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






Goodbye old cookhouse

There will always be change, whe- ther it’s to our liking or not. And change seems to be happening in our lives at a steadily increasing pace.
....A change is happening in the coastal logging camps of B.C. that is difficult for many loggers to accept or under-stand. But, actually the change has been happening for over a long period of time and just hasn’t been noticed until now.
....Logging camp cookhouses have always been noted for their good quality of food, and lots of it. The governing factor in this quality and plenty has been the fact that loggers deem themselves to be tough customers to satisfy at the dining room table. Many a petition and even a few strikes have occurred in camps where the cook was found to be wanting. And of course little is ever said of the foolish waste of food by those loggers who simply have never realized that “waste is cost.”
....In general, camp cookhouse costs have been ignored as they climbed through these late inflationary years. About the only corrective measure brought in by most companies was the hiring of professional caterers to do the job instead of running the cookhouse themselves. Catering firms could cut costs by purchasing for many places and thereby lower the unit cost of food.
At the set rate of $2.50 per day for three meals and a room, it can be easily realized that costs have skyrocketed over this 40-year-old rate.
....Costs of $40 to $60 a day per man for today’s room and board are the prices quoted by most logging com-panies now. Naturally the smaller logging operations will generally have the higher costs of cookhouse and bunkhouse facilities.
....Where there are mixed family and bunkhouse facilities in the remote logging camps, the cost to the family for food is quite often unbelievable, as they do not have the opportunity of large community store savings.
....Cookhouses today do not serve the simple food fare that was served in the 1930s when room and board was $1.30 a day! By gosh, a whole $1.20


increase in 40 years!
....By agreement years ago the logging companies and the International Woodworkers of America set the price of board and room at the $2.50 level. The union has refused through the years to renegotiate this price.
....It is interesting to note that only through the combined hard work of the Council of Forest Industries and the union has the federal tax department not taxed loggers for receiving a “benefit” by way of living in single quarters in logging camps.
....I think back on the simple but subs-tantial fare we used to get in the cook-house of my younger days. I well recall digging buckets of clams for my father’s 30-man cookhouse every week. I can still see those heaping dishes of steamed clams and the boys making a feast of them.
....I looked up our records for 1937 and noted that Dave Dupuis, my father’s cook, netted $161 for the full month of October that year. By the time his WCB (31 cents) and his commissary ($15.50) and his one percent income tax ($16.61) were deducted (he was allowed free board), he received a cheque for $111.58. All this for a seven-day work week at 11 to 12 hours a day. The good old days? I wonder.
....The recent – and still – recession has given cause for everyone to look for new ways to deal with the facts of work and life today. Adjustments and new ideas must be put forth. We cannot afford to work our way out of this crash and into the arms of another possibly more disastrous downturn of the economy.
....So what happens now to those companies who still have logging camps with bunkhouse and cookhouse facilities for single people? Companies have reacted and will react in many ways.
....Some logging camps are doing what others have been doing for years. Putting on buses to pick up crews in nearby towns and bringing the men to a marshalling yard. In this way the logger gets to live in a community with all the amenities that a logging camp may not have.

....Other companies are turning to more family quarters or bachelor quarters and are building up a bit more permanent atmosphere. Cookhouses and bunkhouses were never noted as community buildings. They are simply an expedient means when no other is available. – that is, lack of roads to outside communities.
....There are still other logging companies using fast crew boats to bring their work force to the job, and others that hire only those who can supply their own camper or trailer, thereby looking after themselves.
....Naturally there will always be some locations that will require cookhouse and bunkhouse facilities for single persons. But they will grow fewer as the ability of better transportation of helicopter, fast crew boats and other means develop.
....There is no doubt that this recent recession has given impetus to some companies to close these facilities and find ways of transporting personnel from some nearby communities. It is simple economics as it has always been.
....Where the change has taken place – and will take place – the loggers there will long remember the good things they enjoyed about the cookhouse. It was, in a way, a substitute wife or mother to many, for they could sit in company there, and in a form of fellowship. It was a sort of discipline to others who enjoyed meals exactly on time and to sit in exactly the same seat for every meal. And in many camps the cookhouse was the meeting place for union meetings or safety meetings, or for movies or for just an evening coffee and chat. It was really the core of the camp.
....Good cooks would not tolerate a lot of talking or nonsense in their cook-house. Meals were set at a time and the logger was to get in, sit down, eat, and get the hell out, so the cookhouse crew could clean up.
....There will always be some colourful stories of cooks and cookhouses. I love the story of Sam Parrish.
....Sam went up to the Queen Charlottes to work for Panicky Bell. There was a pretty big crew to feed


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and one evening at supper one of the flunkies came back to the dish-up table, eyes popping out of his head.
....“Sam,” he said – “you got one!”
....“What d’you mean – I got one?”
....“You got one, Sam. He’s lying face down in his spuds and gravy and he’s dead as a doornail – you got one, Sam!”
....The logger had apparently died of a heart attack, but to the flunky who had no doubt listened to loggers bellyache about food for years, it was Sam who finally got one.
....The old cookhouses, of course, were great brewing grounds for moonshine. A few leftovers such as canned peaches or pears and damn near anything else that could ferment behind a nice warm kitchen range, could produce, with a bit of ingenuity, a nice clear alcohol to chase away the cookhouse blues.
....As I said at the beginning, cook-houses   have  been  closing  down  for


years and will continue to do so, while still a few will open up in the very remote areas of logging. Campbell River and Powell River are good examples of the growth of townsites that allowed nearby logging camps to close their cookhouses and utilize the better facilities of the townsites. Better schools, better recreation and the amenities of banks, stores, etc.
....Bunkhouse life and cookhouse life is – and always was – a form of barracks life not too unlike the army, except for the discipline. They serve their purpose where there is no community nearby, but they do not add to the future of our area. Only family life does. And our coast has room for many more such communities.
....It is the communities and small towns such as Port Hardy, Gold River, Terrace, Port McNeil and others that are the future for our people who will work at the business of logging our vast coastline. Only they can provide the


real amenities that will satisfy our future personnel.
....Now with all that said, it near brings a tear to the eye to think back on fond memories of the clatter of dishes, the smell of hot food, the low hum or even silence of voices, and the white aproned flunkies surveying the tables for empty serving dishes.
....Goodbye old cookhouse – you played your part in this forest around us – and we thank you and the parade of flunkies, dishwashers, bakers, lunchmakers and particularly the long, long line of unrewarded cooks – may your stewpots never burn.

Keep out of the bight •

Bill Moore