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

Ken KerroneI began working in the forest industry in 1953 as a whistle punk for Kapoor Logging at Shawnigan Lake.  Mr. Kapoor had emigrated from India.  All the logs were hauled over the Kinsol Trestle by CN Railroad to Cowichan Bay where they were dumped.

A man by the name of Alf Neilson trained me to be a whistle punk.  He told me all the signals, giving me two days to learn them.  I was then on my own.  I worked at Kapoor Logging for about one year.
 
There were a bunch of chokermen on the rigging.  The rigging would come back, and I would signal to the yarding engineer to stop.  The chokerman would run in and put the choker around the log.  They would run out after the choker was set around the log.  I would send another signal to the yarding engineer to go-ahead.  This was a method of communication between the men on the rigging and the yarding engineer.  It was not a safe way of doing things.  Nowadays, they would have given that job to a man with more experience.  Back then, the job was usually given to someone with no logging experience.  During the war, they had a difficult time finding young men to work in the woods, so girls were hired.  Thelma Godkin worked for my Dad during the war at Mt. Hill Logging in Saltair.  The company was owned by Teddy Robson.

Kapoor Logging 1953After working as a whistle punk for a year, I became a log scaler.  The fallers were all on piece work – being paid so much a thousand – say, a dollar a board thousand.  The scaler would have to scale the logs that were fell that day.

When I went to Gordon River in 1955, there were fifty fallers that were divided into three-men gangs, so there were sixteen gangs of men.  There was a head faller, a machine man and bucker.  There were about nine scalers.  Each scaler scaled three gangs.  The main boss was called a bull bucker.

The fallers always thought the scalers were a little tight on the scaling of the logs – they thought they were being short-changed.  One day, a faller said to a scaler, “Come here, I want to talk to you.  Sit down on that stump.  Have you heard the story of the three robins?  There was Robin Hood, Robin Red Breast, and you … you Robbin’ Son of a Bitch!”  Those were some of the daily happenings.

In 1955, I worked at Bear Creek Camp for British Columbia Forest Products (BCFP).  I was there a couple of months.  I stayed in a bunkhouse, there being sixteen men to a house.  Our food was supplied in the cookhouse. 

Moving skidder across TR7 bridge - Gordon River 1950'sI went to Gordon River in April 1955.  There were two hundred and fifty men living in the bunkhouses and eating in the cookhouse. In the married quarters, there were thirty families plus a school.  It was said to be the most modern logging camp in B.C.  Starting time was seven thirty a.m.  We left Duncan at five a.m., arriving at camp at six thirty a.m.  Then we would stand around for twenty minutes.  The woods foreman would then tell us what crummy to take into the woods.  In those days, we were only five minutes from the work site, so we left the camp at six fifty a.m. and drove for five minutes.  We arrived at the worksite, and then waited until seven thirty a.m. to start work.  We were not on the payroll until seven thirty a.m.

There were two crummies running from Duncan and Lake Cowichan.  Each crummy packed about forty men.  The inside of the crummy had three plank seats, one on each side and one down the middle.  There was no heat in these units.  My brother Jim, who worked at Meade Creek, asked that heaters be put in the crummies … so they put an exhaust pipe inside!

I have seen a couple of fatalities.  One time, a faller fell a tree on his partner – he wasn’t paying attention to how close he was to him.  That accident happened in 1976 – you never forget such a tragedy.  There were quite a few men killed in the twenty-six years that I worked there.

One faller, by the name of Wally Knott, worked around Lake Cowichan for a number of years.  One time, there were two bad trees – one was rotten, and it was leaning into a green tree.  I asked if he wanted me to stay with him while he fell it, because sometimes fallers liked someone to be there in a dangerous situation.  This time he said, “No, because things that I can see don’t bother me, it is when I can’t see the hazard… that bothers me!"  I never forgot that, because it made sense what he was saying. 

In 1968, we were laid off for three months.  When we went back to work, we approached management to ask for decent buses.  Our request was refused, and we had a wildcat strike.  Management asked how we were going to get home that day.  We informed them we were taking the current buses home.  We were told they were to be left there, but we jumped in and drove home.  Apparently, new buses had already been ordered, but they refused to tell us.  We returned to work in about a week, and the new buses arrived a month later.
 
Porky - Francis JohnnyThe unions were strong.  A union is only as strong as its membership, and the men stuck together. 

My Father worked in the 1930’s when the unions were just being organized.  They were tough times for these workers.  There were no benefits.  Men were fired because the boss didn’t like the look of them.

My Father’s Mother died when he was three months of age, and his Father died when he was six years of age.  He started working in the woods when he was age twelve.  He hired out from Vancouver, traveling by steamship to Ocean Falls and adjoining logging camps.  When he arrived at camp, a man named Charlie Walker asked him, “What are you doing here, kid?”  My Dad stuttered, stating, “I c-c-came up here to blow whistles you son of a bitch!”  He gave my Dad a job, not letting him leave for about three years – depositing his cheque in the bank for him.

I started driving bus in 1959 from Duncan to Gordon River.  I was twenty-three years old.  The company had to get special insurance for me because I was young.  I drove a 1946 Ford truck with a box in the back – the men were sitting in the back on planks.  You could cram forty men in the box.  There were no heaters.

In the early 1960’s, I remember fighting fire at Gordon River.  I remember sitting on the bank watching the water bombers flying overhead.  We were paid time and a half on Sundays.  It would sometimes take weeks to extinguish the fire, and sometimes they would burn all winter.  There would be eight to ten feet of snow in the winter and when that melted, the fire would begin to burn once again.

In 1972, the fallers were on strike for six months because the company wanted to pay the men per day – not for the amount of timber they had fallen.  When the fallers finally returned to work, the scalers were no longer needed.  The fallers slowed down their production after that – if they fell one tree or fifty trees, they were paid the same – the incentive was gone.  I was assistant bull bucker from 1973 to 1976 when I became bull bucker from 1976 to 1981.

We worked Monday to Friday being the highest paid workers in B.C.  With all the modern equipment now twenty men can produce what two hundred men did in the 1940’s and 1950’s.  They now work seven days a week, straight time.  We would not have worked week-ends.

My wife and I went to school together, marrying in 1962. I have lots of memories of my logging years – it was a good life.