Friday 17 February 2023

Taking a Job at Far West Cedar Mill

With no permanent employment available at the elementary school and the temporary work with the Forest Service over, reality set in and I knew I had better try to find some kind of regular employment.  That day I had an appointment at Village Esso to get my snow tires put on the Scout, and after dropping it off, I drummed up my courage to do some job hunting.  

I walked down to the end of Main Street to the CN (the Canadian National Railroad) Station to check out the chances of working on the railroad, which employed a lot of local residents, but couldn’t find the CN Roadmaster, who did the employing, so that ended up being an unproductive trip.  With that “no go,” under my belt, I decided to try my luck at the Far West Cedar mill, so I strolled to the edge of town, over the railroad tracks, to their large mill yard; piled full of cedar logs at one end and stacks of the decorative split cedar fences that had been produce and bundled, at the other.  

I found the foreman of the outfit in a trailer and made my inquiry.   He was very eager to have me and hired me on the spot, wanting to put me to work immediately.   After I explained I really wasn’t wearing work clothes and that I had left the Scout at the garage, the foreman took me out to his pickup truck and drove me home so I could get into some work clothes.   He then drove me back at the mill, where I was put to work manhandling 6 foot long fence posts, and using a machine to bevel their ends, before stacking them in a bin.

The next day, my first day as a millworker, was also Halloween.  I had to get up at 6:30 so I could be at Far West at 7:00.  The mill building was a vert huge T-shaped metal quonset hut that was pretty much open on all three ends.  There were some large sliding doors on the end where I worked, but they were generally left wide open, so obviously the building wasn’t heated and the workers had to dress accordingly.  I did wonder what it was going to be like during the cold winter.

I was put to work on a machine that drilled five inch elongated holes in the fences posts, which held the split cedar rails.  My task was to grab a split cedar post, lay it on the drill table, then pull a lever that lowered the units of three drills down through the post.  Then I had to lift the post from the drill table, and put it into a large steel cradle that held them until it was stacked full.  Once the bin was full, I had to climb up on top of it and bind the bundle of fence posts with a steel ribbon.

    Lugging the cedar fence posts around was very physical work, especially the 3-hole posts which are 6’6” long.  For my forty hours of work I get a paycheck of $535.  I would sometimes drill 560 posts a day and bundle them into 7 lifts.

    In the photo below , on the left side you can see the ends of the cedar fence posts, stacked in a bine.  It was my job to man-handle and drill holes in them.

    Tomorrow I will blog about the dangerous jobs at Far West.

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