Loggers meet old friends, trade harrowing tales 

Pemberton museum celebrates BC Forestry Service

click to enlarge PHOTO BY CATHRYN ATKINSON - Looking on Retired loggers watch as George Henry and Florence Bilenduke of the Pemberton Museum plant a pine in honour of the 100th year of the BC Forestry Service.
  • Photo by Cathryn Atkinson
  • Looking on Retired loggers watch as George Henry and Florence Bilenduke of the Pemberton Museum plant a pine in honour of the 100th year of the BC Forestry Service.

It's not every day you get to listen to a retired logger describe the harrowing experience of being in a fully loaded logging truck as it drove down the side of a mountain at a heart-stopping angle.

But Bob Craven can recall being in the cab on one such juggernaut with a friend in the late 1980s as they drove down the far side of the Stawamus Chief near Squamish.

"The road was sand and my friend was an experienced logging truck driver... He was a tough guy but that time he wouldn't even talk coming down hill because it was just sand. Everything had to be right so it didn't run away. The road zigzagged but it was steep, really steep, 28 per cent," he said.

Many such stories were traded as over 100 retired loggers and forestry workers from across the Pacific Northwest celebrated the 100th anniversary of the BC Forestry Service at a gala weekend hosted by the Pemberton and District Museum.

Many of the participants were well over the age of 70, some into their 90s. One came from as far away as Colorado to take part.

Events included a banquet on Aug. 11, displays, presentations, and walking and driving tours of former forestry sites in the region. On the morning of Aug. 12, loggers were invited to tell their stories as they were filmed, for the museum's new forestry display in the Soo Logging Building.

The museum's president George Henry said it was the one of the biggest events the museum had ever co-ordinated and the effort of a year's planning was appreciated by those who attended.

"Everyone was very enthusiastic because it was a chance to revisit a lifestyle that was pretty dear to them, back in the old days," Henry said. "We had a sense of commitment to the community that doesn't exist today."

Jay Drenka and John Warner also took part over the weekend, and recalled an industry before the use of helicopters to remove logs from atop mountains, when trucks were winched to the top for loading.

Drenka said he had taken his five daughters on hikes in the backcountry throughout their childhood, or to sites when he was called in to fix logging equipment.

"But there was never active logging and my youngest daughter was going to college and told me she wanted to see logging. I thought 'Holy Shit, here's a 19-year-old who had never seen it and I've been doing it all my life,'" he recalled.

"So I took her up and it was one of those days, there was shit flying everywhere, and she sat behind me for two hours, got out, got in a logging truck and took off," Drenka said. "When I got home that night she said 'Holy Shit. I now know why you come home, grab a beer and try to calm down.' She had no idea. You can explain 100 times but unless you're actually there...."

Warner and Craven nodded in agreement.

The forestry display opened in July, with donated equipment, photos and film telling the story of the 1.1 million-hectare Squamish Forest District, which covers the region from Howe Sound to D'Arcy. Curator Niki Madigan said they still accept donations.

"Staff worked really hard on displays, collecting tapes and images, it's been comprehensive but when you consider what we're after, it's a collection of information regarding the logging industry that was missing, Henry said."

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