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

I have been connected with the forest industry since 1937, when my Dad moved his family from drought-stricken Alberta to Camp 6 (Caycuse).  I was sixteen years old at the time, and was eager to get a job in the woods; but I had to wait over a year before I achieved my goal.  I was not idle during that year, and took any job I could find!  I rustled wood for people, carried groceries from the store, and even scrubbed floors for Wally Carlsonone lady. 

My brother, Gordon, got a job setting chokers, but was not happy in the woods.  He was a store keeper at heart, and when an opening came up for a store clerk, he jumped at the chance!  I think it is likely that Gordie was the most widely-known person in the history of Caycuse.  As a storekeeper, he had contact with almost all that came through Camp 6 for the forty years, or more, that he was on the job.

My first day of work as a logger came in November 1938.  Bert Peck was superintendent at the time, and one day he met me on the store walk.  He said, “Well, young fellow, if you still want to go to work, there is a job for you blowing whistles for Bert Soderman on the Clyde yarder.”  So, I got a job blowing whistles for four dollars and twenty-five cents a day!  A pair of caulk boots, in those days, cost twelve dollars, so it took me three days of work to pay for them!

As I remember it, Tom’s Creek Trail came about when Camp 6 ran out of wood, but were dealing for timber in the Caycuse watershed on the west side of the summit.  Camp 3 (Nitnat) still had lots of timber, so the Industrial Timber Mills brass decided to try to keep the Camp 6 crew together for the time when they acquired the wood they were seeking.  Some of the machines were moved from Camp 6 to Camp 3 to increase production for the Youbou Sawmill.  A footpath was built connecting Camp 3’s rail line, at the top of the mountain with Camp 6 rail line at lake level.  The distance was over two miles, and the elevation difference was about one thousand feet.

Carlson Family Home 1937On my first day of work in the woods, I joined the crew in catching the crummy for the ride out past Nixon Creek to the foot of Tom’s Creek Trail.  The walk up was not too difficult for a young guy like me, but I am sure it was quite a chore for some of the older men.  When we reached the Camp 3 rail line, it was onto another crummy for a ride of a mile or two up the valley.

When we reached the trackside skidder, we still had a long way to go to get to our work site.  The rail line ended where the valley formed a huge bowl.  The machine that I was to work on was at the top end of a ‘triple swing’:  some fifteen hundred feet or so from the trackside skidder, the gas skidder piled up logs that it ‘swung’ from the Skagit yarder, which in turn got its logs from the pile the Clyde yarder had built.  The distance from the trackside to the back end of the Clyde setting must have been well over three thousand feet!  That meant another long climb before we got to the work site.  Bert Soderman, the rigger, was a good boss, and was patient with me when I tangled up six or seven hundred feet of whistle wire.  We only had an eight hour work day, but it took twelve hours away from home to get it in. 

The Clyde, Skagit, and the Gas skidders were all gasoline-powered, multi-drum winches that were mounted on huge sleds.  They were capable of dragging themselves up and down steep mountain terrain.

I wonder how many are still alive that walked the Tom’s Creek Trail to work.  I was only seventeen when I did it, and I am now eighty-eight; so, any survivors are getting a bit long in the tooth!  In all my years in the woods, I never saw another triple swing, nor did I see a longer hike to get to the job.

Henry Norman has two daughters living in town here, and he’s got Robbie and some other grandsons around.  He was instrumental in skidder logging Skidder in those days were not the little skidders of today – a little tractor that pulls logs around.  The skidders were huge steam machines, that could rig a skyline up to two thousand feet long, and haul the logs off the mountainside!  They were a real growing concern – a skidder side would have up to twenty or twenty-four people working on it…now a skidder side has three.  His son Al, who was three or four years younger than I, turned out to be a good logger too … he was a rigger.  They were all Camp 6 loggers. 

 

Here are some other memories I have of my time at Caycuse, which are taken from the Caycuse Memories book:

‘Do you remember when the McDonald twins wandered away from home and were lost?  The entire Camp turned out to search for the two little girls.  Jim Long’s dog turned out to be the hero,   leading searchers way up the old high line to where the girls were.  It is said that Jim was angry with the dog because it wouldn’t stay at home, and he threatened to do him in.  However, everyone loves a hero and that dog surely had his day!’

‘One night just at dusk, Art Wilson, the night hostler was tending a locomotive at the fueling station just by the hall, when he saw a cougar on the tracks stalking Nan Healy.  When telling about it afterwards, he said, “I saw this big cat, so I grabbed a fire shovel off the loci and took off after it!  I saw I was gaining on it so I slowed down a little.”  The cougar then ran toward the ball field where a bunch of people were playing a pick-up softball game.  All of a sudden, the cougar was on second threatening to steal third!  When the people spotted the big cat, they all took after it hooting and hollering.  The bewildered animal finally took refuge in the woods behind Garnett’s place.’

‘The earthquake of 1946:  After the initial shock, I looked at the lake to see what was happening.  The water on our shore was receding as Cowichan Lake created it’s own, not so little, tsunami!  A depth of about six feet drained away from the shore before the surge turned and came back in.  Only when the water met the shore, did the breaking wave form.  It was like water in a saucer sloshing back and forth.  Emil Manus was out in his boat fishing, and did not feel anything until he realized he was being swept out into the middle of the lake.  He turned his boat around and rode like mad for shore!  In a short while, he saw he was approaching the water’s edge at an alarming rate, so he turned around again to keep from going aground.  He said later, “I thought Cowichan Lake had gone crazy!” The water sloshed back and forth all day before it settled down.’  The water dropped six feet – my house was right on the shore, there is a picture of it – and there was a boat tied up to a float down there.  So, after everything had calmed down I went and measured – the boat had hit bottom and keeled over was in six feet of water!  Think of the tremendous propulsion that it takes to move a lake full of water that sloshes six feet.  It was a pretty good size earthquake!

‘Emil Manus had a cat called Pinky.  That cat would stand on three legs, with one forefront paw raised in an inch or two of water and fish.  Little sticklebacks would swim by, and he would scoop them out onto the shore and eat them!’

‘I forget who owned the Springer Spaniel that liked to dive.  If you tossed a small rock into five or six feet of water, the dog would dive in and retrieve it.  If he could not find the rock you had thrown, he would bring back another hoping to fool you.’ But, you could send him back down to look for the other rock – you would say, “Wrong rock!” and he would go look for the other rock!

‘The drama club was putting on a three act play every year for a few years in the late fourties and early fifties.  One play we did was called The Reconditioned Coast written by Kay Taylor.  We thought it was good, so we asked a couple of ajudicators from the Drama Council in Vancouver to come and look at it.   I think they liked the play better than the players!  But, it was fun and Kay did go on to sell a couple of her plays to the CBC later.’

Here is a bit of nonsense I wrote:

Peace in the Caycuse

The season is over, the gates are closed,
Ken Hallberg is nearly insane!
The ‘Sportsmen’ are back in Victoria,
Camp Caycuse is peaceful again.

Broken locks are replaced, the roads are free
Of beer bottles, parked cars, a lost brother.
‘They’ came to Camp Six to hunt and to shoot
At machines, access signs, and each other.”

“But it’s good public relations”, the Head Office said
When the loggers protested ‘their’ entry.
They won’t do any harm, they know how to behave,
We have their word as Game Club Gentry! 

“If a member gets lost we won’t need your help,
We are all trained and ready to go.
We can ride in your cars or even in planes
Or direct you by phone should it snow.”

And oh how they came, club members all,
From The Foot clear through to Nebraska.
With compasses set for the South Fork
Two were finally found in Alaska.

“True, not many were lost,” a logger smiled.
“Except perhaps when it snowed,
But then it wasn’t exactly their fault
Their car slipped clean off the road.” 

“Do something, please Ken,” the camp pleaded.
It is getting unlivable here.
They knock on our doors, sleep on our floors,
After drinking up all of our beer.”

“I can’t do a thing, its out of my hands,”
Said the Super in quiet despair.
“I won’t be here this time next year,
If I can’t get them out of my hair.”

So the loggers agreed at a meeting,
To keep the ‘Sportsmen’ from the Caycuse.
They erected ‘No Access’ signs on Nitinat Road
Now ‘Club Members’ all hunt at Clo-oose.

I met Ken Hallberg about 1939, I think – he was about seven years older than I am.  He was a good boss, although he wasn’t my boss when I first met him.  I was working with his brother Cliff, who was a rigger.  I was working on his machine, and Ken was rigging on the skidder.  I wrote the poem as a spoof for Ken, because they locked the gates during hunting season.  They didn’t want people wandering around there because they were shooting up the machines.  If I remember right, Head Office said “Let them in”, and they were a lot of trouble!  Somebody got a hold of one of the gate keys, had them duplicated, and was selling them in Victoria to the hunters – there were pretty good hunting grounds out there!  That’s what the poem was about.

One story that isn’t in the Caycuse Memories book, is about the runaway train.  They had two locomotives, with about ten loads of logs behind each one.  One was waiting at the summit for the other one to go down, and to get down the mountainside the track sort of zig-zagged.  The train would come Train Wreck of 1948down into South Fork, pull across the switch into a side track, leave the train there and then it would run around and side tack and back into it so that it was at the head-end of the logs again.  This one day, the train came down and pulled half-way across the switch, and they had to knock down the retainers there.  A retainer was an amount of air that, after it was charged into the brake chamber in the skeleton cars, it would retain so much drag on it.  The compressor on the train wouldn’t make enough air to keep putting the brakes off and on – so they had this steady bit of a drag to help it along. 

So, this one day, a train went down with ten loads of logs, and got half-way across the switch, where it always bogged down.  The engineer had to get out, and throw the retainers – he was just reaching underneath and turning a little lever.  The second train, after a reasonable time, took off.  For some reason or other, when it broke over the hill and started down, it had no brakes whatsoever… just the brakes on the locomotive, and they weren’t enough to stop it once it got going down the hill!  So, the crew jumped off, but the train went down and smashed into the back end of the other train with ten loads of logs behind it… it made a terrible mess!  The guy that was knocking down the retainers was, luckily, just in the clear – he didn’t get hurt at all.  But, out of the twenty loads of logs, I think there were four loads that were still together enough that they could get them out of there.  That was sixteen loads of logs and a locomotive tender just in a big heap!  I was on the crew that went to clean it up, so I got to see the mess first-hand.  But, we worked all week-end, got the stuff off the track, and got the track put together for work on Monday morning!

Before the road came in, camp life was a very active place!  There were things going on all the time – in season there was baseball, which was a big thing.  We had a good team and had pick-up games at camp:  we would go to Camp 3, Youbou, and Honeymoon Bay to play their teams.  When we went to Camp 3, we would take a barge, called the ‘grub barge’.  We would put benches on it, and the ball team, and a whole bunch of hangers-on, would go Wally Loading 1950'2 by W.H.Goldthere.  We would play a good ‘double-header’ game, and we would expect the cookhouse to serve us supper in-between.  So, the cooks in Camp 3 and Camp 6 got in a bit of rivalry over who could put on the better spread!  We went to Lake Cowichan, and played ball, too. 
 
All winter long we had bridge and whist games in the hall, as well as badminton… there were a lot of badminton games!  We also started a drama club there, and put on three act plays – I worked with the drama club.  I directed some, and acted in some.  I also wrote two acts of a play, and then I ran out of ideas, so I got a third act out of a book someplace.  So, my play was about getting ready to put a play on, and it was well-received; but like a damn fool, I never even kept a copy of it!  But, I was trying to write even in those days.  We did that until the coming of television – once the television came … to hell with us amateurs!

First aid was a big thing in those days – all the logging camps, and various other organizations had several men working for them.  They had first aid teams who were trained by St. John’s Ambulance.  Camp 6 was pretty good – they won several awards and went to Nanaimo, and Victoria in competition with several other teams. I was never a ‘first aider’ myself!  This was just recreation, but it served a very useful purpose; because we were a long ways from a doctor up there.  In the early days, before the road came in and the only way to reach Caycuse was by boat, we took a boat down to Youbou, or the foot of the lake, and caught a taxi or some wheels of some kind.

The road was made in 1955.  I guess it was about the same time that the steel got taken up – they lifted the train track and used the track bed for the road.  The trucking company was owned by the same forest company; by that time it was BCFP.  They took over Port Renfrew – there were two camps, and they took over one of them; but I don’t remember the name of it. 

Wally Loading(B) by W.H.GoldI went to work at Camp 6 and, except for the time I was away in the army, I never left!  I did get transferred to Port Renfrew for one summer when the steel was taken up – that would have been in 1955.  I had a brand new machine that I was operating and I took it with me… they sent me and the machine!  They had a new expensive loader, and they couldn’t afford to have it sitting idle. They were still logging at Port Renfrew, so they shipped me and the machine over there.

The trip to Port Renfrew was quite a trip!  First, we started in Caycuse:  They brought the Spruce Raft, which was a huge raft made of spruce logs for hauling loads around the lake, and it had railroad tracks on it.  So, they brought the Spruce Raft in, and I built a deck on to the raft – we are talking about a power shovel, basically.  It had a gooseneck boom on it, and it was made specifically for loading logs with.  I think it was about sixty tons, or something like that.  We went across the lake to Haws Bay, and then I got off the Spruce Raft, and trundled my way up the beach to the railroad track.  We then got on the railroad car, and it joined right on to the CPR line to Victoria.  So, we went chugging along, until we got to a place called Kapoors Crossing – we then got off the railroad car, and got onto a low bed logging truck

We rode for about five or six miles, until we came to a creek with a big bridge across it – they were afraid to move the machine across the bridge, it was so rickety.  So, they had the Cat in there, and built a steep road down one bank, and a steep road up the other – with the Cat behind me snubbing me down the steep bank, and then running around me, and dragging me up the other side.  We did that three times!  Then we got into Bear Creek and found out that we were on the wrong side of the creek!  It had a huge trestle on it, so I had to get off the low bed there and get onto the railroad again.  They put about … I don’t know how many skeleton cars in between the loci and me on the low bed.  Then, they pushed me across this huge trestle, which was reported to be the highest trestle in Canada!  Anyway, after I got off the trestle, I got back on the low bed again.  Then, I got up the road grade to Harris Creek Camp, and from there I went loading logs. 

I had a sister living at Port Renfrew, so I stayed overnight at my sister’s place, not thinking that the machine was going to be stuck someplace.  Oh, I know, I had left the machine at Bear Creek Camp, and it was going to be the next day, or two days before they we were going to go with it.  So, they my Wally Loading Lo-bed by W.H.Goldphoned my sister’s place and asked, “Where’s that bloody brother of yours?  We’ve got this machine ready to unload and nobody to unload it!”  Anyway, I finally got hooked up with my machine again, and it made it to Harris Creek okay.  It cost a lot of money!  I was over there for four or five months. 

Here is the story of how I met my wife, Flora:  My brother had a house right on the beach, and just below his house, on a float house, lived some people named Barnett.  Flora had come from Vancouver to visit her uncle in camp, and while she was there, she went to work for Mrs. Barnett, who was pregnant at the time.  One Sunday morning, I was sitting in my brother’s house chewing the fat, and looked out the window – I saw Flora come out of the house with a pot in her hand.  She threw the pot in the lake, and jumped in after it!  I thought, “Holy mackerel … this is rather strange for a Vancouver girl!”  So, I went running across the beach, and then I realized that something was wrong!  Flora had come out, looked over the side of the float; and there was Vernon Barnett, a three year old, lying at the bottom of the lake!  So, she dove in and pulled him out – I got there just in time to take the kid out of her hands, and hand him to Mrs. Barnett.  She was a first aid woman, so she knew what to do. 

So, I then turned my attention to Flora, and helped get her out of the lake.  Well, it was summertime, and she was wearing a light cotton dress … move over Pamela Anderson, my wife was way ahead of you in the ‘Wet T-Shirt Contest’!  At that time, Pamela Anderson’s grandfather was living and working at camp – she is Robbie Norman’s cousin.  That would have been about 1940… 1939 or 1940 when I first met Flora.  I knew that this new girl was in camp, but I was too shy or backwards to make a move on her! But, when I got her out of the water, I asked, “Would you like to go to the dance with me in Youbou on Saturday night?” and she said “Yes!” … so that is how we met! That’s the first time we ever spoke – I had seen her a couple of days before, and she had seen me, too.  She was only there a couple of weeks, and then she went back to Vancouver.  At Christmas, it was customary for loggers to go to Vancouver – we generally went just after New Years.  When I got to town, I phoned her up and the rest was history!  It’s funny, when somebody would tease her about not being married, she would say, “I’m waiting to marry a Swede logger.”  And … she got me!  I was as close as she came to marrying a Swede logger.  When I came home from the war in 1945, we got married on September 24, 1945.  Then we went up to camp, and lived there until 1992. 

Flora took to camp life like a duck to water – she loved it!  She just looked after me, as did all the women at camp who looked after their husbands and children … there were about eighty families living there then.  They had a women’s organization called the ‘Happy Hour Club’, which was for them to get-together, and do needle-work, and stuff like that.  Flora didn’t belong to it, but her mother did. 

Around 1946, Flora’s mother needed a place to stay, because the daughter that she had been staying with in Vancouver was getting married and moving away.  So, I built her a house at the end of the annex, and she lived with us until she was eighty-nine years old!  Most of the time she lived in her own little house, but then she had a stroke, and when she got back from the hospital, she needed more care.  So, I built a little alleyway between the two houses so Flora didn’t have to get out, and go outside to check on her. 

I spent my entire working life as a logger, and I have no regrets!  I was a ‘home guard’, in what was known as a ‘home guard camp’.  I was lucky to have Flora for my wife, so we could make the journey through life together!