From stump to ship: A 1930s logging film
May 1, 2013 9:49 AM   Subscribe

“For more than 150 years, logging techniques remained the same. Men cut trees by hand and loaded them on horse-drawn sleds to be hauled over snow to the river. Skilled river drivers maneuvered the logs downstream, risking their limbs and lives every day. [From Stump To Ship] survives as a record of the long log business. Highly detailed scenes, filmed year-round, are uniquely enhanced by the original script, written to be read with the silent footage in the 1930s. The soundtrack is brought to life by Tim Sample, narrator and renowned Maine humorist, in the role of the filmmaker, Alfred Ames.”

The effort to restore and present the film led to the creation of the previously mentioned Northeast Historic Film.
posted by zamboni (9 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite
Musicians Brian Miller and Randy Gosa have been performing lumber camp songs for the past couple years. Their website has a couple of great videos with photographs from this era.
posted by misterpatrick at 9:58 AM on May 1, 2013

posted by Sys Rq at 10:05 AM on May 1, 2013 [2 favorites]

also obligatory
posted by mannequito at 11:11 AM on May 1, 2013

"....very few places where the sail meets the rail..."

Indeed. The employees lived in houses built on the mill owner's property, which they purchased themselves. Maybe some of them even built those houses themselves, out of lumber they harvested. It wasn't stated, but implied, that many of these people worked for this mill all their (working) lives.

Seems apparent that you could never do this sort of work if you didn't love it.

BTW...I grew up at the foot of the Sierras, in California. Several flumes were constructed to float sawn lumber from places such as Shaver Lake to Clovis, a journey of about 42 miles. Other flumes went from Converse Basin to Sanger, and so on. The flumes were V-shaped, and about four feet wide. Flume tenders lived in shacks along the routes, and they spent their days monitoring for leaks and jams.

Lumber mill workers, on their days off, often rode small logs and beams down into Clovis--standing on the beams--a journey of about 6 hours, instead of taking the toll road, which took more than one day. They had to catch a wagon to come back up to work. It was a harrowing ride, but they probably found it invigorating as well as time-saving.

The ridges of the Sierras between Kings Canyon and Mammoth are littered with ghost camps, residue of former miners and lumbermen. The area is dense with its history, and long-time residents have a proprietary connection to the high-country. This attitude is gradually vanishing, as their children, and their children's children move down to the flatland, and their modest properties are given over to condos and vacation housing. It's the curse of the oldfarts, to mourn the changes.

My foster brother spent his early years in one of the mill camps, near Shaver Lake, where his father worked. When the mill was closed, they moved down into the valley. When I was adopted into their family as a post-pubescent smart ass I was introduced to the high country during the regular trips the family took there. It was on account of this that I got into horses and mules, and back-country travel, and it was on account of that that I gained an anchor for my receding post-military sanity. I'm too old for back country travel nowadays, but I have a good enough store of memory and attitude to fuel the days of my impending dotage.

Watching this film: the vanishing horse and mule teams, obsolete schooner traffic, I couldn't help but resonate. We are connected to the past. It's our curse to remember certain things, because we mourn their passing. Maybe it's just the passing of the days when we were young, and believed that, not only could we do anything, but we would live forever. Naturally I'm glad that, for example, we've pretty much eradicated polio, made inroads re: the struggle against racism and sexism: fine. But I can close my eyes and smell horses.

Anyhow, thanks for this movie.

Hang on, I gotta go yell at those damned kids on my lawn.
posted by mule98J at 12:27 PM on May 1, 2013 [9 favorites]

Here's a review from a 1985 screening.
posted by Ideefixe at 1:55 PM on May 1, 2013 [1 favorite]

If you're into this kinda thing, Now You're Logging! is a swell graphic novel with a light touch of humour and a detailed focus on the technology of commercial logging in the 1930's. Authentically crafted by an old logger.
posted by ovvl at 4:00 PM on May 1, 2013

I'll just put this here as a contrast and embellishment to the lovely logging film you've posted. Another kind of logger at work, from a different era, on the other side of the continent: Hired Stihl slinger.
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 10:11 PM on May 1, 2013

Even more obligatory
posted by mikelieman at 6:29 AM on May 2, 2013

When I worked for Fish & Wildlife in northern Alberta, our office had a little rainy-day library. One of the books in there was a locally-made dictionary of logging slang from the US Northwest. It might have had the word "punks" or "whistlepunk" in the title... any idea what the title could be or where I could look for it? It was very interesting, and quite funny.
posted by sneebler at 1:40 PM on May 2, 2013

« Older Traveller's Tales Presents...   |   Motorcycle crashes at Edwards Corner Newer »

This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments