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Posts Tagged ‘loggers’

A parade, a pageant, and Paul Bunyan. These may not be the first three things that come to mind when you think about fire prevention, but residents of Mason County, Washington, back in 1945 had their own unique ideas. To help combat the destructive wildfires in the region — while also promoting the importance of forests to the local economy — Mason County hosted a forest festival in the spring of 1945. The festival featured a parade through downtown Shelton, a beauty pageant, a Paul Bunyan impersonator, and various other events and activities. The idea proved even more successful than imagined. This weekend Shelton hosts the 69th annual Mason County Forest Festival, which still prominently features a parade, pageant, and Paul Bunyan, just like back in 1945.

Paul Bunyan leads parade (FHS773)

Wayne Allen as Paul Bunyan leads the parade through Shelton, 1954.

The history of Shelton is closely tied with the history of logging operations in the area. In 1853, Michael T. Simmons built the first sawmill in Mason County on Mill Creek just south of present-day Shelton. Around this same time, David Shelton (the town’s namesake) staked a settlement claim on a nearby inlet off Puget Sound. As the town grew, its connections to the forest industry only strengthened. Sol G. Simpson came to the area and founded the Simpson Logging Company in the 1890s. The Simpson Company would eventually grow and expand throughout the country, but Shelton served as an important center of operations for much of the following century. The area was also notable for being the home of the Shelton Cooperative Sustained-Yield Unit, which became active in 1946 and ended in 2002.

The first Mason County Forest Festival in 1945 honored the area’s logging history by showcasing the value of timber to the community, while demonstrating the importance of safeguarding the forests against destructive fires. Fire prevention was a prominent theme, as the Mason County Forest Festival Association was at this time operated as an auxiliary of the local chapter of the Keep Washington Green Committee.

Following that first festival – in which Lois Gibler was crowned Festival Queen and Gus Anderson played the part of Paul Bunyan – the event only grew. People from the northwestern Washington region flocked to Shelton to see, in the words of an ad for the 12th annual Forest Festival, “the dramatic Forest Pageant, the thrilling parade and the exciting contests in which loggers demonstrate their skills at falling, bucking, tree topping and truck driving. For three memorable days, the communities participate in a program which you can’t afford to miss.” The idea of a forest festival quickly spread across the country along with the Keep Green program. “You have in Shelton, in my opinion, the best all-around forest festival in the United States,” read a quote from a mid-1950s article on the event. “It has been the inspiration of many forest communities throughout the U.S.”

Carving Shelton Log Sign 1953

Artist Clarence Beauchamp (right) carving Douglas fir log sign, 1953.

The ninth annual Forest Festival in 1953 was one for the ages. The monumental event celebrated the 100th anniversary of logging operations in Mason County, and a large sign carved into a piece of Douglas fir was permanently dedicated (the log sign still welcomes visitors to Shelton today). On the festival’s final day 30,000 people — about six times the regular population of the town — crowded into Shelton to watch the Paul Bunyan Parade through downtown.

The 1953 event was an early high point for the festival, but there have been many other great moments throughout the years. Continue below to see featured images from the FHS Archives documenting the long history of the Mason County Forest Festival. (more…)

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Today is National Pancake Day at the International House of Pancakes. You can get a free short stack of pancakes, though IHOP customers are encouraged to make a donation that will go to a local charity. (This date should not be confused with International Pancake Day, which is when a foot race between the women of Liberal, Kansas, and Olney, England, takes place that starts and ends with participants flipping a pancake in their pans. Seriously.)

IHOP’s short stack wouldn’t begin to fill a lumberjack of yore, though; it might only whet their appetite. What do I mean? According to author Joni Sensel in Timber/West (Nov. 2000), “Camp records indicate that on average, a logger in the Northwest around the turn of the [20th] century might start the day before dawn with flapjacks, eggs, bacon, fired pork, hash, spuds, oatmeal, prunes, fruit, doughnuts, biscuits, or all of the above.” And “all of the above” better be above average or the cook would hear about it: “Loggers never put up long with this sort of thing,” Joseph R. Conlin tells us in his excellent article, “Old Boy, Did You Get Enough of Pie?” “If they did not walk off, they put the unsuccessful cook on notice that it was time for him to leave by nailing some of his hotcakes to his door.” So important was feeding the men quality food that the cook was often the highest-paid employee in a logging camp. He was “Godamighty,” wrote Stewart Holbrook in Holy Old Mackinaw, his classic history of the American lumberman in the 19th century.

Loggers consumed on average about 9,000 calories a day—3 to 4 times what most of us require (by comparison, endurance athletes such as distance runners and cyclists might take in up to 8,000 calories per day). And the lumberjacks needed every calorie they could get. Given the 12-14 hour days, exhausting nature of the work, and brutal weather conditions in which they worked during the winter months, breakfast was, to coin a phrase, the most important meal of the day.

1917 Logging Camp Menu

Each day a man typically consumed “a half a loaf of bread, a pound of potatoes, a pound of other vegetables and fruit, plus cold cuts, salads, baked beans, stew, or soup,” plus dessert, Sensel cataloged. Meals were consumed in 8 minutes, with speed aided by the “no talking” rule and the need to take in all a man could—slow eaters would later be hungry. Keeping a camp of a hundred men supplied required bringing in vast quantities of food. Syrup for pancakes, for example, was delivered in barrels. The fare varied by season and region, and by era. Before refrigeration, fresh meat was rarely seen in the summer or was cured or dried, like ham or bacon. A more permanent camp might raise pigs for fresh meat. In the 19th century, fruits and vegetables were largely in dried form; by the end of that century, they were shipped in tins and cans; and then by the Great Depression, the camps regularly received fresh fruits and vegetables.

Holbrook says that for 19th-century loggers in New England and then the Great Lakes, “The fare was pretty much salt pork, beans, bread and molasses, and tea, black tea strong enough to float an ax on.” Contrast that with Sensel’s and Conlin’s descriptions of food and how much more variety there was. By the time the “lumberman’s frontier” had moved to the Pacific Northwest, loggers were eating better than most Americans. This was due in part because the large, integrated logging companies there “had the resources necessary to maintain their own ranches and farms,” according to Conlin. Coffee had replaced tea as the preferred caffeine source of choice, sometimes served in a soup bowl. Notes Sensel, “One logger might account for almost a pound of ground coffee a week.” I doubt that they were ordering their coffee with a twist of lemon.

In honor of National Pancake Day, we’d like to share some pancake-themed photos from our archive. The Paul Bunyan images are from the Mead Sales Company Paul Bunyan Campaign Collection and the William B. Laughead Papers. And with that, we’re off to get our free pancakes!

Pancakes on the griddle.

Pancakes are part of an Idaho logging camp breakfast (FHS5106).

Logger's breakfast.

The legendary lumberjack Paul Searls puts away a logger’s-size stack of hotcakes (FHS5083).

4-H logger's breakfast.

A “Logger’s Breakfast” for the national 4-H Forestry winners at the 1960 National 4-H Club Congress (FHS1875).

Logger's breakfast for Boy Scouts.

A “Logger’s Breakfast” hosted by AFPI for Boy Scouts who won national conservation awards, 1962 (FHS567).

Paul Bunyan pancakes.

Paul Bunyan strapped slabs of bacon on his feet to grease the cookhouse griddle.

Paul Bunyan's cook Big Joe.

Postcard of Big Joe, Paul Bunyan’s pancake cook (Laughead Collection).

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Today marks the 30th anniversary of the release of “E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial,” Steven Spielberg’s beloved film about an alien visitor who befriends a young boy; it’s also the film that gave us the catch phrase “Phone home.” As faithful readers of this blog know, we love films from the ’80s nearly as much as forest-themed films. Because “E.T.” was such a hit, naturally talk soon thereafter began about making a sequel. It’s recently come out that Spielberg’s sequel idea had evil ETs coming to Earth and capturing Elliot, then holding and torturing him for information about his friend, who is their nemesis. There was also discussion of a sequel to the novelized version of the film in which E.T. communicated with Elliot through brain wave messages.

Fortunately, a sequel never happened. And I know why. It’s because those two ideas don’t work independently. In my sequel, I combine elements of both. It’s 20 years later and Elliot, who lived near the woods where E.T. originally had landed, has grown up to become a logger. E.T. senses that Elliot’s unhappiness and loneliness is growing worse because Elliot misses E.T. but keeps trying to forget him. That time with E.T. is proving to be the highlight of his life. We see requisite scenes of Elliot in misery: his wife leaves him for an anti-logging protester, he’s about to get fired, he flips through a scrap book with clippings of The Big Adventure, he drinks too much.

So instead of brain wave messages, E.T. begins communicating with Elliot by leaving messages in the trees his human friend cuts for a living. Given that E.T. was a botanist collecting samples when his team was scared off and left him behind, it seems only natural that he communicate through this medium. The first message is delivered the day Elliot is fired. The simple reminder of Elliot’s little friend—his face on a disc cut from a log—goes unseen by Elliot and is accidentally sold to a customer who then shows it off to the local news. Elliot sees the disc on TV, but so do the government agents who had tried to capture E.T. when he first visited. They take Elliot into custody and begin interrogating and torturing him for information. E.T. comes back and helps him escape, then hijinks and chases ensue, and his wife reunites with him. Fast-forward to the end, and the agents who were holding guns as E.T. and a young Elliot and his friends flew overhead on bikes are now protesters holding axes as E.T., Elliot, and his fellow loggers roar past them in logging trucks. Roll credits.

Below are the first publicity photos from the film “E.T.: I Pine for You” (alternative titles include “E.T.: Invasive Species,” “E.T.: Friendship Rings,” “E.T.: A Tree-mendous Friendship,” or “E.T.: Woodsy Pal”.) Okay, maybe the photos are really from page 64 of the June 1983 American Forests magazine. And maybe it’s Ora Best of Eunice, Louisiana, holding a camphor-tree log. But who’s to say this wasn’t E.T.’s way of communicating with Elliot?

Ora Best holding ET tree

Ora Best holding a message for Elliot

ET the extra-terrestrial tree

E.T.: The Extra-Tree-restrial?

 

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