by Bill Moore
He would walk through the beer parlors of the Penn-sylvania Hotel or the Stanley or the West and tell the male beer drinkers – ladies and gents were divided then – “I’ve got ten dollars for a rigging slinger, $15 for a boomman and $25 for a high rigger. Come on boys, we gotta keep the logs rolling.”
....The time was the 1940s and so many men were away fighting in far-off lands. Still the logging industry had to keep the logs moving for the war effort. Not just the glamorous Sitka Spruce for the famed Mosquito Bomber, but trees of all species for pulp and paper and lumber.
....The “man-catchers” prowled the skid road streets of Vancouver looking for loggers or potential loggers. He would check in with the logging company he worked for in the morning, find out who was needed and draw some daily expense money. Then off he would go in search of whistle-punks, cooks, and donkey-punchers.
....As the war lengthened, employees in the logging camps were frozen to their jobs. You couldn’t be fired and you couldn’t quit unless the sky fell down. It was a necessary measure for the country, but it put strains on the camps in many ways.
....The selective service branch of the federal government could instruct a man to go to a logging camp without the man having any qualifications. I recall well two hand fallers arriving in camp who, up to a few days previous, had been taxi drivers on the Vancouver streets. They apparently didn’t hunger for army life – so they said they could be loggers.
....It was remarkable the two fellows stayed alive for the next two weeks. And it was remarkable that they could leave a stand of big west coast Cedars and Hemlocks in a half-felled, tent-like condition. Fortunately the sky fell down and they agreed the army was a much safer place to be than a logging camp. They volunteered.
..From 1943 to 1945 the good logging crews in the camps

were thinned out as more and more men joined up. The Queen Charlotte Islands and the west coast of Vancouver Island were a bit better off for keeping some experienced loggers in the woods – reason being the need for the big Sitka Spruce trees that grew only there.
....Very little of a tree was used in the final process of the Mosquito Bomber, because of the very high standards needed in each piece of wood frame that went into the aircraft. So a lot of trees were required and a special agency called Aero Spruce was set up to acquire the Spruce logs from up and down the coast.
....The logging industry was just beginning to emerge from the steam age to the diesel and gas age. Chain saws were in their early styles and 90 per cent of the trees were still felled by muscle and hand-saws of six feet or longer.
....Yes, many men were needed, and there were never enough to go around. Accident rates were atrocious due to the large number of inexperienced loggers. But a world war was raging and each in his own way had to do his bit.
My old friend Dave Boddy was, during those hectic days, a man-catcher on the streets of Vancouver. After the was he formed Dave Boddy’s Employment Agency on Carrall St., near Cordova, which is now in the heart of that city’s Gastown. The business is still in operation – in a different locale – run by Dave’s son.
....I recall sitting in the back of Dave’s very neat office swapping stories about loggers we knew and what was happening in the camps. In the mid-1950s his office would hire as many as 4,000 loggers a year for the coastal camps. There were lots of jobs and some men would sim-ply rotate from one camp to another every month or so.
....Dave would tell us about his man-catcher days in those late war years, and how one man-catcher would try to outwit another when he heard about a good logger hitting town. Dave knew all the beer parlor waiters, and the desk clerks at the skid road hotels in the area. He would make
                                                     ( Cont’d on pg. A/20)

A/18                                                                                                                                                        British Columbia Lumberman November, 1985

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Bill Moore
(Cont’d from pg. A/18)

his rounds each morning with company cash in his pocket, ready to buy beer for the boys or pay a tap man for a hot tip.
....When a real good prospect said he would take a job, Dave would hustle him over to his company’s office and sign him up to a contract. The fellow would be paid his pre-contract bonus and – if he was a really badly needed man in camp – Dave might stay with him until boat time.
....The Union Steamship and the CPR and the CNR all had passenger-freighters plying up and down our coast then, and it would be to one of these ships that Dave would take his man and see him safely aboard.
....There were always problems though. Many a logger – or would-be logger – would sign up with several man-catchers and get a bonus from each one. Then – often as not – he wouldn’t show up for any of the signed-on jobs.
....Sometimes they might get on a spree and miss the boat or the ship’s security officer would not let them on due to a drunken condition. This latter problem could generally

be solved by a brown bag bottle of spirits being slipped to the security man. Eyes would turn the other way and the wobbly logger would make his way up the gangplank. Once on board it was pretty well assured the fellow would be soon out in the tall timber doing his stuff.
....Dave passed away some years ago. But he is fondly remembered by many loggers as one of the fairest and decent of a trade that at times could be a bit unsavory back in those wild west days of hiring loggers for camps.
....The man-catchers were sort of a phenomenon of the difficult war years. In the 1930s and again in the 1950s, logging employment agencies would sometimes have a man out on the streets and in the various watering holes, keeping tabs on who was in town and ready to ship out. But there wasn’t quite the same fever to the scene that would be generated by the man-catchers of the mid1940s.
....Prior to the Second World War there were several independent logger employment agencies mostly in and around Vancouver’s famed Skid Row. Herb Hicks, George Lamont and Bill black were names that come to mind. These men were responsible for the hiring of tens of thousands of B.C. Coast loggers in the hey-day of high-leading.
....They each had their own employment office and there would always be men haunting their places looking -->
                                                     ( Cont’d on pg. A/21)


( Cont’d from pg. A/20)
for work. The loggers of reputation had little trouble getting signed up. But midst these men would be a varied assortment of winos, three day wonders and deadbeats.
....It was not unheard of – back in the 1930s – for a logger to make a little gift to the employment agent of a wee bottle of Lemon Hart or such if he wanted a job. There were lots and lots of men, but just so many jobs.
....I recall one agent who, upon his demise, was found to have a large clothes cupboard full of all the varieties of the elixirs of life. He had tried most unsuccessfully during his hiring days to turn down these nasty gifts, but the generosity of the loggers he had hired was simply too much for him. He therefore departed this life leaving next of kin a cupboard full of spirited goodies!
....The forest around us has produced many different types of people to fill all the round and square holes of our logging industry. From donkey sled builders to river-drivers, from high-riggers to drag-saw men and from cat-skinners to soup jockeys. The logging employment agent selected and hired ‘em all and at one stage back in the mid-1940s they were ably assisted by the “man-catchers.”
....Maybe the echoes still ring down at the old West hotel beer parlor – “I’ve got $15 for a boomman – I’ve got $25 for a steam donkey puncher.”
....Give a listen next time as you go by.

Keep out of the bight,

Bill Moore

A/20                                                                                                                                                        British Columbia Lumberman November, 1985