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

Wally HughesIn 1936, through a BCFS(BC Forest Service) friend, I learned that the BC Government had established a special employment program for young unemployed young men.  This program, the YMFTP (Young Men’s Forestry Training Program) was administered by the Surveys Division of the BC Forest Service.  It was focused on three large Forest Service establishments: the Cowichan Lake Experiment Station (later the CLRS), the Aleza Lake Experiment Station, and the Green Timbers Nursery Reserve in Surrey.  In addition, there were many small scale field parties, with less than ten men, scattered throughout the province. Trail-building was the main activity of these small crews.

I applied for a job, was accepted, and sent to the CLES.  Since I had considerable boating experience, I got the job of ferrying supplies and passengers across the lake.  There was no road connecting CLES with the public road system at that time.Professor Malcolm Knapp provided forestry instructions to the young men.  Wherever possible, he led them to visit logging camps and sawmills.

The YMFTP functioned only in the summer months, so during the winter I stayed on a road construction crew at Cowichan Lake, which was supported by the Forest Development Program of the BCFS.  I worked as a time-keeper the first winter, and a sub-foreman the second.

Wally Hughes at the CLESIn 1938, I was able to get my first experience timber cruising.  Fred Mulholland, who was in charge of Forest Surveys, picked me up at Cowichan Lake, and drove me to Kelsey Bay where I was picked up by the 'BC Forester'– a sixty-eight foot launch used as a field party headquarters.  Fred was a very enthusiastic forester!  The trip from Cowichan Lake to Kelsey Bay took up most of the day.  I’ll swear that he spoke non-stop, pointing out the enjoyment and satisfaction of a forester's life in BC. The research staff at Cowichan (Alex Gordon and Jim Robertson), plus Malcolm Knapp’s lectures, and Mickey Pogue’s advice had already affected my thoughts about making a career choice.  Fred Mulholland finally added a powerful argument.

I was ill-prepared to do field work in the wilds of Seymour Inlet.  I did not own any rain-test clothing, nor caulk boots.  My nearly worn-out boots were improved by a blacksmith at a logging camp in Seymour Inlet.  He installed caulks in the insteps of the soles.  Since I had no adequate pants, Jim Robertson, who was a research forester at CLES, took pity on me and gave me a pair.  They were much too short for my lanky frame – they came down my legs to just below the knees, but I was happy to have them!

Somehow I survived the wet weather, the insects, and the dense salal undergrowth during the few weeks at Seymour Inlet.  It was Mickey Pogue, a senior timber cruiser who helped keep me in good spirits.  The very first day he had taken me aside, and in his casual, low-key manner, had explained that the work was simple, that we could not do anything about the weather anyway, so we might as well just make the best of it if we wanted this life as a career.

YMFTP at AELS 1936In late summer of 1939, I worked on a special trail-building project, under the Forest Development Program in the newly-established Tweedsmuir Park.  This park was dedicated to Lord Tweedsmuir, the Governor General of Canada. Our base camp was located at Stuie near the eastern end of the Bella Coola Valley.  The work started by forcing us to address a major obstacle:  we would have to construct a switch-back trail through a huge rock-slide.  The trail would have to be wide enough to accommodate heavily-laden pack horses.  We were supplied with only hand tools.  Once we had climbed to the sub-alpine zone, the going got much easier and we completed the thirty miles of trail on schedule.  We camped out for most of this project.  All of our food and camp gear had to be back-packed (around seventy pounds).  The food was either canned or dehydrated.  Fortunately, one of the crew members was a hunter, and he kept us supplied with moose meat.

Supplies for Lord Tweedsmuir’s trek were delivered to the lodge at Stuie.  Huge quantities of canned or preserved food appeared, plus camping gear, plus a hundred pack horses destined to carry these items for many miles, plus saddle horses to accommodate Lord Tweedsmuir and his retinue. Unfortunately, Lord Tweedsmuir took ill as soon as he arrived at Stuie.  His wife, who was a nurse, took care of him.  When it became apparent that his trip would have to be cancelled, the food supply was given to our trail-building crew who appreciated dining on canned crab and lobster, plus other delicacies.

In January 1940, I made a major decision and enrolled in the Forestry Faculty at the University of Washington in Seattle.  It was at this school that I met my first wife, who graduated in journalism.  I graduated with my forestry degree, and immediately got a job in the pulp mill laboratory at Powell River. 

YMFTP at the CLESThen in January 1943, I joined the RCAF (Royal Canadian Air Force), and was trained as a navigator.  I saw active service flying over Europe, and then returned to Canada in 1946. 

In 1947, I again joined the forest surveys branch of the BC Forest Service.  I spent the first summer as party chief on the North Coast (Smith Inlet).  For a short time (six weeks), I was again party chief on the North Coast (Rivers Inlet) in 1948.  My crew consisted of:  Ralph Schmidt, Bill Young, Maurice Ayers, Bob Huestis, Ken Logan, Cliff Calder, and Hank Sweatman. I then began a career in Forest Management work.  I was soon promoted to Forester in charge of Working Plans Division.  Towards the end of my career in the BC Forest Service, I made several moves starting with District Forester in Prince Rupert, and then back to Victoria as Assistant Chief Forester in charge of operations. 

Upon retirement, my wife and I initially did a lot of international travel, but I gradually slowed down.  I’m now content to enjoy my friends, my books, and a little golf. I never regretted working with the YMFTP seventy-three years ago.  The experience sure got my career pointed in the right direction!