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Interviewee: Mary Misetich

Role: Wife of a U.S. West Coast Tuna Fisherman and Worked in the Family Tuna Fishing Business

Date of Interview: 1/18/2013

Collection: Tuna Industry Pioneers: San Pedro and Terminal Island, CA

Click on the link below to view the interview.

Mary Misetich interview

Abstract: Mary discusses what it was like for the wives of the tuna fishermen in San Pedro.  She notes that the wives took care of family duties when the fishermen were at sea, and some balanced this while also working in the tuna canneries.  She discusses her concerns for her husband’s safety when he was at sea and a fun tradition they had when the boats departed.  She explains that many of the fishermen, who were of Croatian descent, brought their wives over from Croatia.  Mary also talks about what she did as the business manager for her husband’s fishing business and what she enjoyed about working in the cannery.

Transcript:

So what was the typical role of a woman in San Pedro, in the fishery?
You know when the men would go out fishing, wives would be home, taking care of the children, sending them to school and all. You know, family duties.  And they worked; […] a lot of them worked in the canneries, a lot of them went to school and worked in town.

When Dominic would go out to sea, what was that like when you would see him go? How long would he be gone?
Sometimes it would only be a week or two weeks. One time it was three months; that was the longest.  And we had KOU1, like you have the radios now. We used to talk on the radio KOU.

When he was out at sea, would you worry?
Well, you worry especially if you heard there were storms. Otherwise, you took it for granted because it was a livelihood and so you just took it for granted.

So when the men would arrive back at the docks…
Oh we would be there waiting. Same way as when they would leave.  They had [on the Anthony M2] a record when they’d leave: So Long it’s Been Good to Know You. They’d put the loudspeaker on as the boat would leave.  So, there was a lot of fun along with it.

A lot of women in the community, was it, were they happy to marry a fisherman?
Oh yea, and a lot of them came from Croatia married to fisherman, or came over here to marry a fisherman. That’s how the industry got started. So many of them, either they brought their girlfriend from Croatia and then got married here and started a family. That’s how the industry got started.

So what did you do as the business manager?
Took care of the books. When the fish came in …how much fish, and then the crew… divided the amount of money that was made with the fish. They would have to pay off their expense and then divide the money they made.

What did you like about working in the cannery?
Oh, I liked the friendship. Everybody was everybody’s friend.

To learn more about Mary and view her photos, click here

This collection is part of an effort to create a film about the origins and history of the West Coast tuna industry in San Pedro and Terminal Island, CA. At the heart of it all were immigrants from Japan, Croatia, Italy, and Portugal. The current global tuna industry still uses many of the innovations pioneered in those early days.  More information and footage at:
 http://www.westcoast.fisheries.noaa.gov/fisheries/migratory_species/voices_from_the_fisheries.html


KOU was a commercial radio station that provided a service for people on shore to communicate with vessels at sea.  

2 The San Pedro-based tuna purse seine vessel