Sunday, September 22, 2013

Growing up in the logging camps


Local history buffs can rejoice in the publication of "What's In The Woods?" by William "Bill" Dennison and Clifford "Blackie" Gilbert ($35 in hardcover from the Butte Meadows-Jonesville Community Association). Checks for $40 (which includes $5 in shipping), made out to BMJCA, can be sent to 20 Lakewood Way, Chico, CA 95926; reach Dennison at (530) 258-1489 or

The subtitle fills in the details: "Life Stories And Histories As Told By The Kids Who Lived In Northern California Diamond Match Company Logging Camps 1927-1944." "The Kids" are six lifelong friends, Dennison, Gilbert, Jackie Chandler Abell, Stanley "Stan" Brock, Pat Schulse Gein, and June Beavers Yount. The co-authors "were raised in simple logging cabins just across the dusty road from each other in the West Branch Camp. Their lives and friendships have been interwoven for over 79 years."

The book itself is beautifully, elegantly designed. It includes a logging glossary, 142 historic photographs, and maps by Chris Ficken. The remembrances, set within the context of Diamond's experience in Northern California, center on "The Woods." The term "is still used in the forest products industry to denote the logging operation locations. Our homes were in very remote areas and surrounded by The Woods." It was a place of danger where their fathers worked, but "as we reached the ages of eight or nine, our parents were comfortable with us exploring and hiking outside the camp borders ... one had to be there in order to feel the security and trust that many of us developed between each other and The Woods."

The larger purpose of the book, Dennison told me in an email, is "to let the reader sit back and 'feel' The Kids' stories about the logging communities which formed their basic life foundation. The sounds of steam locomotive engines and bells, the school house bell, the water running in the streams in our backyards, abundant wildlife, the smells of summer flowers, as well as the dust from the camp roads and the tragedy of severe injuries/deaths and wildfires were all part of our early lives, which we wish to share with others. ... Life was hard, but The Kids recall fondly that our lives in the logging camps were good...very good." And so is the book.

No comments: