When the Herring season started a new Assistant Manager arrived . Mr. Winter came with his young family in the spring of 1972. The parents were originally from Germany and much to our surprise the two children under 4 could speak German. They would converse with their parents then switch to English and speak to us. I had never known any children on 7th Ave that could do something that impressive.
This family was a great asset to our community, Mrs Winter could bake bread and was willing to teach Terry and I.
Like the scene on "Friends" where Phoebe teaches Joey how to play guitar but Joey is not allowed to touch the guitar, the same principle applied to Mrs. Winter teaching bread baking. Terry and I would sit and observe the process, take notes and record the recipe. Then after a couple of observing Sundays we were allowed to partake in the prep. Then on the 4th Sunday we brought our own ingredients and each made a batch of dough. We would then transport the dough back to our house for baking in the oil stove. The house would fill with the aroma of fresh baked bread and cinnamon rolls much to my father's delight. My mum didn't bake bread, she thought the white stuff in a bag was a wonderful modern necessity.
On a few summer evenings the community of cannery families gathered on the main dock waiting for the fishing areas to close. Once they did a flotilla of company and privately own gill netters came sailing up the Skeena.
With the sun setting and families watching to see if the stern of the boats were sitting low. We all chatted and anticipated the catch. The ladies would be dressed in their coveralls and head scarves waiting for the night shift on the cannery line. It truly was perfect
In the spring dad started up the reduction plant. The large tanks sat directly in front of our home which ment the location was not a desirable one. The final product was fish meal a dry powdery product. Getting to that stage was a stinky, yucky processes. The large tanks held waste from the herring process. It took awhile for the tanks to fill with rotting herring, then the button was pushed and the rending started. The horrible waste spilled out in front of our house on to the beach the smell was the worst as it clung to the inside of my throat . One day I complained so much that dad said " too bad that is what money smells like" I decided from that point on I would not be a rich person.
Terry and I were both lovers of crafts, we had learned the art of basket weaving and were excited to share our new skill with our cannery friends. We brought the reed out to the cannery and sat around with Daisy, Darla, Debbie, Zelda and Tami making baskets. Terry and I enlisted Dad to liberate some wood from the boat shop so we could expand our craft to trays. We would head down to the boat shop in the evening when the workers had gone to the bunkhouse and cut the shapes. Then Dad would show us how to use the drill press to make the holes required for the trays. These were some of the life skills we never really shared with Mum. We always knew that such things were on a need to know basis with out being told. Much like learning to drive the forklift around the the canning area, we just knew that bragging about these new skills was not necessary if we wanted to continue learning.
The cannery cats were a big part of cannery life and were said to have descended from the cats across the Skeena at Old Ben's place. The cats were very hard to catch if you were stupid enough to even try. Every so often you would find a new litter of fresh babies in places like the net loft.
Terry decided one summer that she would embark on trying to tame a feral kitten. My mum's first reaction was a "NO!" even louder then the no to my dad about the goat. But with a little convincing from dad who mentioned how the kitten would control the rat population around our house, she was in. But the cat stayed outside!
Terry chose a black, grey and white kitten and named her Pixie. The taming methods she used were untested but some would yield excellent results. Canned salmon was a great training tool as long as you did it out of the sight of mum.
However if you tried to pick Pixie up without the salmon you ended up donating a pint of blood. Fresh crab was a bad choice as Pixie found this choice a little rich and threw up the evidence at mum's feet while she was hanging out the laundry. This was bad for Terry too she never used crab again. I headed down the boardwalk to see Daisy and Darla as mum was pretty mad!
I don't think Mum was really ever convinced about Pixie's rat killing skills. She found that a cannery rat had been eating the provisions in the back cupboard. She explained to Dad in a elevated voice that he was to get rid of "all" the rats. So like the Pied Piper Dad set out to do as he was told. He however set out poison around the house, instead of playing a flute. A short time later Terry let out a scream from the side of the house when she found the first victim. Dad had to use the biggest Safeway paper bag to load the rat up and we all marched down to the dock to dispose of it.
A skill that us kids had brought to the cannery was shack building. The alley on 7th ave was a great training ground but lacked supplies. The cannery was a mecca for shack building and supplies.
Our greatest accomplishment was a 2 story apartment behind the fence. That was until dad decided to lend us his skill and the back deck. Dad was a amazing carpenter and seized the opportunity to teach us kids some new building techniques, plus he opened up a whole new supply line. With his help we built the most beautiful pitched roof, two room playhouse. This was far to lovely to have the word shack attached to it. I would spend endless hours in the playhouse as dad even ran power to it. I would read my Nancy Drew's , until it was Terry's turn for peace and quite. As much as we wanted to we never did sleep in the playhouse due to the fact we were not sure of Pixie's rat killing skills either.