Back in the spring, Cathy English at the Revelstoke Museum & Archives, held a Brown Bag History Talk about the logging industry in Revelstoke. At the time, we only wrote about the tendency of mills to burn down – something that happened frequently 100 years ago. Her talk touched on much more, so, in time for National Forest Week, here are some of the wilder tales of more recent Revelstoke forestry history, compiled from English’s notes and interviews. They’ll make you wonder what the heck WorkSafeBC was doing back then.
Walter Kozek: working with a broken leg
Walter Kozek started his decades-long career in forestry at Downie Street sawmill. He delivered sawdust to people for to use in heating their homes and also cut pine trees that were made into matches. He then went to work for Revelstoke Lumber and Shingle, before starting up his own mill with his brother Steve. Together they started W and S Sawmill on their father’s land at 12 Mile.
One day, while logging up Hiren Creek, he broke his tibia after a miscommunication with the machine operator. These days that would mean the end of a day’s work and a meeting with WorksafeBC. This was decades ago and Walter finished loading up the truck, despite – or possibly in spite – of the broken leg. Why? Because he knew the two-hour drive back to town would be smoother with a full load.
Walter Kozek kept scaling logs until 2010, when he was 88-years-old. He was the oldest log scaler in B.C. at that time.
Allan McInnes: starting out young
Allan McInnes came to Revelstoke with his father in 1944 when he was only eight-years-old. His family bought the Revelstoke Lumber and Shingle Mill. It didn’t take him long to start out in the family business – about three years to be precise.
Yes, when McInnes was 11- or 12-years-old, he was already driving logging trucks from the company’s portable mill to his home by the Big Eddy Bridge. “I had to make sure I didn’t haul too much at once or I couldn’t drive enough,” he recalled. “I loved going with the truck drivers so I knew what gear to go up or down a hill.”
Mickey Olson: money vs. survival
This is another story from Allan McInnes, about his friend Mickey Olson, who was another young logging truck drive:
“Mickey Olson was hauling peeled poles down a steep grade in early winter. The truck would start sliding out of control so Mickey had enough. Dad said we need the poles for money for wages and expenses. Mickey said the only way he would haul poles was if Dad came with him. They started down the hill and the truck took off. Dad was going to bail but Mickey held him as he would have slid down the bank under the wheels. When the truck was under control Dad said, we don’t need the money that bad.”
It should be noted that Olson also once took the lights off the Big Eddy Bridge after driving over it with a high load. He was caught by the police and the mill he was working for paid the fine.
Allan McInnes: Who needs brakes?
When he was older, Alan McInnes started driving a 6X6 truck, hauling logs and lumber up and down some pretty steep slopes. The catch being the truck only had an emergency brake. You had to be in the right gear, otherwise you’d slide backwards going uphill, or fly downhill. “There was not any spare money so when I told Dad we should put brakes on the truck, he said, ‘They only wear out,’” recalled McInnes. “Looking back I don’t know why anyone would drive or expect anyone to drive a truck in the mountains with no brakes. To say I was nervous building my first backload across a slide path is an understatement.”
Joe Kozek Sr.: A close call
More proof that driving forestry was a dangerous game: In the mid-1950s, the McInnes family bought a D8 cat and started up the company Farwell Construction. They were building a logging road on the south side of Kirkup Creek when Alan stayed home sick one day. Joe Kozek Sr. took over the task of driving the cat that day, when all of a sudden the road gave out beneath him. Kozek leapt out of the machine and caught a root, hanging on for dear life. The cat tumbled 400 feet down the hillside and smashed into pieces, but Kozek hung on.