PORT ANGELES — The director of “The Memory of Fish,” a portrait of the late Dick Goin, is still surprised the two dams on the Elwha River were removed.
“I still think of this story of the Elwha as the greatest comeback in American environmental history,” director Jennifer Galvin said during a Studium Generale discussion at the Peninsula College’s Port Angeles campus Thursday.
“I still can’t believe that it happened.”
The documentary of the life of Goin, a pulp mill worker and master fisherman who used his memories and persistence to fight for the removal of the two dams for decades, will be screened at two locations at 7 tonight at Peninsula College: the Little Theater and Maier Performance Hall, both at the campus at 1502 E. Lauridsen Blvd.
Admission will be $5 to the film, sponsored by the Magic of Cinema program, North Olympic Land Trust, Salmon Coalition and American Rivers.
Galvin anticipates the film, which has been screened at a number of film festivals across the country, will strike a chord with locals who have an emotional connection to the river and already know its story.
Her goal in making the film was to make the audience feel for the river and for the fish, she said.
With Goin that was possible, she said.
“We thought that if the audience could fall in love with Dick — and he loved fish — then maybe the audience would love fish,” she said.
Goin will never get to see the film — he died at the age of 83 in April 2015 — but he did get to see the demolition of the two dams that blocked fish passage on the Elwha River, said Emma Jones, co-producer of the film.
Dam removal began in 2011 and was completed in 2014. Restoration continues.
While working on the film, Jones was amazed by the respect Goin garnered from everybody.
“Even people he strongly disagreed with and folks who strongly disagreed with him had tremendous respect for Dick Goin,” she said.
“He was incredible.”
Galvin said Goin had a unique way of looking at the world that caused people to listen to him.
“Everything was connected,” she said. “He wasn’t trying to be a poet.”
Goin’s family settled in the 1930s on the North Olympic Peninsula’s coast, where they lived primarily on Elwha salmon.
Because of this, he felt the salmon saved his family and he was indebted to the fish, Galvin said.
Jones called Goin a citizen scientist because of his vast knowledge of the Elwha River.
She said he might as well have had a doctorate.
“Dick educated himself up to Ph.D level on his own,” Jones said.
Galvin said Goin didn’t understand when he began keeping detailed fishing journals in the 1950s that what he was actually doing was collecting data.
The diaries, which are preserved by Olympic National Park, represent a “rare chronicle of the Peninsula’s historical conditions and changes over several decades,” said Sam Brenkman, chief fisheries biologist for Olympic National Park, in March 2016 when the North Olympic Land Trust honored Goin posthumously with its Out Standing in the Field Award.
“He loved where he lived and he took what he saw and wrote it down,” Galvin said.
“What made him a great citizen scientist was that he was so dedicated to the river.
“He had no idea he was collecting such important information.”
For more information about the film, visit www.thememoryoffish.com.
Reporter Jesse Major can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 56250, or at [email protected] dailynews.com.