Wally Knott on saw and his partner Red Meyers at Meades Creek Oct. 1945 by W.H.Gold PhotoMOFM Logo
Peter Davies
Peter DaviesMy dad was the District Engineer for Esquimalt Newcastle Highways Department in the forties.  I was on the survey crew with him as a teen. A road and bridge had washed out at Port Renfrew, and we were there around Easter holidays - it was quite exciting to see the big track side yarder machines, and to eat at the logging camp!  There was more food than I had ever seen, my eyes were always bigger than my stomach!

When my wife and I came to Shawnigan Lake in 1950, we were both twenty years old. Jimmy Kerrone hired me to drive a Cat at the Kapoor Logging claim in the Jordan meadows area west of Shawnigan. It was a new venture for us:  I had worked for a road construction company in the Caribou previously, although both of us were from the coast - Mary from Chilliwack and I from Victoria.

We started in April; there was lots of snow up at the meadows; five feet on the ground, and I had to set bead for a month until the snow cleared so we could start to build roads. There was a senior Cat man on another machine, a well known operator and nice person by the name of Ralph Scott. They had an East Indian grade foreman; he was an easy going guy and helped out all he could. I enjoyed working there very much -  I worked lots of weekends with the Cat as they used wood spar trees, and it took awhile to rig them and make landings and spot the donkeys.

Those days were interesting because you heard lots of funny stories at lunch breaks. I remember there was a pole logger who took out all the big cedar poles, and peeled them on the claims before they started the main logging.  He use to have lunch with us sometimes, and he logged with a horse to pull out the poles. He said in the summer when it started to get warm, the horse wouldn't go back to get anymore poles. He use to get mad, and take a chew of snoose - one day the horse licked some snoose when he had it out, and it started to work like mad ... so when the horse slowed down again he would give him another lick of snoose!  But you had to watch out if he got mad at you, because he would spit on your boot. Those and lots of funny stories were told in the woods.

Pete and KidsI remember working one time with an old pioneer:  we were clearing a big log store area and the stumps that had to go were quite large, and the old Cats were not as powerful as today. So, Harold Hollings had a ticket and he blasted out all the big stumps. He didn't drive, so I used to pick him up and drive him home each day. When we were finished and we had gotten to his place, he said "come in for a drink". So, he wiped off a dirty glass with his underwear, poured four fingers of whisky, and we drank her up!  He asked if he could have the six sticks of dynamite left in the box; I said "sure", so he went out back, dropped them down, and came back.  He said he made a new outhouse, and the old hole was a mass of flies and bugs. KaaaBooom!  There were paper, tin cans, and all come out of this hole - he said that should give them little buggers a headache!

Another time, I was sent down with the Cat to build a road and landing for Ted Shearing. He was a great guy - wild as they come!  He was going to donkey log a setting that was thick with timber. I was twenty-two, and they were all seasoned loggers. At lunch break, a rock came sizzling into the cab, and he said to shut down for lunch.  So we all sat up on the donkey sleigh runner, and one of the guys gets a box of beer from the truck. He didn't seem to have a lunch, so I said "Do you want a sandwich?" He reached down, got a paper bag full of eggs, cracked them, and swallowed them down every time he drank his beer. Whoa ho!  I pretty near lost my lunch - I had never had a raw egg!

I remember the speeders too:  they transported the logging crews to and from work, and were the main link to the woods during the railroad logging years. That was the way most got to Port Renfrew, other than by boat from Victoria. In the early years of logging at Port Renfrew, I rode on the speeder - it went from Bear Creek to Port Renfrew. A lot of those speeders had the Ford flat head gas engines in them; they worked both ways like a street car - quite handy! They were the life line to the woods in those days.

The negative thing about the woods was the fire season, we were off all summer that year. When we got back in the fall the woods shut down early winter for the snow. So, after working for Kapoor Logging, I left the family at Shawnigan Lake and worked on the Highway through Golden to Field on the Trans Canada to get through the winter of that year. At the start of spring I came back to the coast, the Norie Bros. Logging had bought their first Bulldozer and I was hired to operate the machine. They contracted it out to yard logs for a gyppo logger. There were lots of small gyppo loggers around in those days, some with only three or four guys working or some with a dozen or more. They bid on government timber blocks that were put up for tender or private tree lots that people wanted logged to clear for farming.

When fire season or winter layoffs happened, the grocery stores carried your debt until you got back to work again.  Aitken & Fraser at Shawnigan Lake carried most people around here at that time.  They also drove Pete running Cataround to your house, and took your groceries order, and delivered it in the afternoon because lots of people didn't have cars, and the ones who did didn't have insurance. Most people didn't have phones - those that did shared them, nobody walked around with a phone in their ear like some robot-man, like today. We all worked for the guy that paid you. No need for trivial conversation;  we got things done with less crap and had fun doing it all.

There were upsides, of course:  you were working with a bunch of guys that worked hard, and were honest and willing to give you a hand when you needed it, and likewise in return. You could go to town; and we had no locks on the doors, things were left around, and no one had to worry about thefts or your kids running around. The people shared with one another:  food, tools or whatever.  Lots of the loggers hung out at the beer parlours on the weekends, most started way before they got married.

Mary and I married at 19 and grew up with our kids. Mary had four nice kids by the time she was 24 -  I thought she had a disease so I had no time for the beer parlours. The wife and kids were always happy to see you home. I don't think the wife new how dangerous it could be in the woods; and I never said anything about the dangers, because it was nicer to see her happy when I came home.

Most of the families in those days had house parties, and people would bring along their favourite dish .. it would end up a great feast! All the kids got together, and were left to settle there own problems; if the kids got into doing things they weren't suppose to do, they got there butts smacked... they still grew up and loved you, and we always helped them out along the trail of life.

I worked for another small well known logging outfit, the Garner Bros. These loggers worked where they could get the timber. We worked in primitive camps on islands like Thurlow and Rendonda Island, and most paid well.  Safety was not a known factor, but, there were few accidents. We all looked out for each other. The down side was when the timber was gone you were out of a job. Later on, when the Social Credit govt. started the big tree farm licenses the small guy was history. Some still worked on small private blocks or contracted to the big logging tree farm companies. I got the occasional bit of work with MacMillan Bloedel, a small road project when they needed a Cat to spread gravel or rock.

Pete Davies ReflectingI went back to road construction for ten years, and then started my own business bulldozing and logging with the Cat. In 1953 we went to Quesnel; I was a foreman for Boyd Logging . We contracted for WFICat loggingand building road until 1957, and that was different country than the coast. The only time we were off work was spring break, and then we repaired all the equipment to start work again.

You must remember life was totally different in the woods - in those early years government wasn't in your face all the time, like it is today.  We didn't get subsidies, or grants, or high paid people running around looking after your kids, or telling you when you could burn, or when your garbage was going to get picked up, or when you should have your septic tank pumped out, or when the water might be dark because of excessive rain, or big signs on the highway telling you to drive carefully because its foggy as if you cant see!  We didn't blame anybody when we skidded off the road driving too fast, because there was no sand or salt on the road. Most people were responsible for looking after themselves. You knew what to buy to exist, and you didn't need high priced advertising to make you feel guilty - life was built around common sense which comes with survival.  We had no credit cards; our first washing machine from Stewart Hudson Hardware was $95. We had to pay $50 down, and the stores took our trust to pay off the balance. We all did - now we see the banks want our money to pay off their debt!

At the end of the fifties and sixties there came a different outlook to marketing the wood, the world changed when free trade came, and we now compete with the whole world.  So now it's "get your feet wet or stay home".