R.K. Barter’s Fish Factory

Cannery - Jun 72

When WWII was declared, I was sophomore in high school. Some of us worked weekends and vacation time at R.K. Barter's fish factory.  Herring seining kept the factory pretty busy at times, and I was lucky enough to get a job on the hoister.  Gene Chatto ran it, but it was my job to weigh and empty the buckets of herring that Gene was bringing up from the boat.  I would dump the bucket load into a sluiceway that took the herring down stairs to a big turning descaler drum (full of holes and a constant water shower) and then to a machine where the the head and tail were cut off, the belly was slit and the guts removed.  From there the packers filled the cans, which then proceeded to the sealing machines and finally to the retorts for cooking. 

The fun developed as soon as I dumped a bucket load of herring down the sluiceway.  An always-hungry gull would latch on to a herring and wouldn’t let go--so, the gull went down the sluiceway and ended up in the descaler drum which was full of herring, deluged with water and spinning round and round. The gull would squawk and holler until the boss, Ray Gross, shut down the descaler and pulled the gull out; this was no easy job as anyone who has been around gulls knows that they can be pretty mean; especially when they are dizzy, all covered with scales and have lost their meal!  They’d finally gather him up and throw him off the dock where he would float around squawking until he could fly off and then probably try the whole thing over again.

Montelle L. “Monty” Small

December 2012


Deer Isle-Stonington Historical Society ✦ P O Box 652 ✦ Deer Isle,  ME  04627 ✦ 207-348-6400