Densho Digital Archive
Emiko and Chizuko Omori Collection
Title: Jimmie Omura Interview
Narrator: Jimmie Omura
Interviewer: Chizu Omori (primary); Emiko Omori (secondary)
Location: San Francisco, California
Date: March 21, 1994
Densho ID: denshovh-ojimmie-01-0009

<Begin Segment 9>

CO: So you did eventually work in the canneries?

JO: I worked seven years.

CO: But when you went up there when you were thirteen, you couldn't get a job in a cannery?

JO: Yes, I got a job. I was the... well, I was on night shift making can tops on a machine.

CO: Somehow I got confused because you went up with a friend, you said.

JO: No, I went by myself.

CO: That was a different job.

JO: Yeah, the friend...

CO: That was local.

JO: That was local, right.

CO: What was Alaska like at that time? Do you have any memories of Alaska?

JO: Well, everybody thinks it's a beautiful country and everything else, and so did I at the time. And what we saw a great deal of was these great granite cliffs, you know. And lots and lots of forest land. Spruces and pines and things like that. It's a rough country.

CO: Can you tell us about, sort of, the cannery life. Like, who worked there?

JO: Well, the crew I went up with were, there were about forty Issei. Among them was a couple of Koreans. And then there were also forty, roughly forty Filipino crew. These weren't the only crews, because around June, when the schoolboys came out, they would come up to supplement labor.

CO: What did you do?

JO: Well, at first I made the can tops at Ketchikan, but later on I became a [inaudible], they call [inaudible] butcher. The highest semi-skilled job that a cannery worker can aspire to.

CO: Was there a machine called the "iron chink"?

JO: I ran it.

CO: Tell me what that is, and can you just name it for me?

JO: The butchering -- when they call, speak of "butchers," there are two butchers. Two [inaudible] butchers. One butcher will cut the heads of the salmon, which will flip over to a table. And the other butcher will insert the tail into a large circular rotating, well, I guess, something like a drum, you know. And that machine will take it up, slice the belly and throw out the intestine stuff. And then it goes to the wash fish, who will, generally who are natives, and they clean out remainders of the intestines, stuff like that.

CO: What's the name of this machine?

JO: Which one?

CO: The "iron chink"?

JO: That's the "iron chink." They used to call it "iron chink" because before they invented the machine, the Chinese did the job. And then when the Chinese got displaced by technology, the technology was called "iron chink."

CO: So you worked there in the summers?

JO: Yes.

<End Segment 9> - Copyright © 1994, 2003 Densho and Emiko Omori. All Rights Reserved.