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

John OlteneanuI started in the forestry industry in 1953 with BCFP at the Youbou Sawmill.  I worked there for thirty six years, during which time I became the head foreman until I retired in 1989.

It was funny how I got to be in Youbou, as this wasn’t my original intension.  I started in Ontario and with three other young buddies we decided that we wanted to see British Columbia.  So we headed West, stopping and taking odd jobs along the way that paid us some money.  When we got to BC, we originally intended to go to Kitimat, I believe it was aluminum at the time, but we ended up coming over to the coast and then to Youbou.  I guess things happen for a reason, as I ended up meeting my wife in Vancouver at the PNE!

During my first week of work I worked on the green chain at the Youbou Sawmill – it was tough work.  Good thing I was young and very strong.  Johnny Howden was the charge hand at the time and he helped me a lot.  I lived in the bunkhouse at the mill and our day used to start at 7:00am.  We ate breakfast at the cook shack and started work by 8:00am.  If you were living in the bunk houses, you also had your lunch and dinner served at the cook shack.  They were good meals.  After work and weekends there was always hockey or ball to get involved in.  I believe that there were even six ball teams in the area back then. 

We worked very hard, but also had a lot of fun, due to mostly young people working together.  I remember the young guys pulling pranks like nailing gloves to the planks.  In the summer to keep cool under the hot steel roof of the mill, we used to fill our boots with water.

I remember one really bad accident that occurred right after we had come back from a strike, holidays or something.  I was working in the office and this experienced guy was working on the Hula Saw.  He came into the office and said, “Look what I did!” and he stuck his arm out.  Well he must have gotten his arm in the wrong place, as it was cut off.  I wrapped it up, put on a tourniquet, and sent for emergency crews.  For a couple of weeks after the accident, the mill workers were bothered.  It made everyone stop and think, “If it could happen to him, it could happen to us.”  The guy was eventually The Olteneanu'sbrought back to work; he just did different jobs that he could do with his one good arm.

I lived in the bunk house until I got married in 1958, and then my wife and I built a house together on Herd Road.  It was the first house past the gas station, and back then, we even supplied the gas station with water!  We got most of our lumber from the mill and payed for it from our pay cheque at the mill. I commuted back and forth to work in the Youbou Sawmill in my own car.  Back then there wasn’t a highway to Youbou like there is now.  It was country and back roads that had a lot of pot holes.  After commuting back and forth from Duncan to Youbou for nine years, we moved our family to Youbou in 1967.

Over my thirty six years at the mill sawmilling has not changed too much.  I had almost every position in the mill and did my final years as the Head Foreman; at one time I even had a position on the PLIB.  The mill was enjoyable; it gave you good pay and not too many things to worry about.  But my most memorable time I have of the forestry industry is when I retired at the age of 56.