FINDING THE 1908 WRECKED CANNERY SHIP IN SOUTHEAST ALASKA

Just recently, in May 2022, Alaska Endeavour assembled a team of eight in an expedition to find the wreck of the Star of Bengal. Their goal is to document the forensic evidence, to collect historical documents, to register it as ahistorical site and to work towards building a memorial that would honor these who perished in the disaster. The event was reported by Alaska Endeavour: “The Star of Bengal was a 264-foot schooner that sank off Coronation Island, Alaska, on September 20, 1908. The ship was heading back to San Francisco, full of canned salmon and laborers from the cannery … Continue reading FINDING THE 1908 WRECKED CANNERY SHIP IN SOUTHEAST ALASKA

July 4th Celebration

The July 4th holiday is just around the corner and I couldn’t help but to reflect back to what it was like at the cannery in Alitak. The beginning of the salmon cannery season starts to ramp up by the end of June in Alaska. As more and more fish come in from the bay, the working hours become longer and longer. The cannery workers look forward to this particular day because it is a nice break from the standard routine, at least during lunch time. The kitchen staff and baker at the cannery in Alitak would go all out … Continue reading July 4th Celebration

AAPI Heritage Month

To celebrate AAPI Heritage month in May, Robert Palos of Alaska Bureau of Land Management decided to host a talk on the impact of Asian workers in Alaska salmon canneries. Jeff Chen, multimedia journalist from Alaska Public Media, my brother Philip and I were invited to participate in this virtual event for the employees of Bureau of Land Management. Marnie Graham, a BLM manager, gave the opening remark. She happens to have worked in Alaska canneries when she was attending college. Her experience in the egg-house brought back some fond memories since I also worked in the egg-house and as … Continue reading AAPI Heritage Month

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 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

Fred Wong’s Amazing Career

I first contacted Fred Wong in October 2020, when my brother Philip and I were preparing for a talk at Chinese Historical Society of America in San Francisco. The subject of the talk was “Chinese Workers and the Early History of Salmon Canneries”. After CHSA made its announcement, one member wrote to CHSA and kindly suggested me to contact his friend Fred in Oregon. I decided to follow up. Actually, that was not the first time I tried to contact Fred. In fact, I have read something about him and a brief summary his 50+ years career in Alaska canneries. … Continue reading Fred Wong’s Amazing Career