A focal point in any logging camp is the cookhouse,
and the man who makes it tick – the cook. Bill Moore takes
a look back at the cookhouses of yesteryear and the yarns spun in
them, as well as the cookhouses of today.
were not always good cooks. Some were known by the grease they used
on everything. Some were known by the way they could stare down an entire
crew at the tables, just daring someone to spea up. Silence was king
in the old cookhouse. Eat lots, eat fast, and stay silent, was the rule
in nearly every cookhouse, not the modern day ways of lingering over
a cigarette or having the sounds of soft music as is seen in some modern
....The old cooks would turn over in their
graves if they could see some of the catered cookhouses of today.
....“Feed ‘em – don’t
fuss over ‘em.” They would be sure to say of today’s
....So cooks of the past – good ones,
cranky ones, prima donnas, and remembered ones – take your place
in this forest around us, you are a legend of this industry.
....They will tell tales of you for the
nexthundred years. Of your fabulous roast porks; of your home-brews
behind the big black cookhouse range; of your good, or bad but never
indifferent hotcakes; of your battles with the crew; of the long hours
of work you put in; and of your kingdom, the logging camp cook-house.
....You fed an army of the hardest men
in the world to please and you survived it all. We doff our hard-hats
to you, for you are and were a part of this great forest industry..........
...Keep out of the bight,
....My first introduction to a cookhouse
was in Cumshewa Inlet in the mid-twenties. I was a small lad living in
a floathouse camp that my father was running. In a child’s hazy
but retentive mind I can still remember going with my father into the
cookhouse one afternoon when the crew was at work. We were met by the
sight of two men lying on the floor, behind the dish-up table in the kitchen,
both bleeding from knife wounds. The cook and the flunky had been drinking
home-brew and had gotten into a fight and drawn their swords.
....Let us not say it was a typical cookhouse
scene that one might encounter in the havens of food in logging camps
– although in the old days the good pot of brew behind the stove
was not what might be termed an unfamiliar sight.
....In looking about this forest around us
I can’t help thinking of the important place the logging camp cookhouse
must take in the scene and history of the logging industry.
....For really, what else was there for the
logger who caulkbooted his way through the years of wooden spars, “A”
frames, duplexes and 10 man bunkhouses, but the daily thought of food.
The camps of the twenties, thirties, forties and even into the fifties
were not noted for their Hilton-like quality when it came to bed, bunkhouse
and entertain-ment. A crib board, poor lighting, and a generally drafty
room was pretty well the order of the day. In the twenties men still packed
their own blankets to camp – and some-times made up their own mattress
....In the thirties the light plant went
out at 9 or 10 o’clock at night, or if the modern electric globe
had not yet come to camps the coal oil lamp,or that great bug-catcher
the Coleman gas lamp, provided illumin-
ation for the “boys in the bunk-house”.
....The forties saw a shortage of men due
to the war and the introduction of flush toilets instead of the famed
2 and 3 holer. The fifties at last saw the begin-ning of our modern
camps and the advent of 1 or 2 man rooms. Progress had set in and the
logger had joined the rest of society.
....Through all these forty years one single
bright light shone – the logging camp cookhouse and the man that
made them tick – the logging camp cook. For here was a man with
his back to the wall, opposed by a critical crew just waiting for the
day the eggs were hard or the hotcakes not up to snuff. To paraphrase
a great man – “Never have so few been looked on by so many
for perfect food.”
....I have found that loggers are the greatest
connoisseurs of food in the world. You might say that the discussion
of food and cooks is their national pastime. And why not – what
else was there to talk about besides women and they, the fair species,
were far away in the denizens of the big city. The cook was handy and
if by chance he was not a top-notcher he was a vulnerable target for
the frustrations of the bunkhouse society.
....And there were some great cooks –
men that could turn out a meal that even the proverbial mother couldn’t
....I remember the Sunday noon meal at
the cookhouse on a floatcamp – a roast pork that would melt in
your mouth, a lemon pudding that just begged for seconds, a clam chowder
of fresh clams from a tideflat near camp, a jelly-roll that was filled
with real strawberry jam. A full and content crew slowly walked back
to their bunkhouse after such a cook and flopped on a steel-framed cot
at peace with the world.
....Of course, as in all trades they