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






Martin and the small bunkhouse

T here are machines and there are
people in this forest around us – and with a bow in the direction of the Great Yellow Traktor Co et al – I find the people more interesting than the great chunks of iron.
....This is a true story. And it’s about a very kindly chap with whom I worked many years ago – when the world was young! His name was Jack Martin. He was a fair sized man who quietly lumb-ered about. He was considerate of others, seldom showed anger, always on the job, soft spoken and – with benefit of drink – was given to telling some great stories.
....He was of a family of old time Van-couverites who talked of events at the turn of the century in the Lower Main-land of B.C. Martin could relate great stories about the clearing of land in and around Vancouver where now are built densely populated areas. He had been a teamster in his early days and had used teams of horses to clear and make way for that fair city.
....When machines took over old Dob-bin’s work he went to work for McNairs Shingle Co. He left them in 1940 to come to our small float camp on northern Vancouver Island. He was a bit of a handy fellow, worked at many woods jobs, but spent most of his 20 years with us on the booming grounds.
....He stayed in what we called the “small bunkhouse” with three other men. The building would be about 18 feet across and 22 feet long. Just an open building with a single iron cot in each corner, and a Herald wood heater in the middle of the room. The floor was always rough, as the boards were slivered from the caulk boots the loggers wore in and out of the building.
Th....e walls of the small bunkhouse were lined with grey painted shiplap on which were nailed good sturdy Pacific Milk boxes, one above each bed. Here were kept the prize possessions of the


chap in the bed below. A watch, a wallet and a few old letters along with a bottle of Enos Fruit Salts. I firmly believe to this day that the ‘30s loggers were convinced that the taking of Enos Fruit Salts kept all bad things away from their internal organs. Oh yes, there was generally a wooden orange crate (two holer) or a wooden egg crate (two holer) on the floor by the bed for a sort of small bed-side table. Maybe not your ultra mod interior decorating design – but practical and inexpensive.
....In remembering back on those old bunkhouses it should be noted that un-like the modern loggers’ decorations of Playboy bunnies etc. on the walls of his room, the old-timers might then have had a horse or dog calendar or Saturday Evening Post cover by Norman Rockwell of an old sailor carving out a sailboat model for a small child. No bunnies then. I wonder – have we come a long way?
‘I mind
the time’

....But, back to our hero, Jack Martin. Everyone in camp had a favorite Martin story. He was well liked by all in camp.
....He would start a sentence with “I mind the time when” or “Do you mind the time?” He had a bit of a nervous disorder that would make him jump if he did not see or hear you approach. He would sit on the side of his bunk, reading the paper, and if you walked up to him and spoke he would jump and let out a hoot and often tear his newspaper.
....He was a good fellow to work with – but really not suited to boom work. It was not that he was clumsy, but he wasn’t surefooted and that is dearly


needed when one is jumping about on logs on the salt chuck.
....I mind the time when several of us were “breaking up” a large pile of logs on a tide flat. It was tricky work, and to add to our pleasure the wind was cold and wet and howling. As the tide came in the pile started to break up. We were jumping about with heavy peavies and pike poles helping the break up. I looked about for Martin but couldn’t see him. I ran over to where I had last seen him and felt a real panic as I looked down in about eight feet of water, and there was Martin lying on the bottom in his heavy Black Diamond rubber rain suit. I yelled for help to some others and put my pike pole down in the water and caught hold of the heavy rain coat and started pulling him to the surface. We grabbed him out of the water and rolled him about on some logs.
....We were certain he was a goner, but the old rascal fooled us and spewed out half the Pacific Ocean – and in half an hour he was back pushing on logs. Had a grin on his face too. Said he must have slipped.
....I don’t remember Martin ever using a cuss word of any kind. A rare habit amongst loggers. But, oh how he used to love to brace himself up with a few shots of rye. He was one of the few men I have ever met that I could call a good drinker. Always pleasant, never sloppy and could last out a hurricane. He didn’t bother with booze in camp, but he knew and loved the old Italian bootlegging places in the East End of Vancouver. He had a closet full of stories about his old haunts.
....Once, in the winter when camp was closed, a few lads and myself went with Martin on his evening-into-late-night round of his spots. At every house he was welcomed as a lost son by some nice old Italian lady. We would be escorted into the kitchen or living room and served the best of


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home-made red wine. Martin would beam as much to say, “these are my people.” It was a fun night and we all learned a bit about some parts of the geography of Vancouver we didn’t know before. We learned a few other things too.
....I mind the time when I hired the nice lady cook and girl flunkey for camp. We had been having trouble with a series of male cooks so I thought we’d try a lady. I guess the idea had merit, but that was all, for she turned out to be a poor cook, too. However, Martin took a shine to the cabbage burner and a great romance was played out before our very eyes. But, gentleman that he was, he held his poise when it was learned that I had fired the two ladies. It turned out that the flunkey was serving more than food to the boys and the lady cook had difficulty boiling water.
....I shall always remember the day when I took the two ladies from camp on our gas boat, to catch the once-a-week mailboat at our local village. As we chugged past the booming grounds the girls waved and yelled goodbye to Martin who was pushing logs about with a pike pole. He sort of peeked out from under his old felt hart and nodded at them. Smile though your heart is breaking! Farewell my lovely!
....This next accounting is a bit incredible – but it happened. We had a husky little Norwegian fellow, Cris, employed as a wood-splitter on our A-frame, 13 x 14 Washington steam donkey. While hitting a steel wedge with a sledge hammer a piece of steel broke off the wedge and hit him in the eye, causing him to lose the eye. He was, of course, taken to hospital and attended to. In about three months he returned to the same job. A very tough little guy.
....Cris was in the small bunkhouse with Martin, and I remember going in there one evening and Martin and Cris and a couple of other loggers were sizing up a wooden tray of glass eyes. These had been sent to Cris from Vancouver and he was to pick out the one he wanted and send the others back. Presumably they came from the Workers Com-pensation Board. It was quite amusing watching the goings on with picking out the right eye.
....In another corner of the small bunkhouse stayed John Edwinson – the bullbucker and saw filer. John had been with us for years. A quiet old Swede who saved his money and kept to himself. He also had one eye – from an


accident in his early days. The really strange part of this story is that the head boom man, Herb Bayes occupied the fourth bed in the small bunkhouse. Herb was some kind of distant relative of my father’s. He was a bit eccentric and was always working on a new invention to revolutionize something. He was the talker of the foursome, and I can mind the times I walked into the small bunkhouse and Cris and John would be on their bunks asleep after supper. Martin would be sitting on the side of his bunk reading the newspaper (maybe two weeks old, it didn’t matter) and Herb would be extolling to them all about his latest wonder gizmo. Herb also had one glass eye!
....Well, some of the stories that Martin would relate about those three men and their three eyes. I can hear him now telling us how those eyes stared at him all night long, or how they watched him when he would get up in the night to put some wood in the Herald heater.
....“They’d look right through me, them eyes, no matter where I went in the bunkhouse, enough to make a man give


up drink or take on religion.” But Martin did neither and I’m sure a great many of his friends were de-lighted with his stories of the small bunkhouse as they sat in a nice cozy bootlegger’s house in the big city when Jack held forth.
....I worked with him for 20 years and Enjoyed the person immensely. He had that real old-timer flavor about himself that spelled ”genuine.” He passed away suddenly of a heart attack about 23 years ago. Yes, I mind the time we put him away to rest in peace. He had put in a useful life and contributed his labors to the building of our forest industry. The church was filled with old-timers and loggers and a sprinkling of nice old Italian ladies.

Hang in there, contractors,
and keep out of the bight,

Bill Moore