Monterey, California: Historic Cannery Row and John Steinbeck Walking Tour
Vacant Lot/ Cannery Worker Shacks
Stop here in front of the three cannery worker shacks.
During the heyday of the canneries, this area was a vacant lot where cannery workers would hangout, smoke cigarettes and converse with their countrymen while they waited for their cannery whistle to call them to work. Each cannery had a distinct whistle and every worker knew their unique call.
Wearing rubber boots and standing in cold water, the men and women who worked in the canneries along the row made 25 cents an hour in 1936. The work was smelly and dirty, but it was work. Usually the men operated and maintained the machinery while the women worked on the packing lines, filling Cannery Row’s trademark one-pound oval cans with sardines or salmon.
Though the canneries prospered through WWII, the peak season from that era was from 1941 to 1942. That season, canneries packed over 250,000 tons of fish. After 1945, the industry’s capacity to harvest was outdistanced by the sardine’s ability to reproduce. Workers were laid off and canneries began to close. When Ed Ricketts was asked in 1947 where all the sardines had gone, he replied, “there’re in cans.”
Today on what was originally a vacant lot across from Ed Ricketts Biological Laboratory, you will find a historic reproduction of a series of typical shack homes that would have been used by cannery workers. Next to the buildings are informational placards that describe the people that worked in the canneries.
Take some time and review the informational plaques.
Once you have explored the area, turn left away from Ed Ricketts Biological Laboratory and Cannery Row and walk to the end of the pathway.