goodnews (Bay), I spent time in Dillingham, Naknek, blah blah blah.
But I feel like that’s a really big piece of whom -- who I am. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: And then, a lot of it, you know, there’s little thing sthat filtered in from being around people who had lived overseas, and people who got education that was kind of beyond my imaginings -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. DENISE STATZ: -- at that time.
And I remember there being a certain expectation amongst the young people who were a little older than me. Well, like when I was thirteen and fourteen, they’d said, "Well, do you want to go to college when you get older?"
And, of course, at some point you say sure, because -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) DENISE STATZ: -- not because you really know that that’s what you want to do -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: -- but because that’s kind of their expectation.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, I just want to talk about one more subject area and that is the relationship between the cannery and the community.
So, first of all, I want to talk about the relationship between the companies. You're Bumblebee. I’m APA, (laughs), What was the relationship between these two rival companies? Was it cutthroat or was there a sense of cooperation, as well?
I know one time they boardwalked, for example, the -- the -- and then you had the APA canneries on the other side, as well. Wha -- What was that like?
DENISE STATZ: Well, my experience may not be reflective of everybody’s experience. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Uh-hm. DENISE STATZ: Certainly. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Sure.
DENISE STATZ: But, I’ll -- I’ll tell you what my experience was. I never had a sense that there was great, any great animosity between the people. I -- I always think there was respect.
I think there was competition. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. DENISE STATZ: And I think there was also cooperation.
Remember when equipment we -- there were a couple of times I remember major equipment problems -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm. DENISE STATZ: -- happening, that could have stalled everything. And a machinist from another cannery came and and was able to help resolve the problem.
I also remember that there were stories of how people would gather in the Lower 48 during the winter. I mean, I think they did things together.
I think they did -- had meetings and golfing, and things that were kind of outside of our -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: The canneries associat -- Yeah. DENISE STATZ: -- our world, you know. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: But, I never -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Northwest Cannery Association.
DENISE STATZ: I’m sure that there was a true competition. I’m sure there was a sense of competition.
And, I also think that there was some complementary kinds of behavior in terms of when one cannery would develop, you know, maybe the first -- the first real Egg House that went in with, you know, systems that were a little different for delivering the -- the eggs on these belted systems.
I think everybody was watching. I think there was um, what would that be, not -- Imitation, I guess. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Mm-mm. DENISE STATZ: If not imitation, at least cooperation in looking at those -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: -- systems.
I don’t -- I know that -- I know there were negative attitudes that came out a little later. You know, accusatory comments about, like price fixing and stuff. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm.
DENISE STATZ: And I've always thought it was kind of ironic, because if I have to move five pounds of a product from, you know, from point A to point B and then five miles up the river, I have to move that same volume of product from that point to point B, there's a certain cost related to that. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right, sure.
DENISE STATZ: And you're producing -- I guess I don’t how in the hell you wouldn’t have some degree of price fixing. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: But, I think that that whole conversation was very deleterious to our -- to our -- to our whole -- the whole situation, I think.
I think when you see people as being cooperative and pleasant and having a common goal. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. DENISE STATZ: That’s one thing. It -- it makes you able to work together well.
And, I think when you start seeing people as gouging, and -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: -- you know, negative, then I think that I -- it -- it -- I don’t think that did anybody any good.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: One of the big memories I have as a little kid, um, is going to the Bumblebee store. DENISE STATZ: Oh.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: By the early, you know, 19th -- like mid-1970s, the store -- DENISE STATZ: The store -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- at
KATIE RINGSMUTH: And, uh, so tell me a little bit about the store. DENISE STATZ: When let me first tell you a little something about a -- about a -- a blond, a handsome blond. Looked like a surfer. KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs)
DENISE STATZ: That was your dad. Never -- always walking. Or not walking, always running. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. DENISE STATZ: I don’t think he ever walked, did he?
I remember Gary in that way. And I -- I hope that as he, I’m sure, listens to your work, I hope that he remembers that people remember him that way.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. As Trefon said, "He was the superintendent in tennis shoes."
DENISE STATZ: He was a pretty charming young man. Yeah, very charming.
Um, the -- the -- store ha -- the store was my favorite thing.
At Ekwok -- Ekwok had a fabulous store. When you walked in, it was a -- it was an old building. It was a beautiful old building with wood floors and wooden counters.
It was lovely, and they had everything you could imagine as a little kid.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: So what kind of things would they sell? DENISE STATZ: They had candy and coats -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, candy? DENISE STATZ: -- and sweatshirts, and, actually, my first Neil Young album -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Mm. DENISE STATZ: -- was purchased in Ekwok. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Nice. DENISE STATZ: I still have it. KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs)
DENISE STATZ: Um, the Bumblebee store, the new store that was built up on the hill, was built after the fire. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.
DENISE STATZ: And, um, that store was absolutely filled with everything from -- I mean, again, clothing, good socks, boots, household items.
They brought in everything. They would just bring in -- and they had a huge storeroom that everything resided in during the winter when they took it off the shelves.
You know, big stainless steel bowls and the things that you used for everyday living.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right, 'cause what you had in the cannery. You had the provisions warehouse that held food for the the mess hall and also food -- DENISE STATZ: Hm-mm. KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- for the fishermen.
Then you had your -- a stockroom -- DENISE STATZ: Hm-mm. KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- so, if machine -- you know, machine parts and stuff like that.
But, the store was really to help, you know, support the community. You could buy, what, everything from -- DENISE STATZ: Everything. Gum to -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- trap. Traps to -- to -- a -- um -- DENISE STATZ: Birthday cards. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, birthday cards.
DENISE STATZ: I mean, it was everything. I -- I can -- I can just think of the fellow who ran our store who was Dick Aho (phonetic). He was from Astoria (Oregon).
And I can -- I can still visualize him, and the enjoyment that he took in setting everything up.
And I would go up when I was very young, um, maybe nine or ten, and I would work days and days to help him set up the store before things opened. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm.
DENISE STATZ: And then, there was a big dry room that things were stored in, and then there was an area that was a cold room that, you know, household things could be stored that wouldn’t be a problem. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: But, good soap, and, um -- Gosh, I’m just trying to think of everything. You know, they -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Well, I imagine -- DENISE STATZ: -- they sold everything.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: This was really the way that you, that -- especially for the local communities, was the first time they were really having access to, uh, this -- these type of commodities that came from other places.
DENISE STATZ: Well, more so in South Naknek, uh, then, for example, in Dillingham. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right, yeah. DENISE STATZ: I mean, Dillingham had everything.
But, certainly in South Naknek, the store, you know, I remember when -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- ammunition. DENISE STATZ: Yeah. KATIE RINGSMUTH: For hunting. DENISE STATZ: Virtually everything. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: I mean, clothes lines, clothes pins. Um, pretty much --
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Christmas cards and decorations, huh? DENISE STATZ: No. No, that wouldn’t have been at Bumblebee. KATIE RINGSMUTH: No? Okay. DENISE STATZ: But, maybe up at you guy’s store, sure. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: Because, during the winter when I was young that store would be open a few hours a day.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Do you remember that store? DENISE STATZ: Oh, yeah. KATIE RINGSMUTH: What was that like? DENISE STATZ: Filled with all kinds of good stuff, too. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: Um, you know, wrapping paper. I remember that. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Right. DENISE STATZ: I remember --
And I think Brownie actually opened it. He used to open it up -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: -- when he was a --
KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, when you walked in, what did it look like? DENISE STATZ: Well, you went up the stairs. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: There were steep stairs, and you walked in and there was a counter on your right-hand side with big windows behind it.
And a old fashioned cash register. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. DENISE STATZ: Really old fashioned cash register.
And then, that’s where candy and stuff was, as I recall.
And then, there were -- the walls were lined with things. There was all kinds of stuff. You know, it's hard -- everything from soup to nuts, pretty much. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.
DENISE STATZ: I mean, there was -- So, now, after twenty years I can say this. So in the few days I close down, I -- I step away from a business I have owned for a long time, and people laugh about the way it's stocked, because it’s so grossly overstocked. KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs)
DENISE STATZ: And, I think a lot of that just comes from being raised in South Naknek and -- and being raised in the canneries and -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: -- loving the cannery store. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, no I can see that absolutely.
So, what about -- we -- you talked a little bit about healthcare, we talked about the flu, there's the hospital at the South Naknek cannery. Did Bumblebee have its own healthcare? Or, did you ever happen -- DENISE STATZ: No, they had a little clinic. KATIE RINGSMUTH: -- to use the
I can still -- I -- I can’t remember his name, but the tall slender doctor who was there. Um, I should remember his name.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: I have a scar here because he stitched me up there.
DENISE STATZ: He was really a talented man. He could do everything.
I was seen for a couple of different things. One was a suture, a suture situation. And one was a dog bite. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm. DENISE STATZ: Um, I -- I can’t remember other specifics.
I remember driving up there, taking people up there a couple of different times that had to be seen.
We had a nurse at our facility. And there was a darling little clinic. I -- I’ve always wondered what’s happened to it. There was a bed. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.
DENISE STATZ: There was a place where if somebody needed to be held overnight, they could be.
They had um -- Your facility had an amazing array of tools. I mean, -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. The x-ray machine’s still there.
DENISE STATZ: An amazing array of tools. Well, you had stuff like forceps that were designed for the removal of, um, you know, when there was a fetal demise. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Oh, really?
DENISE STATZ: You had -- they had everything. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Wow. DENISE STATZ: It was, um --
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Well, that was the place. DENISE STATZ: Yeah. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Even on the north side, it was, I mean, almost a f -- you know, Dillingham was --
DENISE STATZ: What was his name? The old fellow that -- I wish you could remember his name. KATIE RINGSMUTH: I can’t remember. I'll have to find out.
DENISE STATZ: Junior -- Junior or Annie would remember his name. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: It’d be nice to get that.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah, that’s important, 'cause I think that hospital plays a big part of that.
DENISE STATZ: Yeah, he was -- he was quite a fascinating fellow. He was -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: I know he -- DENISE STATZ: -- very calm, and -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: He saved a lot of, like bear attacks. DENISE STATZ: Craten, Clayton. Craten, Craten?
Anyway, it'll come to somebody. It won’t be me, but somebody will remember his name. KATIE RINGSMUTH: So -- DENISE STATZ: Craten.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: The cannery and the communities. I think -- what -- how would you describe that relationship? Well, what -- DENISE STATZ: I think it was mutually respectful.
I -- I have a hard time. I know that we -- we live in a time when people want to dredge up history that I think is often unnecessary.
I’m sure that there are negatives. I’m sure that there is somebody that you will interview that will have everything negative to say.
What I believe is that it was a respectful relationship. And my recollection is as a child, again, because, I left as an adult.
I left when I was what, twenty-four, maybe. So, beyond that I -- I can’t speak to it.
But, I know that in the fall time, you know, the canneries would make a point of leaving things that could be used by the families who might be -- have the greatest need.
And my dad was assigned to ensure that that was delivered. Not in one bulk, but over time so it would not be -- wouldn’t go to waste because of lack of refrigeration -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. DENISE STATZ: -- or lack of whatever. And, he did that diligently.
Um, they cut grass at the -- up on the hill, at Bumblebee, so that those old horses would have something. Although it was -- they just for hay belly, you know, because --
KATIE RINGSMUTH: They had horses up there? DENISE STATZ: Don’t you remember the horses in South Naknek? KATIE RINGSMUTH: No, no. DENISE STATZ: Cliff Johnson had horses. KATIE RINGSMUTH: I had no idea. DENISE STATZ: Huh. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Huh
DENISE STATZ: Are you filming me? (laughs) KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) No, just for personal uh -- LARECE EGLI: Pause. DENISE STATZ: Cut, cut.
Anyway, so -- and then at Christmas time, I remember there was a great effort to ensure that the fruit that was sent in, which was, you know, Harry and David’s. It wasn’t -- it certainly wasn’t, you know, junky food. It was high quality, beautiful pears, beautiful pears and oranges!
They’d be sent in and ensure that every member of the fam -- of the community had something.
Johnny Savo (sp?) would always -- Johnny and Carvel (Zimin) always made sure that there were stockings.
You know, so, the -- the canneries worked with the people, and the people worked with the people, and the people worked with the canneries. In my opinion. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.
DENISE STATZ: And, maybe, you know, maybe I was insulated from what might have been a -- a different reality. But, I certainly -- I certainly always felt like there was great respect shown -- shown people.
I remember that when I was living in Astoria, I was living with the superintendent of the cannery, and there was a -- there had been a tragedy. And I remember that there was an instant effort to ensure that there was something done for the family.
I -- I think there’s -- I mean, you can make anything the way you want it to be, you know. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Sure.
So, just starting to kind of conclude here. But, what do you think is the most important job, role, responsibility of the local community in the cannery scene, in the cannery production?
So, in other words, we talk a lot about the role the cannery influencing the community. What’s -- How would you describe the importance of the community in the success of the cannery?
DENISE STATZ: Well, certainly the fishermen that were part of, you know, that -- that -- went out and caught the fish and turned in a good quality fish and sold to the canneries. That was certainly an important -- a very important thing.
Um, some of the young people that served in roles working for the canneries were important.
Anytime you hire someone, you want to ensure they’re going to be there the whole season, they’re gonna be reliable, they’re going do all that.
I think we never had trouble at all with people vandalizing anything down at Bumblebee, ever!
I don’t think there was ever a single thing that was stolen or vandalized during the winter. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm.
DENISE STATZ: There was a -- You know, I -- I keep going back to this word respect. I think there was a mutual respect, and I think there was a mutual dependence. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Mm.
DENISE STATZ: Maybe dependence -- maybe respect derived from dependence? KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm. DENISE STATZ: But, whatever it was, there was certainly, um, that. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: And, I think that, um -- You know, I know that the -- the good fishermen, the people who showed up and produced were -- were deemed very important. They were known by individual name and they were known by family and -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: I -- I certainly remember conversations around our table. I wasn’t a part of those conversations, but I was listening.
When Mr. Leonardo and my dad would talk about, for example, getting certain people from Levelock down, or, you know, what equipment or what materials somebody had requested to make sure that they got them.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: People really did take care of those canneries. I mean we hear -- you hear the word caretaker, and care is very much a part of what they did.
DENISE STATZ: Well, I can tell you that from where I sat, my dad took his job really, really seriously. I certainly know Carvel and Johnny did.
I mean, Jack Myers and them, they were -- you know, their cannery wasn’t even any more operational, but they weren’t gone for long periods of time.
They -- somebody was always there. There was, you know, there was always care of everything. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah.
DENISE STATZ: You know, Pete and Rosa Heyano, I mean, they were at Ekwok for years. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Yeah. DENISE STATZ: It's --
KATIE RINGSMUTH: So, as we’re kind of -- you know -- you know that we’re focusing on a -- an exhibit about the story of cannery people.
What do you think is the most important thing that we need to share so that people from Kansas, people from Texas, people from China, people from California can understand and appreciate the story of the cannery people? What is it? What do we need to say?
DENISE STATZ: The vast number of people that were associated with them. So -- KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. DENISE STATZ: I think it needs to be --
I think, at some point, there needs to be a picture like an aerial that shows the cannery, all the buildings, with people scurrying hither and thither, the boats lined up at the dock. You know, all the people, two to three people on each of those boats.
Because, when I think back on the vast number of people that would, um, just descend on Bumblebee in the matter of -- of a few days.
You know, ‘cause dad flew, so he was flying people and they were flying four airplanes at a time. Just boom, boom, boom, boom, boom, boom.
Six -- if six people to a plane, they would take all the -- all the luggage down and -- to Red Salmon, and put it on a scow and bring it across.
They would sometimes, um -- Shawbacks (phonetic) would sometimes take down loads of people and put them on the scow, because -- if the weather was marginal.
Um, just the vast --the sheer number of people, and the sheer number of people who did it again and again and again, year after year, generations of people who were associated with it.
And then the other thing I think that would be hard to show, Katie, but I wonder if there’s not a way, is cinematically at least, to show the quieting of those places. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm.
DENISE STATZ: And I mean the long term quieting. Because for somebody like me, who was raised there, it's very hard to imagine Bumblebee the way it is now. It was so vibrant.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Hm-mm. And, finally, I just want to ask you one more question. And, I waited for this one for last. (laughs) For really apparent reasons. DENISE STATZ: (laughs)
KATIE RINGSMUTH: But, you have talked quite eloquently about, certainly, the people, and many of those people aren’t around anymore, and how do we remember them? DENISE STATZ: Well, you get people to say their names again and again.
And I thinks it’s -- well, I thinks it’s very important, also, for us to have a mechanism of demonstrating who they -- you know, their presence.
And, that’s why this cork project that you guys are doing is so important to me. Because, if you were to have a cork for every man, woman, and child who was a part of that industry over the years, can you just imagine what it would be like? I mean, you could run your fingers down it and look at names.
I -- if I were to start today and just say the names of people that I knew and that I cared about, it would go -- I would be here for a week. KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs)
DENISE STATZ: I mean, I think about all these people, and I think that whatever you do here that will give their children and grandchildren a chance to know the importance of the role that they had is valuable.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Well, thank you so much for taking the time and uh -- DENISE STATZ: Not a problem.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: We’ll be -- We’ll get back to ya on that. DENISE STATZ: I’m pretty delighted to get to do that. (laughs) KATIE RINGSMUTH: (laughs) Thank you so much. DENISE STATZ: Thank you.
KATIE RINGSMUTH: Was there anything that I missed that you think you need to a -- DENISE STATZ: I think you drug it all out of me. KATIE RINGSMUTH: Okay.