Interview with Mr. and Mrs. Swanky
In 1933 Mr. and Mrs. Swanky left Vancouver by train for Prince George.
On route all their belongings were burned by a freight fire.
of all, let's discuss how you first came to Prince George.
Swanky: We had a government land deal.
Mr. Swanky: It was called a land
Lines: Was it the Federal Government?
Mrs. Swanky: I
think it was the Provincial Government. They were choosing fifty
out of Vancouver area.
Lines: You had to apply for that?
Mrs. Swanky: Yes,
we felt so fortunate that we were chosen. Dad went to meetings. Harry
Slater had been to Prince George before. We were all poor together and
in Vancouver. We always schemed as to how we could get to Prince
Lines: Because he told you about it.
Mrs. Swanky: Yes. He figured
Prince George was a great place. We got on that list.
Lines: Knowing that
the land scheme existed, you wanted to come to Prince George.
Mrs. Swanky: Yes. We heard about it. I guess it was in the papers. l
remember how we got to know about it in the first place. We felt we
very fortunate to get on the list.
Lines: You don't remember the people
who were involved?
Mrs. Swanky: We knew there was a Mr. Bowman, a
government man in Prince George. He showed Dad around, took him to
different places to try and get him a spot.
Lines: What was his first
Mrs. Swanky: Harry Bowman.
Lines: What year was that?
Mr. Swanky: 1933,
Lines: When you and fifty families were chosen to pack up
everything you had.
Mrs. Swanky: Yes. We packed up our things. A railway ticket was
provided for us. To get settled, you had to get a requisition for
everything from some office in town. How much were we allowed? Was it
fifty dollars a month?
Mr. Swanky: Three hundred dollars in total.
Mrs. Swanky: That
was supposed to get us settled.
Lines: Build your house and everything,
Mr. Swanky: Yes
Lines: Do you remember any of
the names of the other families that came up?
Mrs. Swanky: Only Slaters. We
never got to know any of the others.
Mrs. Swanky: Rudolph, Did you ever get to know any
of the others?
Mr. Swanky: Perhaps but I've forgotten.
Mrs. Swanky: We certainly were never in touch with
them. We must have seen them on the train when we all came up but I
don't remember that. We never mixed with them.
Mr. Swanky: See they didn't
have to come on the same train as us or to the same area.
Mrs. Swanky: That's
right. They could have gone to Vanderhoof or almost anywhere in B.C.
But you know later on
Bowman told Dad that we were the only family that stuck it out.
Lines: Didn't the Slaters stay?
Mrs. Swanky: They stayed awhile but they
also went back.
Lines: So out of that whole program?
Mrs. Swanky: Out of
fifty families that were sent out, we were the only ones who stayed on
the land or stayed away from the city. That was the whole
idea, to get us out of the city.
Lines: When you arrived in
Prince George on the train, what about that?
Mrs. Swanky: Mr. Bowman was
there to meet us.
Lines: Wasn't there something about a fire?
Yes. We got a little old place that was next to the shoemaker. It was a
bare place. There must have been a bed, a table and a couple of chairs
and a stove. We stayed there while Dad and Mr. Bowman went out looking
at land until we got settled. All I had to cook with was a pie plate
and probably some cans. Things we had with our lunch when we
Lines: Because everything else was burned.
Mrs. Swanky: It was all
packed. We were waiting for it. But in the end it turned out that we
it because the freight had been burned. The car that contained our
belongings was next to a gasoline car and it exploded and burned
everything. We got two hundred
dollars worth of compensation from the railway for losing our things.
It wasn't furniture but trunks, bedspreads. A lot of our wedding gifts
and all our pictures were burned. We had to make a list. Once a thing
is gone, it's hard to remember what you had packed. We did get two
hundred dollars worth of compensation. We bought a cow with some of the
money. I don't know what we did with the rest.
Lines: First you lived in
the little place right next the shoemaker. Who was the shoemaker?
Mrs. Swanky: Mr. John Neal.
Lines: Was that on George Street?
Mrs. Swanky: No. I
don't know the name. It was off Main Street, not very far. He was there
for years after. It was from him that we got that wonderful good cat
that we had.
Lines: The one that caught rabbits.
Mrs. Swanky: She caught
rabbits, mice and she could open the door herself, walk in and out. He
lived in the log cabin then. In the night we would hear this bounce.
She'd probably caught a mouse. In the morning all we would find was the
nose and the whiskers of the mouse. It would be lying on the floor.
She'd eaten everything else.
Lines: What color was she?
Mrs. Swanky: She was white and motley grey with a little bit of
in her. She was large and a good reliable cat.
Lines: When you and Mr.
Bowman looked for land, you selected land and moved on it.
Mrs. Swanky: Yes. That's how we got to the homestead.
Mr. Swanky: I walked
around the area for days, a week anyway.
Mrs. Swanky: At least a week.
Mr. Swanky: We went out the road and saw the cabin. It was ten miles
Lines: That was the Chief Lake Road.
Mr. Swanky: Yes.
Lines: There was
a cabin on the land.
Mrs. Swanky: Yes. A one room cabin with a window on
Lines: it was log.
Mrs. Swanky: A log cabin. There was a
stove in it. There were lots of pots and pans. A widower had lived in
Lines: That was Garvin from Garvin's Canyon? That was Garvin's cabin
(that we bought)
Mrs. Swanky: Yes, and
the Canyon was named after him.
Parker: Was he a trapper? What was he doing there?
Mrs. Swanky: He
had lived there but had built a cabin a couple miles down the road.
one was for sale. I guess the government had bought it and let us have
it. We didn't have to pay as we had no money.
Mr. Swanky: Yes, fifty
Mrs. Swanky: Did we ever have to pay him more later?
Mr. Swanky: Yes, also the one across the road.
Mrs. Swanky: We bought that as the years went by.
Lines: His son owned the
place across the road.
Mr. Swanky: His son.
Mrs. Swanky: We met his son, after. He was a fine man. Mr. Garvin was
an old gentleman.
He used to walk with two sticks like I'm walking now with
my skipoles. He wasn't very strong. He would walk the two miles and
visit us. He was considered a queer old man by all the neighbours but
like him. He seemed to like us. I remember him saying that when he went
walking, he would sit on a stump and sit quietly. He'd watch the deer
come right close. I don't remember too much about him but I do know I
liked him. He used to come have meals and coffee. All the bachelors
thought it was wonderful to come to our place where there was a
woman that was a woman. There was Mrs. Thorsnes but she was like a man.
When I first
met her, I didn't know whether she was a man or woman. She
dressed like a man. She talked like a man. She had her hair out like a
Lines: Did she work like a man?
Mrs. Swanky: Yes. She worked right
with her husband outside. She kept house like a bachelor. Did her
washing like a bachelor. You should have seen the clothes on her line.
They looked like a bunch of floor rags hung out. They were grey. Her
cabin was swept clean. I remember the window sill was all collected
tools. Pliers, wrenches, nails and screws. It was all on her window
sill in the kitchen. They were friendly. They were good to us. They
helped us but at the same time they helped themselves a little. We
team work and they had a team of horses. We had no horses but needed
some ploughing done. They would come with their team and give us
one's day work with the horses. How many days of your work later
Mr. Swanky: With the team, I had to work two days.
Parker: What kind of
jobs would you do?
Mrs. Swanky: Cut logs, clear land, whatever needed
Lines: When you moved into the homestead, you lived in a one room
log cabin. Did you build another one?
Mrs. Swanky: Not right away.
Two years we lived in that cabin.
Lines: You had June and Gordon.
Mrs. Swanky: We had June and Gordon. Oscar was born while we lived in
cabin, I'm sure. remember
the cabin had four windows. There was just room for the crib. We had
the double bunk for June
and Gordon. When Oscar came along, you built a crib for him and we had
under the window. We used to open his window at night. I remember
waking up one morning. He had kicked off his covers and the window
was open. The poor kid was so cold. He was almost frozen. But he
survived. We lived in the cabin until I went home to get my
inheritance. My Dad had left me a plot of land, eighty acres on the
prairies. We couldn't even rake up the money to pay the taxes on that
so sold it to my sister for two hundred dollars. With that money
said you take that money and go home and visit your mother. Dad had
while we were still in Vancouver. I took June
along because she had been chewed up by mosquitoes the year before. The
mosquitoes were terrible. They nearly killed us. It was so bad that we
used to make a smudge. We'd all get out of the house and open all the
windows. There were screens on all the windows. We put a smudge in the
house. All the mosquitoes would go to the window and try to get out.
would sneak in and kill the mosquitoes on the screens. We would rush
in, shut all the doors and go to bed. We slept pretty well.
there anything you used for repellent?
Mrs. Swanky: We did hear about
some which we bought. They were green candles, very thin. When we had
company we'd put them around under the table so the mosquitoes wouldn't
eat our guests.
Parker: There was no home formula you had for your
bodies when you worked outside.
Mrs. Swanky: We had mosquito nets over a
hat. They didn't last so too long but they ate our children so badly.
June was so chewed up that the next year, Rudolph said you go home
the mosquito season. I went and stayed from June till August. I came
back on August 16th, Oscar's birthday. The mosquitoes were gone. Also,
everything was frozen black.
Lines: So your garden was ruined that
Mrs. Swanky: We had nice strawberries. By that time Cecil and
Helen were married and Rudolph got Helen to can our strawberries for
Lines: Cecil and Helen Normanton.
Mrs. Swanky: Cecil and Helen
Lines: They had moved next door to you.
Mrs. Swanky: They were half
a mile away. She had made jam. That was one year we had good
and I wasn't even there to can them.
Lines: How did you get back and forth
to town and get your supplies?
Mrs. Swanky: With Thorsnes and the team
Mr. Swanky No I walked quite often.
Mrs. Swanky: That was the first year. But we used to go once a month
with Thorsnes's. The
next year there was Ferguson, the Post Master at Chief Lake, had a
little truck. He would give us a ride for a dollar. For a dollar we
could drive into town and bring home our groceries.
Lines: That was quite
a lot, wasn't it?
Mrs. Swanky: A dollar for a ten mile drive and bring
home our groceries, we were lucky to get it. Otherwise Dad would have
had to carry the groceries on his back.
Lines: You often walked?
Mrs. Swanky: I remember him walking at Christmas. Then Ben came
stayed with us. By that time they had built Ben a cabin.
Lines: Uncle Ben
was there too?
Mrs. Swanky: Yes. By that time we had our other house. How
many years did we spend there anyway?
Mr. Swanky: Four years.
Mrs. Swanky: About the third year, Ben and Olive came
out. I remember Ben and Dad walked to town at Christmas to bring home
the Christmas mail. It was about forty below.
Lines: it was ten miles
Mrs. Swanky: Ten miles to town and ten miles back.
Mr. Swanky: I
remember I thought for sure my feet were frozen.
Mrs. Swanky: He brought the Christmas
mail. Grandma used to send us a Christmas parcel every year when
she lived in Edmonton.
Lines: When you moved out here and moved into
that little house, did you have to clear the land to make a garden?
Mrs. Swanky: No, there was a clearing.
Mr. Swanky: That's why I chose it.
Mrs. Swanky: We started a garden right away. We had a house. Was
cellar there or did you build that after?
Mr. Swanky: After.
Lines: Once you were there and you had your garden , you bought
cow"? Did you live off the land or did you get work?
Mrs. Swanky: Yes we bought the cow. By that time he was hacking ties.
Lines: How did that
Mr. Swanky: We got to know Bill. He batched about two miles away.
Lines: He probably came over for dinner.
Mrs. Swanky: All the bachelors
used to come and visit us and stay for a meal.
Lines: Was that hard? Was there enough food?
Mrs. Swanky: We never missed what we shared
with anybody. The men would hunt moose and always gave us pieces. At
that time you didn't need a special license. You could
shoot a moose. Then you turned in the tag you got from the government
office. You were allowed to shoot moose for food. When one bachelor, ,
farmer or neighbour got a moose, they always shared with the rest of
us. That's how Dad happened to get that old gun. I guess we gave it to
Gordon and Ann. Dad would take his turn and go hunting. He would share
Lines: When you met Bill the Finn, what happened?
Mr. Swanky: The only cash we could get was cutting logs or selling wood
winter time or the railroad ties that we went into the bush to
Lines: How did you out the trees?
Mrs. Swanky: Cross cut saw. You must have worked together with Bill and
Bill had these tools.
Mr. Swanky: We made a deal with Bill. Bill had no
farm. He had no timber. We would supply the timber if he would show me
Mrs. Swanky: Each made their own ties on our land.
Lines: How do
you make a tie?
Mr. Swanky: Saw and an axe.
Lines: You sawed the tree down
with a double edged saw. The kind with the man on either end.
Mr. Swanky: No we never worked together. Not in the same bush.
Mrs. Swanky: They each had a little area.
Lines: Did you use the "D" saws, the
handle was shaped like a "D"?
Mr. Swanky: No, a buck saw,
Lines: Did you
saw the tree over with a buck saw?
Mr. Swanky: We cut the tree down, cut
off the branches with the axe, measured out the tree into eight
foot lengths. That was the real thing. The axe had a blade about a foot
Lines: Did it have a blade on each end?
Mrs. Swanky: No, that's a
double bladed axe.
Lines: A broad axe. The blade itself was about
twelve inches wide.
Mr. Swanky: Yes.
Mrs. Swanky: Draw her a picture of a broad ax. I'll give you a pencil.
This would be twelve inches here and then
it came narrower .
looked like the old axes that you see the Vikings carrying for war.
Mr. Swanky: Yes, something like that.
Lines: Did you saw the tree into eight
foot lengths or did you out it with the ax?
Mr. Swanky: Cutting the
tree lying on the ground. You stand on to the tree and cut the edges
all along. When this tree is done, you turn it over and cut the other
side. You made it square.
Mrs. Swanky: You got more money for a square
tie than if you just out off two sides.
Lines: You stood on this tree and
cut on either side.
Mrs. Swanky: Dangerous, some people did cut their feet
Lines: You did that before you cut it into eight foot
lengths. After it was square, you cut it short. Did you leave the ties
lying in the snow until spring?
Mr. Swanky: We would make neat
piles. We would get a farmer and bring the ties out of the bush.
Mrs. Swanky: That's where Willie Teschke came in. He hauled them
out for us.
We used to send them into town on the sleigh. Later on a truck came.
The Robertson boys had trucks and they came out for them. That's where
Dad got the idea of getting his own truck. That's how he got his first
Lines: How much did you get for a tie?
Mr. Swanky: Between forty and fifty
cents a tie. You had to pay ten cents a tie for having it hauled. You
had to pay two or three cents a tie to have it loaded into a railroad
car. I think there was two cents royalty.
Lines: You had to pay the
government. You would get about thirty-five cents for a tie. How long
would it take you to make a tie?
Mr. Swanky: That's a good question.
Mrs. Swanky: Some days you made thirty-five ties, the most you
had a contest as to who would make the most ties.
Mr. Swanky: The Swedes
were wonderful axe men. They seemed to be born that way. They could
make two ties to my one.
Lines: Is that how you met Ongman? Did he ever
Mr. Swanky: We never got to know him until we lived in town
during the war.
Lines: You came up in 1933 and you stayed on the homestead
for four years, until 1937. Did you move into town then?
Mr. Swanky: We
moved into town partly because of Gordon and his schooling. We tried to
get the lessons at home but it didn't work out too well so we moved
into town so Gordon could get schooling. I think we hacked ties there
Lines: When you lived on the
homestead, what kind of food did you get to eat? Mom said something
about you going and collecting cranberries in great big bags.
Mr. Swanky: Cranberries, huckleberries.
Lines: Did the whole family go and
Mr. Swanky: No, we couldn't take the kids out.
Mr. Swanky: You couldn't do much work.
Lines: Picking berries wasn't a
Mr. Swanky: Unless you could get someone to stay with
the kids at home.
Mrs. Swanky: One year you went in to help load the
ties yourself to save money. I stayed alone. I still remember how
scared I was. Chores had to be done and I made sure everything was done
before dark. The stumps in the field looked like bears to me.
Mrs. Swanky: Yes.
Lines: Did you ever have trouble with a
Mr. Swanky: No.
Mrs. Swanky: No They never bothered us.
Lines: What kind
of food did you grow in your garden? Where did you get the seed?
Mrs. Swanky: The neighbours gave us potatoes. Joe Stewart came over
couple sacks of potatoes which did us until our own crop was ready. We
seeded some of them. We were allowed a requisition to get things at the
Lines: This was during the depression.
Mrs. :Swanky: Yes. We had
nothing when we went out there. The first year we were allowed to get
groceries at the store. We lived on $9.00 worth of groceries
a month. That included a sack of bran for our cow. We used some of the
for brown bread.
Lines: You made all your own bread?
Mrs. Swanky: Yes. We went to the store once a month to buy everything.
sugar, tea, coffee, salt, flour, bran and if the money lasted we would
a little cheese. We didn't buy meat because we had moose meat.
grew your own vegetables.
Mrs. Swanky: You couldn't grow very much. We
grew carrots, turnips and potatoes.
Lines: It wasn't particularly good
Mrs. Swanky: It was frosty. Everything froze in
August. In spring we would always watch the full moon. We had already
planted things. With the full moon in spring it quite often froze. I
guess it still does in Prince George in the country.
Lines: You didn't
grow green vegetables.
Mrs. Swanky: We grew beets.
Lines: Mainly root
Mrs. Swanky: Turnips, potatoes, carrots and beets. We
had all kinds of wild berries. The men would go into town and pick
Cranberry Island. They would bring home a sack full of cranberries. We
made cranberry jelly and cranberry catsup.
Lines: June said she hated the
taste of the wild cranberries.
Mrs. Swanky: I don't think I would hate
it so much now but we had so much of it. We used to put cranberry syrup
on our pancakes.
Lines: That was Cottonwood Island where you picked the
cranberries. Are they still there?
Mrs. Swanky: I don't know. It's all
cleared and built up. There used to be lots of cranberries growing on
island. I remember Dad and Cecil would go to town and come home with a
sack of cranberries on their backs.
Lines: You walked in and picked
cranberries on the way back.
Mrs. Swanky: Yes, later on Ferguson used to
drive the truck once a month to town. The people would pay him a dollar
to go to town with him and bring out the groceries. I never went to
for about nine months after Oscar was born. I stayed home. That's why
he was so spoiled. The one time you and I were going to pick low bush
cranberries at Reid Lake. We drove out there. By that time we had a
truck. Oscar was about three years old. He was supposed to stay with
Dorothy Bayley while you and I went picking cranberries. He kicked up
that Dad took him behind the barn and gave him a licking. Dad said
for him to stay here and that's it. He was scared to death as he had
never been left with anyone. He gave Helen a terrible time when Gordon
broke his leg. We had to go into town. We had a truck by that time.
That's how the accident happened. Dad was driving the truck. We were
taking a lady, Mrs. Campbell, out past Chief Lake. She had two little
girls. June and Gordon and two of the Campbell girls were sitting in
the back of the truck. Gordon was on the outside. Oscar was on my lap
in the front seat , We were going through a narrow road with bushes on
both sides. In the bushes there was a log that caught on the cab of
the truck. The log swung around and broke Gordon' s leg and one of the
Campbell girl's collar bone. We had to take him to the doctor and Oscar
had to stay with Helen. She had an awful time because he had never been
with anyone. Gordon had to stay in the hospital for several months.
We went every day to see him. Rudolph made sure we had a load of wood
sell to the government agent. I don't remember the fellows name. Oscar
was good friends
later on with one of their sons. They both flew together. They took
some airplane training in Vancouver. He was a government agent and Dad
was selling wood to the hospital. Every day we took a load of
wood in and visited Gordon in the hospital. I might have missed one day
and Dad went by himself but he was visited every day.
Lines: You moved
into town so Gordon could go to school.
Mrs. Swanky: In the meantime we
were giving correspondence lessons to Gordon and June. She had learned
to read at the same time. That's how she managed to read when she was
Lines: She picked up what he was learning.
Mrs. Swanky: Yes while we were
Lines: When you moved into town, where did you live?
Mrs. Swanky: We rented a house on Fifth Avenue, near Pipkeys. We lived
for a year.
Lines: Was that about 1937?
Mrs. Swanky: I don't remember the
Lines: Had the war broken out by the time you moved to town?
Swanky; No, not then. There wasn't a war yet. We moved in about 1938 as
we lived three and a half years on the homestead. On the homestead we
started in May and moved into town in time for the school year in 1939
maybe even 1940.
Lines: The war had started then.
Mrs. Swanky: We weren't
much aware of it. Later on they started to build an army camp in Prince
Lines: When you moved into town, you rented a small place?
Mrs. Swanky: We rented a small place, two bedrooms, kitchen and a
living room. I
don't know if the house is still there. The next year we moved to Third
Avenue where the three cabins were. The Labontes were on one side,
Wilson on the other and we were in the middle.
Lines: You moved into
three cabins on Third Avenue.
Mrs. Swanky: We were in one of the three
cabins. They were built just before it goes down in the valley at the
of Third Avenue. We were on a bank.
Lines: Where the Government Buildings
are now on Third Avenue.
Mrs. Swanky: I don't know what it is
Lines: Was it near Central?
Mrs. Swanky: Right before Third Avenue
goes down into the valley. The valley used to flood every year and the
Nechako River came up.
Lines: It must be at the bottom of Third
Mrs. Swanky: At the end of Third Avenue before it went
Lines: I don't think of Third Avenue as going down.
Mrs. Swanky: You
know where Spanner's Clothing Store was?. What store is there now?
was a butcher shop quite close to us. There must be a valley. They
could level that out. It always flooded.
Lines: You couldn't have been
too far from the Nechako River.
Mrs. Swanky: We couldn't see it from where
we were. The flood came all over the low valley. One family had to come
on a raft to the
part where we were because there was water all around their
Lines: Dad, tell us about the truck you bought for eighty
Mr. Swanky: It wasn't worth it. It was a small truck. All I
could haul was twenty-five ties at a time. It hardly paid. I had asked
the bank for a loan but they laughed at me. Soon after
that I saved the money to buy another truck without the help of the
bank. That truck was a larger one for one hundred and
twenty-five dollars. That worked quite good. The war came and
everything became easier and I bought a new truck.
When they started building an army camp not too far from where we
lived, I got the job of trucking for the building of the camp.
Lines: You brought the
wood to build the camp.
Mr. Swanky: Lumber. I would take the lumber to
where they needed it. That was a good job and easy on the truck.
Parker: It must have
been a 3/4 ton truck.
Mrs. Swanky: It wasn't a pick-up truck. It was e
truck for hauling.
Lines: Like a lumber truck.
Mr. Swanky: Yes.
Lines: How did
you get the job?
Mr. Swanky: I forget how I came to get it.
Mrs. Swanky: Was that
before you got to know Elias? Elias was one of the bosses on that job.
Mr. Swanky: I don't remember.
Mrs. Swanky: There was lots of work for everybody with the army camp
coming in. That one truck we nearly lost because we couldn't t make the
payments. That was a bad spell. We had our worries at times.
the war meant to us at first was a job.
Mrs. . Swanky: A job.
were easier because of the construction. Did you have any feeling one
way or the other about the Germans and Hitler?
Mrs. Swanky: Of
course, we hated them because of the propaganda. There were all
kinds of things on the radio about them. It meant prosperity for Prince
George. Many people moved in and everything was rationed. The stores
were rationed as to the supplies they could get according to the people
used to serve but the town more than doubled.
Lines: You only had half the
Mrs. Swanky: It was hard to get sugar, butter and ice-cream.
Things were rationed according to the population that had been
here. So the black market flourished
Lines: You hauled lumber for the building of the army camp. What
did you do after that when the army camp was built? That would be in
Mr. Swanky: The war was still going on.
Mrs. Swanky: :Dad felt he wasn't earning his money so he finally gave
up the job.
He said the money was too easy.
Mr. Swanky: That was after the
camp was built.
Mrs. Swanky: There wasn't too much to do. They kept him on because he
was always giving men rides back and forth to town. This was up on
Lines: Where was the camp built?
Mrs. Swanky: Out towards
Cranbrook Hill, near the fairgrounds. Some of those old buildings still
remain there. They are being used for other things.
Lines: How many men
came to town for the camp?
Mrs. Swanky: There were a lot of men on
the construction. The soldiers came in with their wives. We had one of
them living in the little cabin right beside our house. We had built a
cabin for Dad to do his book work. We rented it to these people as
everyone wanted rooms to live in. She was a young woman with a baby
married to one of the soldiers. I don' t know what you did after you
quit the job with the camp.
Mr. Swanky: That's when we started the
Lines: How did you get started in the sawmill?
Mr. Swanky: There
was a Swede, Charlie Carlson, and another guy. I don't remember his
The three of us started a little mill.
Mrs. Swanky: Where did you start
it? On the homestead.
Mr. Swanky: No. Right near Buckhorn Lake.
and Charlie Carlson.
Mrs. Swanky: You mean Abrahamson.
Mr. Swanky: Ernie Abrahamson.
Lines: The three of you started a mill. You had
Mr. Swanky: I had the truck.
Mrs. Swanky: And he had the bookkeeping
ability. The other guys didn't know anything about bookkeeping.
bank put up some kind of capital loan. Somebody had the capital to
Mr. Swanky: Carlson had some cash and I think Ernie. I didn't
have any cash but l had the truck. It worked out pretty good for
Lines: Was it just a sawmill or did you log as well?
Mr. Swanky: We
had to cut the logs to get them to the sawmill.
Lines: You felled the
Mrs. Swanky: No, sawed them.
Mr. Swanky: We would drag them into the
Lines: With horses.
Mr. Swanky: Yes. We would cut them into
Parker: Was that private land?
Mr. Swanky: No.
Parker: It was leased
from the government.
Mr. Swanky: Yes.
Lines: With the cash of Abrahamson
and Carlson, you bought a sawmill?
Mrs. Swanky: We bought the saw.
Mr. Swanky: It worked out good for about three years.
Mrs. Swanky: When did
Oscar Nordine buy out Charlie? In the end you had Oscar Nordine for a
partner. Did you start with Oscar Nordine?
Mrs. Swanky: I started with
Mrs. Swanky: You said Charlie Carlson.
Mr. Swanky: No, it wasn't Charlie.
Mrs. Swanky: It was Oscar
Nordine right from the start.
Mr. Swanky: Yes.
Lines: He was the Swede. You, Abrahamson and
Mrs. Swanky: It wasn't Carlson but we had dealings with Charlie lots of
Lines: How was the sawmill powered?
Mr. Swanky: With a gasoline engine, very much like
the one out of the truck.
Mrs. Swanky: You were doing fine. Dad did the books, paid
the income tax and everything. Gordon was growing up and we wanted him
have a job. The other guys didn't want to share with Gordon.
Mr. Swanky: It was
Mrs. Swanky: He had no children. He didn't want anyone to share in the
profits. Dad sold his share of the mill to the other two partners and
started on his own.
Lines: Was that when Canyon Tie and Timber started? What
year would that be?
Lines: The war would be over, probably in 1947.
Mr. Swanky: No the war had
ended in 1945.
Lines: Where did you set up the mill?
Mrs. Swanky: I know you had one set up
near Stone Creek but I think we had the twins by that time. I don't
know where you set up on your own. Was it at the homestead?
Mr. Swanky: No.
Parker: It sounds like there were no labourers.
Mrs. Swanky: No, they
had hired help.
Lines: How many men did it take to run the camp?
Mrs. Swanky: They had a camp
and a cook.
Lines: It was a big outfit then.
Mrs. Swanky: Carrie and I used to go out for
weekends and have the cook make our meals. The men would stay
Lines: This was at Buckhorn Lake. How many crew members did you have?
Mrs. Swanky: Up
to ten. I just remember the cook.
Mr. Swanky: Nine of them.
Mr. Swanky: With you three, that
would be twelve.
Mrs. Swanky: No I counted us.
Mrs. Swanky: There was enough so they had a
Lines: You had some kind of camp so you stayed out there during the
Mrs. Swanky: Yes, they stayed there and quite often on Sundays.
Mr. Swanky: There were four
cabins for the men.
Lines: When you had this mill on Buckhorn Lake, how many miles
was that from Prince George?
Mr. Swanky: Sixteen. That seemed a terrible long way.
Lines: Were the roads bad?
Mr. Swanky: The main road wasn't too bad. There were no paved
roads, dirt roads. Some of them pretty bad.
Lines: Did you log all the time with horses or did you buy a machine
at Buckhorn Lake?
Mr. Swanky: We bought an old small tractor.
you remember if it was a D3 or what it was?
Parker: The forests were mainly
virgin at that time. You weren't dealing with second growth. It was all
big spruce, reasonable sized pine. It would have been close to the
Buckhorn mill. It wasn't a long haul and no logging trucks.
No trucks. They hauled the logs in with horses.
Mr. Swanky: To
begin with, yes. Then when we got the tractor only one horse was used
the trees to the edge of the woods.
Mrs. Swanky: The horse just worked in
Parker: Do you remember if there was any thought of reforestation
at that time?
Mrs. Swanky: There was lots of forest.
Parker: There was no
program to do anything with the land once the trees were removed. It
was still crown land.
Mrs. Swanky: The people were trying to clear land
Parker: Was it policy for the government to sell the cleared land
Mrs. Swanky: It wasn't really cleared, just logged. They
only took the big trees and left standing,
Parker: It was selective
logging. There were different ages of trees in the forest. You would
take a stand of mature trees.
Mrs. Swanky: You would never cut it clean.
Parker: There was a lot of regeneration. There would be stands of young
that you wouldn't cut down. It would look after itself.
Lines: Where did you
sell your lumber?
Mr. Swanky: A dealer in Prince George.
Parker: Do you
remember the price?
Mr. Swanky: I don't remember but it seems to me
about twenty dollars a thousand board feet.
Lines: You were quite
prosperous during this time, financially.
Mr. Swanky: Yes.
Lines: After you
started on your own, you got a big contract out by Woodpecker.
Swanky: He got a stand of timber he was supposed to be able
to cut, a contract with the government.
Lines: That's the part I
going really good for us until they cleared that timber immature where
Dad was going to log for
the next fifteen or twenty years. We couldn't buy timber around there
Lines: How could it be immature?
Mrs. Swanky: They figured it
would grow a little more if they left it another twenty years.
Swanky: Gordon and I went to look it over. We had about twenty thousand
Mrs. Swanky: He built this big camp
and built cabins for the men.
Mr. Swanky: They told me that I should get another outfit to go
with me because it was too much for one. I didn't do that. The
government wanted me to put a road from the main road to the timber
which was six miles. I sent Gordon and another guy to look it over.
found an old road so we only had to put in less than a mile. The
government for some reason got mad about that and
wanted us to put a road right through. This was a good road and good
timber. Then an Englishman came.
Parker: A bureaucrat.
Mr. Swanky: Something like that. He decided
that most of the timber was too
young. We had figured on at least a ten year situation but he said we
had to quit right
Lines: This was after you set everything up. After you built the camp
and the road, surveyed everything.
Mrs. Swanky: Everything. That's why
we're not rich today.
Parker: They had no idea what was there. Yet, they
gave you all this permission before they came up.
Mr. Swanky: There was a
lot of young timber but there was lots of the other. He said they
couldn't let me cut any more because it was too young. I would have to
wait ten to fifteen years. I had built ten cabins for camp, a big
office, and three bigger cabins for married men. I had to borrow some
money. He finally said no more cutting. What could I do?
Lines: Now we are so used to fighting with the government, you probably
would have taken them to court.
Mrs. Swanky: People didn't do that in
those days. Dad had gone to a lot of expense to build this
Lines: Didn't you have anything in writing? Didn't they give you a
Mr. Swanky: I don' t remember.
Mrs. Swanky: The
dealings we had with Forestry up to that time had been quite
Parker: It was your impression that this English guy that
came out had quite a bit of clout. It was his decision.
still think that he was going to run the show.
Lines: That wasn't
Mr. Swanky: He was a young person.
Mrs. Swanky: He was from the
Lines: He had all kinds of ideas about conservation that
Parker: He could be looked up, I suppose. That's probably on file
somewhere, all his decisions. It would be interesting to have a look at
it. For you to have no compensation for the expenses.
Mrs. Swanky: You
sold the cabins for about one hundred dollars a piece and cleaned up
Lines: You bought the land on both sides of the road.
Mrs. Swanky: We
bought the land where you crossed somebody's land.
Lines: Didn't you own Colebank's farm?
Mrs. Swanky: No.
Lines: I know
you gave that farm to Colebank in the end so you must have owned it at
one time. Remember old Rupert Colebank with all those kids.
Did you give them that farm?
Lines: In the end you did. You gave
it to them for their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary.
Mrs. Swanky: We
bought the farm with the nice log house on it, the Grundell farm. He
to buy that to cross her land to get to the camp. The older lady was
a nurse at that time.
Mr. Swanky: We had to cross part of her land.
Mrs. Swanky: You had to
buy that. I don't remember about the Colebank
Lines: You must have owned it. Remember how they lived off the
family allowance. Rupert would never work. It must have been their
twenty-fifth wedding anniversary that you gave them the farm. They were
supposed to pay you for it and they never did. They never had any money
to pay you.
Mrs. Swanky: It was the Grundell farm that Dad had to buy.
There had been a nice house on it. He had to buy that to cross her land
to get to the camp.