REVIEW - BURIED DREAMS
Johnson, Katherine, Buried Dreams: the rise and fall of a clam cannery on the Katmai coast. National Park Service, Anchorage, Alaska. Softbound. 124 pages.
The last twenty years have seen the rise of interest in the history of the mundane. Kings, queens, great battles and events are fine, but the world consists mostly of just ordinary people. They have their dreams, hopes, successes and failures, and all too often are completely forgotten after their deaths.
On another topic, anyone working in government knows all about government reports. Most are just the thing for eccentrics who like to read bad writing on poor paper, or, as the old joke goes, dyslectic religious insomniacs who stay up all night wondering if there really is a dog.
This book is so well done it's hard to think of it as a government report. The writing is lively and informative, and the layout and illustrations beautifully done.
The history of the razor clam cannery at Kukak Bay on the Alaska Peninsula, began in 1923 and continued in bumps through fire and bankruptcy until 1964 when the Good Friday Earthquake destroyed the buildings. There were other factors, such as the competition that developed on the East Coast, health scares, the demoralization of the workers from poor management, and a dispute over the Katmai Park boundaries that brought an end to a way of life. It is also a demonstration of how the Industrial Revolution affected Alaska in one small way.
Fortunately, through interviews and photographs, Johnson is able to resurrect the golden years of the 1920s, when employees were treated as family and the machinery ran night and day all summer. The old photographs alone would be worth the price of the book at $20.00, but the best news is copies can be obtained for the asking until supplies run out. Contact Jeanne Schaaf, Lake Clark Katmai Studies Center, 907/271-1383, or write the National Park Service, 4230 University Drive, Suite 311, Anchorage, Alaska, 99508.