By Mel McConaghy
Growing up in Prince George, and on the East Line of the railroad, I remember the sawmills that surrounded us, and the people that were flocking into town for work.
You didn’t have to look for work in those days. There was always a job, and someone looking for somebody to fill it.
The streets were active with life, the stores were always busy, and there was always a happy attitude because Prince George was a boom town. It was a town that everyone could see had a future, and everyone wanted to be a part of it.
There were optimistic people everyday on the railroad, with nothing but a few dollars in their pockets, and the clothes that they had on their back. They hoped to shed the cloak of poverty that the great depression, and the financial hangover of the dirty thirties, had left them with. Some of them moved their families into shacks, called houses, in bush camps that were created near the mills. But, they were happy, because they were making money and eating well. They knew that they would not be isolated long, because they were saving their money, and eventually would buy, or build, a home of their own in Prince George.
The people who settled in the bush camps, along the East Line, worked in the mills. Soon camps became communities, with stores, a post office, churches and schools. They built community halls, ball diamonds and other recreational facilities, because the owners knew that if you want to keep a reliable work force, you had to keep them happy. But, progress started to raise its ugly head! Big mills started buying smaller mills for their timber, and then transported the timber to their bigger, more efficient mills, eliminating the need for a local work force. Communities, and smaller family operated mills, started closing down, and the people on the East line started moving to other existing communities, or Prince George.
Later, to appease a small special interest group, a government refused to heed the advice of professional foresters of the time, and allowed the pine beetle to run amuck. Now, in two devastating nights, two big mills in Prince George exploded and burnt to the ground, killing four and injuring many, causing the loss of hundreds of jobs. Now the experts say that, because of over-cutting and the pine beetle devastation, the lumber industry’s all but dead. As an old guy, I look back, and wonder, ‘Has it been worth it? We can cut down, and saw up, a forest faster than most countries, but, what happens when we run out of trees?’ Maybe, when I was younger, I should have been out hugging them…
My Life Through a Broken Windshield by Mel McConaghy
Mel McConaghy is a retired trucker and author from Prince George, British Columbia. Mel’s tales are his views of life “through a broken windshield”. They are entertaining and humorous in a folksy style.
Visit Mel’s website at www.melmcconaghy.com