My father was a maintenance man for one of StarKist Foods’ canneries on Terminal Island long before I was born until I was about 8 years old. When he started working for StarKist there were nearly 500 boats fishing out of San Pedro. Most of the members of our family and our friends’ families were connected in some way to the commercial fishing industry around the Los Angeles harbor.
Each year we’d participate in the blessing of the fleet –a parade through the harbor of a couple of hundred fishing vessels while thousands of bystanders watched from the docks. This parade was second only to the Rose Parade when I was growing up. On board a relative’s boat we’d bow our heads as the priest on shore prayed for a plentiful and safe fishing season. There was always a feast with music and dancing afterward.
A 2001 Los Angeles Times article stated, “Croatian, Portuguese and Italian fishing families, many of them Catholic, founded San Pedro. Content with the beauty of the hills rising from the harbor, they built their homes, their church, their businesses and dutifully produced large families to do the same.”
My maternal grandfather was one of those Croatian founders. My mother and her sisters worked long hours in the canneries packing sardines before child labor laws. My mother worked for StarKist on and off her entire life.
My dad’s cousin and best friend Vince was the cook on board a purse seiner where other cousins were crew. When they were at sea we knew where the fleet was, chasing mackerel down in Mexico or heading back to port loaded with bluefin.