Four Generations on Terminal Island

These glimpses of life on Terminal Island are excerpted from testimony by Conservancy member Joe Mendez before the Port of Los Angeles. Joe's support and participation were important in showing the Port that the historic places of Terminal Island reflect the real lives of real people. Thank you, Joe!

You can also read Joe's full testimony (PDF).

"I was born and raised in Wilmington, California, as were my mother, grandmother and great grandmother who settled here in 1906. She like her daughter and my mother worked at the canneries on Terminal Island. My father worked at the many shipyards once located on the Island.

"Like the many American Japanese, Mexicans, Italian and Slovak families this was home. This was a part of our history and made us what we are today, including a thriving port providing many jobs and being the gateway to international trade.

"The rich history of the American labor movement from dockworkers to oil workers and the many others [sic] unions represented many of these workers on Terminal Island.

"I often visit Terminal Island to reminisce of what once was, and to give tours to family and friends who have no idea that there is a Japanese Memorial to those that live on the island and worked in the canneries. 

"Sadly time has forgotten this place and its rich history hidden away in time. Some have no idea of what was once home to many people and now only home to shipping containers.

"Hidden away is Fish Harbor now a quite [sic] sanctuary for a few fishing boats, sea lions, sea birds, including, yes, descendants of many cats from the old canneries.

"Part of this history is the old buildings once filled with the many voices of workers of the past. Remnants of old Tuna street buildings once filled with people on lunch break and shopping at the general store. 

"The pubs once filled with old fisherman [sic] telling the stories that one can only imagine would rival Moby Dick and the Oldman and the Sea. Perhaps had John Steinbeck lived here and wrote a book of Terminal Island and its people it would be filled with romance and adventure like that of old Monterey and Cannery Row."