Learning About BC History at the Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site

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The Gulf of Georgia Cannery National Historic Site, located in idyllic Steveston, British Columbia is a great place to learn about the history of fishing and canning in BC in the early 1900’s.  The Cannery was built in 1894 on top of the Fraser River. You may want to bring a light sweater, as this is what keeps the building super cool inside. It was known as the “monster cannery” because of the volume of salmon that was canned.

We loved how all the different stages of the process were displayed with very informational posters. It provided a great overview of how the salmon went from the ocean, into its can, and was sealed and labelled.

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The tour starts at a 120 year old boat, where fishermen (mostly First Nations or Japanese) would work from 12 hours to 7 days at a time, without as much as a bathroom or a way to protect themselves from the elements. Gillnets controlled what size of fish were caught. Fish caught could keep for up to two days on the water from the river temperature being cold enough.

Our tour leader, D’Arcy, was absolutely fabulous. She was so knowledgeable, happy to answer any questions we had, friendly, and the 45 minute tour was very enjoyable.

The salmon tasting was a nice touch too; it really showed the difference between different types of salmon and we were able to see how much more flavorful sockeye salmon is, especially when compared to pink salmon.

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Steveston Harbor can hold up to 600 boats and is one of Canada’s largest fresh water harbours.

In the early days of the Cannery, fish were removed from the boat one by one, eventually evolving into using a vacuum -like machine.

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Workers were paid only $15/month on 16 hour days. Women were paid to do the fish cleaning and as childcare was not available, the children had to come to work with the Mom’s and sit there with no entertainment for hours on end. If a diaper had to be changed, it would likely be done right on the table the fish were being cleaned and after the diaper was changed, the Mom would go right back to work. Sanitation left a lot to be desired.

We found it hard to imagine the horrible stench, noise and the heat the employees would have had to endure. It sounded like it would be a tough life for those employees.

We also loved all the interactive elements, such as the “tin can phones” where you could play a recording to learn more about everything from “cannery music” to tram transportation to the Cannery.

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During our visit to Steveston, there was also filming going on for the show “Once Upon A Time”. It was interesting to see the names on many storefronts changed, including that of the Cannery.

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The admission price was also extremely reasonable, with adult admission being only $10.20.

We spent a good couple hours here and loved it. We wish that we would have visited sooner!

 

What is a cool historic site you visited and enjoyed?

 

Our visit was sponsored by the Gulf Of Georgia Cannery, but as always, our opinions are our own.