The Forest Around Us



Bill Moore

‘Executive sweet’
....This has been a heavy winter up in the tower. Bad enough this forest industry lost nearly four months of work last year–but our politicians in Ottawa laid a lot of worries on the chaps upstairs and the recent political elections undoubtedly stirred the spleens of many an executive until the results were in. Then the markets are poor, which certainly doesn’t help a fellow with ulcers. And the forest service guidelines and sidelines would at times get one to thinking they were logging garden plots instead of logging openings. As the great Gleason says “how sweet it is!”
....All in all, a difficult time. And the burden falls heavy on the chaps who guide the destiny of the large companies in this industry. They get bounced around by criticism from many sides and a lad like myself can be only too happy to retreat to an old hemlock stump and watch the parade passing by.
....There are a lot of people who, all in their own way, contribute to the progress of our forest industry. One would be only guessing to say what persons or group of persons is more important than the next. And there is really no point in it. I remember one day years ago comparing notes with an executive of one of the large companies. When I mentioned his job seemed to entail some pretty heavy problems he answered by saying that his job was maybe not as tough as it seemed –“There are only so many hours in a day–you go to bed, you get up and you work. If you’re doing your job it’s really no tougher than the next fellow’s.” I think that sized up the situation quite well–and the scale of importance doesn’t really matter. The results do matter for all of us.
....I kid a bit about the chaps in the towers because I know they are in a position to handle it. But then every-body needs a bit of kidding once in a while to show how they hold their perspective. When the sense of humor
is lost one of life’s assets is lost.
....The forest industry has provided a livelihood to thousands. Upon thou-sands of people. For some it has been rewarding; to others very demanding; and to others lonely or frustrating. It depends on what side of the forest you’ve lived in. To the modern logger of the day life is better than it’s ever been. Better housing, easier outside access, better schooling, a few more of the amenities of life. To the bunkhouse logger of yesteryear and even to some extent today, the life can be lonely and sometimes demanding. The people who work in the offices of the forest industry, in some town or city, lead the life of all city dwellers – big stores, high rents, and the curse of city traffic. We depend and have depended on all these people to keep this industry moving.
....Just how all these people will fare is to a large extent the responsibility of the leaders of our large diversified companies. In B.C. these companies pretty well control the business of log-ging, sawmilling, pulping, plywooding etc. Sure there are lots of smaller and medium concerns who also share responsibility – but the lion’s share falls to a handful of big companies. Under our free enterprise system they have spread themselves through sales organizations throughout the world. Their concerns are global, not just continental. The men in charge, up in those towers, must know the scene in Atlantic City as well as Queen Char-lotte City, or London and Tokyo as well as Terrace or Campbell River. And they have their staffs and advisors whose job it is to keep the information moving. It’s a big job, this decision making from the tower – but then so is the job of a log loading operator at the trackside. He’s got some pretty heavy decisions to make all day about the lives of people all around him. That’s what I mean about who is the most important. It’s not a question that needs an answer. We need them both
–doing a good job.
....For years one of the great clichés of the industry has been “We never get our message out to the people,” or “The forest industry seems to hide behind the trees.” Now a lot of dollars have been spent–and will continue to be spent on public relations programs outlining some new type of housing – thinner paper, tougher tissue or a new kind of plyboard. These are selling points that the company must spell out if it’s to keep in the business. I really should have called them sales promotions. One could say there are some real public relations programs – and I think of Canadian Forest Pro-ducts American centennial railroad cars – nice touch, Peter. And the big colorful ads that M & B have used in national magazines are excellent P.R. Of course there are others from other companies.
....But this is a staid old industry when it comes to public relations. It has unfortunately not learned the lessons as yet for the real need of “tooting your own horn.” No hoopla. We wouldn’t want to look foolish, and all that jazz.
....Now, chaps, if you want my opinion–and I know you didn’t ask for it, but thanks anyway – this staid good grey industry needs a little hoopla, and all that jazz. What’s wrong with it? It made the hula hoop, Mcdonalds and “Jaws” into big business. It made household words out of Kentucky Fried Chicken, the Model A, and ball point pens.
....We happen to have an industry that takes in a lot of low points in its people’s lives. Like for instance the logger who works on a sidehill on a windy snowy day. Or on early shift at 5 a.m. on a dull day in summer when the no-see-ums and mosquitoes are starving. Or the sawmill worker who monotonously grades lumber all day. Or the logging camp cook who listens to the gripes of well fed men. One can easily say these people are well paid and are provided with health care, etc
British Columbia Lumberman, February, 1976

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. That’s not the point. The point is this industry could and should provide its people with more pride in their industry. Hard to do? People aren’t like they used to be? We do all we can?
Well chaps, it is hard to do. And people really haven’t changed that much–and we don’t do as much as we can. But you see in this case it needs the chaps in the tower to get something done.
There are some pretty darn good P.R. men in this industry who spend a lot of time “patching up holes” instead of doing what they are best at–making sure the public understands why this industry is here, and how important this industry is to the public. And the message can’t go out in blank verse like McDonalds, it’s gotta be able to write “underwater.”
People like hoopla. They like to cheer for the hero. They relate to such people. And as I have said before, this industry –in its very own people–the best ambassadors any P.R. man ever dreamed up. Oh sure, Loggers Sports is going along fine. You read about it in the papers. But the truth is you chaps at the top have never really got behind this effort and realized just how good and needed it is for this industry. And look at it this way–there is no other industry that could show itself off as can this one. With its own people, not just words.
Why not delegations of our young champions being sent to your buyers’ countries to promote our products? They’ll love ‘em in France! Leave some of those fine young statisticians at home and sell two by fours to the Japanese with a half a dozen chippers or axe throwers. Please note, chaps, take a photographer along. Show the markets of your world what a Canadian woodsman is like. He’ll bring interest to your product and his buddies back home will cheer him on.
If you think I’m a bit hung up on Loggers Sports–you bet your hemlock I am. Because it can be a symbol to the public of what this industry is all about, people. Strong, skilled, intelligent people.
When the Loggers Breakfast is held in Vancouver each August, our industry should respond with great turnouts. But it doesn’t because it has been near impossible to get the interest of you chaps in the tower. Vancouver is a forestry capital in this world, but apart from a few hardy, wonderful souls in our industry there is little response. Where’s the parade, where’s the fireworks, where’s the tooting of horns? Well turn those P.R. men of yours loose, and believe in it, and you’ll start to get some pride back in our people.

This is a dandy of an industry–and a lot of us know it. And we want others to know it. It’s a renewable industry–not many are. And it’s a builder’s industry with ever new ideas for its products. It’s an industry of the past that has got an ever expanding future. We’re possibly coming out of a slump–possibly. What better time to change some old habits and start dramatizing with a little hoopla, what an interesting industry this can be for the people in it–and for the public who supports its products.

Chaps, look to your own folks, the people in this forest around us. And like they say on Madison Avenue–or somewhere–Run up the flag, let’s hear it for the forest industry, roll out the sesame buns, get some finger lickin’ good into this industry. We’ve got a winner–let’s let them know it.
Back to my stump-

Keep out of the bight,


British Columbia Lumberman, February, 1976