Wally Knott on saw and his partner Red Meyers at Meades Creek Oct. 1945 by W.H.Gold PhotoMOFM Logo
Art Neiser

Art NeiserI worked in the forestry industry from 1947 through to 1975 all over Vancouver Island.  When I was seventeen, I started in the industry at Comox Logging & Railway Company blowing whistles for $8.20 a day.  I was thinking all the time, “These fallers that are coming to work are making thirty dollars a day.  I’m in the wrong place.  I’m young and I’m going to get in there.”  So, I worked my way in with some friends I knew.  At that time it was much easier to get in than it is now.

I moved up here in 1957 just as Crown Zellerbach was moving in– I lived across from the bowling alley.  I worked at Camp 3 where we were on contract.  After we cleaned up the houses and moved the cookhouse in, then the families started to move in too.  They always had a good cookhouse and cooks, but I had been in some camps where some of the guys would quit– you either had to have a good cook or they were on their way.  We stayed in the bunkhouse for the first six months, and then we moved into the trailer park.  A lot of trailers went in there, and at one point there must have been fifteen trailers in there.

Crown Zellerbach was good to work for… really good.  It wasn’t like it is now; they recognized you as a person.  At Christmas time we got a turkey, and at safety meetings they would have little goodies there.  They got into safety quite a bit, which most companies didn’t.  The safety thing was actually pushed on them by the employees.

woods crewWe didn’t wear rain clothes back then; we just wore Stanfields, wool pants, and I wore Paris boots with heads too.  When we bought new pants from the boot guy, the first thing he did was have a piece of leather sewn in on the left knee for you.  If you didn’t do that, your pants would be worn out in a day.  I remember when the first hard hats came out:  I saw a fellow take one and put it on a stump, and then he drove his fist through it – it broke in a hundred pieces!

A typical workday was when we had a good scale; we had nice timber and a good setting.  When we started, we had pretty good grade.  But for some unknown reason, they just went in there and gutted that valley.  There were some huge timber in there– Fir, Spruce and Cedar; and at the back end there was still more Cedar.  If you wanted to have lunch under one, you could put your lunch bucket there and it could rain all day and never come through the cedar, as it was so sheltered.  Sometimes we would even find elk horns in there, as the elk hung out there.

I think the big advance in logging was when we got the ‘chisel chain’ on the power saws. That was a big advance from the ‘scratch chain’.  A scratch chain had teeth that went straight up and down, and we filed them on front.  So we could only cut in straight, but if we had a good guy on the other end, we never had to take that undercut out with a picaroon axe.  All we could do was cut straight through lines.  I woods crewhad it down to a system.

We worked hard and when we came in, we were ready to lie down… no kidding!  Even as young as we were, we ate lots, and then we would lie down and take it easy.  Especially if we worked on those float camps where there was nothing.  We were just on the float, they didn’t clear any land for activities.  We would work ten days, and then take six off.  I remember the boat that brought in supplies, it never went directly into camp – it came and picked us up when it was quitting time, and then they unloaded.  One time they had a whole load of fish, so I took this stash and put it in my raincoat and took it home.  The kids said, “Hey Mom, look what Dad got!”  And she said, “Where the hell did you get fish?  You’re falling all day and you got fish?  There’s no tuna in that lake!”  It was funny.  The guys would say, “Neiser is the only guy that can get tuna fish in a lake.”  That was a joke for weeks on end.

Crown Zellerbach didn’t deprive us of anything– we always had lots.  They threw away more than they ate, so we had a problem with bears.  Once we were going to shoot them, but someone talked us out of it.  I think it was in an area where we couldn’t just phone a game warden to come and get them.  I don’t know what we did with them; I think we scared them off with a bunch of rifles.  The bears were always around– they would get in the bunkhouse, when the guys were at work.  They would smell something there, maybe some chocolate bars or something in the little cupboards we had there.  They would get the cupboard wide open, and they would have everything ripped out that they didn’t want. 

Art NeiserWe had snow back then, but nothing like the winters that we have had here in the last eight or ten years.  In Nitnat it wasn’t unusual to get eight or more feet of snow.  I remember Superintendent Wainwright sending me out on the snowmobile.  Bert Brown also had a snowmobile, so we were asked if we would go out and measure snow at Branch 20.  There were no trees around it, nothing to interfere, and we measured ten feet of snow on the bridge.  We ended up shutting down that time.  But I remember when they tried logging there one time– it was quite an experience.  Wainwright decided he was going to get some fast wood somewhere in the bottom there.  They were strapped for wood, so they sent the two of us out with saws and equipment.  They wanted us to shovel the snow down to the bottom, so we fell one tree and I said, “This is bullshit!”  The exhaust from the saws was like working in a funnel, and there was nowhere to go if something happened.  We got one tree down, and we never even bucked it.  The snow was so high only a third stuck out, so I just went home. 

In the summers, we got up in the hills where the timber was more uniform and smaller.  Nice timber; but not like it was in the valley.  We always participated in the sports, and I particularly remember the summer of 1969.  There was Logger Sports at the PNE, and we got a trophy for the Obstacle Pole and a four hundred dollar prize!

I was a faller through my entire career.  I never got broken bones, but everyone did get smashed up to some degree.  Logging has come a long way with improvements in safety, machinery, equipment, practices, and communications.  Unfortunately, some guys lost their lives before the changes were made.  Logging is completely different now.