LA Harbor International Film Festival Director, Stephanie Mardesich tells the story of how her grandfather emigrated from Croatia to California and built a tuna canning empire on Terminal Island in the Port of Los Angeles.

June 27, 2019

SOLAHA Vol. I, No. 33
Stories Of Los Angeles Harbor Area – For Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow (SOLAHA) SOLAHA Vol. I, No. 33 featuring:Stephanie Mardesich, founder/director/CEO LA Harbor International Film Festival,
recalls Grandfather & SP tuna canning legacy.

Hello to long time and newer of the harbor and Palos Verdes Peninsula communities, and beyond:
Uncanny (pun intended) timing that I’m this week’s storyteller since June 10th was the 130th birthday of my Grandfather – Joseph M. Mardesich, Sr. (J.M.M.,Sr.) – who came to America in 1903 at 14 years of age and became “Captain of Industry” as pioneer of tuna canning commerce and trade in beginning of San Pedro’s “golden age.”

2018 marked the 100th anniversary of Grandfather’s arrival in San Pedro – port of L.A., and 80th anni for the Victory Arch he had erected at SP High School athletic field, that’s in process of gaining National Historic Monument Registry designation.

Albacore season soon (see SOLAHA website below for other tuna tales from myself and Rudy Svorinich reminiscing about Fishermen’s Fiesta).

To learn more about the venerable industry that provided thousands of jobs and equal monetary gain for fishermen and all who worked in the industry. To quote my late Father, J.M.M., Jr. the aroma that pervaded when a catch was in was “the smell of money” – and so many have memories and stories of “working in the canneries” – if you haven’t ever, or lately, call in at the Los Angeles Maritime Museum (LAMM) in the former Municipal Ferry Building, foot of 6th St. on main channel of SP, to view the permanent exhibition “Caught, Canned and Eaten: The History of San Pedro’s Tuna & Canning Industry” before the LAMM is scheduled to unfortunately be closed, for possibly two years, after Labor Day because of construction in the area.

Get ready to make a tuna sandwich because this story, and the exhibit, will tempt your taste buds, though the quality of today’s catch isn’t en par with what it once was. Quel tragique as the French say.
With great respect and admiration for the venerable industry of yore – another “gone with the sea” epoch of San Pedro by the sea, thankfully preserved at LAMM and in many hearts and minds.

Tuna love,


Other Stories From Stephanie Mardesich