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

Howard DonahueI was born in Alberta, and my family lived there until 1945 when my father decided we should leave Alberta, as things on the farm weren’t going well.  He had heard that there were jobs on the Coast, so he moved out and got a job at the Youbou Sawmill driving sawdust trucks.  At that time Industrial Timber Mills (ITM) was the owner of the camps and the Youbou Sawmill.  By 1946, when I was six years old, my father moved our family from Alberta to be with him at Camp 3.  At that time my father was driving the speeder and running the Cat.

Living in Camp 3 as a kid was good!  We knew everybody, and everybody knew us.  There was a clear little lake that was fed by springs that in the summer we could swim in, and in the winter we skated on.  The mountains were our playground.  When I was younger I used to fish on Tuck Lake.  My friends and I used to go out on the fallen cedars, as they floated, and fish off of the end, and we could watch the men logging just down the lake.

When you grow up in a logging camp, you know it is a dangerous place.  I remember a few fatalities, but the first that affected me was when I was about ten years old, and living at Camp 3.  My family knew the Thomson family quite well– they lived at Camp 3 where their youngest son worked, and their oldest son Bill worked in Youbou.  When Jackie was about eighteen or nineteen, he got killed on the job.  The Thomson’s didn’t stay in Camp 3 much longer after the accident.  There was also another fatality that greatly affected me:  It was when one of the riggers got killed Donahue getting into his grapple yarderon the job, and I had to help carry him out.

At the age of fifteen, I started working weekends in the Youbou Sawmill doing clean-up.  By grade eleven, I quit school and the next day I went out into the workforce.  I started working on the bull gang in Camp 3, which lasted for about a week, followed by working on the re-load with Neil Morrison.  After about four or five months doing that, I started setting chokers, which was the introductory job.  Back then you had to buy your own gloves for work, and they cost about $2.00, and I only got paid $12.56 a day for an eight hour shift, so I made sure that I looked after my gloves!

In the summer of 1956, the old growth around Camp 3 was getting sparse, so I quit forestry and joined the army.  In 1957 I came back from the army, but the forest industry was slow, especially since Camp 3 was now shut down.  By May 11, 1958 I got a job in Camp 6 (Caycuse) setting chokers.  Camp 6 was larger than Camp 3 – it had about ninety families and about two-hundred single workers.  I eventually worked on the skidder with Len Heal – as long as I lasted a month on the skidder, I was ‘worthy’ and deemed a good worker.  Hank Nowicki was the skidder foreman at the time, and he kept us in line – he always let us know he was the boss!  I stood up for Hank at his Catholic wedding, but even after that, he still let me know that he was the boss.  After that I worked on the slackline setting chokers, and then worked on the back-end rigging crew.  By 1958 to 1959, I was working on a cold decker up in Block 109.  I slowly progressed up the line to chokerman, second loader, and chaser.  When I started on the skidder there were no grapples – we used tongs, and the skidder had a heel boom.  I also had the opportunity to run the high lead tower.

In 1964 I ran the Wyssen Skyline for just over two years– they eventually stopped using it because of the drawbacks.  The first road was three hundred feet wide and there was too much side pull on the cables, so they started narrowing the road.  About five roads in total were completed by the Wyssen Skyline, and I worked on three of them myself.  The Wyssen was also a fire danger:  One time when I was operating the Wyssen, a fire started about five hundred feet below the yarder, and the fire started coming up hill.  The fire crews were called in, as well as the Large log in the grapplesMarrs Water Bomber.  I had stayed on the yarder to almost the end – I waited until I saw the ‘Bird Dog’, which was the lead plane for the bomber, and then I knew the bomber wasn’t going to be long.  The fire was about a couple feet from the yarder, and the smoke was already there.  The first drop was right on top of the machine to wet it down.  I didn’t have any radio contact with anyone, so when I saw the bomber coming again for the yarder, I went under it where the wooden sleighs and winch were.  When the bomber got there, he put the drop right on top of the yarder.  It was scary as there was about six thousand gallons of water per drop and a lot of tonnage behind that water, so I got soaking wet!  The next drop was right on the fire, and that slowed it down.  The bomber did a few more drops and put the fire right down.

In 1972 I went on the grapple yarder, and worked there until 2005, which was when I retired.  I probably set some bench marks during my time, especially since I worked the grapple yarder for thirty-two years, which was the longest that anyone had up till that time.

I Howard Donahue on Grapple Yarder at Tom's Cree remember a time when Pete Delisle was trucking:  He came in to drop his load at the dump, and the dump operator picked up his trailer to do the load.  Well Pete just started driving away, without his trailer, and no one could get his attention.  Pete drove by dispatch and saw where he was to go next and started driving out there; which was about six miles out.  The dispatcher realized that Pete didn’t have his trailer, but he couldn’t do anything about it.  When he got to his destination the head loader asked, “Where’s your trailer?”

All of my time working in the forest industry was with the same company, although it went through some changes from BC Forest Products (BCFP) to Fletcher Challenge to Timber West.  During my forty-eight years working in logging, I ran a whole gamut of jobs.  I even planted trees in 1958 at Tuck Lake when we were shut down, and would you believe it, they have already logged the trees I planted!

My most memorable time was the last settings that I did in 2004 out in the San Juan.  The Douglas Fir and Cedars were of immense proportions, and it took me back to when I first started logging.

In my younger years, I was not enamored with the forest industry; it was a means to an end.  It was tough dirty work, and even the machine work was repetitious.  It took me until later on, when I was in my forties, to realize that there wasn’t anything else and I had a family to support, so I better start enjoying my job.  After that realization, I actually enjoyed getting up in the morning for work!  I really loved the outdoors, other than working in the rain and snow; but looking back, I would have loved to have been a game warden.