Monterey’s Cannery Row

The central California coastline of Monterey Bay stretches for about 44 miles from Santa Cruz in the north to Pacific Grove in the south. The last six tenths of a mile of the road that runs along the city of Monterey’s portion of the coast before ending at its border with Pacific Grove is called Ocean View Avenue. It starts at San Carlos Beach and takes a jog to the right past the intersection with Wave and Drake before a final stretch all the way to the present Monterey Bay Aquarium on that border with Pacific Grove. A Japanese entrepreneur moved his abalone cannery from Point Lobos to this part of Monterey in 1902. And for the next 46 years the street was dominated by scores of sardine canneries. Yes, it’s name was Ocean View Avenue. But with all those canneries everyone just called it Cannery Row.

Cannery Row.

Click on any photo to see a larger version of that photo.

The opening sentence in John Steinbeck’s 1945 novel Cannery Row.

In 1958 the City of Monterey officially changed the name of Ocean View Avenue to Cannery Row.

The Steinbeck Memorial in Steinbeck Plaza. That’s John sitting on top.

The Clement Monterey is one of two 4-star hotels on Cannery Row.  One of our daughters and her family had rooms in the main hotel building (left) on the bay. The rest of us had to walk through the crossover to our rooms across the street on the right.

Most of the large sardine canning companies had operations on both sides of the street. Elevated bridges called crossovers contained conveyor belts for transporting packed cans for warehousing and distribution and empty cans back for the packing process.

The canneries thrived during the first and second world wars but the numbers of sardines in Monterey Bay began to dwindle in the mid 40s and by 1948 they all disappeared. After twenty years of depression the area began to prosper again when the canneries were replaced by hotels and restaurants, beginning with the Sardine Factory in 1968. The last of the canneries to close was the large Hovden Cannery at the end of Cannery Row which was able to last until 1973 by switching from sardines to squid. The Monterey Bay Aquarium now stands where the Hovden used to.

Ed Rickett’s lab next door to our hotel is now on the National Register of Historic Places. In his novel Cannery Row Steinbeck called the place the Western Biological Laboratory.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium starts just a few doors down from our hotel (the main entrance is further down to the left). That’s Ed Rickett’s Lab on the extreme right.

Edward Flanders Robb Ricketts (1897 – 1948) ran his marine lab on what was then Ocean View Avenue from 1928 to 1948.

In 1939 Ricketts wrote Between Pacific Tides with Jack Calvin. It is still considered a classic of intertidal marine ecology. In 1941 he wrote The Sea of Cortez with John Steinbeck. It is an account of their six-week scientific trip in a rented sardine fishing boat to the Gulf of California in 1940. In 1951 Steinbeck published his portion of this work with an additional eulogy to his friend Ricketts and he called it The Log from the Sea of Cortez.

More info on Ed Ricketts.

Ricketts was a scientist who wrote on marine biology and ecology matters but he was also a Renaissance Man who also wrote on philosophy and poetry.

The portion of Monterey Bay directly behind Rickett’s lab is called The Edward F. Ricketts State Marine Conservation Area.

On the evening of May 8, 1948 Ricketts was driving to dinner after a day’s work at his lab and on nearby Drake Avenue his car stalled on the railroad tracks and he was struck by a train. He died three days later.

A portion of Ricketts’ lab  can be seen from the Clement Monterey Hotel next door. One of our daughters stayed in the hotel’s main building and had a view similar to this but two floors up. We had to cross the bridge to get to our room on the other side of Cannery Row. We had a view of the parking garage.

My granddaughter Mia waves from her one-foot wide second floor balcony. We had a full-size balcony complete with sofa, table and chairs but everything was wet and we didn’t use it except for gazing at the parking garage directly behind us. Oh, we had a fireplace, too, but we didn’t use that, either.

John Steinbeck (1902-1968) is one of my favorite American writers.

I got on a Steinbeck kick one year in the 80s and I read about 25 books either by or about him during that year. One of them was Grapes of Wrath (1939) which I think is one of the three best works of fiction ever written by an American.  Steinbeck grew up in the Salinas Valley and lived for awhile in Monterey in the 1930s. Most of his stories take place in these areas on or near California’s central coast. Steinbeck’s other works included Of Mice and Men (1937), Tortilla Flat (1935), The Winter of Our Discontent (1961) and East of Eden (1952). He published Cannery Row in 1945 and its sequel, Sweet Thursday, came out in 1954.

Steinbeck won the Nobel prize for literature in 1962.

Steinbeck and Ricketts were close friends.

The role of Doc in Steinbeck’s Cannery Row and its sequel Sweet Thursday was based on his friend Ed Ricketts.

Another quote from Cannery Row.

A Native American community called the Rumsien were the first people to live in the Monterey Bay area.

McAbee Beach on Cannery Row.

McAbee Beach was used by Portuguese whalers in early and mid 19th century but the industry died out in the 1880s when people turned from whale oil to kerosene to light their lamps. John McAbee bought the beach around the turn of the century and set up a business renting boats and tents to tourists. Then when the Chinese community at China Point burnt to the ground the Chinese moved to McAbee Beach and set up another community that thrived until the late 1920s.

Spanish immigrants came to work in the canneries during the First World War.

The Japanese made up about 10% of the Monterey Bay fishermen in the 1930s. Most of the rest came from Sicily.

Jone Quock Mui was a leader in the diverse multi-cultural community. She spoke five languages.

Kalisa Moore memorial. Often called “The Queen of Cannery Row,” Kalisa ran the La Ida Cafe for more than four decades.

Kalisa named her bar after the fictional bar (and house of ill repute) in Steinbeck’s Cannery Row.

Garden near the parking garage on the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail behind our hotel.

The Monterey Bay Half Marathon takes place every November. The course goes up Cannery Row on the way out and down the Monterey Peninsula Recreational Trail on the way back.

A Japanese named Otosaboro Noda established the first cannery in Monterey in 1902.

Before they unionized in 1936 the average wage for cannery workers was 25 cents per hour.

Another Cannery Row banner near the Chart House restaurant.

The famous Sardine Factory restaurant is on Wave Street one block above Cannery Row.

The Sardine Factory opened in 1968, bringing another era of prosperity to Cannery Row. Remember the 1971 movie Play Misty for Me starring Clint Eastwood and Jessica Walter? Several scenes took place at the bar in the Sardine Factory.

Cannery Row view a block from our hotel. Steinbeck Plaza is to the right.

After the Quake souvenir shop.

Scene near our hotel. Check out the lady in the white sweater and the reflection in the car window at lower left.

The Bubba Gump restaurant is next door to our hotel.

We arrived in Monterey on a Friday evening around dinnertime and decided to dine at the C restaurant inside the hotel. It was a tad pricey but the food (mostly seafood) was good, especially the deserts!

My Grandson’s Playlist

Both of our daughters are music-lovers and both were active percussionists in their high school band. All four of our grandkids have inherited this interest and are quite active with their music, too. I have to admit, though, that we don’t usually share the same musical interests. Our granddaughter Mia one time referred to our favorite music as “sleepy songs” because she would indubitably fall asleep within minutes of listening to one our favorites!

Mia’s older brother likes to create playlists of his favorite songs and he showed me the list he made for our Monterey Weekend journey. I was surprised to find one song in the lot that was a favorite with all three generations in our family: Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey. Journey was one of his mother’s favorite rock bands when she was a teenager and she passed on that love to her own kids. My favorite sports team, the San Francisco Giants, adopted Don’t Stop Believin’ as their theme song during their glory years (2010, 2012 and 2014) when they won three World Series and in the middle of the 8th inning if the Giants happened to be losing at home their fans would hear Steve Perry belt out the song. The Giants would often rally, of course, and win the game, thanks at least in part to Journey and their 1981 hit. The song was written by lead singer Steve Perry, keyboardist Jonathan Cain and guitarist Neal Schon and was featured in their album Escape which was released in October 1981.

One more bit of trivia on this song: Steve Perry has taken a lot of flack over one line in the song. He sings about a city boy born and raised in South Detroit. Of course all Detroiters know that there is no south Detroit. Across the Detroit River directly south of Detroit is the city of Windsor in the province of Ontario in the nation of Canada! I hear that Don’t Stop Believin’ is also very popular among Detroit Tiger and Red Wing fans, mostly because of this one line. When asked why he didn’t say north, east or west Detroit, Perry replied that south Detroit just sings better!

On Saturday we walked along the Pacific Grove shoreline to Lover’s Point and then headed inland to visit the famous Monarch Butterfly Sanctuary. That will be the subject of my next posting.

About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
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9 Responses to Monterey’s Cannery Row

  1. Peter Klopp says:

    My enthusiasm for John Steinbeck’s writing goes back to the 70s when one book after another was published in the softcover version and was sold for as little as 75c. Cannery Road was also among the books I read at that time.

  2. I remember it well and Steinbeck in college!! Thank you!

  3. You’re welcome, Cybele! And thank-you for introducing me to Robin Skelton. I purchased a copy of The Malahat Review (#160, Fall 2007) to read more of his work. It took a couple of weeks but I finally received the package the other day and I am looking forward to some enjoyable reading.

  4. mvschulze says:

    My wife and first explored Cannery Row in the early ’70’s, and then again in the mid 90’s, which at that time, now with our kids, Forest Gump was sitting on that bench outside the restaurant. M 🙂

  5. Pingback: Our Pacific Grove Walk | Crow Canyon Journal

  6. I think sometime after your visit Forest got up and started running. For awhile there was a small suitcase and a box of chocolates on that bench.

  7. disperser says:

    I watched (and liked) the movie . . . does that count?

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