............THE FOREST






“On Selling Neckties to Loggers”

There are machines and there are
people in the forest around us, and with apologies to that bastion of iron , the Great Yellow Traktor Co., et al., I prefer the people.
....Coastal logging camps were, and in a very few cases still are, a bit different living style than your average west end of Vancouver high rise pad. When one talks about camps of the late ‘30s, the ‘40s or early ‘50s, one is generally des-cribing an isolated area that nearly always presented difficulties for the per-son wanting to get in or out.
....There were float camps up isolated inlets and there were land camps that may or may not have had a road leading in. If no road, then access was by boat or after 1950 by plane. The stories are legend of the trips in and out of so many coastal camps and of the people that traveled those routes. And it was not always loggers who traveled to the camps. There were Steam Boiler Inspectors for the great steam donkies, tra-veling salesmen from the food wholesale warehouses and machinery companies of the lower mainland of B.C. There were union organizers of the I.W.A. who never had it very easy. There were preachers in small gas boats out to save the souls of our loggers. And they generally drew a pretty fair gathering in camp. What else was there to do?
....There was always a scattering of other types of visitors, depending on accessibility of the camp. I recall a fellow who arrived one day selling “everlasting light bulbs.” They were pretty good, they lasted as long as the short lived ones.
....My favourites though were clothing and jewelry salesmen – Oh yes, and a saleslady – but that comes later.
....In the early fifties Doug Oxford would charter a SeaBee aircraft at Campbell River and load it with large blue   metal  suitcases.  With  a   proper
announcement he would arrive in camp


to sell his wares. Doug would hire the cookhouse staff to work for him after supper was over.
....I can still see our old cookhouse on such an evening. It was a “big show” and the boys in camp loved it. Our cookhouse then was part of our float camp and the building itself was a long, twenty foot wide affair with dining room at the front and kitchen in the back. The long tables with their green oilcloth covering ran the length of the dining room, with access up the middle. The tables would hold about fifty loggers.
....Doug would fill these two tables with pocket watches, wrist watches, bino-culars, cuff links, tie pins, alarm clocks, ladies jewelry and rings and things. It was always quite an array. The expensive things were kept at one end of the table where he could personally oversee, and the rest would be left for the kitchen staff to look after.
....At seven p.m. the cookhouse bell would ring and the loggers would wander in to have a look see at the sparkling array of glitter. And it would sell, for Doug was a good salesman. His only problem was thievery. I can’t recall him being robbed at our camp, but occasionally stories would come to us of Doug Oxford being had at one camp or another. He was a true traveling salesman, and didn’t mind the obstacles of getting in and out of isolated camps.
....Another super salesman was a fellow I’ll call Blue Serge Jim. Jim’s specialty was men’s suits and top coats – made to measure. However one thing was lacking in the make-up of this gentleman – sometimes old devil rum would get in the way of the “made to measure” part of his trade. The result was often quite humorless to those who received their suit or coat in the mail a month later, only to find the rest of the crew in the bunkhouse hollering “Sam, you made the pants too long” or “nice threads, Mike, who was it made for?”
....These kinds of comments were too


often heard about Jim’s traveling haberdashery business, so I told him one day to miss our camp on his next rounds. He objected to this infringe-ment of his rights until I told him that big Jack Martin didn’t think it was funny that his recent heavy black overcoat actually dragged on the ground when he wore it. Blue Serge Jim agreed it would be in his best interest and ours if he by-passed us next time, and after.
....I have had many friends who were salesmen. When a chap is good at that trade, I mean really good, he is quite a delight to watch in action. I know of no other trade where motivation and boundless enthusiasm combine to bring out an urge like the selling urge. We could all use it.
....Such a salesman was my friend Ted Goldbloom, a man of short stature, with a Puckish grin and a quick wit. Ask “Goldie” what time it was, and brother, you owned a watch ten minutes later. And it really didn’t matter what you wanted to buy – Ted would get it for you. A new style washing machine with a Briggs & Stratton gas engine on it! A new kerosene refrigerator – a violin – Ted would get it. A super, super salesman who loved his trade.
....Ted would let us know when he would make his twice yearly trip into camp. In his prime he covered a large number of camps and small towns, but as his ulcer got worse and his feet got a bit sore, he eased off and only came out to a few camps. I’m glad we were one of the last.
....He sold anything, but he specialized in men’s suits and jewelry. He was not like Oxford in that he did not bring huge displays of things into camp. Possibly one suitcase with some sample cloth, a few watches and the odd trinket or two.
....He knew everyone by first name and I can still see him when he first arrived atcamp – eager and ready to sell.

34  ·  British Columbia Lumberman  · April, 1981

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....Jim Fishback was a high rigger and a good one. He loved to sport flashy rings. Once a year Goldie would bring a new diamond ring to camp for Jim and take his old one back in trade. When Jim died in the late forties he had a two thousand dollar diamond ring on his pinky.
....Ted would always bring news of the other camps and how they were doing. A cook got drunk; a foreman got fired; somebody sold out or someone went broke. With once a week mail, the news was welcome.
....Once Ted had had a few hellos with me at the office, he was hellbent for the bunkhouses to sell something to some-body. I wouldn’t see him till the crew were bedded in, then he would come by the house and have a glass of warm milk and cookies. “What do you need, Bill?” – I’m sure if I needed an Aardvark, Goldie would find me one.
....He was a good friend to many loggers, particularly the down and out ones. Many of them survived a hungry winter with Ted’s help and his products were always on the line – no black overcoats dragging on the ground with Ted. How he loved to sell – anything.
....But then there was the “Magazine Lady.” I can’t remember her name, but I think it was a difficult one – just Magazine Lady. And she came to our camp once a year and sold magazine subscriptions and – neckties. That’s all.
....The lady had a bit of a dark complexion, a bit like a gypsy, and always wore a fawn trench coat buttoned up. I can’t recall ever seeing her out of the trench coat. She would always arrive unannounced, in some mysterious way – on a seine boat or by some young lads little outboard skiff.
....Those were the days when bunk-houses did not have individual rooms and there could be two or three men to a room. This did not bother our lady – she would walk right in and start to sell. The loggers would be so surprised to see such a person in their midst they would buy out of sheer uneasiness.
....But it was the neckties that made the whole deal different. She would have quite a supply of them and they would nearly all be gone when she left. She was a nice person and yet a bit of a mystic. I wonder what ever became


of the Magazine Lady? Oh, yes, the subscriptions always arrived.
....Of course the people were always more interesting than the great chunks of iron, and I guess they always will be in the forest around us.
....Take care Ted, and if you ever run into a lady in a trench coat who wants to sell you a subscription to Colliers or


Liberty Magazine, ask her for me if she’s got a nice small black and white dotted cravat for me.

.Keep out of the bight,

Bill Moore
40  ·  British Columbia Lumberman  · April, 1981