Arts and Entertainment

An archival collection

When Lee Makovich was 10 years old, his father gave him a handful of historical maritime photographs and told him to take care of them.

Makovich honored his father’s wish so well, that he built a 3,000 photograph collection around that original gift.

“Then, about 10 years ago, I began to write about the pictures,” Makovich said, “and that started my interest in writing.”

Makovich, who opens this year’s Bainbridge History lecture series Jan. 20 with a lecture on Port Blakely shipbuilder Captain John C. Johnson, remembers the astonishment he felt when his first article was accepted for publication.

“I about fell off the stool,” he said, “I thought I was writing basically for my own pleasure. My dad would have been proud.”

Makovich’s father was a pioneer in Seattle’s fishing industry and head of the country’s largest salmon cannery. The man Makovich discusses in his lecture was a contemporary of his father, with a maritime career to match.

Johnson was a Finnish immigrant who settled on Bainbridge and, after buying the Carlson shipyard on the island, became famous for the fine craftsmanship of the vessels built there between 1918 and 1928.

At least one of his vessels, the “Berle E.,” still plies Puget Sound.

Eventually, he merged his business with Seattle’s McAteer Shipbuilding Company to become one of Puget Sound’s leading ship building and repair facilities.

Since his first success as a maritime author, Makovich has placed more than 275 articles in publications like “Fisherman’s News” magazine and The Peninsula Gateway newspaper.

“I thought I was retired, but I’m so busy – I’ve never been so busy,” Makovich said.

Makovich doesn’t mind the pace, he says, because he believes his task is an important one.

“If I don’t do what I’m doing, that history will be lost,” he said. “I really regret I didn’t start doing this 40 years ago, because a lot of those oldtimers are gone.”

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Author and historian Lee Makovich speaks on maritime giant John C. Johnson and the fishing industry to inaugurate this year’s Bainbridge History lecture series, 4 p.m. Jan. 20 at Island Center Hall.

The program is free to members of the Bainbridge Island Historical Society.

Tickets are $5/adult for non-members, and $2/under 18. Call 842-2773 for more information.

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