Martineau River: Hauling Logs and Ice – Chapter 2 of 5

Written by Harold McNeill on October 10th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965

 Hauling Ice and Logs

Photo (Cold Lake History on Web): Cutting, hauling and storing ice was a yearly ritual at a time when refrigerators consisted of an insulated box filled with ice.

Link to Next Post:  A Winter Dash to the Hospital
Link to Last Post: Martineau River Logging Camp (Start of Part II)
Link to Family Stories Index

Winter, 1945

My stomach was churning and my head splitting. I did not say anything to Uncle Tonnie but I could feel my stomach pushing into my throat. Suddenly, Uncle Tonnie stopped the truck. I fumbled with the door handle and as soon as it opened, I jumped out. When the cold winter air hit me I bent over and threw up on the pure white snow that lined the side of the road.

I heaved again and again and again, not even able to catch my breath. I thought I was going to choke to death. On the other side of the truck, Uncle Tonnie was bent over emptying the contents of his stomach.

Finally, after what seemed forever, my heaves began to subside and I was able to breath. I looked down and the new plaid shirt and wool breaches Santa had given me for Christmas were wet. When I saw small chunks of food stuck to the heavy, wool fabric, I stared to cry. Through my tears I told Uncle Tonnie: “I want to go home to mom.” Tonnie walked me over to the house.

Early that day Uncle Tonnie had asked mom if I could spend the day with him. For the past few days he had not been at the camp as he had been busy hauling ice for one of the mink ranchers. During our trips I would often meet up with my cousin Bob who often traveled with our other cousin Reggie who, at 16 or 17 was about the same age as Tonnie.

Bob’s dad, Floyd, and cousin, Reggie, along with my Uncle Tonnie, all drove trucks. Uncle Floyd and Auntie Alice lived at the Allard Saw Mill while my mom and dad lived and worked at the Hett and Sibble logging camp on the upper Martineau. Tonnie and Reggie often stayed in Cold Lake at the Lakeview Hotel where Reggie’s mom, my Aunt Irene, ran the restaurant.

For our trips mom would pack a big lunch for Tonnie and me, a lunch that included plenty of those wonderful, sugar coated, donuts for which mom was famous. I can still see Uncle Tonnie with a donut in one hand, a coffee in the other and a cigarette burning in the ashtray. He was about seventeen and was my hero.

Heading back to camp late one night, Uncle Tonnie left the ice road and made the long slow climb away from the lake. The logging roads were clear of snow but slippery, narrow and winding so he had to drive carefully to avoid hitting a tree. In the bush, Tonnie spent much of the time in first or second gear deftly downshifting from second to first by ‘double clutching’.

The car lights reflected on the snow along the road. Cousin Bob, his dad and Uncle, were probably a few miles behind having been delayed discussing some important “business” deal in the Lakeview beer parlour.  Looking out the side window, the trees became dark silhouettes and the light of the full moon glistened on the snow. The limbs on jack pine and spruce bowed under the heavy weight of the snow.

We were only about fifteen minutes from the camp when we both became sick and jumped out of the car.  After we had finished throwing up, Uncle Tonnie cleaned me up as best he could and we got back in the truck. The smell of vomit was so strong I thought I was going throw up again so we both rolled down our windows to get some fresh air.

As soon as we arrived at camp I jumped out and ran to the small cabin where mom, dad, Louise and I lived.  Mom took one look at me and immediately stripped off all my clothes and washed me up.  Once I was in my pyjamas and snuggled in my bed, I still had a headache but felt better being close to my mom.  I fell asleep while mom held a cold compress on my forehead.

Mom well remembered the incidents:

“I think you and Tonnie got sick from exhaust fumes leaking into the cab. I hated the smell of fumes and often got sick myself when we road in those old trucks. It was not a big a problem in the summer when the windows were open but in the winter, when it was cold, with the windows rolled tight, I now know it was very dangerous and it was just lucky no one died. 

I felt so sorry for you when you got home as you were so upset about throwing up on your jacket and breeches. You were so proud of those clothes as they looked just like the ones your dad and Uncle Tonnie wore. By the time you woke in the next morning I had them all washed, dried and ready to wear.”

A couple of days later we learned that Floyd, Reggie and Bob had also been in an accident and Cousin Bob’s chin had been badly cut. Bob related his story:

“I had gone to town with dad and my Cousin Reggie (Johnson). As I recall you traveled in another logging truck with your Uncle Tonnie. Once the two trucks had dumped their last load of logs at the mill, the men usually headed to the Lakeview1 Hotel to have a bite to eat and to say hello Auntie Irene (dad’s sister and Reggie’s mom), who was the chief cook and bottle washer in the restaurant. Reggie’s younger sister, Cousin Joyce was usually hanging around somewhere.

Of course my dad (Floyd) and Reggie also hit the bar for a few beers while Tonnie you and I waited in the restaurant. Tonnie was still too young to get in the bar as the legal drinking age was still 21 but the men usually found a way to slip him a couple of bottles. After an hour or so on the lake we cut off toward the Allard Mill.

When making a turn on the winding snow covered road Reggie cut a bit to close to one of the big trees along and hooked the flat deck box.  It jerked the truck to a sudden halt and I was thrown from my dad’s lap into the dash.  My chin struck the small button on the glove compartment and it poked a hole in my chin through to the bone.  I was bleeding all over until my dad found an old cloth to hold over the cut.  I stared to cry and through four year old tears I told dad: “I want to go home to mom.”

The cut healed nicely but it was clear he was going to have a scar for a long time. Both his dad and Cousin Reggie got holly what-ever from Auntie Alice for staying in the bar drinking when they should have been heading home.  Uncle Floyd also really got it for leading his nephew, who was only a few years younger, astray. Just another day trucking for men and boys!

The winter continued with the men working in the bush, hauling logging trucks and our mothers doing the cooking and looking after things at the camps. It was a good winter as there were many members of both families and a lot of friends in the area. While life was hard, both mom and dad realized they had made the right decision in leaving Birch Lake.

Harold McNeill

Link to Next Post:  A Winter Dash to the Hospital
Link to Last Post: Martineau River Logging Camp (Start of Part II)
Link to Family Stories Index


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  • Harold McNeill

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Rick,
    Great to hear from you and trust all is going well. Our family members are all doing well but it must be pretty tough for a lot of people. I had once heard you were going to do some writing but never heard anything further. I would be most interested, but do you think the OB News have archives back to that time. Any link or information you could provide would be greatly appreciated. Did you keep copies? Regards, Harold

  • Rick Gonder

    April 14, 2020 |

    Hi Harold
    About 22 years ago I spent several weeks going through the OBPD archives. I wrote several stories that were published in the OB News. Feel free to use if they are of value to what you are doing.
    Keep this up, I’m enjoying it and it brings back memories.

  • Harold McNeill

    April 12, 2020 |

    Hi Susan,

    Glad you had a chance to read. I decided to update these stories by proofreading as there were several grammatical errors in many. Hopefully, many of those glaring errors have been removed.

    Many of the stories carry a considerable amount of social comment regarding the way the criminal justice system is selectively applied. Next up involves a young woman from near Cold Lake, Alberta, who was abducted by an older male from Edmonton. Her story is the story of hundreds of young men and woman who have found themselves alone and without help when being prayed upon unscrupulous predators.

    Cheers, Harold

  • Susan

    April 8, 2020 |

    Great read, Harold!…and really not surprising, sad as that may sound.
    Keep the stories coming, it is fascinating to hear them.
    Love from us out here in the “sticks”, and stay safe from this unknown predator called Covid.

  • Harold McNeill

    February 17, 2020 |

    Update:  Times Colonist, February 16, 2020, articles by Louise Dickson, She got her gun back, then she killed herself,” and,  Mounties decision to return gun to PTSD victim haunts her brother. 

    Summary: I don’t know how many read the above articles, but they contained the tragic details about young woman, Krista Carle’, who took her own life after suffering for years with PTSD. While tragedies such as this play out across Canada every week, the reason this story resonates so profoundly is that the final, tragic, conclusion took place here in Victoria. Continued in the article.

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    February 15, 2020 |

    Testing the comments section after changes made. Updated: February 10, 2020

    Further to the update below (February 1, 2020), I note that since the government announced a “No-Fault” insurance plan for BC, Robert Mulligan is taking a slightly different tack, suggesting that no-fault will only increase the problems by taking away the right of an injured party to sue.

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    Statements like this appear to be simple fear-mongering. As was the case in the past, people who commit criminal offences, as well as other forms of negligence while driving, may well lose their insurance coverage and in all likelihood would be sued by ICBC to recover costs of the claim. (Link here to Mulligan’s full conversation on CFAX radio)

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    September 18, 2019 |

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