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GUEST WRITER. The Cannery Kid: Call of the Cannery

A long, long time ago in the early 1950's I spent about three weeks at the cannery. It was summer and my parents were heading off on a road trip across North America with a couple they were friends with. I was given the choice of traveling with them or going to stay with Uncle Oli and Aunt Karla at North Pacific Cannery.

Photo Credit Trip Advisor

I had never been to Prince Rupert or North Pacific Cannery before but it sounded better than being trapped in a car with four adults for three weeks so off I went. It was all new to me and I had a fine time. Uncle Oli even put me to work helping staple cardboard boxes for the cans of salmon to be packed in.

Photo credit Trip Advisor

I think I was paid about 20 cents an hour for that. Cousin Alice came over from Osland and we managed to entertain each other. She and I were assigned to do dishes and clean up the kitchen after Karla prepared and served meals. Karla was an excellent cook and I was a very scrawny kid so while I was staying under her roof she did her best to fatten me up but after watching me devour all the gravies, mashed potatoes, pies, cakes and other high calorie foods she could come up with I think she gave up. She also stopped giving my mother advice about how to put some weight on Joanie.

Fast forward to 1962 and the “Call of the Cannery” came again. I was living at UBC with my husband, who was studying there, and our young daughter. My husband was looking for a summer job and Uncle Oli hired him as “dock boy” at NP. I was teaching in Vancouver but as soon as school was out I packed up the Austin Mini and drove north with 18 month old Diane happily bouncing around on a crib mattress I had placed on the back seat along with some of her toys and a supply of snacks. Car seats hadn’t been invented yet! Alas, I was not to live in the Manager’s house on this visit. Our dwelling was a small cottage further down the ‘pecking' line and beyond the houses with grass.

Photo Credit Trip Advisor

It was built on piles with the boardwalk in front, the river beneath and train tracks in back - not the safest place to spend the summer with a toddler. When the trains went by the shack shook and you could almost high five the engineer through the back window. Then there were the rats that liked to visit in the dark of the night. One memorable night I witnessed my husband running about trying to kill a large daddy rat with the small wooden hammer that was part of our daughter’s “hammer the pegs” toy. Guess who got away through one of the many holes in the woodwork to return again and again bringing all his family with him. I haven’t been back to North Pacific Cannery since the summer of ‘62 but I have tentative plans to take a tour in September of 2018 that includes a visit to NP as part of the itinerary. Whoever knew it would become a Museum!

About the author

Joan was born in Lytton, BC and moved from there with her parents to Williams Lake and then Campbell River where she graduated from High School. From there it was off to Victoria College (later University of Victoria), Vancouver, Eugene OR and back to Vancouver and Victoria where she raised three daughters. Joan retired from teaching in 1997 and is currently living in Nanaimo, BC. Interests include family history and travel - always curious about what is around the next corner.


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