The next time you walk into a Kodiak business, you may notice a flailing salmon out of the corner of your eye. That’s one image that now decorates trashcans around town. It’s part of fisherman Bruce Schactler’s plan to turn historic canning labels into beautiful garbage cans – a project which he launched after he noticed the same trend in Oregon.
The trashcans feature images of historic Alaska canning labels, including one by the “Watchman” brand of a night watchman holding up his lamp. Schactler is enthusiastic about the history of canning labels.
“Lord knows how they came up with the Walrus brand or the Horseshoe brand or the Moose Head,” said Schactler. “What really is clear is back in the day, in the late 1800s, early 1900s, it was really important how cool a label you had as to who would sell the most seafood.”
Schactler says all the garbage cans feature salmon labels in particular, and that includes chum and pink salmon, but mostly sockeye salmon.
“And the reason most of those old labels were red salmon is just because that’s where the market was at the time,” Schactler said. “In fact, I think there’s an old saying that came into being when they started really getting into the canned pink salmon – there was a marketing slogan that was used that was ‘Guaranteed not to turn red in the can.’”
And there’s one person who houses all these different labels – literally in her house. Schactler says his source is Petersburg-based Karen Hofstad.
“She’s the label queen of the world,” said Schactler. “She has more duplicate labels that she can just give away than probably anybody has in their entire label collection, so she went through and gave me a big selection of labels to consider, and once we had those considered, we picked out the ones we want, and she was nice enough to have high resolution copies made.”
He says in the process, people in Petersburg got involved in the order and purchased about a dozen garbage cans themselves. Shactler says he also worked with various partners around town, including the City of Kodiak, which helped fund the project through the Downtown Kodiak Revitalization Special Committee. Both the city and individual businesses purchased garbage cans, and they’ve taken advantage of the few days of nice weather to set them outside.
And now that the first part of the project is complete, Schactler has phase two in mind.
“We’d like to put up some large signs, maybe three of ‘em, for example, that would have all these labels on them, but it would have a little write-up so that you could come see and say ‘I like that, oh yeah,’ you could look up there and find the label that you liked on that particular can that was over in front of the coffee shop or up at the hotel,” Schactller said.
He says phase two could include a map of canneries historically located on the island with information on each one.