My name is Graeme Elliott. I was born on Vancouver Island in 1952. I lived in Courtenay until I was five, when my family moved to Read Island. That home is the subject of this page. My family later moved to Maple Ridge where I finished high school. I lived in various places in the the Lower Mainland, having hung my hat in Coquitlam, Richmond and Vancouver.
I have worked as a logger, and as a labourer in a sawmill, a pulp mill and a steel pipe mill. This mill, in Port Moody, B.C. has long since closed, but was operated by IPSCO. I have been a newspaper reporter, sports editor for the Richmond Review, and a news photographer. I have run my own photography business.
I have studied at Simon Fraser University and the University of Toronto.
I currently live in Toronto, Ontario and am working as a computer programmer on Digital Asset Management (DAM) Software at North Plains Systems. I recently signed up for a high-speed internet connection, and got some space for a home page. I found some HTML tools, and started playing with a home page.
That is where I am at.
This is where I come from...headblock
My old home was a logging camp on Read Island, in the Discovery Group in British Columbia. We moved there from Courtenay, B.C., in 1957 when I was 5 years old, and left when I was 12.
Read Island is the island with Surge Narrows marked on it. There is a provincial park there now.
We lived two bays north of White Rock Pass. I am not sure if the bay had a name then or now. "It is not on any map, real places never are."
The closest town was Campbell River, on Vancouver Island. To get there, we took a boat down Hoskyn Channel to Heriot Bay, drove across Quadra to Quathiaski Cove, and took a ferry to Campbell River. On a few ocassions, we took the boat around Cape Mudge, at the end of Quadra, right into CR.
I lived there with my father and mother, Alder and Patricia, and two older brothers, Brian and Gary. My
father eked out a living logging, and supplemented our diets with hunting and fishing. My mother kept house and cooked,
both for the family and the crew. Brian and Gary both worked for my father. Brian is on the left
of the picture below. Gary is behind me.
At various times, we shared the camp with one or more of my father's employees, men by the names of Joe Bassett, Harvey Woods, Bob Grey and Red and Jim Kretz. Visitors included my cousins Kenny and Ross Corbett from Courtenay, and Terry Mitchison from Vancouver.
The crew came and went; a dog name Butch was a constant. This dog, a good-tempered black and white mutt, just arrived one day, shortly after we moved to the island, and if he belonged to anyone, Gary was his master.
He used to chase ducks in the bay, jumping in the water, and swimming furiously, tail wagging, and barking all the while. The ducks would take flight immediately when he first started doing this, but after awhile, they learned. They would paddle leisurely along, a few feet in front of him, and then dive. He would swim in circles, waiting for them to come up, and when they surfaced, dog paddle madly in their direction. They would paddle leisurely along, a few feet in front of him.... This repeated until the poor dog was too tired for the game, and he would retire to a fireside, to dream duck-catching dreams.
He also chased mink, and raccoon. I worried about him chasing raccoons, as they are said to be able to drown dogs by climbing on their heads in the water. My fears were groundless; the raccoons took a page from the ducks "Manual of Dog Torment", and led him on long chases across the bay.
He was also extremely fastidious in his toilet. When the tide was in, he would walk out to the end of the boat mooring, a string of logs out into the bay, and do his business. None of us trained him to do this, but, as I enjoyed going barefoot, I was glad he did.
For a while, we had a cat called Puff, but she took to the wild, unlike her "Dick and Jane" reader namesake.
Gary found a deserted seal pup on the beach one night. We tried to save its life, but we could not feed it, so we returned it to the saltchuck to face its fate. It would have made a nice pet. It enjoyed its night in our bathtub. Butch was mystified.
Our closest neighbours were the Lamberts, who lived across the channel on Maurelle Island. Forrest Lambert was a logger. He also played the fiddle at community get-togethers at the Legion Hall. His Japanese wife was named Reiko. They had five kids, introduced below in Schooling. Their cat's name was Inquisitive. I guess they had different readers.
One of my early recollections of the place was going out one night in October of 1957 to watch a tiny speck of light called Sputnik move across the sky. This was the start of a life-long interest in astronomy That link will give you access to all of Astronomy. Come back....
I also recall watching a mass of water and rock exploding one morning, as Ripple Rock was blasted to smithereens.
We always needed to know what the currents and tides were going to do. But we didn't have the Web and links to tide tables, so we used the Point Atkinson Tide Tables put out by the Canadian Hydrographic Service.
Boats were the most important mode of transportation. All types of boats, and we used them in all types of weather. More than once we ran out of fuel, or broke down, and waited for someone to help us. Despite the seeming isolation, the waterways were highways, and there was always some one going back and forth.
Brian's girlfriend Lexy (they later married), Mom and Dad are seen here in our boat. I am standing on the "wharf", and Gary is at the wheel. The "wharf" was a string of pairs of logs lashed together with cables and joined to another section with boom chains, to allow us to moor the boat beyond low tide mark. Brian is taking the picture.
Brian is sawing a log in the foreground. In the background is another view of our boat, with our dog Butch
Airplanes also figured prominently in the daily commercial transportation of the islands. The aircraft were always on floats, there were no runways on any of the islands. Healthy loggers, injured loggers, miners, timber cruisers, tourists all routinely travelled by air. We rarely used them, as it was too expensive, but I did get a couple of flights while I lived on Read. When we did fly, Island Air, Campbell River was the charter outfit we used.DeHaviland Beaver
My favourite aircraft is the Beaver, pictured here. Along with all the Boeing 7x7s, I have flown in most float-equipped Cessnas, a Grumman Goose operated by Queen Charlotte Air, a few Airbus variants, the larger DC-Xs, and the original, the DC-3, and a couple of L10-11s. The Beaver is the best. The Goose and the DC-3 are close seconds. Everything else is fifth.
A Goose is pictured here
It has always surprised me that the son of a logger somehow managed to start from a one-room school and end up (well, currently I am) as a C++ programmer for Digital Asset Management (DAM) Software at North Plains Systems. I hope I don't bore you with these details of this 50 year passage.
I went to school with the following people:
My teacher's were:
Getting to school was half the fun.
While Kenny Lambert was still going to school, he and Sharon would come across the channel from the Lambert's camp on Maurelle Island to pick me up, for the three mile ride to school. When he finished school, Sharon would drive over in their boat, the "Sea Flea", and I would drive us to school. Usually, we picked up and dropped off the Hackett kids. Dick and Dorothy had a small tractor they drove across the island from the Whittington's place in Evan's Bay. The Robinson kids boated to school from down the Island, and the Keeling boys walked from their home near Tipton's Store.
Sharon and I in the Sea Flea on our way to school.
One of the highlights of the school year was Sports Day, held together with Cortes Island School This event was held near Manson's Landing on Cortes. There was always a picnic, along with such tests of skill as sack races, wheelbarrow races and softball throwing.
The other highlight of the school year was the Christmas Concert. The whole community was invited, and the pupils put on a show, involving Christmas Carols and a few scenes from plays. I do recall on at least one occassion Dick played himself along with a cat. We didn't set up a raised stage, but did have a curtain. The school had drapes over the windows, and two of these were re-hung on a wire across the width of the schoolroom,at the teachers desk end, to serve as the curtain. There were plenty of loggers around, so rigging the curtains was no problem. The audience, a sympathetic bunch for any nervous actor, sat in the student desks. It was fun, and just a bit scary to be on stage with everyong watching.
We also put on a show at Campbell River High School one year. I have forgotten most of the details as to why we were involved. I do recall we were billeted out with families in Campbell River. Gary and I ended up with some kindly folk who had a couple of kids. The high-(low?)light of the trip for me was watching some TV while we were eating supper, and I started to laugh at the Three Stooges with my mouthful. Peas flew everywhere, and I was embarassed as heck, but, we survive these little incidents.
Life is a precursor to the end that takes us all. Life on the islands and on the water always has some risk at hand, no matter how careful or experienced one is. Tragedy befell the Lambert family long after our family left the Island.
A news item of a memorial of the tragedy.
May 8, 2010, I noticed this while googling:
TANAKA George (Tsutao), 85; born Sept. 7, 1923, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada; died July 5, 2009, Port Hardy, British Columbia, Canada. Surviving: wife, Ardys (Lindsay); sons, Don, Nanaimo, British Columbia, Canada; Rick, Port Hardy; daughters, Karen Tanaka and Nancy Roberts, both of Port Hardy; sisters, Raiko Lambert, Aldergrove, British Columbia, Canada; Elsie Iwasa, Payette, Idaho; 11 grandchildren and 6 great-grandchildren.
Mr. and Mrs. Tanaka, as I knew them then, lived in the same camp as the Lamberts. Raiko was wife to Forrest, and mother to the Lamberts I went to school with. The obit appeared here
It is a small world, even with Google News Archive. Here is Tanaka wedding sharing the same page as a reference to A.J. Elliott school, named for my grandfather's brother.
Links no longer work, as it seems google gave up on the newspaper business, or just moved all the links... Just more web page fun.headblock
Dad and I with dinner.
We ate well. The following links are to some of my favourite dietary supplements.
Coho Salmon- this was my favourite fish. I caught these as bluebacks and coho just before running up the Quatam River in Ramsay Arm. To my mind, these fish are the best light tackle sports fish, because they can fight spectacularly in the shallow waters near the river. We often caught these on two or three lines at once. Here is another view of this lovely fish.
Spring Salmon - we always ate these fried as steaks. My father prized this over all other fish. Bob Grey caught the largest one I recall, 50 pounds. My largest was 15 pounds, my father caught one 34 pounds, but claimed larger ones before I was born. Tbey go by a variety of names; spring, chinook, king and Tyee. The latter name is reserved for the fish as it is preparing to go upriver to spawn.
This picture is of the largest spring I ever caught.
Bert Ganson and I show off a day's catch of cod. The fish with the pot-belly is a female, large with roe. We never ate fish eggs, but I am told some people cherish them as a delicacy. Ganson worked for the Whittingtons, but fished with us. We were quite good at it. He is now a farmer in Alberta.
Rarely, we would catch red snappers, which were delicious.
There was a bay (Owen Bay) on Sonora Island with a broad flat bottom, excellent for catching crabs. We would take a boat up there to catch a wash tub full, and cook them right in the tub, over a wood fire on the beach.
Oysters and clams rounded out the menu from the waters and shores. While I lived on the island, I never tried sea cucumber, though we snagged hundreds of them over the years of jigging for cod. I tasted sea cucumber when I was visiting friends on Gabriola Island, and realized I had missed something. The sinews that line the case are quite tasty.
We never bothered cooking the many rock cod we caught. We would toss them back. Years later, I tried it at a Chinese restaurant on Hastings Street in Vancouver, and realized our release program was a mistake. If you get a chance, eat them.
My father was a good hunter, and we often enjoyed venison. The best treat is deer liver, still warm into the frying pan. Picture quality is not good here, but there is a three-point buck on the ground, Dad standing on the left, Red Kretz kneeling on the right, and Gary in the background.
My own career as a hunter was short-lived. There were plenty of guns around. My father hunted with a Winchester 30-30, Bob Grey favoured a .222, there was a Lee Enfield .303, and a small collection of .22s and an ancient shotgun rounded out the arsenal. We used the .22s for target practice, and I became reasonably good at shooting tin cans.
Animals were a different story.
I often accompanied my father while he hunted, but I only went hunting, armed and ready, with him once. I saw a deer, and managed to get a shot away. To this day I do not know if I wounded it or not. It got away, and I was worried about it for days afterwards, not knowing if I had injured it, and it had died uselessly or whether I had missed entirely, and it had lived, warily, to a good old age. My next, and last adventure, as a hunter saw me return with the quarry, in this case a blue grouse, cleanly shot. My father and mother congratulated me, and instructed me in the art of cleaning the bird. I was long used to cleaning fish, so I was not the least bit squeamish about the task. I soon discovered, however, that bird entrails smell rather different than fish. I nearly gagged as I struggled through the task, but returned with an adequately cleaned bird. I then learned I was also going to eat the bird. It was difficult, as the memory of the smell kept coming back with every mouthful.
I never hunted again.
Fresh fruit in season was abundant. There were many abandoned orchards in the area, so
in the fall we would pick cherries and apples on the Rendezvous Islands,
apples at the Redfern's old place in Surge Narrows, and pears and cherries
from an orchard up near the Oakasalla. Blackberries were a personal favourite,
and most the old orchards had huge blackberry bushes. Salmonberries and
what we called "bear candy", the tender new canes of the salmonberry, were
quite delicious. My mother made great huckleberry pies. The trick with
huckleberries is to pick the same bushes year after year. The berries seem
to get better each year.
There were no bears on Read Island, but I saw them from time to time when we were up Ramsay Arm or Bute Inlet.
There were also many kinds of birds, such as cedar wax wings, hummingbirds, swallows and bald eagles, plenty of frogs, toads, and garter snakes and an enormous variety of intertidal life.
And the odd gull.
Other marine fauna
The most astounding display of the fecundity of the place came during one early morning fishing trip with Bob Grey and my father. We arrived at the Surge before sunup, just as the tide was changing. A huge full moon was just setting, casting a beautiful light on the scene. The only noise was the sound of our outboard as we trolled for salmon, and an almost constant blowing of killer whales and porpoises and mewing of gulls, punctuated every once in a while by the shriek and thundering dives of eagles. As the sun rose, and we grew aware of what was going on, we finally just stopped the motor and watched. A huge school of fish, maybe herring, must have been moving through, as there was a feeding frenzy of immense proportions going on. There were killer whales, porpoises and seals in numbers like I had never seen at one time. There were gulls, ducks, what we called shags (cormorants), loons and eagles fishing everywhere. Salmon were running at the surface, dorsal and tails fins leaving wakes as they ran twenty feet at a time before diving again. There were dogfish 'packs', something I had never seen at the surface before. These packs consisted of up to half a dozen dogfish swimming at the surface in a tightening circle. Presumably, the dogfish were trapping groups of the food fish inside the circle and feeding as they wound the circle tighter.
This display lasted for a couple of hours before we finally called it quits and headed back to home. I never did know for sure whether the main food was herring or perhaps a massive run of salmon, but looking over the gunwale of the boat into the water, I saw salmon by the hundreds. They may have been following a school of herring, which was breakfast for them and the birds and the dogfish, and they were breakfast for the seals, and the seals were breakfast for the killer whales.
Toast and eggs was breakfast for me; there were no salmon caught that day.
Occassionally, a mission boat run by the Seventh Day Adventists would put on a show at the Legion Hall. This was usually a film, such as a travelouge, and or a slide show. There was some evangelizing, but this was mostly a get together for the locals.
A favourite summer pastime was softball games at the school grounds. Everyone played. Elliotts, Lamberts, Robinsons, Keelings, Whittingtons, Gansons (employees at Whittington's logging operation), and Ernie Alexander and some of his crew. Most of the dogs would also get into the game, somehow. The Tiptons, owners of the store when we arrived, were too old to play, but usually attended. When the Hopkins took over the store, their boys would also play. The crew from the Canadian Hydrographic Survey boat joined in one summer evening.
I and my cousins, when they visited from Courtenay or Vancouver, whiled away many an hour fishing for dogfish. We were told these fish should be exterminated, as they interfered with the salmon fishery, so we did our best.
My mother claims to have invented cut-offs, so we could get through the summers. One summer it rained almost every day, but generally we had lots of sunshine and lived outside.
When the tide was running full through the Octopus Islands, we would take a boat and drive through the tidal bore in Canoe Pass. This bore dropped off some five to six feet when the tide was large. Parents told us not to do this, so it seemed like a good idea to try it.
Salmon fishing and just walking in the bush were the main entertainment.
We lived near the water, on the water, and in my case, in the water. I did a lot of swimming, and with mask, snorkel and fins became an avid skin diver. A wet suit was out of the question, but the long underwear did actually help keep me a little warmer, by cutting down the circulation of really cold water against the skin while I was skin diving.
In this outfit, I whiled away lots of time in the water, watching octopus, flounders, crabs, ratfish, perch, urchins and the rest of the marine flora and fauna of our bay.
The water was cold, but on a hot summer day, the sun would bake the mudflat at low tide, and as the tide came in, there would be a couple of feet of tolerably warm water on top. When I dived to the bottom, it was always a shock going through the thermocline into the really cold stuff.
A few years ago, we were touring in Gary's boat out of Campbell River, and dropped in to the old home site. I was amazed to see a rocky shore where the mudflats had been. I guess the mudflat was maintained by erosion caused by logging, and when the logging ceased, the mudflat in turn was eroded, to reveal the rocky shore.
Gary liked to build a bonfire for Halloween. He would start a few weeks before the great night, collecting all sorts of wood, old tires, anything that would burn. One year, an arch wheel had cracked and been replaced, and was sitting idle. These war surplus bomber wheels were made from a manganese and aluminum alloy, and, if heated enough, would burn.
He constructed a pile of wood and other combustibles around an arch tire and wheel. The bonfire was rougly a cube, seven or eight feet on a side when he finished.
On the big night, after the popcorn balls and pass-the-orange at the Legion Hall, we returned home, and he lit his masterpiece, and we set off a few fireworks. It burned intensely, and the wheels melted and caught fire, producing an intense blaze.
At some point, someone through a large rock into the fire. The result was spectacular. The rock must have hit a puddle of molten metal, and may have exploded from the heat. Something blew up in the interior, as a geyser of molten and burning metal erupted from the centre of the bonfire, and showered down around the spectators. No one was hurt, and all agreed it was quite the sight.
I recall he was forbidden to use arch wheels in his later bonfires.headblock
It wasn't always easy street, of course. There were the dreaded chores to interfere with the idyll of communing with or consumption of nature. My main chores consisted of splitting and stacking firewood, and keeping a fire going to make hot water for laundry day.
The main heater for our house was a wood burning space heater, although a lot of heating and hot water came from the oil-fired kitchen stove. We had easy access to plenty of dry fir and lots of cedar for kindling, so getting a fire going was usually a matter of a bit of kindling, some fir and a match.
I got good at lighting wood fires. I was rather proud of myself over this aptitude, until the day I blew my face off.
There were four buildings in our camp. The main house for the family, the original house, always called the cookhouse, because it served the purpose of kitchen in the original camp, a bunkhouse for Bob Grey and whomever else was working for Dad at the time, and a smaller two-room bunkhouse that became the laundry room.
The laundry room had an electric dryer, powered by the plant, though Mom usually hung laundry on clothes lines, a gasoline-powered wringer washer (this had a Briggs and Stratton motor in it, and a kick pedal for a starter, rather like a motorcycle), a shower, a hot water tank, and water heater made out of a 45 gallon drum. The drum lay on its side in an iron cradle, had a chimney at one end, tubes attached to the hot water tank inside, and a steel door and a small damper hole at the other. The damper hole was about the size of a silver dollar, with a small sheet metal cover that could be flipped out of the way to let more air into the firebox. My chore was to keep a fire going in this heater, so there would be a constant supply of hot water for the laundry.
One day, I got a good blaze going, stoked it up with fir bark, and wandered off to commune with or consume nature. I dallied too long, and when I returned the fire was almost out, and I knew I would get into trouble if I didn't get it going. I tossed some more wood and bark in, and waited. It didn't catch. I looked around for some Diesel fuel, always a quick fix for a lagging fire, but couldn't find any. I was getting a little worried, so I hit on the bright idea of using some gasoline. It was dangerous, but so was my situation. Mom or Dad might yell at me. I tossed half a soup can of gasoline in, and quickly shut the door, expecting all hell to break loose. Nothing. Ever so cautiously, I opened the damper, to let some more air in. Nothing. I was puzzled, so I brought my eye down to peer in the damper. Hell broke loose. The gasoline ignited in a blast, and a jet of fire blew out the damper hole, and over my entire face.
I was not brave about this.
I screamed, I cried, I ran. The rest of that day and night was a blur. Mom plastered my face with a family cure-all called dog-medicine, that I have long suspected might have been camomile lotion. By the next day, after gingerly washing my face, the top layer of skin came away in patches, and I had no eyebrows to speak of. Needless to say, I was loath to go to school. The first day back caused me at least as much suffering as the whole fire incident. Miracle of miracles, my eyes were not damaged. I have rarely used gasoline to assist a fire since. Diesel is much better.
Many years later, Dad and I were clearing some land. We had burned most of the wood, the fire was out and we were stacking a bunch more for a final fire of the day. He had tossed some gasoline on, but it was perfectly safe to do so as the previous fire was out and cold. As we were tossing more brush on the pile, I watched in quiet fascination, and time stood still, as an ash from his cigarette drifted ever so slowly to the ground. Hell soon broke loose, but nothing like the day I blew my face off.
Another chore that often fell to me was emptying the garbage. This was a trip with a five gallon pail of kitchen waste to the water's edge. I used to dump the refuse in the water, and watch as crabs and small fish would swarm in to eat what they could find. Seagulls and change of tide cleared away any residue.
A slight variation on this was emptying the mouse pail. One summer we had an infestation of mice. The local population of mice soared, into the thousands, and the rodents became a nuisance. So Dad or Bob Grey built a better mouse trap. This one was a five gallon pail (we had plenty of these, cat grease and other essentials came in five gallons pails) filled with water, with a trip board arranged above it. The board was seasoned with cheese and flour to attract our furry friends. They would walk out, pass the pivot point, and drop into the water to drown. Hey, it was a rough life for everyone. Each day, as the infestation continued, I would go under the house to retrieve the trap, and dump the mass of carcasses into the saltchuck. There were hundreds of dead mice daily at the peak of the infestation.
My father logged Douglas Fir and Western Red Cedar, using an old Tyee yarder, and an International Harvester TD-18 cat. The picture below is of a big fir hanging from the rubber tired arch. The tires and wheels on the arch are surplus parts from World War II bombers.
He ran shows on Read, Sonora and Maurelle islands over the years.
The show on Read was a skyline operation. This link refers to it as a North Bend; we referred to it generically as "Skyline". My father had been a high-rigger for Comox Valley Logging at one time, so he rigged both spars. The logs were hauled to the saltchuck with the cat. He use the same yarder at the Maurelle Island show, but there he used a stiff-leg configuration to swing the logs to the water. The stiff leg is essentially the same rigging, except the back spar is floating in the water, butt ended on the shore, with guy lines to stabilize it.
The Sonora Island show was a cat-logging side.
species, such as Western Hemlock, were not valued then as they are now,
so my father rarely bothered with them. We occassionally harvested Balsam,
and the odd Yellow Cedar. The picture below shows my father (he was six feet tall) with a
good-sized Douglas Fir. Firs this size were referred to as "peelers,"
as they would be peeled into veneer for making plywood. These were the premium logs,
fetching the highest prices.
When I left home to go logging on the Queen Charlotte Islands, some years after we left Read Island, my mother's last words to me, after "Goodbye", were "Remember, stay out of the bight.".
Logging will always be a risky occupation.
My brother, Gary, sustained a severe head injury on Maurelle Island. He had to be flown out to Campbell River, was stabilized in the hospital there, and was then taken by ambulance all the way to Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria. He survived.
His son has recently worked in helicopter logging, and in only a few years, two guys he knew were killed on the job.
If you are a logger, and follow every regulation in the WCB Logging Safety Regulations, you might make it. The general rule is walk to where you are safe, and then walk twice that distance.
My father was a gypo logger, an independent. As time went on, the rules were changed by the government, making it harder for the small operation to get good timber to cut in accessible places, and eventually he packed it up, and we moved to Maple Ridge. There was not a whole lot of time for a small operation to log and work with a bureaucracy that could issue a document like this TFL
Logging method pictures and drawing will also appear. I am having trouble tracking down pictures of a Tyee yarder, or TD-18. Also, can not seem to find any good B.C.-based logging information sites. Washington and Oregon sites can be found, however. VanNatta has a very informative site, with lots of logging information and pictures of equipment and tools.
This picture of a clearcut was borrowed from NRDC
My uncle Ed Corbett worked with my father from time to time. He is driving this Caterpillar D8 with a cable-blade and tracked arch hauling a good turn of fir logs.headblock
tool tips with IE5
As they say, this site is
As I find pictures and maps of the region, then and now, I will add them.
Any one with pictures of old logging methods or news of people named above is welcome to mail me at email@example.com
Dec.04.07 I got an email and kind words from this blogger
Page produced with aid of Allaire Homesite 4.0, MGI Photosuite 8.05, Agfa ScanWise and Agfa Scanner1212U.
Some pictures courtesy of my mother and her Kodak Brownie. I am grateful to her for taking the photos in the first place, and carrying them around through various moves.
It is hard to find good, unencumbered pictures on the web that stay in place. These links are oft-broken.headblock
This page was originally hosted by Sympatico on the free web page they offer to customers. Over time, this page and stuff I added grew to the point where I got a domain name and a new host.