I went to a presentation at my local library last week.
It was sponsored by the Alzheimer Society and was the first in its “Memory Makers” series. This particular event focused on 20th century Croatian immigrants from the island of Vis (you’ll notice the correlation between the island of Vis and the name of our family’s fishing vessel, pictured above) and the impact the immigrants and their descendents had on commercial fishing and the commercial fishing community.
I attended the event with my mom; unfortunately, my dad was in Ketchikan and had to miss it. I felt bad about that, since Dad also had to miss a fun event last fall, when Toni Mirosevich came and read from her book of personal essays, many of which touched on her Croatian commercial fishing family heritage. That time, Dad was in Westport with George during the start of the Dungeness crab season!
Anyway, the talk (given by a local historian who is not Croatian but grew up near the community) was informative, and I was impressed that he so accurately covered many of the names along with much of the local history. He was brave to stand in front of a group of Croatian-related people and present information about their heritage. A couple of times I caught my own mom shaking her head and whispering quietly.
“That was Mike Karuza, not Mitch Karuza!
“I don’t think that year is right.
“Nicholas Karuza is not in that photograph. That must be somebody else.”
We also talked about how useful and wonderful it is that someone is taking the time to capture such important, valuable, and local commercial fishing history in preparation for a book. We’ve lost so many old-timers in the past ten years (including my grandpa and his four brothers along with brilliant soul Martin Tomich) that if someone doesn’t record it now, our history could be lost for good, and sooner than we think.
Some interesting bits of information from the talk:
- The first known Croatian immigrant from the island of Vis to our local area was likely Anton Glenovich;
- Purse seining (a method of commercial fishing used in salmon fisheries) was invented by Croatian fisherman from the Island of Vis. These men had (and have) a long and deep history of being seamen and fishermen;
- Most of the continuing innovations, methods, and gear used for purse seining were created by Croatian immigrants;
- The Croatian immigrants and their descendents had a “macho” work ethic and a culture of male pride, strength, and fortitude.