Monterey, California: Historic Cannery Row and John Steinbeck Walking Tour
Pacific Biological Laboratories / Ed Rickett’s Backyard
Walk down this path a bit and stop so I can tell you about Ed.
He was born in Chicago in 1897. After serving in the Army Medical Corp in 1917, Ed studied zoology at the University of Chicago but dropped out before earning his degree. There's a photo of him on your screen now if you'd like to see.
In 1922, he married Nan, and a year later, along with their son Ed Jr., they moved to California. Ed and college friend Albert Galigher set up a business called the Pacific Biological Laboratories. This was a biological supply house that preserved sea anemones, starfish and mollusks that were pulled from the tide pools along Monterey Bay and provided as specimen microscope slides to universities, museums and research institutions.
Originally located in Pacific Grove, the lab was moved to this location on Cannery Row in 1930 when Ricketts became the sole owner. As a result of his marital problems with Nan, Pacific Biological Laboratories also became his home.
Steinbeck was introduced to Ed by John's wife Carol who worked at the lab and John spent quite a bit of time at the lab. He was greatly influenced by Ed and even wrote a non-fiction book about him called “The Log from the Sea of Cortez”. Steinbeck would also fictionalize Ed as Doc and his Pacific Biological Laboratory as the Western Biological Laboratories in his novel Cannery Row.
Ed Ricketts is known for his work called Between Pacific Tides, a study of intertidal ecology considered to be the most complete intertidal record of the west coast of North America and still a seminal marine biology text today.
Look out through the chain link fence and you should see a grid of concrete containers. Chasing the low tide at night Ed would leave the lab in his old Packard, head to the coast and load his car with all kinds of animals and marine life. Back in his yard, he used those concrete containers to separate and store the larger animals like sharks, rays and octopus.
Ed employed residents of Cannery Row to find various specimens that he needed to fill an order, paying five cents each for frogs. This is why there were frogs on the Monument. He also bought butterflies, crayfish and strangely, cats.
Looking at the building, the downstairs housed Ricketts lab and garage and upstairs was where he lived for 18 years. The Del Mar fire also destroyed Ed’s lab which was rebuilt from insurance money.
Since the mid 1950’s this building has served as a meeting place for a men's group. This group purchased the building in 1956 and, in 1994, it was added to the National Register of Historic places. The structure is now owned by the city of Monterey and can be visited four times a year when the nonprofit Cannery Row Foundation leads public tours.
Ok, let's keep moving.
Turn around and walk back out to the street. Then turn right back on to Cannery Row to continue in the same direction you were going.