Wally Knott on saw and his partner Red Meyers at Meades Creek Oct. 1945 by W.H.Gold PhotoMOFM Logo
 
 
 
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Bob & Barb Veitch

Bob & Barb VeitchI (Bob) was a farm boy from Saskatchewan – I didn’t know anything about logging!  I didn’t work too long as a logger… only for about a year and a half.  Then I started working at the mill at Hillcrest in 1950, and worked there until they closed in 1968.  Then I worked at Honeymoon Bay Mill, and stayed there until they shut down in 1981.

When I was logging, they were just changing over from train logging to truck logging.  I was hired in Vancouver, and I first started at Port Renfrew at the Bear Creek Camp, and then went to work at Meade Creek.  I worked there until 1949, and then I worked for different gyppos until I went to work in the mill at Hillcrest.

I didn’t know anything about logging – I was only eighteen at the time. I remember my first day of work, I got off the crummy with the fallers and they threw me back on!  We rode on the speeders in those days.  No one wore hard hats, except for the fallers.  When I worked in the woods I was a chokerman, then I chased for a while, and then second loaded.  I even was a ‘whistle punk’!  A whistle punk had an important job in those days – we were responsible for many lives, and so we had to make sure we gave the correct signals.  We picked up the signals pretty quick.  We used a long cord, like an extension cord, and we would unwind it as we went.  We had to make sure we didn’t get it caught up in the lines. 

CAT CrewA ‘side’ is when a crew is yarding and loading logs.  A ‘molly hogan’ is a piece of wire that has been taken apart, and they put it in a block, which is like a pulley, with a pin in it and twist it.

When I stayed in camp at Meade Creek – Gordon Dodge was the head push, Teddy Nordlund was the second in command, George Myles was the head of the bull gang, Buzz Myles was the bull bucker, and the two Krakowec girls (Olga & Lucy) were flunkies in the cookhouse.  The girls kept the men in line in the cookhouse!

In the spring of 1950, I went back to work in the woods, and then a job came up in the sawmill.  We could work for twelve months of the year in the sawmill, but in the woods we didn’t get much work because of the summer fires and winter snow.  In those days, they would get up to twenty feet of snow in the hills during the winter months!  Down here at Lake Cowichan, they would get up to four feet of snow sometimes.  The winter of 1949 and 1950, Cowichan Lake partially froze over.  That was the only time that they can remember! 

When I went to work in the mill, I started out feeding logs on the ‘jack ladder’, and then I went to work on the ‘log boom’.  I only fell in once, it was in February.  I also worked as a Tail Sawyer, an Edgeman, and a Trim Sawyer.  A Sawyer is the one who lines up the logs to be cut, and controls the speed… how much wood is cut.  The Gang Mill had eleven saws in a line, like a bread slicer.  Then the Head Rig is one large circular saw.  The last job I had was as a Sawyer at Hillcrest in the Swede Mill.  We had to change saws in the morning – it depended on what we were cutting!  If we were cutting Hemlock, we could cut for four hours before changing saws; when we were cutting Cedar, we had to change saws every two hours… same with Fir.  Cedar and Fir were harder on the saws.  We didn’t need to sharpen the saws, though – that was the job of the saw filer.  There were three sizes of saws:  Pee Wee, Medium, and Large.

There was very little protective gear that we wore back then – we didn’t wear hard hats or ear Donkey Crewmuffs.  We usually just wore our felt hats, and our bone-dried pants (like canvas).  We could take off the pants, when they were wet, and they would stand up by themselves.  They were heavy and hard to get around in.

They used to send the new guy for “a bucket of choker holes” or a “left-handed monkey wrench”.  I remember one guy I worked with who was petrified of snakes!  So one day we saw a rope off the tug boat, and it was the same colour of a garter snake.  So, I rolled it up in a ball, and threw it at him – I thought he would have a heart attack!  He was so young too… just a teenager.

There were a lot of camps back then:  Camp 3, Camp 6, Gordon River, Hillcrest, Youbou, Bear Creek, and Meade Creek were some of the main ones.  Then there were a lot of smaller sawmills.  A Tug Boat used to bring the logs to the ‘load out’ which was at the foot of Cowichan Lake.  In fact, they never used to call it ‘Lake Cowichan’; they just called it ‘The Foot’.  The Tug would bring the logs down from the camps, and then they were loaded on to the railroad cars.  It was quite ideal!  We actually had two railroads intersecting here – the CN (also known as the E&N) and the CPR railways.  The CN also went to Youbou.

I met my wife when I picked her up at the side of the road – she was about sixteen or seventeen.  We got married in 1954, and had two children – a girl and a boy.  We will have been married for fifty-five years in August!

After I got married, I worked the night shift for seven years – we quit at two and I was usually home by two thirty in the afternoon.  After that, they changed to a swing shift, so I worked a month on and a month off.

McNeil and MunnWe lived in Lake Cowichan which had about two thousand residents.  We had a good community – everyone knew each other.  We had community dances and everybody came.  We also had a big ethnic population:  There were a lot of Chinese, Japanese, and East Indians at the various camps.  There were also a lot of Scandinavians – most of the fallers were Scandinavian. 

There were a lot of single men living in the bunkhouses, and so the beer parlours were always full.  One bunkhouse at Hillcrest was filled with guys who drank too much.  They called them the ‘dead-end kids’ – they would take turns going to work.  There was ‘Shaky Ed’, ‘Snaky Pete’, and other similar names.

The two unions were fighting at that time:  theIWA and the ‘Woowies’(a slang term for the Woodworkers Industrial Union of Canada).  The IWA eventually won out.  Sahtlam had one of the first ‘strike camps’ – we used to call it ‘Picket Camp’.  Before the unions, conditions and pay were very poor.  After the union, they would bargain for a raise, but then the camps would raise the room and board.  The union finally made an agreement that they couldn’t raise the room and board.  I think they finally set the room and board at two dollars and fifty cents a day.  The Lake Cowichan area is where theIWA started.

 

I (Barb) was born in Duncan, and was two years old when my Father, Albert McNeil, started his Steam Donkeylogging company in 1936 near Paldi.  The name of his company was McNeil & Munn/Export Logging.  They logged with a steam donkey and a ‘loci’ (locomotive).

They logged on Crown land, and when it came up for bid; they would put the bid in.  So they would buy the land and the trees – they didn’t buy just the trees.  Then they would log the area, and then the land would go back for taxes because they didn’t want the land.  Consequently, ninety percent of Vancouver Island was owned by the loggers, but ended up going back for taxes. 

There were various ethnic groups in his camp:  Japanese, Chinese, and Caucasian.  I’m not quite sure how many men were in the camps, though. 

In the 1940’s, my Dad bought a claim up Island – it was Cedar and the bottom fell out of Cedar, so he lost everything!  After that he started working as a gyppo, where he ‘Cat logged’ with about four men using a Caterpillar.  So he logged five days a week, and the other two days he would ‘monkey wrench’ the Cat.  At one point, Barb & BobVeitchmy Dad owned a hundred and sixty-six acres on the shores of Cowichan Lake.

My Mom used to keep the books for my Dad, and the conversation was always, “We’ve got to get the boom sold to pay our bills!”  My Mom never complained, though.  She was a hard worker – I think she canned everything she had!  I remember we had canned fish, deer meat, and blackberries.  We had a wood stove, so it was always very warm in the house. 

We lived in two different places in Duncan:  Coronation Avenue and up on George Street.  We had a big property and we, as kids, loved it – we had ‘free range’ all the time! 

Life was interesting and hard at times, but it was a good life!