2018 July 28 – Terrace to Prince Rupert, BC

It was nearly 11 o’clock by the time we left Terrace. We slept in a bit, then went to Staples to try find a new charger cord for John’s laptop as it has decided to be very picky about what position it is sitting in in order to power the computer.  There is either a break in the cable or something wrong with the charging unit.  Unfortunately, the store did not have one that had the correct plug-in.  So, we gassed up the truck, cleaned the latest batch of deceased bugs off the windshield and headed west. About an hour out of Terrace we came to the end of a line of stationary traffic.  Apparently there had been an accident and the road was closed.  We were told there had been a fatality and the wait would be about 3 hours.  Well, we had two choices, go back to Terrace and come back again; or sit and wait.  We waited and visited with other motorists, and pet their dogs.  An hour and a half or so later a long line of oncoming traffic came through and then we were allowed to go.                                                          John Little Falls

                           The glorious mountain scenery continued.         Boy, is that ever a deep glacier-cut bowl in this mountain.  We arrived at the bridge to Prince Rupert but turned left instead of crossing it and drove to Port Edward, a small comumunity on the Inverness Passage near the mouth of the Skeena River.  This stretch of coastal water was at one time home to four large salmon canneries.  One burned several years after it had closed.  Two more survive.  One – Inverness Cannery – is privately owned and has been converted into a Bed and Breakfast.  The other is a National Heritage Site.  We arrived at 3 o’clock just as the last tour of the day was starting.   Originally all the work in the canneries was done by hand.  First Nation’s families would come at the beginning of the season in May and work until September. The men repaired the boats, worked on the machinery, and were labourers. The women and older children mended the nets, de-slimed the fish, and packed the cans.  The younger children cleaned the messy exterior of the cans before they were put in the cookers.There were men from China – that were contracted under a broker – who did all the butchering.  They were so fast, 4-5 fish per minute, they were called Singing Knives.  They removed the head, tails, fins and entrails of each fish.  The fish were put in baskets and sent down the line to the women that cleaned them before they moved along to the cutting machine.  All the cans were hand soldered with lead, hand packed by First Nations women, cleaned by the children, cooked in pressure cookers at 240 degrees for 90 minutes and sent – without labels – to Europe.  The labels would be ruined on the journey so all labels were added at the destination.

The women got paid by the tray of cans – 24 per tray – they could pack 72 cans per minute.  Work lasted as long each day as it took for the fish that were brought into the cannery to be processed 14-16 hour days were not uncommon.  The children and other family members would bring food to the workers as they continued to work on the line. The Japanese workers also lived in dormortories with their own cook like the Chinese.  They were the fishermen and would go out in these little dorries with a sail on a pole and set the gill nets.  When a boat motor was invented the motorized boat would bring food and supplies to the sailing dorries and take the catch back to the cannery.  Thus the men could stay out on the open water for a week or more.  Eventually motorized boats replaced the dorries. Industrialization came to the canneries and eventually the entire processing line was mechanized.   This drastically reduced the labour force required, standardized the amount of salmon per can (they were never weighed, the ladies just eye-balled the amount), created a tin solder seal rather than hand soldered lead, and increased the size of the pressure cookers so more fish could be processed at one time

. The General Manager, Assistant Manager and the four Line Bosses housing.                  The office where all the paper shuffling was done.   The company store supplied all the goods needed by the workers.  It also housed a laundry for the upper-management, a doctor and dentist office, and the barbar shop.  As was the case with most company stores of the early 20th century, at mines and mills, etc., the workers would pick out what they wanted, the store keeper would write it down – no prices were on anything so inflated prices were recorded – and at the end of the season in September the purchases were tallied and deducted from the wages.  Often the men and women still owed money to the store and received no wages for their work.  This allowed the manager to coerce them into coming back next season to work off the debt.  Eventually, this practice was outlawed and fair prices had to be placed on the goods in the stores. The store keeper had one of the best houses in the cannery due to the amount of money he was extorting from the workers.  It was a very interesting tour and our guide did an excellent job.  She had so much information and explained it well.  We enjoyed the tour very much.

After the tour was concluded we drove up to Prince Rupert and checked in to our hotel.  We are stayng in Rupert tomorrow as well.  No plans as yet scheduled.

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