Wally Knott on saw and his partner Red Meyers at Meades Creek Oct. 1945 by W.H.Gold PhotoMOFM Logo
 
 
 
   HOME | STORIES
 
Gordie & Barb Robertson

Gord & Barb RobertsonOriginally from Kamloops, Gordie’s family moved to Caycuse in 1934 when he was 6 months old after his uncle, who worked on the train, got a job for Gordie’s father. 

I’m (Gordie Robertson) a third generation forestry worker and my daughter has even worked in the industry.  Growing up in Caycuse was perfect - it was an ideal place to grow up.  You never locked your house as there were no roads into the town; you had to come from Youbou by boat!

I worked my entire career in the machine shop and saw the many changes over time that brought forestry to the present day technology.  It started with the steam powered equipment, then to gas powered, then to diesel.  Each type of technology was gradually phased out and the new technology brought in, but sometimes the equipment was converted over to the new fuel type– not always with success.

In grades 10 & 11 I worked part-time on the rigging.  I remember during my first week working on the choker at the age of 16, witnessing a 19 year old co-worker being killed during the rigging of a heel boom that ended up sliding down.  All of the whistles blew and work stopped.  That’s something that stuck with me.  By grade 12 I started working weekends repairing the locomotive; this is where my Last Train Load of Logs by Trevor Fergusonfather also worked.  After graduation, at the age of 18, I started working in the machine shop on the steam pots.  Back in those days the forestry equipment was steam powered.  The job was only 4 hours, so the other 4 hours I worked on the boom.  The job led to full time and I took the interprovincial exams so that I could get my mechanics ticket.  The machinery needed to be fixed fast so that it would be ready for the next days work, and you needed to use what you had at the time.  I worked night shifts in the machine shop for many years.

There used to be dances at the hall, and there would also be drinking and brawling going on.  But I remember a funny story about two co-workers:  Joe Zboyovsky and Harry Whisken.  One night Harry Whisken, a tug operator, was out at the hall and he had heard that Joe Beosky had gotten sick, and he lost his teeth.  Now Harry also had false teeth, so he pretended to bend over to pick up ‘Joe’s’ teeth.  Joe saw that Harry was going to pick up ‘his’ teeth, so he came over ready to beat the hell out of Harry.  Everyone had a heck of a time stopping Joe from thumping Harry, as Joe thought that Harry had his teeth, but really, they were Harry's!

At retirement, Gordie received this poem from Wally Carlson and it was put on a burl:

For Gordie Robertson on his retirement – June 3, 1989

In every group of people, there is one that stands apart.
He is known as a fixer, and is a man of kindly heart.
Here in our community, we are luckier than most.
For our fixer is Gordie, without parallel we boast.
He always has a special piece, and knows just what to do.
To get you on the road again, or see you’re washing through.
Gordie thanks for everything, and we appreciate it all.
Good luck God speed but please, be there when we call.

Barb RobertsonJim Ferguson worked in the woods as a hooktender and on the locomotive as a brakeman.  He was known as big Jim as there were two Jim Fergusons, and even though they both weren’t big, one was bigger than the other.  In 1935, Jim’s daughter, Barb, was born.

I (Barb Robertson, nee Ferguson) attended Caycuse School until grade 8, and then went to high school in Lake Cowichan.  It was quite the long trek which started at 7am.  We went over to Wardroper and picked up the speeder that was coming in from Nitnat (Camp 3).  We took that down to Youbou, and then we caught the school bus from there into Lake Cowichan.

I remember that travelling outside of Caycuse was a special trip as my family did not have a car.  First you had to catch the water taxi and then a bus.  During one summer holiday, I went to Victoria and stayed with relatives, but other than that, it was trips to Ladysmith to visit my mom’s relatives or the annual dentist trip– which I would rather have stayed home.

My first job was working in the camp snack bar which was open from 2pm to around 9 or 10pm.  I worked there with a couple of other girls, but eventually I worked there by myself.  It served snacks, ice cream, burgers and also sold magazines.  After graduation I went to Victoria and stayed with my aunt while I worked in the “Nut House” on Yates Street (it was a candy shop) for about 7 months.  In 1953, a life long friend, Gordie Robertson, proposed to me.  I came back to Caycuse and we got married on September 4, 1954 in the community hall.

Gord RobertsonCaycuse opened in 1926 with about 90 families living there.  I (Gordie) remember it was like one big family as everybody worked together and played together.  The activities included:  swimming, where instructors were brought in for the summer to teach lessons on the beach; there were co-ed baseball teams; Boy Scouts and later on Girl Guides; and in the winter we had sleigh rides and skiing  with make shift snow jumps.  The community hall was always busy too with badminton, volleyball, and card games.

Being in a remote community, first aid was very important, with everyone helping each other out.  When you were twelve, you could join junior first aid and begin your training and even go to the competitions that were held in Nanaimo and Victoria (which was quite a treat).  In one such BC competition between the mining, logging and mill industries proved to be successful for the residents of CaycuseCaycuse made the papers as of the twenty-two awards that were give out in BC, nineteen of them went to residents of Caycuse.

Locomotive 44 was a small locomotive that couldn’t go up steep slopes, so you knew that wherever locomotive 44 was currently stopped, that was the newest camp.  Camp 6 originally used to be right after Camp 5, Cottonwood, which was across from Youbou.  But when they finished logging there, Camp 6 was floated over to its present day location and eventually was known as Caycuse.

In the beginning, most of the forestry workers were single, so there were only bunk houses in the camp.  Ken Hallberg, who was superintendent at the time decided to build larger company housing.  He thought this would appeal to more workers as they were getting married and having families.  After we got married in 1954, we put our names down to get one of the company houses.  We found out that we were thirty-fourth on the list, so we decided that maybe we should build a house instead.  The agreement was that if we built a house to the same floor plans as the company (BCFP) housing currently being built, you could stay there as long as you were working.  If you retired you could stay there, or if you quit working for the company, the company would buy it off of you.  In those days, camp houses were selling for around $200.00 to $300.00, but it would cost around $4,000.00 to build a house.  So we made the agreement with Ken Hallberg, and Ken even had the document notarized for us as he realized that he may not be there when and if the time came.

I (Barb) remember that housing used to cost my family $7.50/month to rent a company house, and if you’re not working, it cost nothing.  When the road came into town in 1955, I remember that my parents got a car, and they wanted to build a garage onto the house.  It cost them $15 for the garage.

When Timber West came along, they sent out a representative to talk to us about the house and property.  They told us that Timber West was going to give us a ten year lease but I (Gordie) said that we already had a lifetime lease with the company (BCFP) to stay there, so I don’t think so.  The representative looked at our agreement which was between us (the Robertson’s) and Ken Hallberg that stated we had a lifetime lease.  The representative said they never knew that this existed and that they wanted the agreement to take to head office.  I said you can read it, but this is the only copy, so you’re not taking it away.  Cowichan Lake LandscapeTime past, a letter came back from Timber West saying that as the lease agreement was never signed, they were in the position to evict them.  We told Timber West, that we were ready to go to court as the agreement gave us grandfathered rights.  Timber West eventually sent a letter saying that they weren’t going to take us to court.  So we were left alone, or so we thought until that ten year term was up and Timber West was back at our door.  We ended up getting a lawyer and then things quieted down again for another five years.  After that five year lease term passed, Timber West was back at our door again, this time saying that we had to have the house off of the property by the 30th of September and that the property had to be left in its natural state.  We hired a lawyer and everything was reviewed again.  The situation went away, or at least until this current five year lease term is up.  It’s been fifty-five years since we originally built the house, and we live in it, still to this day. Life is good in Caycuse, the community is still one big happy family.