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What Am I? The Cleaning Station!

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We have given you lots of time to try and figure out this messy mystery, but the time has finally come to reveal our mystery item: it’s the cleaning station, also known as the “sliming tables”!

You can probably see why this station earned that moniker, as it is one of the grimiest places in the cannery. Here, women worked relentlessly to clean the salmon. Early on this job was done by First Nations women as they had the most experience cleaning fish, but as more Japanese women (many as “picture brides” ) moved to Canada they started to fill up these positions.

Sliming involved removing anything from the fish that the butchers might have missed such as small bones, blood, and scales, and giving the salmon a thorough wash. It was a very messy and unpleasant job, mainly due to the freezing cold river water pouring over their hands for the entire day. Along with the cold, another challenge these women faced was the lack of childcare; many of these ladies had to bring their children to work with them, often carrying their babies on their backs, until the kids were old enough to work!

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Japanese women working with babies on their backs in 1913. Photo from BC Archives Collection (BCA) E-02996

The sliming tables were never mechanized; the cleaning of fish always remained a job done by hand, as machines could never compete with the eyes and brainpower of the women working at this station. The workers maintained a higher efficiency and accuracy than any machines could provide.

Come in to the Cannery and see the sliming tables for yourselves and learn all about the messy job these women did everyday!

Here is the next mystery item, hopefully you can guess what (or who) this might be.  Good luck!

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