The Way It Was

In this piece my Aunt, Iva Bailey writes about the summer of 1926 or 27 when she and her family went to live in a logging camp. The photo is of her father William Roy Caple (on the right) and his felling partner Gus, taken around 1913-1916.

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 The Way It Was

Today the hills overlooking the Puyallup valley are covered with highways and housing. 

I can remember when they were covered with century old douglas fir, hemlock, spruce and cedar. This is where I was born and lived my childhood. It was here in my growing-up-years, my dad worked as a logger.

I can remember one time when dad took us, my brother, my mother and myself up into the forest to live for the summer. We lived in a large tent and a lean-to that dad built out of shakes he split from a big cedar tree.

The bunk house and the rest of the logging camp were in the valley but my dad was the fire watchman that summer, so had to be up where the logging was going on. Sometimes a spark from some of the logging equipment would start a fire and it would have to be put out before it reached the log trees.

There were no logging roads in those day as that was before the days of the logging trucks.  Everything was brought in and out on a logging train. The only way the men could get to the woods was on a train or by walking.

The men in the camp built steps into the side of the hill. As I think of it now it must have taken a long time to build all of those steps. 

On weekends, when the camp was closed, we would go home which was only about 6 or seven miles away. My mother would do the washing and stock up on food for the next week.

Dad would always try to get us back before dark but sometimes we didn’t make it and we would be climbing the steps in the dark. Dad would go ahead with a lantern and we would follow behind. 

I can’t remember being afraid but there must have been all kinds of animals watching us as we made our way up the stairs of the hill. There were lots of squirrels and chipmunks up there and we would have trouble keeping them out of our food.

It was exciting watching the men cut down the big trees with their big cross-cut saws. They always seemed to know which way the tree was going to fall.

One of my Dad’s jobs was to fire up the boiler on the donkey that would pick up the logs and load them on to the flat cars of the logging train.

    A donkey engine with unknown crew.

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Another of my dad’s jobs that summer was to prepare and serve the food that would come up on the train for the men’s lunch at noon. There was always lots of left overs for us. Loggers are big eaters and there would always be lots of cake, donuts and pie.

At the end of the day when the logs were all loaded on the train, the men would jump on the train and ride it back to camp.

There was always lots of sawdust around. I can remember playing with the saw dust like most kids play in the sand. There was lots of wild berries up there and often after dad finished work we would pick berries and my mother would can or make jam out of them.

Some times dad would take us on the logging train. That was really a thrill. When we passed through the camp on the way to the mill, we would know to jump off when it slowed for a curve.

Sometimes the logs would roll off the train. It was really quite dangerous because they were big logs. My mother would take us to get away from the tracks when the train went by.

When the summer was over and all danger of fire passed, we would go back home just in time for school.

It seemed to me then that there would always be lots of big trees but now they are all gone and in their place are highways and buildings. The only thing that hasn’t changed is Mount Rainer. It still looks down on Puyallup valley like a king on a throne.  

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