Flash Back Fridays

TV COMMERCIALS AND CHEVAIS REGAL: 1974 A story by David Boulding

In the winter, it was grim. Cold and dark, with little money, Jim Krieger, Roger Podolski and Heidi Caflisch would save beer bottles, pop bottles and bits of money to buy a bottle of the best scotch sold in Campbell River. A bottle would last weeks. For entertainment, we would assemble in old cabin 21, the old guide shack, and do T.V. commercials for each other. Obviously we had no TV or even a radio, which was heard only when driving to town, past the Strathcona dam.

Roger started by taking a cardboard box and cutting one side so a person could sit down behind Heidi’s small table and put his head on the table. His head was framed much like the old black and white televisions. After the airtight stove was roaring hot and everyone was comfy, Roger would do hemorrhoid commercials, car commercials, anything that popped into his mind.

Michael and the Italian army at Marble Meadows

Michael and the Italian army at Marble Meadows

He would challenge everyone to top his performances. These sessions went on for hours, and a fair minded eye witness would think we were all drunk. I did not drink; neither did Annie Boulding or Toby Hay. Jim Nelson, Heidi and Krieger would have a small glass and they would sip their beloved scotch all night. Krieger refused to drink the cheap stuff.

As laughter is contagious, each commercial would be funnier than the one before. The evening’s entertainment was cheap. No one got drunk because no one had enough money to buy sufficient alcohol. Later, when we could not even afford scotch, we would gather around the Franklin stove and watch the fire burn and talk (Toby says we mostly told lies). Toby is, as usual, correct. Jim got the crazy idea he could heat the buildings with big stoves. So, always thinking, he bought cheap, a 48 inch diameter piece of stainless steel, ten feet long from the scrap metal department of the local pulp mill. He took the pipe to Denis of York Machinery. He asked Denis to make him two stoves Based on a simple plan from Jim. The two stoves were similar, but had different front door systems.

He set the first one up in the Whale Room. This monster stove took huge logs and it seemed we had to work all day filling the power wagon with old fir logs to keep the fire going. The problem was that it kept everyone hot who sat within ten feet. It did not heat the building, as the Whale Room was too large, the enormous windows were single pane and the stove did not radiate the heat: it zoomed up the huge chimney. (Years later the Fire Marshall said the big stove in the Whale room had to go, as it was an unregistered, untested, non-complying item).

The following winter, looking for a warm place for winter staff to hang out, Jim moved the other stove into the second floor of the administration building and stuck it in the southeast corner. It fell on the first lift, puncturing the Fargo box deck. The stove was unmarked. It did not work well either, partly because it was on an outside wall, too far from where the activities like dining were happening. After several seasons, the monster was replaced with a Franklin stove (from the famous Washington Stove Works…an American outfit that made yarders, and other logging equipment). This beautifully engineered gem was about the size of two small suitcases. It was efficient and used a small fraction of the wood the Jim designed monster required. The Franklin stove was in the centre of the room, and heated the room nicely. (It was eventually condemned by the fire marshal as well, the main objection being that it was on an inside wall and all wood stoves in commercial buildings had to be on outside walls). The best of the old stainless steel pipe stoves, the one from the dining room, ended up at Percy Dewar’s where it heated his greenhouse for years. The other is now our seldom used incinerator.

Jim never did give up on his massive stainless stoves. His last plan was to burn wood chips and wood waste to heat water, then to circulate the water to heat the buildings. This energy saving plan to heat water was in his mind when Jim bought his brand new Caterpillar D350 generator set from Finning. The idea was to heat water instead of having a radiator that threw away the heat to the great outdoors.

This plumbing complex was a disaster. The plumbers at Farwell had never installed a heat exchanger system before and were learning at Jim’s expense. I have a four-inch scar on my wrist from when the second radiator dropped on my hand. After some years of Keystone cops type of generator follies we bought an electric fan and had a tiny Toyota radiator installed outside the building. This design had the generator electricity driving a small fan that cooled the engine water: foolproof!

Finally some bright light from Finning figured out that Farwell, the plumbers from Campbell River, had installed a fancy one way temperature sensitive valve backwards. Jim was livid. He used to call both Finning and Standard Oil, “schools for the mentally retarded”. Sadly, the Farwell fellow who did the work was dead and Jim had no one to yell at. This wrong way valve was the last straw and caused Jim to start thinking about a small hydro project. Jim was given valuable advice from Gordon Bell from Three Valley Gap. Gordon operated a mini hydro project near Revelstoke and drove all the way to the lodge to help Jim. The Lodge hydro project was completed a few years after Jim died.

Before the hydro project, Jim’s last big project was the barn and the rock church of a new generator shed. Built by long time friend and employee John Gregg from Quadra Island, the new generator shed is across the highway, thus solving the noise problem. John had changed the oil many times in the old shed and knew genny oil was always messy because the building was built around the generator. The blazing yellow new genny sat in the snow for weeks, until later Jim Denis came out and quickly framed a small wooden shed around it. Some years later we moved the generator up the hill to its present location in the rock church, and the shed was cleaned up and expanded to eventually be used for food prep and storage.

One day, a cement truck returning from Western Mines stopped at the office and the driver yelled, “Do you want some free cement?” Quickly, we poured cement around the generator, while an even quicker crew built forms to hold the cement under the Whale room and in front of the laundry room. The new genny shed is nestled into a hill beside a big two thousand gallon tank. John Gregg designed this Rock Chapel and built it all by hand. Unlike the College building, this building started with footings and a foundation, and a special trough so we could change the oil without swimming in it.

One day Jim was fishing with American guests in the Berman River and found an abandoned logging camp with an empty steel fuel tank on a stand near the high tide line. Quickly, he stuck a stick in the fuel in pipe and blocked off the breather pipe. He came back a week later with several big strong outdoor leaders and the Fair Isle boat. They pushed the empty 3000 gallon tank into the water and pulled the float- ing diesel tank to the dock at Gold River, getting there just after dark. At about ten o’clock at night I was instructed to take the Fair Isle trailer to Gold River, float the tank onto the trailer and bring it home. Jim said, “Simple work…should be back before midnight.”

On the way home, all went well until we crossed the Elk River when the trailer started to weave all over the road. My guess was the load had shifted and the trailer was unbalanced. This humungous tank dwarfed the trailer. So I crawled home the next 10 miles at about 15 miles per hour. I parked the trailer by the barn where it stayed for a week. As we were using the machine daily, we were getting valuable experience about what we could do with the large dozer.

To put the tank in place, we used a D-8 CAT. I would get on the CAT in the morning and work all day clearing the parking lot, the stumps from the boat dock area, and Jim would get on the machine after supper and work it until dark.

To move the fuel tank, Jim said to chain the tank to the curve of the big dozer blade and carry it over and plop it into place…worked like a charm. Jim wanted a road parallel to the highway down from the generator shed so standard oil could drive their fuel trucks up to the generator shed. I built the road, using the CAT and the dump truck I borrowed from Quadra Island. There was only a moment of excitement when I almost rolled over the dump truck. I was smart enough to ask Percy for help. He said, “Stop….wait!”

David and the dump truck

David and the dump truck

He came back in an hour with his young wife Penny. He was armed with several big logging blocks and a hand winch called a turfer. He pulled the loaded tandem dump truck the 30 feet ahead so it was on level ground.

That dump truck offered me some insight into Jim. One rich incident happened when I was returning from Campbell River with a full load of gravel to fix the septic system. I drove the tandem for seven years without a license and was only stopped by the cops once…. the day I drove into town to sell it to pay for law school. Going back to school was Jim’s idea. As I was driving back to the Lodge, I foolishly pulled over to let the many cars behind me pass. This curve is the double bend steep corner about a mile from Forbes Landing. The shoulder was soft and I became stuck in the soft mud, partly blocking the highway. I got out and eventually stopped a loaded logging truck to ask for help. As he was going down the hill and loaded, he could not assist. He got on his two-way radio and said he had a friend returning to the bush empty, and about 5 minutes away.

The loaded logging truck was blocking the northbound lane; I was blocking the southbound lane. Highway 28 was closed. After I told the driver who I was, he proceeded to tell me that Jim had been his teacher in high school. He then told me a tale I have heard about 100 times. Someone had stolen a basketball. Jim had assembled all the boys in the school gym. He said, “I want it back and you have 10 minutes to tell me who took it.” Ten minutes later, no one had confessed. Jim lined up all the teenaged boys in town and gave them each 10 whacks with a sawed off hockey stick.

As I waited for the empty logging truck to arrive, this logger expressed great affection for Jim and serious distaste for his other teachers. The logger then gave me some advice. He said, “Never pull over…never leave the pavement, if they want to pass you that is their problem!”

Eventually, the other logging truck arrived, threw a chain around my front bumper and was about to pull me and my 25 tons of gravel out of the ditch when in true bush raconteur style, the driver turned to me and told me the same hockey stick story…. laughing, as if it happened yesterday. Neither logger was worried about the blocked traffic; both wanted to make sure that I knew that they appreciated the help Jim had given them when they were teenagers.

In the early days, many experts in bush survival came to the lodge to see Jim, take courses, or advertise their own courses. Paul Presidente wrote DOWN BUT NOT OUT, the Canadian Air Force survival manual. Mike Rewald has never said a bad word about anybody, except Paul Presidente. Mike was assisting Jim on this survival course and Paul was part of the course. Paul had heard about Jim and had finagled his way into being a part of Jim’s staff for the course. Everyone watched Paul carefully build a lean-to in the woods, held together with fishing line. It was clearly the Taj Mahal of survival lean-tos. Jim took the group about 100 metres away and sequestered them in large hollow cedar logs and started a fire on a slab of fir bark using, of course, his pitch stick. Jim never called Paul out on his wrong shelter, wrong place to build a lean-to with hundreds of hollow stumps in plain sight. Mike Rewald, never one to be mean, later mentioned the lean-to as an example of military intelligence.