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

Tom GordonMy family came from Cumberland in Scotland– it was a coal mining area.  My wife’s family was from Claymore in England, but she was actually born in this country.  Her family was quite religious back then.  Those old coal miners would get all dressed up and go to church every Sunday.  If one of their daughters got in the ‘family way’, the church would ban them right out of the church… the whole family!  Today it’s just like having a hangnail– it doesn’t matter, and maybe that attitude is better.  My mother was that way… she got in the ‘family way’, so they shipped her to a home in Seattle for unwed mothers.  The name of the home was the Florence Crittenden Home for Unwed Mothers on Lake Union.  She was supposed to let a family adopt me when I was born, because there were many people down in the States that wanted children.  So my mother was there for two weeks, and then this family came up from Texas to take me away– but she wouldn’t let me go.  She wouldn’t sign the papers, and so they couldn’t take me without the signing.  That is how I became an American– I was born in Seattle, in 1913.

My dad was the guy that knocked her up– she was just a school girl of fifteen when I was born, and my dad was nineteen.  My family was in the hotel business– my grandmother owned the Newcastle Hotel in Nanaimo.  We lived in Nanaimo, but I wouldn’t go to school, so I went to work in the coal mines with my grandfather.

In my time, old Dunsmuir built the castle and just sat tight there while his sons ran the place.  I believe that one of his sons became the premier.  Anyways, we never had a union in the coal mines, and they ran for sixty or eighty years.  One of the boys at the Number One Mine that I was at, instituted a talk with the fire bosses that controlled all the explosions and getting the coal out.  One of the regulations that he put forward, was that every employee should have all his body functions done before he goes to work.  Can you believe that?  I worked in the mill for forty-three years, and I would see some of the young guys in the mill complaining about what the union was charging them.  In those coal mines, we didn’t even cough.  If we were down a little bit on our production, we wouldn’t be there tomorrow. 

My wife’s grandmother was married just three weeks, and her husband, father, and her brother were all killed in that mine!  It just about killed her– she stayed in the house for eight months, and never went out. 

The conditions were terrible!  After awhile, Dunsmuir used to put Calcimite on the ground. It made it a little slippery so the dust wouldn’t settle there.  But the place was still full of dust all the time!  In Nanaimo, I used to go down to where to the sports grounds were – I would see some of these old miners sitting there.  I could spot them a mile away, because they were really white, and their lungs were gone.  They were worn out!  It is something like the early loggers – not many of them lived over the age of sixty-five.  Some of them got old age pension, but not too many.  If they weren’t killed, they worked like a dog, and never let up.  That was their way of life!  I worked in the mine for ten years, and then the mine shut down. 

I was hired as a ‘donkey doctor’ by Chemainus Logging Division from August to November 1938 by the Victoria Lumber & Manufacturing Company.  I had to keep the donkey engine greased up and running smoothly.

I worked for two to three months at Shaw Creek (which was also known as Camp 9).  There were only about thirty men working there.  The logs were taken by train to Chemainus to be cut.  There were thirty cars with one log (up to twelve feet in diameter) on each car. 
In December 1938, I went to work for Industrial Timber Mills at Youbou.  I worked on the timber deck, then went to the pipefitters crew, and finally advanced to the Power House in 1939.  I also married Florence that same year– she was a tap dancer.

Tom Gordon Youbou bunkhouse 1940The war had started so many of the young fellows joined the army and left us short-handed for employees.  Tom Easton, an official with the company, was sent back to the prairie provinces to secure employees for the mill.  I heard Jack Whittaker, the superintendent at the mill, tell chief Bill Tyler that Tom Easton could sell refrigerators to the Eskimos!  It was true.    These young fellows that he hired could get a deferment due to being in an important industry.  They worked them hard at this mill but the food in the cookhouse was first class!  We ate steaks every night.

I was hired out to Western Forest Industries at the mill in Honeymoon Bay as a Power House Engineer for one year.  I left there in September 1942. 

I worked at Hillcrest Lumber Company from 1942 to 1968.  I worked twenty-five years there as a Power House Engineer.  Hillcrest Lumber Company secured a twenty-five year timber supply from Pacific Logging.  They were a very good employer, and during the war years they had no problem finding employees, as most stayed on with the company.

In 1945, I bought three lots on North Shore Road for a hundred and twenty dollars each.  I built a house in 1946, and secured lumber from Hillcrest, and paid them off at so much per month.  Hillcrest did everything to keep their employees content and happy– it paid off as Hillcrest was a very successful operation.

In 1968, I went back to Western Forest Industries at the mill in Honeymoon Bay and worked as a Power House Engineer until 1978.  The mill was shut down in 1980 after about forty years of operation. I finally retired at the age of sixty-five in 1978.