Thursday, June 4, 2015

This article originally appeared in the Kitsap Sun-Gig Harbor Life newspaper on April 28, 2010.  I have received permission to reproduce it in its entirety here.  

It is most important for the entire Gig Harbor community to remember George Bujacich (April 29, 1925 - May 17, 2015).  George Bujacich contributed greatly to our town, our people, to Gig Harbor’s commercial fishing industry, to the Gig Harbor Sportsman Club, to the Donkey Creek Fish Hatchery, and so much, much more.  

I loved running into him, as he was a neighbor, because he always had a smile, a funny story to tell, and comments on the   the city, county, state and world affairs.  George, you are missed.

His family will be holding a celebration to  honor his life on June 13, 2015 at the Gig Harbor Eagles between 1 to 5 PM.

The Bujacich Brothers — Elders of Gig Harbor's Fishing Community
Jack ("Jake") and George recall growing up in a fishing family.
Charlee Glock-Jackson (Gig Harbor Life)
4:58 PM, Apr 28, 2010

George Bujacich, Jake Bujacich  (Photo-Scott Turner-Gig Harbor Life)

GIG HARBOR - Gig Harbor's oldest remaining net shed, the Skansie Brothers shed, turns 100 years old this year.

The City of Gig Harbor will host a 100th birthday celebration of the net shed Saturday, May 1, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at Skansie Park, 3207 Harborview Drive.
The public is invited to participate and share in the fun.

For information, call (253) 853-7609 or visit

Jack and George Bujacich probably have saltwater in their veins.

The brothers hail from one of the long-time fishing families who have called Gig Harbor home for generations.

Their mother was a Ross. Their father, who was born in 1894, left his home in Croatia at the age of 13.

After working for a few years in the mines of Colorado, he migrated to Gig Harbor.

Winters, he worked at a mill in Eatonville. In summer, he fished out of the harbor.

"Back then, Gig Harbor was a unique community," Jack, the younger of the two — who's better known as Jake — recalled. "The Swedes lived in Arletta. The Norwegians were in Crescent Valley. And the Croatians lived in Gig Harbor. They all fished together in the summer."

In 1928, their father launched the Majestic, a boat he'd built himself.
"I first went out with my dad on that boat when I was 8," George said. "That would have been 1933."

In the 1950s, George inherited the Majestic and fished from it for many years. In 1966, he bought the Mustang, and Jake took over the Majestic. All in all, George fished for 47 years.

Jake started fishing in 1942, first with his uncle, then, a year later with his father and older brother on the Majestic.

He took a break from fishing in 1944 and joined the Merchant Marines. "Me and my buddies joined up together. We said we were going to go win the war," Jake said.

As soon as the war was over, however, Jake came home and went back out on the water.

He fished every summer until 1978, including the years when he was Gig Harbor's mayor.

"Back then, everybody helped each other. We'd get together and make a crew, if somebody needed help," he said.

He figures he's fished on at least 17 boats.

"In 1967, I fished with George Ancich. In '69 I had my own boat. In the 1970s, I ran the Shenandoah."

The latter is now on display in the Harbor History Museum, awaiting restoration.

In 1978, Jake ran for Pierce County Commissioner and "gave up my boats."

There were good seasons and bad, the brothers recalled, listing a few:

"The first year I fished, in 1942, I didn't even make enough to pay my union dues," Jake said. "1946 was a big sockeye season. In '47 it was a big humpy season."

"In the winter of 1949, the harbor froze completely over," George added.
In 1947, the fishermen struck. "We needed to get 14-cents a pound for fish in order to make it work," he said. "When we finally found a buyer at 14-cents, off we went."

Jake was appointed cook on that crew. "I got recipes from my mom and my sister. Just about every man in this town who fished knows how to cook."

That's because, until the 1950s, women weren't allowed on the boats.

"The old guys believed it was bad luck," George said.

George broke with tradition and hired a woman to cook on his boat in the early 1950s.

"He was a new breed," Jake said of his brother.

"I can't think of her name," George said. "But she went with us to Alaska. She was a good cook, too."

Like all the boys in fishing families, the brothers got their start filling the needles used to sew the nets.

"Our dad was an expert at making needles," George said. "He made them out of needle wood, which is a real hard wood."

"We'd go down to the docks and fill needles all day long," Jake added. "The faster and better you were the more they liked you. They had to be wrapped real tight."

It was a big day for a youngster when he no longer had to fill needles and got to go fishing.

"It was the highlight of every kid's life, when you finally got to go fishing," Jake said.

"We figured one of the reasons they put a kid on board was so they could have somebody to yell at," George added. "Kids did everything. Just like the grown-ups."

Next week: Fishing then and fishing now — how things have changed.

© 2012 Harbor History Museum. All rights reserved.

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