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

Throughout our journey to find the men and women that made up the backbone of the forest industry in the Cowichan Valley, a few names arose time and time again. These individuals made their mark on the people who met them and earned the respect of those around them. Below are a collection of stories and bios of just a few of these individuals. Had we the time, I am sure that the list would have been much much longer...

   
 

 

MATT HEMMINGSEN

Matt Hemmingsen worked on the river log drives in eastern USA. When they were having problems with the log drive on the Campbell River they sent for Matt. He blasted some rocks that were blocking the channel, I believe this solved the problem. When VL&M had a problem on the Cowichan River they sent for Matt. He worked for that company in a managerial position for awhile, then started to log by contract. My best estimate is this was somewhere between 1900 & 1910. His brother Ed was a partner in the company, maybe from the start, I am not sure.  My father was working for the company when they were logging near Wardroper Bay when I was one year old.  The reason I know this is because my Mother told me that I fell in the lake and she was able to pull me out with a pike pole.  That would be in the year 1915. In 1925 during my summer holidays I stayed in their logging camp which was all on floats and tied up in the waters of the North Arm.  They were logging the easterly slopes of Bald Mountain. To log this area they had two steam powered yarders they were both moved about six hundred feet up from the beach.  One was reaching out about six hundred feet and yarding logs to a spar tree.   The other machine would tight line them into the lake.  To accomplish this the mainline passed through a block high on the spar tree.  The other end of this line was attached to a forty foot high A frame mounted on a large raft.  A block with two chokers travelled on top of the main line, it was pulled up to the spar tree by the haul backline.  When the mainline was lowered  the chokers were attached to logs, when it was tightened it would lift the logs off the ground then the haul back line would snub them down to the lake.  The Hemmingses used this system on several other locations around the lake.  To reach up the mountains farther they bought an Empire skidder.  This machine could reach out 1,600 to 1,700 feet. In 1928 the Hemmingsens logged their last setting around Cowichan Lake.  My father was their camp foreman and was left to look after the deserted camp.  He sent for my youngest brother and me to stay with him for our summer holidays.

 

 

 

TOM EASTON

Tom Easton was the manager of the company store at Youbou for several years.  During the war years 1943 or 1934 the company sent him East to hire men for the camps. He found lots in Prince Albert.  He was an excellent sales man, when he advertised in the paper and over the air, asking them to meet him in the beer parlor he was able to sign up twenty men in shot order.  Their fare, caulk boots and clothes were all given to them, then deducted from their wages.  They were happy with the big wages compared to the rates back home.  They turned out to be excellent loggers, I believe some are still around Cowichan Lake.  When the company closed the store, Tom went to work at Eaton's in Victoria, he was selling organs and broke all records for top sales.

 

 

 

HARRY HOBSON

Harry Hobson was hired to plan the location of railroads and plan the logging settings for the Camp three operation. When BCFP bought ITM, our manger Tom Fraser moved to the head office in Vancouver, Harry Hobson then became the area manager for the Cowichan Lake operations. He was my boss for several years.  In July 1964 he was transferred to Crofton to manage several smaller operations, Les Way became the manager of the Cowichan Lake operations and I became the manager of the Port Renfrew operations.

By Ken Hallberg

 

 

 

CHARLIE MONTI

Charlie MontiCharlie Monti was born on May 28, 1904 in Crugnola/Mornago, Italy, near Milan.  He trained as a baker under a Pastry Professional.  He started out cleaning baking pans, etc. and didn’t like it at all, but he learned well. He immigrated to Canada between 1919 and 1920 at the age of sixteen years.  His destination was to Hillcrest Logging Camp and Bellevue, Alberta.  He arrived in British Columbia sometime in 1929.  In and around this year, he met Dorothy Alexandra Pappenberger, and they married in 1931.  Their 50th wedding anniversary was celebrated in the fall of 1981.

The Depression hindered everyone, and he worked at anything he could get, including at one point, a job in the woods for a dollar and fifty cents per day.  He then got work with the Lake Logging Company in Rounds, BC, as a baker.  He enjoyed his work and was content, as the company also supplied a home.  It was a true ‘tar paper shack’, as they were called in those days.  There was no running water, and coal oil and gas lamps provided lighting.  The little ‘outhouse’ was way up the hill behind the house.  The true luxury of the household, and for Mrs. Monti, was the purchase of her gas-engine washing machine.

After a period of time, it seems the entire crew became very disgruntled with the head cook, and literally ‘ran him out of camp’.  As it turned out, Mr. Monti was asked if he would take over the Head Cook position.  Without any hesitation, he commenced cooking, and thus began a career of nearly fifty years cooking in various logging camps.  Some of these would have been:  Camp 6, Camp 3, Camp 10, Port Renfrew, Youbou, and Hillcrest Lumber (at both the Sahtlam and Mesachie locations) which encompassed nearly twenty years or more.  When Hillcrest closed in the 1960’s, he then worked for B.C. Forest Products at Caycuse until he retired at sixty-five, which was mandatory with that company.

He was not content with retirement, so he undertook jobs at isolated camps.  He was flown in by a small plane, and although he hated flying, he could not believe what they paid him!  The final camp he was flown to, on arrival he told the boss, “Take me back out now!  I’m not cleaning up after any more other cooks before I can do my job!” However, he never really left the kitchen.  Mrs. Monti became his Second Cook, and they served many wonderful treats for many folks.

Reflections of My Father, Charlie Monti

Charlie & Dorothy Monti 25th Anniversary 1956

1.  A highlight, and a first, was the introduction of female flunkies from 1947 to 1948.  They were hard-working young women, and the company provided a building for their living quarters.  In and around this time, they had a ‘first’ decorated and special Christmas dinner in the cookhouse.

2.  Also at Christmas, Mr. Monti cooked turkeys for management staff living at Mesachie Lake.  They were beautiful birds with a huge jug of gravy for each family.  What a treat for the ladies!  (For a time, all employees received a turkey, suitable for their needs.)

3.  He was ‘Santa’ for many years at the children’s Christmas party held at the community hall.  This building was located behind the local store.

4.  Before there were electric mixers, Mr. Monti made and mixed by hand in a huge mixing bowl mounted on a wooden frame on wheels, all baked items.  These were breads, pies, sweet doughs, jelly rolls, cookies, and cakes (24 x 24).  Soups and pancakes were made from scratch – there were no mixes in those days, and they tasted so good!

5.  Doughnut day!  He made both sugar-coated and glazed.  He was very quick and very fussy!  They had to be done just right.

6.  There was a huge cooler for storage of milk, butter, meat, etc.  He did his own butchering.  If the Swift Company salesman dared to bring anything inferior, or if he brought the wrong product, he was in big trouble.

7.  Daily, there were a hundred pounds of potatoes hand-peeled by the flunkies, plus the other vegetables for meals, soups, etc.

8.  There were no electric dishwashers – a man was hired for this job.  The clothes were also cleaned with bleach daily and had to be spotless.  All had to be clean, clean!

9.  The men were allowed to wear their caulk boots in the dining room which caused much breaking-up of the wood floor.  The floor had to be swept daily, and scrub day was something else!  They filled many large buckets with hot, soapy, bleached water.  It was then applied with large scrub brushes.  Then the Head Cook got in there with a huge hose, after which the crew worked with huge squeegees to remove the water.  Once again, everything had to be clean, clean!

10.  Office staff, and some management personnel, had their own special table for lunch each day, and he fussed over them often.

11.  There were so many good things that occurred over the years, one is hard-pressed to recall.  However, one does hope that any of your personal encounters with ‘Charlie’ are warmly remembered.

12.  One does know that he was a person who truly loved his work, and it showed.

By:  Angeline (Ann) E. Studley, daughter of Charlie Monti

 

 

 

STICKY SIRUP

Sticky Sirup“Norman Sirup started working here on April 9, 1947, and with a name like that, it was only a short time until someone nick-named him ‘Sticky’.  He was still called that nearly sixty years later!  In my last year of high school, I worked the Easter holiday with Sticky as a chokerman.  He was hooking on the skidder, and they wanted one of the chokermen to notch stumps for the back riggers.  One of the young fellows from the bunkhouse thought that would be an easier job than setting chokers, so he said that would do this.  Sticky told him he needed to be a good ‘axe man’, and the test for a good axe man was to blindfold him.  If he was a natural axe man, his axe would strike the same place each time he swung.  So after lunch, Sticky took this fellow’s hat off and blindfolded him.  At that time, everyone wore soft hats.  Sticky had him stand next to a stump, and handed him an axe.  He chopped about ten times, but never in the same place.  Meanwhile, Sticky had placed his hat on the stump.  When he was finished, Sticky took off the blindfold, and told him he wasn’t going to get the job because of the mess he had made with his hat, which was all cut to shreds!

Another ‘Sticky story’ was when Gordie Margetish, Frank Steacy, and Sticky were contract loading with a Washington Track Loader.  They had some full-length trees yarded, and Sticky was bucking them to length.  He put the saw up on the track of the machine to sharpen the chain.  Lunch time came, and they all stopped to eat.  After lunch, Gordie moved the machine ahead.  When this happened, the power saw went off the track and under the machine, and ended up only a few inches thick.  This is going to be really hard to explain, but at that time Ed Peck was bringing them out a new haulback line.  When Ed was backing into the landing with a spool of cable in his pickup, Sticky put the flattened power saw under Ed’s wheels.  Ed bumped over the saw, and Sticky said, “Look what you have done to my saw!”  Ed looked at the saw, and told Sticky not to say anything, and he would bring out a new saw.  So it proves if you can think quick enough, you can get out of nearly anything!”   

(Submitted by:  Gord Robertson, Caycuse Memories, 2005, pages 142, 143)

 

Sticky & Buddy“I’ve met many, many characters in the forestry industry … guys you write stories about, I guess.  Most of them were average people with a little extra colour, but there’s the odd real unique person.  There was one that just recently passed away, the fellow they called Sticky Sirup. You look in the phone book, and that’s how it’s spelled in the phone book.  He never answered to his original name.  When he arrived in Caycuse in 1947, he just fell into it because of his family name … everybody just called him Sticky.  He was a character! 

I wasn’t involved in it, but there is a humorous story about him:  He and some guys were partying one weekend, and ended up in Victoria wandering around.  Half a dozen guys ended up in the Bay department store, and in the afternoon the store decided it wanted to close, but they couldn’t find Sticky – no one knew where he was.  So, the management started to get excited! These fellows were partying, and they weren’t completely sober; so they said, “We’re not leaving till we get our partner!”  The manager said, “Well, I’m going to call the cops.”  So they said, “Please do – cops are good at finding people, and maybe they can help us find him.” 

Well, the store had a camp set up in the sporting goods section: tent, stove and the whole bit!  Somebody finally had the good sense to look in the tent, and there was Sticky … sound asleep on the cot! All of his clothes were piled neatly on the bed next to him, and he was sound asleep.  The manager was starting to get real annoyed by this time, and he was going to have Sticky arrested.  But the men warned him, “The last cop that tried to arrest Sticky is still in intensive care, so we wouldn’t advise it.  And, if you want this place to be able to open for business on Monday morning, you’d better just let us get him up and dressed, and we’ll go home.”  The manager thought maybe that was a good idea, so somehow Sticky got gathered up, dressed, and out they went!  But that was the kind of person he was … he was very unique.”

(Submitted by:  Bob Norcross, 2009)

 

“When I was asked if I had any stories about my old friend Sticky, the one that came to mind was about the time when I was upgrading my old house in Caycuse.  I was doing a lot of cement work on the old place, so I had a load of ready-mix concrete come in.  A lot of wheelbarrow work was involved, so I recruited a number of friends and neighbours to help me. I had several dozen beers on hand, as well as a couple of gallons of homemade wine to lubricate the aching backs.  The wine may not have been the best, but it was drinkable… especially after the beer ran out!

One of the cement jobs was to lay a six foot square pad to accommodate a future fireplace.  It was a bit of a chore to get the cement into place, because the crawl space was only three feet high.  So after a few bumped heads and scraped elbows, we had it all ship-shape!

The next morning when I was cleaning up after the party, I was missing one of the wine jugs.  After a bit of a search, I found it.  It was firmly embedded in the fireplace pad still holding a couple of pints of wine!  I think, perhaps, it was Sticky’s comment on the quality of my homemade wine. 

Now forty or fifty years later, that jug is still embedded in the fireplace foundation thanks to Sticky, who was never one to pass up the chance for a laugh or a joke!”

(Submitted by:  Wally Carlson, 2009)

 

 

 

WALLY KNOTT

At the end of World War II, Wally Knott was working in the Ship Yards in Victoria and was also fooling around with a saw cutting firewood.   He and three friends decided to try their luck falling timber. They came to Meades Creek in 1945 and talked to the bull bucker Buzz Miles.  He hired them on the spot.  He told them to go to the commissary and get caulk boots and 2 hard hats.  At the time, hand buckers did not wear hard hats.  They were all young, big strong men which was the reason they were hired. 

Their training consisted of the four of them electing one to work two days with Gunnar Neilson.  Wally was selected and after his two day training they started work as a four man set.  This was the only training they received.   Wally and Red Meyers worked on the saw and Tiny Range and Dave DeFort were the hand buckers.   None had ever been in the logging industry, and all survived but Wally was the only one to stay with it.    He raised his family in a house he bought on the Cowichan River, where he lived for 53 ½ years.

Wally quickly became part of the community of Lake Cowichan, and was also a strong union member of the IWA, Local 1-80.   He told us he had worked in over 47 different places.  He worked in all the Cowichan Valley camps, several different times, over the 36 years he worked as a faller.

Wally saw many changes in his working career: from the four man sets with hand buckers, to single jacking (falling alone).  And although he never worked with it, there was mechanical harvesting in his time.  Falling was something he enjoyed.  Although there were tough times, it gave him a great opportunity to make a good living to provide for his family.   Two of his sons became fallers, following in his footsteps.  His youngest son, Doug is presently working as a heavy duty mechanic in the forest industry.

Written by Gordie & Ted Knott

 

 

 

ALEC DUNCAN

Before Alec worked at Gordon River, he worked off and on for Phil Whittaker as well as Jack Braten.

Whistle BugHe also worked for Mayo Logging.  While working for Mayo, he was at the repair shop when one of the other truck drivers came in complaining that his transmission was wrecked and he needed it replaced.  Alec crawled underneath it with a bar and pried the shifter forks back into alignment.  Mr. Mayo had been there hearing all this, and when the truck was fixed in just a few minutes, Mayo told Alec, “You fix ‘em quick!” 

Another time, while waiting to load in a landing at Mayo, one of the workers told him to watch the donkey puncher as he was about to tip.  Sure enough, after having a problem shifting the transmission into second gear, it wouldn’t shift so, in a rage, he got out of his seat and proceeded to bend it back and forth until it broke right off!

After the war, Phil Whittaker bought two canvas-topped Diamond T army trucks which were made into logging trucks.  They installed a metal cab on one of them.  No such thing as a high bunk stakes in those days, just short blocks, cheese blocks so logs had to be loaded properly.

The logs were hauled to Cowichan Bay where there were a series of dumps along the road.  Garners had a dump on the Koksilah River just before the Bay. 

The old wooden Clem Clem Bridge at the flats had a wooden cross brace on the top of it when it was built.  A loaded logging truck removed it one day and it was replaced.  Another time, the same truck removed it again and it was never replaced.

Sometimes, the logs would get jammed up because of the tide, and they would have to go late at night to dump the trucks after the other logs had floated away.  All the dumps had gin poles and a winch to par buckle the logs off.

Once, while logging on Saltspring Island, a loaded logging truck lost it’s brakes coming down to the beach.  The crew crummy, with just the driver, was heading up toward it.  When the truck driver saw the crummy coming, he jumped out of the truck and when the crummy driver saw him jump, instead of just driving out of the way, he jumped too and they met head-on.  It caused a mess of repairs to fix them up again! 

The crew rode from Cowichan Bay to Saltspring on a boat called the Imperator.  Coming home, one would steer and the rest would play poker on the huge engine cover.

by Ken Kerrone

 

 

 

BILL HAY

One day, while he was working in the landing loading logs, a new chaser arrived one morning (Barry Taylor). He proceeded to take a stick, and draw a line on the ground in the landing.  He told the new chaser that he didn’t give a damn where the logs were landed, as long as he didn’t have to move the tongs one foot either side of that line! 

Another of his loading stories was when he took the paint that they marked logs with, and numbered some logs from 1-25.  He then told the second loader, Sandy Gammie, to load those logs in order – when the twenty-fifth log was put on the load, it was the ‘peaker’.  Another second loader, Bill Binder, was told to tong the log he was standing on, but hooked the one next to it.  Hay said to him, “So help my John Jesus, just how big ARE your feet?” 

When he loaded on one of the railroad logging shows that had some Chinese laborers working on the rigging, one of them was killed in an accident.  The superintendent told them to just prop him up against a stump, and they would take him in at quitting time.

Another Chinese fellow had both his legs smashed by a log.  When the loaders went to uncouple the second unloaded rail car to take him in, the superintendent made them finish loading it too before they took the injured worker on the train to the hospital.  He said the train braked better with two cars instead of one!  Nothing got in the way production!

by Ken Kerrone