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The Cannery Kid: Full Time Cannery Kid

The summer of 1971 was great we had a lot of fun but we were happy to return to our home in Prince Rupert. So when my parents sat us down in January of 1972 to tell us we would be moving out to the cannery in February there was a lot of tears. This was a horrible idea and I was sure my parents came up with it to ruin my life.


After all my school was just meters from my front door how the heck was I going to go get to school?And another thing no one lived out there in the winter why would they do this to us. Well it turned out that the cannery would now be running for the Herring operation and that started in the spring. The Japanese technicians that were in charge of quality control for the company that would be buying the roe (Kazunoko Nigiri Zushi) , came out from Japan to the cannery. Together the technicians and dad set up and ran the operation. Once the Herring was up running at full capacity workers were brought in from Port Edward and Prince Rupert to work the line. The cannery was a very busy place!

Photo Credit:Philippson Family Collection

We headed out to NP as planned but this time with a whole lot more stuff. The TV came with us and dad hooked up an antenna so we could get a channel or two. Mum presented us with our new orange lunch kits. This caused my mum more trauma then us, the thought of us eating food out of a box at our school desks was too much for her to bear. So we ate at my oldest sisters home close by the school.

Photo Credit: The Philippson Family Collection

I never once heard my mum complain about living out at the cannery. She made every effort to make our cannery home lovely. After all it was a 3 bedroom home furnished with antiques, our home in Rupert was a 2 bedroom bungalow. For mum it meant that her family was together, we would all sit down for supper each night around a beautiful oak dining table and this was important to mum. It was important to the other families as well that started to arrive that spring. The company provided housing for the workers and they were not required to pay rent. The families returned to the same houses each season and it was up to them to maintain them. But any investment they made it all still belong to the company.

Photo Credit: The Philippson Family Collection

My mum had the time to paint, make curtains and keep the cannery house rat free. But all the other families had both parents working. The thought of painting the cannery house with your own supplies after a 12 hour shift in the plant was not appealing to most. Since the cannery was built in the 1800s from wood and the site is located in the rain forest damp was a problem. The cannery itself was maintained as were the main buildings but the housing was falling into disrepair.

Photo Credit: The Philippson Family Collection (The Starr home)

The families that came back year after year were just that, families, kids, mums, dads and grandparents. Some came from villages up the Nass and built a community at the cannery. Everyone watched out for each other, there was no social status among any of us. When kids were seen playing on the tracks, the parents were told. If you needed to run into town someone watched your kids, there was always someone to cover you. The friendships that were forged out there lasted a life time and didn't stop when my dad retired in 1974.

Dad had been told by the company CANFISCO to evict all the people that lived at the cannery and when he refused based on the fact that these people were not just workers but his friends and were like family to him. The company threaten him with dismissal and in turn dad resigned and walked away from the place he had known as home for a very long time.

The Native community were our life time friends and were there for my mum when my dad drowned in 1976. It was the Native people that left fish on our door step to feed us and it was the Native people that wrapped us in love and friendship in our biggest time of need. The Native community was always watching out for my mum until she passed away in 2009. Then it was a Native Elder that came to see her two children and remind us that we were still their family.

Photo Credit:The Philippson Family Collection

My years as a cannery kids would teach me more about compassion, friendship and community then I would learn any where else in my life and the lessons I learned out there I would pass on to my own children.



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