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The Cannery Kid: Always Learning Something

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.

Assistant managers home

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

Dad and Alex Blyth

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.


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