Martineau River: The Logging Camp – Chapter 1 of 5

Written by Harold McNeill on August 24th, 2010. Posted in Family 1940 1965


Logs Piled on Martineau River

Photo (Mom): Logs piled on the Martineau River jus as the spring thaw begins.

Link to Next Post: Link to Hauling Logs and Ice
Link to Last Post: Fire Tower (End of Part I)
Link to Family Stories Index

Note:  A recent contact from Meadow Lake made through this story series just posted about a canoe trip he and friends made down the Martineau River from the headwaters in Saskatchewan to Cold Lake.  (Link Here)

Fall, 1944

Dad was in his glory.  He loved the bush, he loved hard work and he loved working with his horses. There was now a sparkle in his eyes and a spring in his step that had been slowly ebbing as he chased rocks around his farm in Birch Lake, Saskatchewan. I was just approaching four, but can still see dad behind his Skidding Logshorse as it strained to skid another log. Hundreds of broken limbs and pieces of slash covered the forest floor and danger lurked behind every snag. There was little that could compare with the sight, sound, smell, taste and touch of the forest.

Photo:  Dad working in the bush with one of his favourite horses.  He would usually rotate horses over the course of the week.

The pungent odour of fresh sawdust and sap filled the frigid fall air as dad and his work mates brewed fresh coffee and ‘shot the bull’ around the the campfire. After lunch they would spend twenty minutes sharpening their axes, crosscut’s and Swede saws, while the horses finished their feed and had a few extra minutes rest.

By the time the snow came that fall, the men had cut, skidded and piled hundreds of logs were now ready to be hauled by sleight back to the river. On the river piles of logs stretched as far as the eye could see. While some would be used for lumber, most would end up as railroad ties for the insatiable demand that existed across Canada and the United States during the post war years. As each log had to be inspected, graded and stamped a Government Inspector, Jack Gadzby, lived right on site in a small cabin by the river.

While the majority of logs remained on the ice awaiting the spring thaw, several trucks were kept busy during the winter months hauling to the mills that dotted the shore of the Cold Lake.  In the spring the trucks were pretty much shut down once the ice went out of the lake and the frost out of the roads. In one area around English
Martineau Camp on LogsBay, the road was usually so bad all summer that we expected to get stuck on every trip.

Dad did not often take me into the bush that fall and winter as it was just too dangerous. I actually didn’t mind as that meant I could spend more time travelling with Uncle Tonnie in his truck while he hauled logs and, on occasion, blocks of ice. Ice was still in great demand during the summer as it was the cheapest means keep produce and fish fresh during transport. Also, lot of families still used ‘ice boxes’ to keep food fresh in their homes.

Photo: Spring 1945, (L to R) Cousin Bob McNeill, Aunt Alice, August Gatzky(?), Harold McNeill, Louise McNeill, Laura McNeill, u/k behind Louise, Grandma A.L. Martineau, one of the younger Gatzky’s and Edna Gatzky.

Even though the hours were long and the work hard, there was still time to have fun. On week-ends and holidays there were card games and
board games and, after a few drinks, maybe a little music, song and dance. The cabins were warm and cozy and there was always plenty of food.

New friendships, formed with others who worked or visited the camp – the Gatzky’s, Martineau’s, and many others – would last for decades as we moved around Alberta and Saskatchewan. Perhaps it is my foggy memories of those day’s over sixty years ago, however, living, working or growing up in conditions that would likely be considered a ‘hardship’ today, made that time seem all the more special.

Harold

Link to Next Post: Link to Hauling Logs and Ice
Link to Last Post: Fire Tower (End of Part I)
Link to Family Stories Index

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  • ultimate-guitar.com

    November 29, 2021 |

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  • Сериалы 2021 zhd.life

    November 29, 2021 |

    Сериалы 2021 zhd.life

    McNeill Life Stories Royal Oak Community Gardens – McNeill Life Stories

  • фильмы 2022 года

    November 28, 2021 |

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    McNeill Life Stories Royal Oak Community Gardens – McNeill Life Stories

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Hi Dorthy, So glad you found those stories and, yes, they hold many fond memories. Thanks to social media and the blog, I’ve been able to get in touch with many friends from back in the day. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Well, well. Pleased to see your name pop up. I’m in regular contact via FB with many ‘kids’ from back in our HS days (Guy, Dawna, Shirley and others). Also, a lot of Cold Lake friends through FB. Cheers, Harold

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Oh, that is many years back and glad you found the story. I don’t have any recall of others in my class other than the Murphy sisters on whose farm my Dad and Mom worked.

  • Harold McNeill

    November 26, 2021 |

    Pleased to hear from you Howie and trust all is going well. As with you, I have a couple of sad stories of times in my police career when I crossed paths with Ross Barrington Elworthy. Just haven’t had the time to write those stories.

  • Howie Siegel

    November 25, 2021 |

    My only fight at Pagliacci’s was a late Sunday night in 1980 (?) He ripped the towel machine off the bathroom wall which brought me running. He came after me, I grabbed a chair and cracked him on the head which split his skull and dropped him. I worried about the police finding him on the floor. I had just arrived from Lasqueti Island and wasn’t convinced the police were my friends. I dragged him out to Broad and Fort and left him on the sidewalk, called the cops. They picked him up and he never saw freedom again (as far as I know). I found out it was Ross Elworthy.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read you article on Pibroch excellent. My Dad was Searle Grain company agent we move there in 1942/3 live in town by the hall for 5 years than moved one mile east to the farm on the corner where the Pibroch road meets Hwy 44. Brother Don still lives there. I went to school with you and Louise.

  • Herbert Plain

    November 24, 2021 |

    Just read your life account of Pibroch excellent.
    My family mowed to Pibroch in 1942 Dad was grain buyer for Searle Grain Company lived in town for 5 years than mowed one mile East to the farm on the corner of the road from Pibroch and Hwy 44. Bro Don still lives there.I went to school with both you and Louise.