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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Behind the words: The gillnetting industry in Astoria, Oregon

Work is Our Joy - Pier 39, Astoria, Oregon This repainted sliding door is one of the first things you see when you cross the causeway from the riverbank to Pier 39, which now houses a brewery/restaurant, Coffee Girl coffee house, a small museum, a diving and kayak rental business, and various offices.

I've always been taken aback by the slogan on the door, as it reminded me of the pathetically ironic "Arbeit Macht Frei" welded into the gates of certain Nazi concentration camps. I was going to say, "I wonder who thought that one up ('Work is Our Joy') and whether the workers concurred with management."

As I was writing this post, I looked up the phrase, and found an informative and extremely well done documentary of the same name giving a much more positive meaning to this phrase and explaining the local industry in great detail. It has interviews with the original gilnetters and lots of photos. In this case, the "little guys" took their fortunes into their own hands and started their own cannery when they were being oppressed by "the man." Work really was their joy. The video is linked from several different pages, and here's the intro from one of them:

"Work Is our Joy - The Story Of The Columbia River Gillnetter

"Drift gillnetting came to the Columbia River in the early 1850s. Many gillnetters on the river today are third and forth generation descendants of fishermen who immigrated to the region in the nineteenth century. Here they established new communities and developed the most advanced gillnet fishery found anywhere in the world. Based on a series of oral history history interviews, this half-hour video describes the unique culture of the Columbia River gillnetter. “Work Is Our Joy” will take you into the world of a living tradition. A world of nets, of boats, of fishing,part of a rich maritime heritage of the Pacific Northwest."

Here's another link to the video. I tried to embed it, but the embedding code wasn't working:


amanda said...

I am watching the video as I write this, very interesting Sheryl, I will look for a way to get you a movie that can be embedded. Maybe I'll get lucky

Anonymous said...

Sheryl make sure you can have Shockwave on you blog otherwise it may be why it is not working.

Jacob said...

Sometimes things aren't what they seem. ;-) Glad you dug into this a bit. More fascinating history of your area!

Anyone who can say work is joy is a very lucky person!

Funny, though, at first glance I thought this was a green dumpster. :-)

Lee Spangler said...

Tapirgal: Once again you have made so much out of something seemingly small. i am forever impressed by the quality of your vision.

Floral Friday said...

I always admire the blogger that does their homework! Then not is it a photo but a learning experience for all of us to enjoy.

I also really look forward to seeing your floral friday entries. Thanks you so much for the encouragement.

Floral Friday

Don and Krise said...

Very interesting. We learn something new each day (hopefully). I'll be sure to check out the video here in a bit. Nice work Sheryl.

Vogon Poet said...

I'm still at work, not enjoying it much, so I'll skip the video for later at home, but I take your word for it.
The only time when I really thought of work as a joy was when I was very young, doing the occasional hard-hat job in company of friends. This never happened in any kind of work in an office.

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