Butchering Salmon – Interior of a Canning Establishment, Astoria, Oragon

Yellow and faded, stereo view photos of the early 20th century are like old postcards. They are also like calling cards from a forgotten era. The side by side double images confound modern viewers in an unexpected way. The fact they must be viewed with an instrument in order to visualize a three dimensional image must be strange yet familiar. On the left margin of the card it identifies the Keystone View Company as the manufacturer and publisher, copyright 1904 by B. L. Singloy. On the right margin, it calls to our attention that Keystone had offices in Meadville, Pa., … Continue reading Butchering Salmon – Interior of a Canning Establishment, Astoria, Oragon

Boat Races in Lower Puget Sound

The canning industry developed in the Columbia River in the 1870s, and soon spread north to Puget Sound. What was it like working in the first Puget Sound cannery? Boat racing? Can you imagine evening boat races between Chinese and native Americans? You have to read the Mukilteo cannery story and the apparent tradition of boat racing between Chinese and the native American crews: In his report, Herbert Hunt wrote about Mukilteo Cannery and its workers: “Jackson, Myers & Company operated one of these plants at Rainier, on the Oregon side, and when the 1877 season opened, had made preparations … Continue reading Boat Races in Lower Puget Sound

Video Interview with Fred Wong

There will be an upcoming video interview with my father Fred Wong about his experiences working at the Alitak salmon cannery where he spent most of his 54 summers as the foreman. He will be discussing how he got started working up there during his summers off from teaching along with the living conditions, the various cannery duties of the workers, and changes that he’s seen in his 54 summers up there. In the meantime, please check out his personal story that’s posted on the website along with my own experiences as one of his daughters working in the same … Continue reading Video Interview with Fred Wong

150 Cannery Workers Stranded…

There was an Internet news story on ABC News that caught my eyes with the headline “150 Cannery Workers forced into hotel quarantine without pay”. It was also widely reported in Los Angeles’ local news such as KTLA News in June 2020. Each summer, Pacific Seafoods based in Seattle hires hundreds of foreign workers for summer jobs at its Naknek cannery, located in Bristol Bay, Alaska, promising them round trip transportation to and from their point of hire as well as lodging and meals. Most of the workers were from Mexico or Southern California; however, in 2020, something went wrong … Continue reading 150 Cannery Workers Stranded…

Contractor Lem Sen’s Story

It was exactly a year ago when we gave a talk at CHSA (Chinese Historical Society of America) in San Francisco. The talk was originally planned in early 2020 as an in-person event; however, it became a virtual event because of the pandemic. Because it was a virtual event, we were able to reach out to a wider audience. After the talk, I received an email from Deborah Lem, telling me that her grandfather was a labor contractor and she has some of Lem Sen’s documents in her possession. I was overjoyed to hear that because Lem Sen was one … Continue reading Contractor Lem Sen’s Story

Waterfall Cannery Now and Then

Five years ago, after I retired from my professional work, I was interested to find out what happened to the first cannery I worked at. When I looked up Waterfall cannery online, I was surprised to find that the cannery was shut down after the 1970 season and the place was turned into a fishing resort in the 1980s. This discovery piqued my interest in canneries and the history of Chinese workers. In 1970, on my first trip to Alaska, my mind was filled with excitement, as we look down at this cannery from the floatplane. My first thought was: … Continue reading Waterfall Cannery Now and Then

Chinese Workers and the Iron Chink

5 months ago, I first got an email from Mark, a reporter, asking me to do an interview for an article on Chinese cannery workers. He had recently visited Alaska and picked up our names there. We talked 2 or 3 times over the phone, and he went away. A few days ago, a friend read his article on South China Morning Post and send me the link. Besides the history of Chinese cannery workers and our more recent ventures in Alaska, he talked a lot about Iron Chink, which is a fish cleaning machine that eventually replaced the Chinese … Continue reading Chinese Workers and the Iron Chink

A Tribute to Chinese Laborers from SF

About two month ago, one morning, one of my tennis friends said to me “I saw an article about your coming presentation on the newspaper today.” The next day, he brought me a clipping of the article from SF Chronicle. It was the first time I read the article, but it was only recently that I found it online. Carl Nolte, a renowned writer of a weekly column, Native Son, for SF Chronicle, contacted us in mid-March about the story of Chinese laborers from San Francisco. It was published on March 20th, just a week before our free MESS lecture … Continue reading A Tribute to Chinese Laborers from SF

San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

There is a hidden gem in San Francisco that many people may not know about, tourists and locals alike. There is not a lot of information on their website. It is at the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park and is part of the National Park System. This park is near Fisherman’s Wharf on the pier. At the Hyde Street Pier, there are historic steam and sailing vessels along with other maritime exhibits. San Francisco has been a major West Coast city since the 1800s, played a major part in maritime exploration, was a major port city at the time, … Continue reading San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park

Chinese History of Alaska’s Canning Industry

Katherine Ringsmuth, a historian and a professor at University of Alaska, first introduced me to Jeff Chen who is a video producer for Alaska Insight, a public affairs show on Alaska Public Media. Jeff was interested in doing a story on the contribution of Asian cannery workers in salmon canning industry, starting with the Chinese workers. Jeff called me about this project, and I suggested a number of people he could talk to. However, due to the time constraint of the video, Jeff had to limit the number of people in the interviews to three, which include Katherine, myself, and … Continue reading Chinese History of Alaska’s Canning Industry