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

Lucille SmithMy Mother immigrated to Vancouver in 1924 from Finland, and my Father immigrated to Port Alberni in 1926 from Sweden.  My Mother worked for a time in Vancouver, but ended up going to Port Alberni with a friend.  Mother had a boarding house, and this is where she met my Father.  The first time they met, he was drunk and unable to stand up.  She laughed so hard, but she went over and helped him walk to his house.  He apparently was so embarrassed that he never drank again for years!  They ended up getting married and homesteading until they lost everything during the Depression.  My Father worked at APL Mill in Port Alberni, and he dared to speak out about things that weren’t fair.  At the time, the mill didn’t belong to a union, but back in Sweden he had been in a union so was used to things being fair.

For example, one time he and a Japanese co-worker did the exact same job, but when their pay checks came, he was paid more than the Japanese man.  He questioned why this was so, and was told, “Down the road, Grip!”  He was branded as a troublemaker, and that reputation followed him. 

We moved to Victoria, and then to Sidney.  I’m not sure where he worked there, but I know that he and my mom often went ‘clamming’ to make money.  At that time, there was a factory in Sidney that bought clams. 

Eventually, my Father got a job at Camp 6 (Caycuse) with ITM (Industrial Timber Mills), so we moved there in 1935.  Camp 6 was managed by Don Hartnell who had an invalid brother named Sam.  He had created a job for Sam, because he was only able to work for about six hours a day.  Sam was the editor of the camp paper, called The Bulletin; he enjoyed trying out the jokes on us while we were waiting for the bus.  I remember that he was a nice man.

Hildur and Lars Grip, Port Alberni 1928Early in 1934, we lived in a float house in Youbou and shared it with another family, but it was moored right next to the mill.  In those days, the mill had a big sawdust pile burning all the time until the war started.  Then, because of the blackout, they put it out.  But bits and pieces would float up in the air, and because our float house was right on the mill pond, our roof was always on fire.  My Mother was very pregnant, and had two little children who couldn’t swim… it was a little scary!  So my Father built a woodshed at the end of the street where we now live, and I remember living in this woodshed in the summertime.  He had seen in the high water in the spring a big pile of two-by-fours that had been stacked at the point, past the mill, and the high water had come up and floated this whole pile up.  One day this pile floated by, so my Father took a row boat out and he pulled it into shore.  Then he went to the mill office and reported where it was, and they allowed him to buy it for ‘peanuts’.  So where he pulled that bunch of two-by-fours in, is where he built the woodshed that we lived in until he built the house.  That house was lived in until just a few years ago, and the people couldn’t get rid of it so they burned it.  If we had had a piece of property to put it on, I would have moved it.  He built the log cabin very solid, because he had so many two-by-fours and they were all stacked… it was a warm and cozy house!

We used to go to school by boat– the Island Coach Lines bus came as far as the community store, and then we got on the taxi boat to Camp 6.  In those days, the trip took about an hour to an hour and a half.

I can remember having dinner at our house with Nigel Morgan and George Grafton, who were big union organizers.  Nigel Morgan was quite a big-wig– he had a radio program called “Green Gold”.  We use to always listen to it in the evenings. 

My Father, Lars Grip, was active in the union movement when it first started here in the 1930’s.  The union organizer had to sneak into camp after dark – there were no streetlights, so everything happened in the dark.  My Father had built a washhouse for my Mother to do the laundry in.  It even had a stove in it, so she could do her washing with less effort.  This washhouse came into great use because that is where George Grafton, the union organizer, would meet with all the men in camp.  My Father was the first secretary and he had a little book (which all Winter1936 Mom (Hildur) has house sitting on one fence postthe men were given when they paid their union dues) which belonged to Waddy Weeks.  My Father had it in his shirt pocket, and my Mother didn’t notice and washed it.  It became a family joke… that Mom washed Waddy Weeks’ union book!

The union organizers weren’t allowed to go into any of the camps to get a meal, and it was forbidden to feed them in the cookhouses.  George also was not allowed to use any of the transportation, so he walked all these hills between here and Port Renfrew… he walked all over the place!

My Mother was the first President of the Ladies Auxiliary to the Union, Local 1-80.  They marched on the legislature in 1948.  She suffered with bunions, and after this trek, both her shoes were full of blood!  She also made sure that the union organizers, like George Grafton, were well-fed; because the cookhouses in the logging camps weren’t allowed to feed them. 

The establishment of the unions was a big turning point in the forest industry.  I still remember the conditions those men lived in before the unions:  they wore caulk boots, and the wooden floors in the bunkhouses and ‘sidewalks’ outside were worn to slivers from their caulk boots! The bunkhouses were originally on the water, and then they built them on the land when Camp 6 got to be a more permanent camp.  They all slept in the bunkhouse on iron cots, with a stove in the middle.  The ceiling was open with the rafters exposed, so they would hang their wet clothes from the rafters – you can imagine the smell!  It was an awful way to live and the men had no job security.

One of the other early union men was Henry Lundgren.  I remember when we were writing a song for a centennial celebration, he told us to use the word “roam”, as in “no more to roam”.  The reason for this was Winter1936 Bill house Lucille & neighbours Rita Holmstrombecause the men would be in a logging camp working, and a camp would shut down for one reason or another, and there were no accommodations made for them.  They simply had to leave… that was it!  So they would go to Vancouver, and hang around the hiring hall until someone else was opening a ‘show’, and then they would get a job with them.  It was no way for a married man to live!  So when things got a little bit smoother, wives insisted on living with their husbands, and that is when the logging camps started with families.  At one time, Camp 6 at Caycuse had a hundred families– it was huge!  There’s little there now.

I remember, as a child, when the forty hour week came in– before that it was a forty-eight hour week.  They were paid only for ‘on the job’ time, so they left home at six in the morning, and they didn’t get home until six at night.  A lot of that was ‘travelling’ time and they didn’t get paid for it.

I can remember the fellows walking to the job, if it was close like in the mountains behind Caycuse.  They would carry a two-man saw balanced on their shoulder, and in their back pocket was a bottle of oil with a big gaffe hook.  They would hook it in their back pocket, and then when they got there they could just use the hook and hook it into a tree wherever they were cutting.  They had to keep the saws oiled in order to make them draw easier – so oil on the saw was an important part of their equipment. 

Lucille & PelleOne of the biggest casualties of the logging industry was lunch buckets.  They would have their lunch packed in a tin bucket, and because there was no common place to sit and eat their lunch, they just put it where they figured it would be okay.  Well, someone would fell a tree on it, and there would be no more lunch bucket – they would come home in terrible shape!  A lot of times, if it wasn’t dinged too badly they would pound it out because it was made of metal and was quite malleable.

When I was younger at Camp 6, I remember two young men having their heads smashed when they were in the ‘bight’.  They had to leave their bodies somewhere to the side, until everyone was ready to go home for the day. 

We had different social clubs at Camp 6.  There were the ‘Bridge’ clubs:  my Mother played with other women in the afternoon, and my Father played with his friends in the evenings.  There was also a handicraft club called the ‘Happy Hour Club’.

Baseball was big at Camp 6!  There were four baseball teams:  a girl’s team, a boy’s team, a women’s team, and a men’s team.  In the summer we did a lot of swimming, and berry-picking… there were lots of berries!  In the winter, we played badminton in the little hall.  Once a week, my future father-in-law brought movies for us to watch.  There was never a dull moment!

Kids in Camp 6 past grade eight had to travel everyday to Lake Cowichan High School.  So when I went to high school, I boarded out at Lake Cowichan and here in Youbou for two years.  The third year, my brother had to go to high school.  My parents couldn’t afford to pay board for two kids to go to school… so they moved down here.  We came to Camp 6 in 1935 and left in 1945, so we lived there for ten years and ten days!

I eventually became a school teacher, got married, and had three children.  Unfortunately, my first husband was killed in an accident.  I met Howard Smith not long after, and we got married in 1968.  I had my three children, he had two sons from his first marriage, and then we had a son together– so we had a busy family life!  Howard worked in a variety of different jobs in the forest industry:  whistle punk, faller, hooker and rigger, hooktender, and dozer boat operator.  He worked in many different logging camps in the Cowichan Valley, including Camp 6.

I was always worrying about my husband when he worked in the woods– there were so many things that could have happened to him.  He could have come home with only one arm at one point!  Even after they started to wear hard hats, he almost had his head cut off.  Another time he got slammed in the chest with a tree limb, and had to get his heart checked out.

I did my best to never let myself dwell on the dangerous aspect of the job– it was just a fact of life.  He had some bad accidents, especially in 1961 when he had a femur break.  They weren’t sure if it was his back or his leg, but it left him quite crippled and he had to have back surgery.  They fused his back and put in a bone to adjust his back bone.  The doctor did a Lucille & Ottowonderful job, and Howard was back at work quite quickly.  He also had quite a few falls, and spent months in therapy.

We were able to survive those months when he was off work, because I had a regular job as a school teacher.  Howard used to be off quite a bit in the summer, because of forest fires; and in the winter, because of snow.  The year before we got married, Howard took the snow off my roof, my Mother’s roof, and three other roofs.  So, even though he was out of work, he was always working.  He also got unemployment insurance, which helped too.  In all the years we were married, I think there was only one year where Howard worked for twelve months, and boy was he tired!

I would get home at four thirty, my daughter would get off the school bus, and Howard would get off the crummy.  So we would all get home around the same time.

I have lived in Youbou since 1945, and have seen lots of changes over the years!  We used to have a department store, a post office, a police station, and a doctor’s office.  When the mill closed, we lost everything – we don’t even have a town centre.  When we need anything, we have to go to Lake Cowichan.  There are around seven to eight hundred permanent residents, and then in the summer there are more.  We now have a group called the Youbou Social Club, which is trying to re-establish the community.  So, we are hopeful that Youbou will once again be a vibrant community!