The Evangel at Akhiok and Alitak (Lazy Bay Cannery)

Akhiok in the summer sun, late 1950s. The Evangel is at anchor on the right.

At Anchor at Akhiok

The village of Akhiok is one of our regular stops as the Evangel travels around the south-end. I usually don't expect to meet many kids there. But we stop there even though most of the population is off at Lazy Bay working in the cannery. There are people we know and regularly visit in even the smallest bear camps, and two of my parents' best island friends are the couple that are caretakers for the cannery at Zachar Bay, for instance. It doesn't seem to matter much that most of the villagers are elsewhere, because the ones who remain are largely elderly and lonely. Mom and Dad do a visitation ministry there, and save the formal services for the large population of cannery workers and children at Lazy Bay. But when we visit Akhiok after the fishing season, the village will be teeming with life, and we will do a "shore ministry" (Vacation Bible School and evening services) at that time.

A different scene at Akhiok: Lots of kids involved in a day camp we put on there. This photo is from a 16mm movie frame. Joyce Smith is the tallest one on the left, smiling at the camera.

We pose for a family portrait near the Russian Church in Akhiok: Noel (in his Kodiak High School track jacket), Joyce, Robin in front, Timmy (the author) with the red hat, Norman and Jerilynn, summer of 1957

On to Lazy Bay Cannery (Alitak): Very Busy at Lazy Bay!

Lazy Bay cannery in Alitak Bay. In the late 50s the whole cannery was repainted white.

A group of fishermen make homemade ice cream on the dock at Lazy Bay (circa 1955)

When we pull into nearby Lazy Bay cannery, I notice the gray-green sludge with fish parts that seems to coat most of the bay near the dock. The sludge is called "gurry", and I know I'm going to hate tying up the Evangel, because the tie lines invariably get into the stuff, and coat your hands with foul-smelling goop. But that's kind of ok, because Lazy Bay is my favorite cannery to visit. The main reason is that, many families from nearby villages relocate here for the summer, so there are lots of kids around, and I also know the son of one of the men who run the cannery. There won't be much need for announcing our presence, because a handful of kids are waiting for us at the dock, and they will quickly spread the word. In addition, the cannery superintendent welcomes us and gives us a lot of assistance. He has very little available for all the children to do, and so our visit will provide some badly needed activities for those whose parents are busy working. I quickly find my friend, and we get some plywood and timbers and build ourselves a fort (probably superintendents' kids get a few liberties). Then we amuse ourselves by smashing things at the trash dump, which is just a big square of pilings with netting to hold it in until the tide will wash it away. It is going to be years before a more sane approach to cannery waste is developed around the islands; the gurry is awful, but the cans and bottles to smash provide a boy's idea of fun.

The Evangel ties up at Lazy Bay cannery in 1957. Some kids are already there to greet us.

We all are soon busy unpacking things on the Evangel to get ready for "Vacation Bible School" (or VBS in missionary-ese). Lazy Bay cannery offers Mom and Dad a really nice facility: a paint locker with enough room for all the kids, and big five-gallon cans we can lay scaffold boards on to make nifty benches. It really is luxurious, because it has electricity and it will also be easy also to cover the small windows for our filmstrips. Since some of the kids have already met us at the dock, it is easy to get the word out, and the room quickly fills up. We start off with a few songs, mostly of the fun and active variety to break the ice. One popular one goes: "I'm inright, outright, upright, downright happy all the time...", which has hand motions for practically every word, and is sung more quickly each time until everyone is waving their arms frantically and out of breath, and we collapse in laughter. Those fun songs are followed by more lesson-oriented songs, like the foolish man that built his house upon the sand. Then Mom starts with a Bible story lesson using a truly high-tech device known as a flannelgraph (the equivalent of 1950s PowerPoint). The flannel background, pinned to a board, vaguely resembles land and sky. Each story has its own set of fuzzy-backed characters and set pieces, which usually stick wherever you put them. This story is about the paralyzed man that Jesus healed when his friends dropped him through the roof. Mom is appropriately entertaining. Then she moves on to the parable of the lost sheep, never missing a step in the application, even when most of the "flock" suddenly falls off the flannel board.

There are more easy songs to sing, with Dad doing the hand motions and Mom using the pump organ, and most everybody joins in and seems to enjoy it. Dad moves on to the filmstrip. The first one is an animated tale of a group of ants that rebel against a good landlord, who has to finally fight to defeat them. The fanciful tale is based on the parable of the vineyard. Then there are a few Bible verses to say all together (there's a poster with the words on it). This is grand entertainment (especially the filmstrip) because all of the people come from villages with infrequent electricity and no running water, telephones or television. I notice sometimes in the villages that there are almost as many adults as there are children in attendance. They are fascinated by the unfamiliar Bible stories. Most come to realize that Norman and Joyce Smith are not out to contradict their church's doctrines, but to make the Gospel more understandable. Before we close down for lunch, we have to show another filmstrip by popular demand. This time it's about a squirrel who is greedy and won't forgive (the parable of the unrighteous steward, in case you didn't notice!) There are a few more songs, and a prayer, and we invite everyone back for the evening service. There won't be many adults until the evening, when more workers are off-shift.

The Lazy Bay cannery mess hall, crowded for an evening service in 1957. The windows are blacked out to show our movies. My sister Robin is on the far right, at the table. The adults are sharing the hymnbooks.

The evening service is in even nicer surroundings: the cannery mess hall. A few of the tables are shoved aside, and benches are put into neat little rows. Dad has some black cloth to cover the windows (the sun won't go down for another few hours, because this is summertime!) This service is also a tiny bit more formal, because Dad and Mom are using hymnbooks. But it is only the "Youth Sings", full of peppy (for the 50s) church music like "Do Lord", "I'll Be Somewhere Listening" and "This World is Not My Home". I know every song and every page number! Dad shares some scripture verses and talks about how Jesus called the fishermen to follow him. It's not really a sermon, but more like a conversation. It wouldn't be too simple for any of the adults, yet every child can follow it.

Then Dad puts up the portable screen and starts the movie projector. We have one Christian movie to show, a melodramatic black and white one-reeler based on the story of the Good Samaritan, but it is sufficiently well acted (I like the part when the guy "fell among thieves" on the road to Jericho) to hold everyone's interest. When the movie is over, we sing a couple more songs, concentrating on quieter and more meaningful hymns that many in the crowd might have heard before. Then there's a prayer, and the service is over. We have a few booklets and things on one of the tables, and a few people take them to read. Since many kids are still hanging around, Dad announces that after tomorrow morning's Vacation Bible School session, he will bring out some more movies. They are all black and white, about ten minutes each, about the Grand Canyon, a circus with a human cannon, and a safari in Africa complete with a lion charge, all accompanied by breathless newsreel-style narration and suitably overblown music. Even though I have seen the same movies dozens of times, I enjoy them as much as any of the others do, because I have seen few other films myself!

We stay at Lazy Bay for several days, because there are a lot of kids there with nothing else to do while their parents are either at work in the cannery or out on the fishing boats. One afternoon Dad and I take a hike. Directly above the cannery is a mountain, and far up the mountain is a World War II lookout post. It is probably not that high up, but it seems so to me as a young child. There are still Quonset huts and the remains of a mess hall on the sides of the hill, and I have wanted to climb up to the observation post for several years now. So up we go, following the partially exposed telephone and electric cables that still stretch up to the lookout. We climb into the building and notice the caved-in walls, dangling insulation, remains of window glass and blackout shutters, and a shaggy but still recognizable plotting table. But the view out the shattered window frames is spectacular, with miles of open coastline clearly visible. It's a great view, even without any enemies to spot. Dad reaches into his pocket and brings out a Three Musketeers bar, which he divides with a knife and shares with me. It is a very good day. I can see the cannery and the boats looking tiny against the bright water far below. Our descent is almost at a gallop, just slow enough to avoid falling. I decide I like everything about Lazy Bay except the gurry on our tie up lines!

Author's note: for a much more adult perspective on canneries and seafood processing, please read the article called Cannery Work, linked below.

The Evangel's wake in the sunset, as we head toward our next destination

Follow this link to "Cannery Work"

Next stop: the Evangel at Karluk: A Photo Gallery

Written by Timothy Smith, web author. See the About Me page for more information. Always feel free to send me comments, suggestions or corrected information about this article or any of the articles on this site. (Write to: Tanignak@aol.com) This article and website is 2005 Timothy L. Smith, Tanignak Productions, 14282 Tuolumne Court, Fontana, California, 92336 (909) 428 3472. Images unless otherwise listed are from the collection of Rev. Norman L. Smith or the Timothy L. Smith collection. This material may be used for non-commercial purposes, with attribution. Please email me with any specific requests. You are welcome to link to this site.

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