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

Frank VanyoI was born in 1922 in a house ten miles from Lestock, Saskatchewan.  I grew up helping out on the farm – it was hard work!  In the summer of 1942, when I was nineteen, I decided to head for the West Coast, along with two other farmhands.  We hopped on the train as far as Calgary, Alberta, and then ended up hitchhiking from Calgary to Princeton.  Unfortunately, no one gave us a ride (except for one ride for almost twenty miles) so we ended up walking for six hundred miles!  It took us months, but we finally arrived in Princeton in December.  I found work on a dairy farm, as a cowboy rounding up cattle, and finally as a miner at Copper Mountain mine. 

I eventually came to Vancouver, and got a job working in the shipyard, but quit soon after and joined the army before I turned twenty.  I ended up going to Scotland, England, North Africa, and Italy.  In Italy, I became a member of the Ontario Tank Regiment, 1st Canadian Amoured Brigade, as a driver-mechanic for the tanks.
When I got back from the war, I went to stay with my folks who were now living in Union Bay on Vancouver Island.  I worked with my dad and brother for a while in a shingle mill at Fanny Bay, but I didn’t enjoy working indoors.  I liked to be outside, no matter what the weather was!  So, I got a job on the log booms – I had to walk or jump from log to log, pushing the logs towards the mill and the conveyor chain.  The only problem was that I wasn’t nimble enough to jump from log to log, and I spent more time in the water than out of it!

EuclidIn 1946, I went back to Princeton, and got a job working for the W.C. Arnett Construction Company in construction of the Hope-Princeton highway.  I started out driving a three-ton Euclid dump truck, and then became a ‘pad man’ for the shovel, and after six weeks, I became a shovel operator (I had been told it would take years to learn the job).  I operated the Lorain 75 shovel (I nicknamed it “Six Bits”) during construction of the Hope-Princeton highway, and my brother Al operated a Cat (D-7 Caterpillar).  I also operated a bulldozer in the winter months, flattening the snow on the road at Allison Pass.  The snow was so deep, it came right up to the roofs of the houses – at one point I almost took the roof off a car that was covered with snow.

We continued construction as far as Keremeos, and on towards Osoyoos and Rock Creek.  Finally, Al and I quit and headed north to Quesnel, with the best recommendations ever from the company – and we didn’t even ask for it.  In Quesnel, we both started out on bulldozers for Bennett Construction, building a railroad grade for Pacific Eastern Railway (later British Columbia Railroad).  I soon switched to a Model Six Northwest shovel, and that was fine with me!

I met my wife at a party in Quesnel.  We got married, and had three children:  Frances, Julia Diana, and Randy.  Later on, Randy joined me in my work as my swamper.

I finally came back to Vancouver Island, where I got a job operating a mobile crane in Nanaimo.  I really enjoyed the work:  pile-driving, lifting all the heavy cement weights, and removing the old ferry docks near the old Nanaimo Post Office. 

D9After leaving the crane-operating business, I built logging roads for a small logging company.  One day, I received an offer from the foreman at Hillcrest Lumber Company – they wanted to hire me to operate a bulldozer and build logging roads.  It was just what I was looking for:  a steady, local job and I could be home every evening.  I said ‘yes’.  As it turned out, they were a very fine company to work for – they treated their crews well, and looked after their machines.

I enjoyed my work, but the one ‘downside’ of the job was when we were off work due to the weather conditions.  In the summer, they would shut down for months if it was very hot and dry (for fear of forest fires), and in the winter months, they would shut down when the snow got too deep.  We’d plow a lot of snow to help the loggers get back to work, and then it would snow again.  Summer heat, followed by an early snow made for a bleak financial year – loggers often couldn’t get unemployment insurance (they were classed as ‘seasonal’ employees).  There were times when we had little food:  my wife would buy a bag of navy beans and make pork and beans, with free pork fat from the company store.  That is all we would eat for days!

During my sixteen years with Hillcrest, we fought many forest fires.  I think the worst was the Sixteen Creek fire in 1952.  It was well into October, and the weather was very hot and dry – it hadn’t rained for at least two months, give or take a few days.  That year the company had bought a brand-new International TD 24 (referred to as a Cat) – this new unit was my assigned vehicle, and the logging superintendent kept me close by at all times.  I remember the fire jumped across the road in front of me – I turned the Cat around and went back the way I’d come.  I was following the trucks, trying to get up the hill on the secondary road, which was our only hope of escape.  The Cat would only go so fast, and Jim Turko was on the D-8 pushing as hard as he could too.  All this time there were balls of fire falling all around us as the fire created its own updraft.  That was scary!  We finally made it over the hill, and walked down the other side where we were picked up and driven to camp.  There was no loss of men, vehicles or machines, but the company lost a lot of logs – many of the cold-deck piles along the canyon ridge burned, and we could see it from the camp.

LoraineRegardless of the shutdowns, we were all outdoorsmen who loved working in the woods despite the many, many really bad days of terrible windstorms, rain, and more rain.  We had one of those wild days when the Russians came to watch how we log and build roads.  They spent three or four days just watching and taking notes on how we performed (this was during the Cold War).  In those days, whenever we had really bad weather, the saying was that the Russians were sending it to us.  But it was all in fun– we were just joking!

A lot of people complained about the weather, but I never complained– I liked being outside!  It was cold and wet, but that was my life outside.  The company gave me some Plexiglas, so I put it at the sides to keep the rain off my back.

I remember one time, while gouging out a hillside with a bulldozer to make a landing, I discovered a seam of copper (almost pure), and to the best of my knowledge, it’s still there.  At the time, mineral rights belonged to the CPR, so it was not worthwhile for a person like myself to try and file a claim.

Back when I first started working in the woods, there were well over twenty men to a side,  but now, with the cold deckermodern grapple yarders, there are only four or five men who produce as much, if not more, than the twenty men did.  It was great for the company, but it put a lot of good, honest, hard-working men out of a job.  As time progressed, so did automation and that changed the way of logging, I’d say forever.

I worked for almost two years in the Nitnat logging camp (also known as Camp 3) building logging roads with a Model Six Northwest cable shovel.  I had my family at Nitnat with me, but we moved out and I went back to building logging roads for the Hillcrest Lumber Company until they closed in 1968, shutting down the logging operation and sawmill forever.  Altogether, I worked between fifteen to sixteen years at Hillcrest .

I loved to go salt water fishing!  Easter was the time of year to go after the Coho Salmon – they were delicious when canned.  I love salmon!  As time marched on, Coho Salmon (along with other species of fish), became very scarce and such limits were imposed on their catching that the time to fish them wasn’t worth it.  Everybody went after the Spring Salmon instead. I also enjoyed hunting – I would go out and shoot my limit of two bucks and a doe before noon.  Venison chops and stew were wonderful, but the back strap was the best delicacy and my favorite dish.

After Hillcrest closed, I went to work for Carley Logging Company.  They operated on a much smaller scale, logging and building logging roads on a contract basis.   The boss had a D-9 Cat which I operated for a few years.  He then replaced the D-9 with a more modern up-to-date D-8 Cat, which was a treat to operate as well.  To be very honest, I wouldn’t have liked to operate any other. 

Around 1971, I was building a logging road with the D-9 on a steep hillside in the Gordon River area of Vancouver Island.  There were two fallers (one of them named Red) felling trees up there and they were some distance apart.  Before I started developing the road, we followed the normal safety procedure, discussing whether or not it was safe for me to work below them on a ledge of the incline while they felled trees on the plateau above.  We agreed that it should be safe, and I started to build the road.  The entire area was quite wet with the melting snow and several rain showers, and it was very muddy – the hardpan (underlying bedrock) under the topsoil made it worse; there was nothing to absorb all that moisture.  I had to keep backing the D-9 up as I tried to dig through the Accidenthardpan to get the correct left-right slant.  Then it happened!  Red felled a tree and watched as it landed – he figured it was okay and went on to the next tree.  He glanced back a moment later and saw the felled tree begin to slide off the plateau towards me, gathering speed as it went.  I’d been backing the Cat up as this happened, and that log just missed the right canopy support post and kept going through the machine, taking the hood and the rear tappet cover with it!  It seemed like an eternity before it was over.  Oddly enough, the total damage to the machinery was not that great, and the main thing was that I was all right.  I’d had close shaves before, but that was the closest!  One of the mechanics had an instant camera, and he took pictures of the aftermath.

Another time I was working near a steep cliff, and I was trying to push the stump of a tree away.  All of a sudden, everything gave away!  So there I was, sitting on my Cat hanging over the edge of the cliff.  I slowly crept off the Cat, and jumped off.  Amazingly, it didn’t go over the edge– it was about a five hundred foot drop… I wouldn’t have had a chance!

When I first got started in logging, I couldn’t believe the waste!  I could take you to a place on #5 Road, where there was a patch of number one Fir logs – there were forty-footers all piled up there going to rot!  They had chopped down the cedar trees and just left them there.  Eventually, when they got into this cedar block business, a cedar man took all of them out. 

LunchI was employed almost twenty-one years with Carley Logging, until I retired at the age of sixty-six in December 1988.  I was never on any payroll as a mechanic or a welder, but I did it all, and enjoyed every opportunity.  I even had a stint as a grader operator. 

In my whole career as a shovel and bulldozer operator, I built a lot of logging roads, and I loved it!  I built the road to Mesachie Creek and Harris Creek, the road to the Shaw Creek Main Line (past Youbou), and the road to Little Shaw and Marguerite Creek, to name a few.

“Life presents opportunities to learn, to appreciate, to explore and to build.  Build a sturdy road for the journey, travel it steadfastly and never dig a trench that you can’t climb out of!  Above all, enjoy the scenery.”

**NOTE:  We, the staff at Mosaic of Forestry Memories, have compiled portions of our interview with Frank, along with portions from his book, Scenes from a Life (Your Nickel’s Worth Publishing, 2000).  To get his complete story, please buy a copy of his book – you will enjoy the read!