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






‘A Trip To The Big Smoke’

I t’s six thirty in the evening. In half an
hour the Pacific Western 737 leaves for Vancouver. I’m in the Port Hardy airport getting my ticket at the counter. It’s a calm April evening.
....Here’s your ticket, sir, we’ll call you when we want you to go to the holding room.”
....I walk into the coffee shop thinking about “holding room” and order a coffee. I chat with reliable John, the airport attendant of thirty years, finish my coffee and go to the holding room.
....My bag is checked – ticket checked and I wait for the ‘big bird.’ Quite a few people this evening and I nod at a couple of familiar faces.
....I gaze out the big window of the holding room and think about Port Hardy years ago and how different life was in this forest around us on northern Van-couver Island. Yes, how different life was for all of us – anywhere – the way we were.
....It’s six thirty in the evening on an April day in 1938 at the Port Hardy hotel in the heart of downtown Port Hardy – what there is of it. The hotel is run by Nell Dumas, a lady with a deep voice, an iron hand and a steely eye.
....The hotel is a three-storied, dull yellow, wood building, with an always busy ground floor beer parlour. Wide wood steps lead up to the main floor where the potted fern, brass spittoon lounge is located. A small Chinaman slowly sweeps and cleans this area.
....The top floor is made up of ten rooms – beds with a dresser – not fancy, but able to withstand the rigors of the odd logger’s or fisherman’s spree.
....Nell runs it all and no one gets too rambunctious. The hotel and particularly the beer parlour is the holding room for those passengers waiting for the Union or C.P.R. steamers that ply the inside coastal waters. Tonight the Union steam-ship Venture is due in from Van-couver and it will turn about and take its passengers and cargo to


Vancouver – or the ‘Big Smoke’ as it’s known to the coastal people of B.C.
....“Attention, please: For those passen-gers boarding Pacific Western airlines flight 414 for Vancouver. Rows one through twelve are the non-smoking section. Those people requiring pre-boarding assistance should step forward and let the attendant assist you.” A young mother with two tots and an elderly couple proceed out to the waiting ‘big bird.’
....“ Well Boys, them’s what’s getting’ on the boat, better start movin’ your behinds out of this beer parlor and hike on down to the steamer. She’s docked and unloading. Get your gear together and we’ll see ya in the sweet bye and bye.”
....Nell watched about a dozen custo-mers slowly leave their tables and pick up packsacks with caulk boots laced to them and rope-tied card-board boxes. They filed out of the beer parlor and started walking down the gravel road to the Government dock where the Venture was moored.
....The dockside was busy and darkness was coming on. The off-loaded passengers were sitting in the ‘Hole’ and ‘Clarke’ sedan limos, waiting for their drivers to get the luggage tied on the roof or rear rack of the car. Frank Hole was trying to sort out his passengers’ luggage and Allen Clarke was telling his passen-gers they would be ready to go in a minute. That might be an hour.
....The steam winch on the ship was puffin and hissing as it hoisted and swung the pallets or cargo nets of freight from the ship to the dock. Young Tex Lyons, the wharfinger, was checking the freight manifest and answering questions from all sides. Horns were honking and someone shouted “Get out of the way.” A first mate glanced down from the bridge of the little iron ship yelling instruc-tions to his crew.
....Assorted passengers and the beer parlor lads arrived on the dock as the sedans cleared away. Now the scene was on southbound people And

freight and the hissing and puffin of the winch never let up.
....A dark sedan worked its way down the dock and the driver told his two passengers to hop out. Fred and Pete, two loggers couldn’t ‘hop out’ if they tried. Fall they could, but hop, walk or run they could not. They were stiff! A couple of loggers long past due for the Big Smoke!
....The ship was about ready. Some-one hollered “All aboard!” The dockside had thinned out and Tex was waiting to let go the ship’s lines. With a cry of “Wait!, Wait!” a thirsty passenger was running down the dock with a case of beer under each arm. He made it.
....A bit of a disturbance occurred near the gangplank. Before much could be made of it, the last cargo net with a bit of freight plus Fred and Pete enclosed, was swung up in the air, over the ship’s side and down into the hold. The boys would get to the Big Smoke.
....The Venture’s whistle blew and Tex let go the stern line as the little iron ship eased ahead a bit on the spring line to swing the stern out. Then slowly she backed out into the bay, turned and headed out into the night. It was nearly midnight.

....The 737 hums along in the last part of daylight. Seat belt signs are turned off and coffee is being readied by the stewardesses. A couple of young loggers from Port McNeill are talking right behind me and their voices are just loud enough to disturb my crossword puzzle. The air is smooth and I look down and see Knight Inlet toward the mainland side - all fiord-like sixty miles of it. I think of Woodmen of the West by Grainger and his journey by rowboat from the head of Knight to its entrance and back – for supplies for the gyppo logger he worked for. They made them tough in ’06.
....The Venture steamed along at her usual ten-knots-an-hour as she passed Cracroft Island on the Johnstone Straights. The ship was


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quiet except for the party of loggers in the Glory Hole.
....Here, in the lower extremities of the little iron hull were crowded a single row of three-tiered bunks and a long meal table running along in front of the bunks. This is where the second class passengers abided. Eight dollars from Port Hardy to Vancouver and all the companion-ship that the money could buy!
....A great discussion was going on amongst the loggers as to which logging camp made the worst hotcakes and which one had the most miserable foreman. Midst snores from some of the three-tiered bunks and the clinking of glasses and loud talk, the Glory Hole passengers did not see Hardwicke Island as dawn was breaking.

....The 737 passed the entrance to Howe Sound and lined up for an approach over the water to the Vancouver Airport. I could hear the two young loggers talking about ‘hot wheels’ and a rock group they were heading for as soon as they got off the plane. Neither one had been to the city for a month. Oh well!
....I could see the North Shore hills and thought how good that there still was all that forest to be seen by travelers coming to this very beautiful city. The wheels bumped the runway and we were in the Big Smoke. I finished the damn puzzle. The word was ‘vugh.’ It was seven-thirty-five.
....The Glory Hole was quiet as the Venture steamed by West Vancouver in a cool April drizzle. Fred and Pete had washed up and, feeling a bit the worse for the wear, had gone out on deck to size up the situation:
....“Ain’t seen the big city in seven months.”
....“Me neither.”
....“Guess it ain’t changed.”
....“Nope, it ain’t changed.”
....“Nope, guess not.”
....“You stayin’ at the West?”
....“Nope, stayin’ at the Stanley. Got rolled at the West last time.”
....The little iron ship bucked a bit of outgoing tide as she edged her way into the First Narrows and on into Vancouver Harbour. Steam winches were being uncovered and the puffin and hissing would soon start again. Passengers were lining the corridors with their baggage waiting for the ship to dock and the gangplank to go down.
....“Well there she is Pete – the Big Smoke.”
....“Yep, there she is.”
....It was eight o’clock the next evening.

Keep out of the bight,

Bill Moore