Story last updated at 2/7/2014 - 1:34 pm
My greatest pleasure from these columns is when people share their experiences and knowledge. Now, I am sharing some of these with you.
For Pete Hocson the story about Don Roppel's adventures as a teen crew member brought back this memory.
"I was a high schooler in Juneau and our family spent the summer of 1954 in Petersburg. I got on a seiner as a greenhorn. We anchored in Dry Bay alongside many other seiners on a Sunday evening as the season opened the next morning. As darkness came upon us, the skipper took a beach seine from under the turn table. We got into a skiff and put cloth in the oarlocks so as to be quiet and stealthy. While we were doing this I noticed that crew members of the other seiners were watching us but none said a word."
"We arrived at the creek and spread the seine across the mouth. The skipper went upstream and beat the water to drive the salmon toward the seine. He told us to haul in the net. No one told me that I was supposed to haul it in at ground level. I did so while standing up and hauling it over my shoulders. Yep, all the salmon escaped. At the end of the week, the skipper suggested that I stay ashore and pick shrimp ... which I did for the remainder of the season!"
Jack Brant of Juneau told me about early Ketchikan because the owners of Hansen's on the waterfront near the tunnel were his Aunt Nettie and Uncle Paul. They came, he thought in about 1926. The store was full of supplies used by fishing and tug boats. Many fishermen and tug captains hung out at Hansen's. Jack especially remembers Captain Ben Aspen, of the Alaska Streamship Company, who would drop in to chat.
When Frank and I moved to Ketchikan in 1959, it was easy for me to pick up a few food items at Hansen's since we lived above the tunnel in the Washburn Apartments. It was the only place in town that I could find "health food." My mom was in the health food movement as early as 1950. I missed some of the things she made from our cow's milk like yogurt and kefir, both not available at the time - at least not as we know these products in today's grocery stores. Hansen's had those starters. I have a vague picture in my mind that the health food items I wanted were on the east aisle on the water side, but not on the wall. Jack Brant agreed, also remembering the health food items.
"I think that had to do with Nettie more than anything," he said.
Brant's biggest memory was the huge wheel of blue cheese Paul Hansen would sometimes order.
Brant's father Larry Brandt worked construction. The attached photograph is the Pacific American Fisheries Petersburg cannery in 1949. Larry's first job in Alaska was working for J. B. Warrack, a Ballard contractor, helping build the Trading Union store. The folks who owned the Trading Union came to him in Walla Walla, Washington some 40 years later wanting to know how it was built. They wanted to add the third floor to the building. He still had all his notes!
Another of Brant's stories: "Periodically Dad would send a receipt down to the bookkeeper in the amount of $7.95. He never told the bookkeeper what that item was and it drove the guy nuts - Jim Warrack never asked. It turns out that whenever Dad needed a crane, he arranged with the Coast Guard for their buoy tender tug and barge to stop by and do a quick lift when it came through Petersburg. The $7.95 was for a fifth of Seagram's Seven for the tug skipper.
"Logistics were different in those days," Brant said.
In 1951 and 1952 Larry Brant worked on constructing the Petersburg high school and in 1968 came back to work on another school. Brant added, "Dad was the horseshoe champion of the Pastime Café in 1949."
One of my correspondents I often quote is Harvey Gilliland, of Petersburg. After reading the story about my visit to Kasaan, he told me that he had visited Kasaan in the early 1980s to work on the RCA Alascom satellite earth station there.
"The technology has since been replaced by a terrestrial microwave link," Gilliland said.
As he waited for the plane to take him home, he wandered around the old cannery building. Behind it and across the path was a brick boiler about 10x10 feet with a crowned top.
"I love old machinery and had enough to see at that site that 'my cup runneth over'. Adjacent to the boiler location and just a short way inside the building, was a wonderful single-cylinder steam engine. Its crankshaft was pretty close to the floor, so that only a little more than half of the roughly four-foot diameter flywheel extended above the floor. The machine had red and white paint and was in excellent condition, with pin-striping. I imagine it would have run because I could turn the flywheel. I wonder what became of the steam engine when the building was torn down. It should have gone to a museum somewhere," Gilliland said.
Thanks Pete Hocson, Jack Brant and Harvey Gilliland for letting me quote your memories!