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

Roger StanyerI grew up in a logging camp called Camp 6 (Caycuse).  I started work there right after I got through high school in 1963.  I worked in the woods, both there and for Crown Zellerbach, from 1963 to 1973.  In 1973, I became a business agent for the IWA.  I stayed as an active officer of the union from 1973 to 1992, when I went to work as Assistant Deputy Minister in the Ministry of Forests for the BC Government.  Following that, I was Chief Executive Officer of Forest Renewal BC, and subsequently joined Doman Industries as a member of their board of directors.   

I began my work in the forest industry by following the footsteps of my dad, who worked at Caycuse.  He started out as a faller, became a scaler, and then went to work on the railway running speeders.  He spent the last twenty years of his career running a tug boat on Lake Cowichan.  There was no road there in those days, so the tug was also the camp tender that ferried supplies back and forth. 

In those days, all the foot passenger traffic got on at YoubouVancouver Island Coach Lines (VICL) ran a taxi boat service from there, with one trip out of camp in the morning, and one trip in at night.  On occasion, the company might hire VICL out for extra trips, but if the tug was not busy, then they would use it.  The VICL boat was not big enough to haul everyone that wanted to go out on Saturday morning, so there was another guy in camp named Bill Hasanen that had three boats that would take the overflow. Sometimes, he had just one boat in operation, other times all three were plying the lake.

Caycuse 1955 by W.H. GoldMy father, Ernie Stanyer, was born in Bancroft, Ontario.  The family was in the forest industry in Ontario until 1917; however, things didn’t go very well, so they moved to Alberta. They tried their hand at farming, and that didn’t work too well either; so they moved to Burns Lake, BC.  They had a tie mill, and a small sawmill in Burns Lake until the railway quit buying ties, then he and his brother-in-law moved to the Coast.

They arrived in Caycuse in 1935, and managed to get jobs as hand-fallers.  They had three-man sets in those days, so the company could afford to have a greenhorn as a trainee.  My mother, then Viola Carlson, moved to camp with her family in 1936.  They got married in 1941.    

Caycuse was often referred to as the ‘home guard camp’ because people came and stayed there.  In its heyday, there were about one hundred and five families in the place, and around two hundred men living in the bunkhouses.  Even with the guys from the bunkhouse gone for Christmas, there were still about five hundred people at the camp.

Parents took a lot of interest in what their kids were doing. When the road came in:  we organized minor league baseball, we had very active Cub Scouts and Girl Guides organizations, and we went on field trips to Victoria and other places.  It was well-organized for the kids, because the parents stepped up and did that for us.

The company was not cheap when it came to funding things for kids.  The people that worked at the camp started a dual fund: a sports fund and a benevolent fund.  It was funded by one-half of one percent of everyone’s wages that signed up for it.  All that money went to the fund that paid for dances to bring orchestras into the camp, and it paid for things like the annual sports day.  One of the guys, who ran the tugboat before my father, even set up a projector in the community hall, and brought in movies once a week.  So, there was a very active social life in the camp!  Not only that, our sister camps had sports competitions with us: baseball tournaments, shooting competitions, that sort of thing.

My first day in the woods was when I was sixteen, and still going to high school.  In the summertime, I got hired as a spark-watcher.  When it got hot in the woods (not hot enough to shut down, but hot to the point to where there was concern about fire), they hired a spark-chasing crew.  That crew started two hours after the loggers went out in the morning, and stayed two hours after the logging crew left at night. 

My first day of spark-watching, I showed up at the fire hall ready to head to the woods at nine a.m.  When I got there, the assistant fire chief, Morris Doney, was ready to haul a few of us out to the sides, where we were going to work – there was one spark-watcher to a side.  So, he took me out to Lorne Atchison’s side, where Bob Norcross was second rigging, and Garnet Margetish was the rigging slinger, and he dropped me off. 

It was a steep setting: about two hundred feet down to a creek, and about seven or eight hundred feet out of the creek up to the standing timber.  Timber on both sides of the creek had been felled, so they were pulling the logs across the creek.  There was no water at the back end where the blocks were hung, so there was some concern that we should get some water onto the blocks.  So we took a two hundred gallon canvas Speeder at Camp 6 driven by Roy Coburnbag, and we set up a fire pump down at the creek.  My first job every morning when I went out, was to go down into the creek and start the fire pump.  The back riggers, Bob Norcross and his crew, would hear me start the fire pump, and they would come over and wave their hard hats when the bag was full.  Then I would shut the pump off, and hike up to the back-end, and spend my day up there watching for fire. 

Staying out of the way was really what I was supposed to do, so theback riggers would put me to work helping them pull strawline, and that sort of stuff.  The crew went home at four, and spark-watchers stayed until six when Morris Doney would come and pick us up again.  Mid-way through, after everybody had left the side, they taught us how to get on the radio, and tell the dispatcher in camp whether or not there were any fires out there.

When I first began working in the woods, it was more scary than tedious.  The first few days were unnerving: watching logs being hauled across the canyon, with lines all over the place and whistles blowing… there was a lot going on!  I thought I was used to it, because I had gone to the woods with my dad when he was running the speeder during the steam days, so I wasn’t particularly surprised by anything I saw.  But actually being there and working, was entirely different than riding around with my dad in the speeder!  I guess I had been watching out the window, and really not paying a whole heck of a lot attention to what I was looking at.  But when I was directly involved in it, it kind of changed things. 

Well, the job as spark-chaser lasted for about a week, and then it rained.  They didn’t need spark-chasers anymore, but they needed a chokerman.  So, that was the next step– a high school kid being sent off to the skidder to set chokers.  That was very difficult!  To begin with, if you weren’t experienced, your weight would all be wrong, and you would fall down in the bush.  It was way harder than one might think it was– trying to walk on logs, keep your balance, and walk in caulk boots without stepping on your own feet. 

In those days, each side had a whistle punk.  A good whistle punk was invaluable– it wasn’t a job where you broke somebody in!  You had to know what the whistles were, and what was going on in all phases of the logging, particularly if it was a skyline show.   The whistle punk had a wire that he strung out from the yarder.  It had what was called a ‘bug,’ which was simply two contacts that you squeezed together.  It stayed open until you squeezed it to close the circuit, and when you closed the circuit the whistle blew.  The whistles blowing were a signal for the yarding engineer about what to do.  Being an audible signal, not only did the engineer hear what the instruction was, but everybody else in the area heard what was going on.  For instance: everyone knew when they heard ‘ho, ho, ho’ or ‘beep, beep, beep’ that the logs were going to go forward on the skidding line.

The rigging slinger was the guy that initiated the signals when you were yarding logs.  He would yell, “Ho! Ho! Ho!” or whatever signal was required.  But only people in the direct vicinity could hear, so he would yell to the whistle punk and they would blow the signals.  An experienced whistle punk was a valuable guy to have around, because he anticipated what was going to happen.  A lot of signals were done just by hand gestures: a guy would lift his arm and so the whistle punk would know to blow to lift the logs up. 

One of the first jobs I had in the woods, was for Crown Zellerbach in Beaver Cove.  This was a four hour drive from Campbell River on the back roads through Gold River and then up through the Nimpkish Valley.  At that time, there was a shortage of crew on the coast, so every camp had a sign out saying: ‘If you are looking for work, stop here.’  They were good jobs – high-paying union jobs. 

The general foreman there was a guy by the name of John McQuinn, who was a fairly famous old logger. I was taking his daughter out, so I think he was happier thinking I was working up there than living down here.  He had phoned me, and said, “I’ve got a job for you, come up.”  Well, my response was that I was working on the boom at Caycuse, and I’d come if that was the work he was offering.  He replied, “Oh yeah, I’ll put you on the boom.”

1st View SparSo I arrived there on a Sunday night, got into the cookhouse, then went and got a bunk.  The next morning I went into the marshalling yard, and expected to be introduced to the boom foreman.  McQuinn says, “We don’t need a boomman today, but as soon as there’s an opening, I’ll put you on the boom. However, go with those guys.”

Well, ‘go with those guys’ was with the cherry picker crew!  A cherry picker was a machine that loaded logs along the right-of-way.  After the trees had been felled, the bulldozer came in, built the road, pushed the logs aside, and piled them up in the corners.  Then the machine came in, and loaded the logs out from the truck.  This particular machine was capable of doing some short yarding as well.  In most circumstances, there was a machine operator, a head loader, and a second loader. Well, this cherry picker had a head loader, and two second loaders, because we were doing a bit of short yarding with it as well. 

When I got in the crummy in the morning, no one said anything to me and I never said anything to anyone.  When we got out to the side, we sat and had a coffee while the machine operator got out and fired up the machine.  I had my boots on, so I was walking around checking things out – pretty soon these two other guys got out of the crummy, too.   When the logging truck came, one of the guys jumped up, put the tongs in the trailer, and we lifted the trailer off. 

So, I went down the hill to where the pile of logs was, and started piling them.  But still no one said anything to me.  I knew how to set tongs on a log and the principles of loading, but these guys were surprised that I went down and started tonging logs.  It just seemed kind of obvious to me that this was what we were going to do!

We were loading ‘boom sticks.’  Boom sticks are sixty-six feet long, which is six feet longer than most other logs.  Consequently, they are very heavy, so we didn’t put many boom sticks on a truck:  ten, twelve, or maybe fifteen if they were small.   

So we loaded up the truck – I put twenty-three boom sticks on that truck! Everyone kind of looked at me as though I was crazy, but no one said anything.  The truck driver got out, looked at the load, and started to swear, but he climbed in the truck and drove away.  Well, about an hour later, here comes McQuinn.  He demanded, “Who the hell loaded that truck?!”  Everybody pointed at me immediately.  He said, “What does he know about loading logs?”  I added, “Yeah, I don’t know anything!”  They were surprised– they thought I was the new headloader!  I found out that the truck was sitting down the road with three flat tires– no wonder John was a little excited!

That job only lasted a day or two, then the head loader they had sent from town finally showed up so they didn’t need me there anymore.  Next I went setting chokers with my cousin, who was the rigging slinger.  My cousin didn’t like being the rigging slinger, so when a job came up in the landing, he said, “Here, you be the rigging slinger and I’m going to work on the landing.”  So, I became the rigging slinger because of my experience as a chokerman, and the fact that I knew the whistles.

The rigging slinger is in charge of the chokermen.  His job was to direct the placement of the chokers on the logs, and oversee the logging situation.  He had to make sure that no one was going to get run over by a log that was hooked, and do it in such a way that maximized production.  I worked at that position for just a short period of time. 

We had a young fellow running the yarder who wasn’t very happy doing it because he wanted more money.  So, the hooktender and I kind of devised a plan, because we didn’t particularly like this kid on the yarder anyway.  We told him, “When John McQuinn shows up, you’ve got to get right in front of him, and tell him that you’ve got to have more money, or you’re going to quit!”  So, the kid declared, “Well, okay. I’ll do it!”   

So, along comes McQuinn, just as we were moving the yarder.  The kid gets down and says, “John, I’ve got to have more money, or I quit!”  Well, McQuinn replied, “That’s the best news I’ve had all day! Get in the pickup and I’ll take you back to camp.”  That was it!  He said to the hooktender, Ray Lorenzo, “Pepperoni, you get on the yarder.  Stanyer, you’re the hooktender.” 

A couple of hours later, we had the tower up and we were logging.  I was checking the guyline stump, when McQuinn came along.  He looks over the bank, sees me sitting there, and quips, “Well kid.  You got her by the face; just make sure you don’t kill anybody!”  So, that was my instruction on being a hooktender.

I started hooktending in Beaver Cove in May 1965, and we logged through to just before Christmas.  An interesting thing happened in that camp: the machine we were using wasn’t functioning right– there wasn’t enough pressure on the hydraulic pump to tighten the guylines as tight as they should be.  We always thought that this thing flopped around a lot, and it did.  But we never really considered it to be a problem. 

Well one day, the rigging slinger had put on a little bit larger turn that got hung up behind a stump, so when Pepperoni pulled hard, the tower bent.  I was downhill when he blew for the hooktender, which is a specific signal: two long and a short.  So I went up, and he exclaimed, “Look at that!”  There was a bend in the tree.  So, we called McQuinn over to have a look.  We told him that we’d bent the tower, but his reply was, “Ah!  You didn’t bend the tower, you can’t bend those things.” 

So sure enough, he came up and had a look (this was on the Monday or Tuesday, and the shut-down was going to be Friday). He said, “I’ll tell you what– you can either go to town right now, or you can turn it around and log against the bend in the tower.  Just use the haul back for a main line, and the strawline for a haul back.  Only Modern Bunkhousepick up a few of the logs back here, and the rest we will take back from another setting down below. You can finish the week up doing that, and then bring the tower to camp on Friday.  It will be the last thing you do before shut down, and we’ll fix it on the shut down.”

So, that’s what we did– we just turned it around and logged against the bend!  When we had it down, we looked at it; but we couldn’t see a crack in the paint or anything– there was nothing obvious.  It was inexplicable how you bend it, without there being some visible evidence.  I came back to camp after the shut down, to pick up the tower to go to work.  While there, I talked with the master mechanic that had worked on it.  He told me, “There was a split in it at least a foot long, it just didn’t crack the paint on the outside. You were lucky that thing didn’t come down on your heads!” 

As a hooktender, I was responsible for the yarder, and what was going on with the loading machines.  The loader operators were independent, but I still had to situate the equipment in the landing, and make sure there was enough room to turn the loader around. So I had a lot of responsibility for the organization of the site, and to make sure everything was well-looked after and in good order.  I had to make sure there weren’t pinch points where people could get hurt.  Usually the woods foreman would come along, and give me a good idea of whether it was a continuing road, and whether I needed to keep the road clear.  Or whether there was other equipment up there, or a grade crew, fallers, etc.  So I was pretty aware of what the needs were.  If it was a dead end spur that we were on, it usually mattered less– it was pretty standard procedure about where to start logging.  Generally we would start on the uphill side, and work our way around.  When we got half-way around, we would turn our machine around and log around the other way.

So I left Beaver Cove in the spring of 1966, and came back to Caycuse.  I got hired on there, because I was now an up-coast experienced logger– within a week I was pulling rigging for Bob Norcross

In 1968, another friend and I, decided we should go to India; but we had a friend working in Calgary, AB that we wanted to visit.  So, we quit Caycuse, and made it to Calgary on our way to India.  I stayed there until I was broke:  I was working for a burglar alarm company in there, but I was going in the hole at about fifty dollars a month.  But, I met my future wife there, and we wanted to get married; so I came back to Caycuse, and got hired on again. 

By the summer of 1969, I was back pulling rigging for Bob Norcross, and next-in-line to be the hooktenderBob Norcross was the hooktender; Armis Matson was running the yarder; Douglas McDonald, who is now a senior inspector with Worksafe BC, was landing man/chaser; Mike Paton was running loader; and eventually I was rigging slinger

Working with Bob Norcross was great!  One of the benefits of working with him, was that he got the best settings available to log. That was because Bob was a very good logger and he produced!  Some other people might not like to hear that, but I think it was fairly common knowledge.  We logged our share of tough ones too, but we had a lot of good settings and things were always done ahead of time.  You never had to wait on anything, and when it was time to move the lines over and change roads, everything was done with a minimum of fuss and muss.  It was a top notch outfit!

Caycuse from the Stanyer'sI think it goes without saying that I liked to go logging, and I was fortunate to work with a good crew– we tried to keep it a fun place to work!  We always had contests going:  we loved ‘name that tune’ and trivia questions.  It kept the morale up when we were setting chokers.  I mean, I could have written the ‘Book of Trivia’ before Trivial Pursuit ever came out! One of my good friends and I used to buy Almanacs, and quiz each other with questions.  It wasn’t all work and no play; but there was more beer drunk on the side hills in the stories that were told, and more logs got in the beer parlours than out in the woods!

I left the woods in July 1973.  I had dislocated my hip when we were loading logs at Nitinat Lake.  I had jumped from one log to another wearing brand new caulks in my boots – they stuck in, and I rolled over and popped my hip out!  So, I was off work for about two months.  Then, when I went back to work, I got a call from the IWA union president who was looking for a new business agent trainee. 

I left the IWA Local 1-80 in 1990, and went to Vancouver as a vice-president of the union, working for Jack Munro.  I did that until 1992, when I went to work for the Provincial government.  The government put together the concept for Forest Renewal BC, and I was asked to be chairman of the board and chief executive.  Once we got it running, we hired a Chief Executive Officer, and I stayed on as Chairman of the Board.  Later, I ended up being both the Chairman and the CEO.