Boat 1, The Oracle of the Harbor

By Stanley E. Halfhill

THIS is coming to you by request of Eventide's regular Scrivener and I hope his motives are not ulterior in getting me to turn this out. I have been an advocate for letting the loudest squawker do it or shut up, and I hope it is just friendship that prompt his request and not my noise-making ability.

There are a few members of the Department who do not know where Fish Harbor is located or of what it consists, and Stanley figured that since I am on the ground so to speak, I could give a fair country descriptions here goes:

What is now known as Terminal Island used to be divided up into three different classifications; Dead Man's Island, which is now Reservation Point; East San Pedro, now comprising Fish Harbor, its dwellings canneries, etc.; Terminal Island, once the watering place for the Los Angeles elite. The whole Island is now known as Terminal Island. Fish Harbor is located in the southeast portion.

Fire Boat No. 1 is the oracle for the harbor, clearing house for fish, first aid station, legal advice given on request, fire fighting as needed and anything one desires. The front door of the quarters faces the harbor and the back door opens into the Bethlehem Shipyard and Drydock. Looking out the back door and a little to the right is the General Petroleum loading and oil storage plant; often having in storage as much as 450,000 barrels of gasoline. Looking out the front door and to your left the harbor is rimmed with seven big fish cannery and reduction plants. For those of you who have never fought reduction plant fires and overhauled the sacks of fish meal, you still have a treat in store for you.

South about a half-mile is Reservation Point, where are located the Federal Correctional Institution, Immigration Station, Public health and Lighthouse Services.

The activity in Fish Harbor is about the same year in and year out , having its busy and slack season as well as good and bad years. The fishing industry here is second to none and I won't try to give you the volume or value of the business in dollars and cents for when I get above five hundred dollars I am lost. The industry has come along and kept pace with the phenomenal growth of the rest of the Southland.

Boats we have aplenty; tuna clippers that go as far as 3000 miles from home in their search for fish; purse seiners coming in with their bin boards in place with 120 tons of sardines in the hold and on deck; Monterey boats with their lone operator bringing in his catch of what-ever is running; even yachts are found among the fishing fleet.

The members of the Fire Boat crew each have their individual clients from whom they take fish and the giver has to be very careful how he gives his fish or the firemen will quit taking from him. The approved method for getting fish is to stand around and look hungry. A former member of the Boat crew used to have fish thrown to him like a keeper throws fish to a seal. Just the other day he visited us on detail from 48's and he ate fish for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Fire Boat No. 1 has seen a lot of them come and go and will be here to see a lot more of them come and go. Many of them are sorry to leave and a lot more of them cannot get away fast enough. "If I ever get away from this stinking place I'll never eat another fish as long as I live," is usually said by those who cannot get away fast enough. This is one of the very few places where you can smell the dollars being earned.

Boat No. 1 used to be the Siberia of Siberia but times have changed and at present it enjoys a very enviable reputation of being the hardest place in the Department to reach. Oh, you might get transferred here with ease but try and get here. Coming from any place north of the Island you must leave home about 5:30 in order to get over the bridge and not be held up in traffic of the point of being late.

This article appeared in the August 15, 1941 issue of THE GRAPE VINE.

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