Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 19 – Loggers invasion

When I am researching one topic I often come across random historical tidbits that I think might be interesting to research one day.  These tidbits sometimes end up as full-fledged stories and sometimes they just stay as random historical tidbits.  I have collected quite a few, so I thought it might be fun to present them in the form of “treats” for a local history advent calendar. Think of them as holiday cocktail party fodder – 24 facts about Vancouver history that can be used as conversation starters at your next social event.

Day 19: Loggers once “invaded” the city at Christmas…

There was a time in this city’s history when the newspapers would not only announce the seasonal arrival of the first Mandarin Oranges, but also announce the seasonal arrival of the annual influx of loggers. All during the week before Christmas the city’s population would swell by the several thousands as the woodsmen arrived by steamship from logging camps on Vancouver Island and the Mainland.

“When you’ve been in the woods for a month the bright lights of the city are attractive. After six months they become an obsession”

That’s the way 32-year-old logger Harry Greene described, in a 1954 newspaper article, how loggers feel about the months of isolation and toil before they “burst out of the woods” for Christmas and head for the “big city”.

Photo of loggers in the forest ca. 1940s (Santa hats added by me and not part of original photo). Photo: Jack Lindsay, CoV Archives, CVA 1184-2182.

During the loggers’ annual Christmas trek to Vancouver they would arrive in their “store clothes” with their pockets full of “wooden dollars”, ready to spend and celebrate the “way of men who play as hard as they work”. For some of the single men, this may have meant going to the beer parlours and “chasing women” (especially in the early days), but for most it meant spending the seasonal “lay-off” with family and friends.


2 thoughts on “Local History Advent Calendar 2018 – Day 19 – Loggers invasion

  1. Thanks for this. It brings back memories from when I first moved to Vancouver in 1980.

    You may find this hard to believe but affordable housing was in short supply back then and I ended up living for some months in an SRO rooming house on Richards Street.

    One of my neighbours was an old retired logger. Decades of felling trees had broken his body, if not his spirit. He was a wonderful old coot with a lifetime of interesting stories to tell in his thick Swedish accent. Unfortunately he had almost no one to tell them to. Mostly he just kept to his little room, drinking cheap wine and cooking the same sort of meals he used to eat in the bush.

    He would, however, let me coax him out to walk with me through Gastown and the Downtown Eastside — basically the Vancouver of his youth.

    As we walked he would roll back the years and describe the surroundings as they had been when he was a young man, fresh off the boat and looking for work, or a logger back from six months in the bush. It was he who treated me — a lad from the landlocked Prairies — to my first ever salmon steak in the Only Seafood Cafe. I remember how he laughed when I asked him why they spread salt on the floor — “cockroaches,” he explained.

    He was part of a fast-vanishing Vancouver I was lucky enough to see and experience before it disappeared forever. I treasure the memory I have of him.

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