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This fifth conversation with ARTHUR SUNDBERG takes place at his home in Potlatch,Idaho on August 7, 1975.
SAM SCHRAGER: I've heard that Corliss engine was really a monster.
AS: Yeah. They had two of fem. They had one that drove the sawmill andthey had one that drove the planing mill. Course, the one that drove the sawmill was half again larger than the one that drove the planer. But the one that drove the sawmill, they kept it in place down there after it was taken out of service for a few years. And there was a lot of different discussions as to what to do with it. And the old Jew scrapiron dealer, he wanted it for scrap, because it was the highest quality scrap that you could .find. But he wanted to buy it for so much a ton on board a car. Well, management approached me on it and I discouraged them on that because they wouldn't only give the engine away but they'd lose money too, because it would cost more money to take it out of there than it would to- for what they'd get for it for scrap. So it just set there. Well, then finally a man by the name of Williams up here in Spokane, he's a brother to this Williams that makes this time and temperature signs, you know. You've seen these electric signs that change every minute, gives you the temperatures. He talked them into giving it to him, but he would take it out, that is, he would pay for taking it out. And he was going to put it up , up I Spokane, it s out there by Medical Lake along with a lot of other old sawmill, mining and farm equipment and make a mu seum, you know, for the public. So they give it to him. And so he approached me, wanted me to take it out. That was after I'd retired. And I told him, no way would I take it out, because I said I don't do any lifting or slugging or any of that heavy work.
Well, he saidhe didn't want me to do any work, he said he'd get ironworkers from Spokane to do the work but he wanted me to supervise it. You know, to tell them how to take it apart and then mark all the pi eces so they could be reassembled. So I agreed to that. So I supervised the taking the engine down and shipping it to Spokane. But, oh, that thing,it run from the time the mill started- and I'm not entirely certain whether that was a brand new engine when it was installed here. See, that was built by that Minneapolis Company, and it seems to me like there was only three engines that was ever built ^that size. And the other two I believe, was installed in big breweries back in Wis consin, and there's one in Minneapolis and I think there's one in Wisconsin. But at the time that that was dismantled they'd discon^ n^cted the big steam pipe. There was a twelve inch steam line that supplied the engine, but they disconnected that and just hooked up a two inch airline to it. And there wasn*t any load on it, you know, so periodically when they had visitors coming through, a bunch of visitors, why then they'd start up the engine and let them see it run. It was just run on air pressure but no load. But that thing run just like a jeweled watch. Well, person really should have a pic ture of it to see- to get some idea of the size of it. The flywheel on it was sixty inches across and twenty-four feet in diameter, And the spokes on that wheel, you know, the spokes were about like so you know. Course, they weren*t round, they were kind of flat and it was all castiron. The frame was all castiron. And the only thing that was steel was the connecting rod and of course the bearings^ with babbitt, the inserts. But they had a forty-eight cylinderforty- eight inches in diameter cylinder,. And gee, I forget the stroke on it, but anyway it was 1,200 horsepower in one engine. So that was quite a piece of machinery.
SS: Would you explain briefly how it worked? The Corliss engine?
AS: Well, it's a little bit difficult to explain unless a person is acquainted with engines, stationary engines. I could make you just a small sketch of the operating mechanism. But anyway, there was ec centrics on the main crankshaft between the main bearing and the fly wheel there was two big eccentrics on the shaft there. Now if you know what an eccentric is- it's something that runs off center. Well, then connected these eccentrics was pushrods, steel pushrods. And these rods were about twenty feet long and they d run to the steamchest. And of course, they worked on the outside of the steamchest. On the steamchest end of these pushrods- they worked an eccentric there. On the steamchest, this eccentric just back and forth- like so, you see- one at each end of this cylinder. Well then there was rods that come down from that down they opened and closed valves. Now they had rotary valves that went through. There was an intake and exhaust valve on each end of this cylinder. And these rods would open and close these alves, you see, so that when the intake valve was open on one end the exhaust valve had to be open on the opposite end, and then vice versa. And that pushed this cylin der piston back and forth in the cylinder.
SS: How was the steam generated?
AS: Well, from the power plant. They had a battery of boilers there.They had twelve return flue boilers and then they had one— of course this big watertube boiler wasn't installed until 192- the beginning of 1925. But anyway, they burned all their waste from the mill- not all of it- but they burned whatever waste they needed from the mill to generate the steam, and then the surplus waste went into a big burner. This burner was, oh, I don't know the exact measurements about sixty feet in diameter and I think it was a hundred and ten feet tall; screen top on it. All the surplus slabs and sawdust and stuff that they went into this burner and it was burned. That burner it was torn down, oh, maybe it was in the 1940's. I can*t give you the exact year. But anyway, they quit burning their sur plus. And then they hogged all their fuel, that is all the slabs went through a big hog- knife, hog, that chopped it all up into small pieces you know and.whatever wasn t burned in the powerplant they put in a conveyor system and it went across to a big fuel pile where they could store this fuel where they could bring it back in and burn it on weekends, holidays and times whenever the mill wasn't running, you see.
SS: The Corliss engine provided the power for the entire sawmill?
AS: Everything. Everything, that is the entire sawmill plus the greenchain.I think I told you here before about the belt that they used on that engine- that went from the engine over into the sawmill. It took 3000 cowhides to make that one belt. Of course, now when you say a cowhide, in making a belt they don't use the entire hide, because the flank and some of those parts^the hide is too soft. They just use the backs. And they use mostly South American cowhides be cause they said that they were thicker. This thing was all put toge ther with glue. And whenever this belt would stretch, which it would you know after you put on a new belt then when it ru n about a year, why, then it had stretched to the point where theyld have to take a piece out of it and reglue it. It takes an experienced man to do that kind of work. Each layer in thickness of this belt has to be separated back for a distance of about three feet on each end of the belt and then each ply has to be separated back and these plies have to be shaved down to a feather edge, and then they have to be covered with glue and then these plies would go together like soand then they had great big wooden clamps that they clamped on that and they'd stay in these clamps until that glue was dry. And to make that joint so that it was smooth so that it wouldn't pound as it went over the pulley, you know, you take on the driven end of the small pulley it could make quite a racket and it could put a lot of strain on the pulley itself and on the bearings on the shaft if it would pound every time it would come over, and of course, the speed that it would go over it, it would be just like a hammer striking if it wasn't ci smooth.
So it was skilled work putting a beltlike that together. Well then, it's kind of hard for someone to picture the transmission of power in a mill like that unless you could look at some drawings or sketches or something to get some idea. Now then, this shaft that supported the mainline shaft in the sawmill where this engine drove onto this mainline shaft, it was seven inches in diameter. And then of course, it was probably sixty feet long. But on that shaft were several other pulleys that transmitted the power to other shafts, great long shafts, and these other shafts would transmit the power to the main handsaws, you know they had four bandsaws. Two of them would drive off of one shaft, well then from that secondary shaft they was- it would drive over onto a third shaft and of course, each one would as it would progress over it would be a little smaller in size. But anyway, that mill was 120 feet wide and about 340 feet long. And when you'd stand on the floor and look.like that it would look like just a maze of pulleys and shafts and belts over the entire area. Well, then, you take- Say that the main shaft runs this way; well then there was another line shaft that run diagonally to that; ninety degrees to that, that drove the edgers. Well, get this power off*n this shaft to drive a shaft that was running ninety degrees to that, that had to be done through some gears. And those gears, they were called core gears, and these gears were about five feet in diameter. And they were a castiron hub with slots in it and these slots they put in wooden teeth, and these teeth had to be fitted and shaped so that they went in there and then a would be driven in to tighten that tooth into the casting.
Wellthen, you see, you had gear running in this plane another beveled gear running in this plane and of course they^d match perfectly together so transmit power from one direction to the other. Well, then to drive the greenchain, from this main shaft there was another belt that drove over onto another countershaft and then of course Nrun in the same plane as this main shaft. But then the power that went out to the greenchain, it had to run right angles to that so there had to be another big cord here on that one you see that would transmit the power out to the- And it's really a stupen dous piece of engineering. You take the engineering today, you can set a machine down in any location and at any angle, it doesn't make any difference how a machine is set down on it's base because you would attach an electric motor right to it, but when you're going to run a sawmill as big as this.one was in the earlier years, then run it off of just one power source, that is really a piece of engineering That's something that future generations will have no idea whatsoever of what it was. And it's too bad- I've thought lots of times that if I had known that a lot of these blueprints were going to be des troyed and just mutilated and finally just burned, why, it would have really been something if a person could have kept a lot of them prints,
SS: Was firing the engine, was there must to that, was it a big dealthat had to be done very carefully?
AS: You mean the boilers?
SS: Well, yeah.
AS: You see the engine- you take the four head rigs in the sawmill, theywere all propelled by steam power, and each one of those head rigs run by a twelve inch castiron cylinder, and these cylinders were about forty-two feet long, and of course it had a valve on each end of that, you know to run this piston back and forth and.in turn pull that carriage back and forth on the track, where it was sawing up the lumber. Well then each rig had a steam Inigger and that consisted of two cylinders. One eight inch cylinder and one ten inch cylinder. You've probably been in a sawmill, have you? Well, you've seen this thing come up out of the hole and turn the log over? Well, that bar comes down and it branches out like this; well there's one cylinder that's attached to this end and one to end, so of course the different manipulation of these two different cylinders can make this bar do whatever you want it to do up above here, you see, because if this one goes up and this one stays put, well then that bars going to go forward.
Well, if this one goes up the bar's going to go back.If they both go up, it's going to come straight up. But anyway, there was one set like that for each headrig. Well then there was a twelve inch cylinder about a two-foot stroke for each loader, that in turn tipped the log off. and the log back onto the carriage. Now that was just for each rig, well, then when logs come into the mill, they had twelve-inch cylinders there for to kick the logs out of one bull chain over onto the next bullchain, and then as they go in there they had another cylinder down below here that kicked the logs onto each deck. Each carriage had it's own deck of logs ahead so they kicked them up. So you see, there was steam cylinders all throughout the mill. All the way from six inches in diameter and twelve-inch stroke to twelve inch diameter and so on. So it took an awful lot of steam. Well then, of course, they furnished the steam for part of the town. The mercantile store and the hotel and the school and the big church that burned down as well as five houses up on Nob Hill where the brass lived was all heated with steam from the mill. So then when they started to build dry kilns; the first dry kiln I think I told you be fore was an experimental deal. Nobody in the lumber industry knew anything about drying lumber with dry kilns up until the latter endthe latter part of the period when we was involved in that First World War.
And then of course during the wartime the demand for lumber went up so high, you know, that it took too long to dry it just by air, so they started experimenting with drying it with steam. So then that took more steam, but they had another boiler room at the planer that drove that Corliss engine and of course that boiler room is the one that furnished steam for this first dry kiln that So the boiler room at the sawmill it just furnished steam for the sawmill and for their pumps and for the town, part of the town. Well then, in 1924-'25 they'd got to the point where they knew quite a bit about drying lumber, so they built twenty-four big dry kilns. And I think I explained those kilns to you before. But anyway, at that time they connected the steam powerlineTTand at that time is when they put in this big watertube boiler. The big Kidwell boiler, and it was- well, I'm not going to quote exactly- but I think it was about 1200 horsepower boiler, just this one boiler. Well, they used that then with these other four banks of boilers that they had in the divisional powerplant. Those original boilers, they were about five feet in diameter and twenty feet long, something like that, and they were made up in batteries of three boilers side by side in each battery and they had four batteries, so there was twelve of these boilers. You know that was the original setup. And they were return flue boilers where the water was on the outside of the flues and the fire from the firebox went to the back end of the fire box and then come up and come through these flues and then out the stack.
And these fires- these boilers,they were fired by dutchovens instead of- well, the fire was partly under the boiler but just the backend of the firebox was under the boiler, but anyway, the firebox was bricked over to where no fire come in contact with the outer shell of the boiler. And of course, they had this con veyor system that run from tkfc sawmill through the boiler room. It carried the fuel; it was the sawdust and ground up slabs, you know, and then for each boiler they had a metal spout that come down this conveyor system quite high, it was probably ten feet above the deck of the boilerroom, and they had metal spouts that was open on top, just metal troughs, come down into this round firehole; it was just a casting that was an opening of about twelve or fourteen ^opening. And in the bottom of this conveyor they had slide gates that was operated with a long handle, the fireman he'd walk along and he'd look down in these holes and see how these fires were, you know, and of course it wouldn't take long to learn just how much fuel you was supposed to keep in this fire box there, you see, because you're not supposed to have any exposed grates. And he could adjust these levers, to adjust the amount of fuel that come down.
Well, now, priorto 19- the early part of 1925, when they put in this extra big boiler and built these dry kilns, a man working in the powerhouse, the fireman, they really had a job cut out for 'em, but still it was something attractive about it to where- there was for years and years there that that was twelve hours a day and seven days a week firing these boilers, and the only time there was ever an opening or vacancy there was if somebody happened to move out of the country or died, you know. But, you take during the working hours at the mill, well these firemen they could just, as I say, adjust these slides and let the fuel run in there. But then they also had to let some fuel run out onto the deck and this deck was, oh, about ten foot wide back from the spouts come down, back to the wall, well they could run fuel onto this deck, but then when it got up there to where it wouldn't run out anymore, well, then some of these men had to go up and shovel it back up against this wall, you know bank up as much as they could so as to have enough fuel in there on this deck to run 'em the hours that the mill wasn't running, you know, like on a Sunday or a holi day or on the few hours during the night, you know, when it wasn't running.
Well, at that time they had to keep these fires going andthey had to maintain this steam pressure so they had to shovel it in there. They had these big barley forks, and they would shovel this fuel? that they d stored there during the day into the hole, so that run into a lot of hard work. But then after 1925 when they put in this big boiler they also built a big fuel house so they didn't have to s tore any more of that fuel on this deck because all the sirplus fuel then would go - spill,into a conveyor .' ; this powerhouse conveyor that went at right angles into the fuelhouse and that was a long conveyor that would distribute that in there. Well then when ever they needed fuel other than when the sawmill was running, why then one man would go out in the fuelhouse and one man would stay in the powerhouse, and there'd be two- there was three men on a shift. The watertender and two firemen. But this one man would go out in the powerhouse and he would start that conveyor down there and then they had doors that would open - the full length of the building a whole series of doors; each door was about oh six foot wide, and they could open them up and this fuel*d run into this con veyor and go back up into the powerhouse, circulate around. And, of course, whenever the fuel got low in this fuel bin the man out there had to do quite a bit of breaking down and shoveling to get it into conveyor. So making steam was more or less complicated and it took a lot of manpower and a lot of hard work.
SS: You know talking about the power being supplied the town; it makesme think- I was told that the town, not only the Potlatch supplied the power to the town, but the town functions, like the school and different things like that were run by a management. Is that right?
AS: That's right It was a closed school district here, and it was justfor the town. And there was no one outside of the company that paid any school taxes; the company paid the entire cost. They furnished the buildings; they paid all the administrative expenses of the school, so everything was free to the people; to the kids. And we talked about Mr. Laird before and all during his liTetime.he was always at the head of the school board and he was for education, This Potlatch school, as long as it was administered that way, it had the highest rating in Latah County and the highest rating in the whole state of Idaho in standing, because this Potlatch School Board, which was Potlatch Lumber Company, they just hired the very best teachers that could be found and they maintained a high degree of education as far as they went, you know it was just a grade school plus a high school.
So they really had an outstanding school system here allduring that period. I don't know, I think possibly that- what I'm thinking about probably would carry to the entire nation, but you know, it used to be that every kid in school was taught penmanship and all the subjects that they did carry.the kids were really bril liant in every subject. Now you take right today the average kid that finishes high school, and I might say probably everyone that finishes college, you got to have a kind of vivid imagination if you're even going to read their name! You know they can't write. Kids use typewriters nowdays, you know, they can't write. And they can't figure, they've got to use a calculator if they're going to do any figuring. But it always wasn't that way before got all these gadgets because you know the kids were taught penmanship; that was one thing that was pounded into every kid. And another thing too, he was- every kid was really outstanding in being able to read .and to write and to figure; addition, subtraction, multiplication and all those things, they were really sharp at it then. Maybe I've got a wrong picture now, but what kids that I've seen in the last few years, they can't even figure out change for fifty cents.
SS: I don't know, I've heard that Potlatch had an outstanding schoolsystem. I also heard that they divided up the management of the town among the different managers or superintendents of the company and each one had a certain responsibility for running the town. That struck me as an odd kind of way as far as the local people being in volved in managing a town; you take a town like Troy, where that there's a city council and it's all run by the local people. I was thinking about the schools- that discouraged local people.
AS: No, no, no, it didn*t discourage them at all because, everything was run so efficiently that- unless it would be seme individual crackpot, you know you'll find some that always figures that he could do it better, but you know, a company town is something that was really unique. There wasn't too many of rem in the whole United States. You found more of 'em, I suppose back in the mining dis tricts in the East where the coal mine operator or company^they owned these shacks and they owned a company store and- but, you take the way those towns were run absolutely no comparison at all with the way this town was run. And of course, I don*t know just how many company towns there were in the lumber industry, but I know of one more; now Mc Cloud, California, there was a- probably still is- I'm not sure a wholly owned company town. Sawmill operation and it was a big operation. They owned all the houses and the hotel and everything, but McCloud didn't have quite as good a setup as they had here, because I've been in McCloud and they never maintainedthe company down there never maintained the sidewalks and the streets as well as they did here.
And they never maintained the houses asgood as they did here, I don't believe. And they didn't have quite as many public facilities in the way of, oh, churches or gymnasiums and stuff like that. Here they had everything; here they had- well to start with here, they had what they called the Union Church and that was nondenominational, see, that was all denominations that wanted to get together. Well then, there was so many Scandinavians; Swedes and Norwegians, that their State Church over in the country where they come from was Lutheran. So then they wanted»the company to build a Lutheran Church. Well then there was quite a few Cath olics. Old Bill Deary, the first general manager, was Catholic, so they built a Catholic Church. So they had three churches besides the grade school which went through one through eight grades and then they had.high school went from nine through twelve. And then this big gymnasium, that I believe I told you about before, and hotels and boardinghouses and a b uilding that housed the- after they got so that they had moving pictures, why, of course, the company owned the building. The theatre itself was privately run. But they had just about everything here that you would find in any small town. Confectionery and the poolhall and just, you know every thing that you'd find anywhere.
SS: In terms of selfgovernment; governing the town itself, regulating it,what about these local people in that? Besides the brass. Did the brass really take 95% of that money off to themselves because the company owned the town?
AS: They took 100%. They took it all. The people, they didn't have anypart in it. That is, in the management of the town. The town itselfthe administrator of the town was usually the head bookkeeper in the office, or auditor or whatever you want to call him. But then they had what might be classified as a town superintendent, and he was the one that looked after all the details of the town, that is, I'm talking about the physical structure of the town, and if anybody had a leaky water faucet or if you thought that your house needed redecora ting on the inside you'd go down and see him. And of course, if you had a leaky water faucet he'd send the plumber up and have it fixed. And if there was a hole in your sidewalk why they*d send a carpenter up and repair that - they had wooden sidewalks all over the town. And then they had a pretty good schedule about redecorating the houses on the inside, and painting the outside eyery fiye years. But in the case of somebody moving out of a house and the wallpaper or the paint or something being in bad shape, why they'd send a crew in an refinish the inside of the house before the next tenant come in. And you take for the amount of rent that was charged- Now this house, this is a three bedroom house, well when we moved in to this house we paid $20 a month rent. Now you know you can't own a house for that. And then as I say, anything that needed repairing why they repaired it. They paid the taxes, you didn't have no taxes to pay or you didn't have any school tax to pay.
SS: What kind of advantages do you think this gave the company? Do youthink it was really profitable thing for them?
AS: No, it wasn't profitable, no, but they owned everything to begin withand then they kept the ownership and they kept up the maintenance of everything up to the time when— Oh, top management, you get up in the board of directors and president of the company, and all that sort of thing you know, they have their meeting. discuss these things and finally- gosh, I forget what year we did buy this house. But anyway, when they sold these houses- Now this is a pretty nice street that we're on here, in fact, the houses on this street were built in 1925, so you see they're quite a bit newer than the rest of the town, that is, the majority of the town. And there's three houses on this street here, this one and the one across the street and^one down at the end of the street, were all the same floor plan and we bought these houses for $3,250. And all the rest of the hou ses on this street, there's a lot of nice houses here sold for $2,600. So you see they didn't make any money on 'em- that at all. There was people on this street here that - if you wanted to you could buy one of these houses for ten percent down. And then monthly payments on the purchase of it. So you see on a $2,600 house a ten percent down payment was only $260. And I know that there was one family that lived here that finally got around - they agreed to buy house, they made a down payment and they probably didn't make over two or three mon thly payments until they sold out for $6,000. So you see, as far as the company making money is concerned, they didn t make any^.
SS: What do you think the thinking was on maintaining the company townin the early years? I mean, we talked about the fact that, let's say that in the that they were promoted to become the higherupsthey were looking for production, was what they wanted, so it's hard for me to believe that they maintained this town as a cojnpany town and put into it what they did for just alturistic reasons.
AS: Well, know, but then you've got to look at it this way too, theyundoubtedly figured at the beginning there that it would take so many dwellings to support a certain number of people that would be working for them to produce what they had to produce. But, if they didn't have control of these dwellings well then, possibly a big percentage of these dwellings would be occupied by people that didn't work for 'em. Consequently then the people that did work for them wouldn't have any place to live. So you see, they always had- every time a new family come in they always had a house for 'em. You- could come in today and go down to the office and ask for a house and it may not be the house that you'd want, but yould have a house to move into tomorrow and possibly in a month or two or six months or some time in the future they would find a house for you more to your li king. And that way, when they had control of all these houses, why, they could keep the people satisfied and happy. Oh, I know that at the time that people were paying rent there was lots of them that done a lot of bellyaching about paying rent and money throwed down the drain and all that, but, some of these same people when they got around to where they bought their home, then they found out how cheap it was to rent one. Because when you have to pay for the maintenance of a house; pay your taxes and your insurance why, boy, it takes a lot of money just to own a home.
SS: What do you think that the attitude of most of the-well, I imaginethere were different- I'm thinking about ways that people working felt about the company, whether they thought that they should get whatever they could from the company or whether they really, let's say, appreciated and felt the company was doing a whole lot for them.
AS: Well, I'll tell you, you take the- might say the class of people,that might be the wrong words to use because I don^t know as class enters into it too much, but anyway you take people that are used to living in this sort of an environment, you know, they just take things for granted and they don't think about a lot of the details. And they really didn't- I don't think the average person really thought much of it, it was just a case of having a house to live in and having a job and reporting on the job at seven o'clock in the morning and having one hour for noon and then finish out the day and then in the evening why, they could spend their leisure time anyway they wanted to. You see, they didn't do much thinking about that, it was- The average young person, I'd say a man that was working here that^. was single, he would probably make plans for the weekend, you know, and there wasn't too much, I don't believe, that they really thought about outside of just making a living for their family.
SS: I guess why I asked it was because the company town and that way ofhaving a town is so different than 90% of the towns in America. So it seems like as far as the way the town was handled and run there would be real differences. If a person knows- let's say, I've heard of somebody who's husband died and she had to leave the town because she wasn't—
AS: No, that wasn't true at all. It wasn't true. She might leave thetown but she didn't have to leave the town. She could stay here aid try to make a living any way that she could. Now, she might- if she wasn't trained, she might have to make a living by taking in washing or going out and doing housework. And there was several that done that. But there's no such thing that they had to leave the town.
SS: What happened if a guy got fired by the company? Could he stay?
AS: No, that is, not unless he- of course, if he got fired in one department and if he could just go over to the next department and hire on, and if he did, why, as long as he was on the payroll he could live co here. But, I don't think anybody, I don't know of anybody that was actually kicked out because they were out of a job. If they could show that they could pay their rent and their expenses then they'd go down and pay that in cash, you know, why they could stay on, it wasn't that rigid. You didn't lose your house just because you were out of a job because that being out of a job might be just temporary. There might have been a few cases throughout the years where it was somebody was canned and the reason for it was so severe that they just didn't want 'em in the town any longer, and then they might be asked to move out. But those cases were so few and far between that I don't believe it's hardly worth mentioning. Now you take as far as having the people take an interest in the running of the town; do you have any idea at all how the people feel right today? You can canvass the people in this town or the city of Moscow or Pullman or Lewiston or Spokane or anyplace and you^11 find the big majority, not just the majority, but the big majority, they don^t know straight up and they don*t care a thing about it one way or the other. They just go along anyway the ball bounces. You know, the average person in the average town they can't tell you the name of the councilmen. Probably a lot of 'em can't tell you the name of the mayor, if they have a mayor, and about all they can do is say, "By gosh, I pay too much taxes." You say, "Well, how much do you pay?" "Well, I don't know." They don't even know that. What proportion do you pay in taxes to the school district? What proportion goes to the county? What proportion goes to the city? They don't know.
SS: Do you think it was as bad back then?
AS: Well, they didn't have that to pay; not in this town. They didn^thave any of that to be concerned about.
SS: But, I mean the running of the town.
AS: But then you take for the country-wide, why, there was always justa few individuals in every town regardless of the size of the town whether it would be Potlatch or New York City, there was just a very few individuals in proportion to the population that wanted to meddle with politics and the running of the city. But that propor tion in regard to the population was so darn small that it probably would be less than one percent, you know. People as a rule, they're not too concerned about the details, you know, they'll watch the television and listen to the radio and get these commentators views on some of them things and then they'll say, "Boy, the country's going to pot]" (Chuckles) But they haven't got any solution to offer.
SS: Do you think when the company was providing services for the town,for the people, that they really put aside saving money, as a consideration. Did they try to cut corners where ever they could or were they really—
AS: The people?
SS: No, the management; running the town. I'm thinking about what I'veheard in the woods that they watched every penny that they could, and I'm wondering about the town—
AS: Don't you think that holds true with running any company?
SS: Yeah, but the difference in running the town, I see that as a-That's not the same to me as running the company, maybe it was the same.
AS: Well, I know, but in running the town; you know, if you or anyoneelse was responsible for the running of the town, the management of it, you would at least try to break even, wouldn't you? You know, if you was going to go in the red year after year, well, then when the top brass looked over the books, they'd say, "Well, that man is not the man for the job." So they'd get another administrator. So it wasn't a case of making money, but then it's just more of a case of breaking even.
SS: Would these responsibilities for the town, would these be handledas a part of management's daily work? Or was that extracurricular?
AS: Well, when you say 'management' - of course management spreads outfrom the top clear down to something that's, well, almost to the point of being obscured, but still could be management, you know. Now, as I say, the management of the town itself was run separately from the management of the sawmill, although the general manager, he was the manager over all of it. But these different departments they all had different department heads, and as I say, the town itself, while the auditor or head bookkeeper, whatever you want to call him, in the office, usually was the administrator of the town. But he what you might classify as the town superintendent under him and he didn't concern himself with anything else except the physical part of the town; the maintenance and upkeep of the town. This town superin tendent he didn't have anything to do with renting houses be cause the auditor he handled the rentals of houses, but as far as the maintenance of streets, sidewalks and all buildings, whether it would be public buildings or private buildings, everything was all handled by the superintendent of the town. But he was- might consider as part of the brass, you know, but as far as his salary was concerned his salary probably didn't amount to only just a few dollars more than one of the men that was working under him.
SS: Do you know whether they broke even in much of their management ofthe town?
AS: Well, of course, I never had access to any of the books, you know,and I've sat in on a lot of the meetings; management meetings where the unit manager would give us a lot of figures, you know. But whether or not they were true or not, I wouldn't have any way of knowing be cause- Of course there was a couple of times there when he offered to let some of us look at the books, because he thought maybe by the look on our faces that maybe we doubted what he was telling us, you know. But of course, we never would take him up on that.
SS: What kinds of things would those be? That you doubted?
AS: Well, that'd be more or less overall costs of operation and incomefrom the mill and the town, the whole layout. And, you know, it's only I guess natural that the larger the operation, why then, people think the more profits. You take a small operation people naturally think of small profits. Large operation, they naturally think it's large profits. Well, that's true in some instances, I guess. And there was a time here, when they got going again after the Depression that we had in the '30's- well, management would explain to us that all they was doing was trading an old dollar for a new dollar and they wasn't making a dime. All they was doing was just trying to get a dollar back for a dollar spent without any profits. And it was during that period when he offered to let some of us loo k at the books. But you take as far as- they owned an awful lot 4JW timber land and you take when lumber was selling for, oh, say, take an av erage price- say just roughly speaking, say an average price of fifty dollars a thousand and they had a valuation set on their books as to what the timber was worth standing, well then you add the cost of logging, transportation, manufacture, sales and finally get it to the consumer why, that fifty dollar average that they was getting cost 'em fifty dollars. And in some cases cost 'em more than that. So you see, you get to figuring finances on a big scale and there's so many things that the general public don't know a thing about, all they can see is they're shipping millions of feet of lumber and they're getting thousands of dollars per thousand feet of lumber and oh, they're getting all that and Idok at all the money] Nowdays, they are making a lot of money, there's no question about it. But they was for a good many years that they didn't.
SS: You think then that probably it was then dollar for dollar duringthat period of time?
AS: Yeah. And they had to manage awful close in order to get that. Ofcourse, you take modern technology has built it up now to where - you've probably heard the expression about the packing houses, these slaughterhouses, they use everything but the squealj Well, that's the way it is in the lumber industry now. The only thing now that in the lumber industry in this region that they don't use is the bark on the tree, but outside of that they use everything.
SS: Did you have any responsibilities yourself besides your actual jobwhen you were a foreman for town activities?
AS: No. No. Of course after they sold the town then, of course,the people in the town they had to elect councilmen and the mayor. Now, you take this little town; there isn't too many houses here; small town, but still now we have to maintain the fulltime policeman with an automobile. I don't think he gets too much salary, but anyo ne probably gets $700 a month. Then they have a so-called town su perintendent, supposed to look after the streets and one thing and another. He gets about the same salary as the policeman. And of course the mayor and the councilmen, they're not salaried. But then they have a town clerk and she draws a salary. Well then, you've got the street lighting and there's just an awful lot of overhead. And you divide that upvwith the number of residences we've got here and it comes pretty high. We're taxed the highest of any community in Latah County. We're taxed higher than Moscow is in millage. So you see, when the company had the town we didn't have any of that to pay; they paid everything.
SS: Do you remember what the people felt when the town was going to besold?
AS: Oh, everybody was really elated. They thought that was somethinggreat? to own their home. And it is; itls a nice feeling to own your home. But, you know the first year that we owned this house our taxes was $28, and now our taxes run close to $150 besides the insurance. Your take our insurance, we used to get that for three years for about $27, now then it costs us $59 a year. And then of course- I painted the outside of all of our buildings last year, and that's something you know, that should be done every four or not more than five years, and so there is a lot of expense to owning your own home.
SS: What would be the reason that the company would have for kicking somebody out? What would be the sort of offense that would ustify that? Just booting them out of town?
AS: Oh, I suppose if he was proven to be a confirmed thief, you know, determined to be stealing something from somebody or from the company all the time or if they were just running a boisterous house, you know, or something that disturbed the neighborhood. You can imagine that any offense that was really to the point of being obnoxious, well then, they might ask them to leave. But any petty offenses they never did anything about that.
SS: How effective were their attempts to control liquor in the town?
AS: They didn't make any attempt to control the consumption of liquor.The only thing is that they just wouldn't permit it to be sold here. You know they wouldn't allow any saloons in the town. But the men that worked here, they could bring it in by the suitcase load and they could ship it in here by express. Now I have seen these great big steel express cars, you know, off of the mainline, I have seen as high as three of those coupled together switched onto this line here and moved in here just all loaded with booze. Most of it would be fifty gallon barrels of wine, you know, for the Italian community. But whiskey was shipped in here every week by express, in small pac kages. But that was just for the individuals consumption; not for resale. Oh, I suppose if they- if I sent up to Spokane and got four quarts of whiskey and you wanted one of 'em, I'd sell you one and noc thing'd be said about that.
SS: So they really didn't keep booze out of town at all? They just discouraged a public gathering in saloons.
AS: That's right.
SS: That create the kinds of fights that we talked about back in theMidwest.
What about the arm of the law? Did they give pretty str ict ordersas far as the—?
AS: Oh, yeah. I think possibly that they had the best relationship herebetween the people and the law of any town in the whole United States. You know, this town superintendent at that time was also the constable. And of course, he was deputized as a constable through the sheriff of the county, but of course, the company paid all.his salary. And the only time that he ever put anyone in jail would be if somebody would swear out a complaint, why then of course, he would have to serve that, but generally he would- even if you'd come to him with a complaint he would try to talk you out of it. He was really a nice guy. And, oh, I've seen it so darn many times that someone would be downtown and probably in the poolhall or confectionery and drunker than a hoot owl and probably couldn't even stand up or maybe he was just drunk and wanted to fight, like some of 'em get, well, maybe the proprietor would for Old Harry Gltftve, the constable, and he^d come and talk to the guy a little bit and then pretty soon he^d look around and say, "Well, you're a pretty good friend to him, why don't you take him home?" And that'd be the end of it. And that's the way it was always run. That is, up until after they sold the town, well, then of course, they had to have policemen and deputy sheriffs and patrol cars. And they just imagined, I guess, that crime really got bad after the town was sold and incorporated, but before that they didn't need all them law enforcement people. Of course now with all these beer parlors they got all over the country, why, it really takes a lot of law enforcement because I guess they really stir up a mess every night and every weekend, you know,in these beer parlors. I can't tell you too much about that because I never go in one of 'em.
SS: It's too recent to matter anyway.
AS: Well, you take people that act like that is just disgusting, revoltingto me, I just don't want to be around 'em at all. I've got nothing against drinking, that is, if a person wants to drink that's fine, go ahead, but then acting they way they do when they get out into one of them places. Now they could consume the same amount in their own home or your home or in a little party, but when they get in to one of them beer parlors, why then, they really whoop it up] And, I guess from what I've been told the women are ten times worse than the men!
SS: I wanted to ask you about the Depression here, and what happened
AS: Well, of course, you would have to make some of these responses tothat over a period of time. It wasn't that quick. When they decided to shut the plant down for the lack of business, well they did notify the people, they sent out notices that the plant was going down and of course they notified everybody that was on the job. But they also notified everybody that they could live in the house there would be some work, they couldn't promise how much work or what it would be but there would be some work for a few people. And whatever work there was to be had it would be prorated —
- so as to help as many people as possible. And for a community,I believe that we fared better here than the average community anywhere in the whole country. .There was a few that had a lot of initative, you know, that would get out and try to improvise and then of course, there was a few like you'd find anyplace, I guess, that would just sit on their hands and cry and didn't know what was going to happen, but then they all weathered it anyway.. At that time most everybody put in a garden. The company furnished all the ground that you could possibly want for to put in a garden and they'd give you any help that they could, you know for putting in a garden. We were part of one little gardening deal; it wasn't really cooperative in all respects. We all went together and hired a man to plow up this piece of ground. And of course, this piece of ground, each one would draw his own plot as to the ground he wanted to work. But then as far as working the ground was concerned, why we all went together and shared the cost of working it up. But^each one of us then planted their own garden and cultivated and harvested our own garden. So that helped a whole lot.
And, oh, I can tell you justfrom our own experience- for a time there we bought cream from a farmer out here in the country; he'd bring in about three of these eight gallon cream cans of sweet cream a week and whatever they'd pay him per can, for the two cans he'd sell them we'd pay him that for the one can he'd sell us. Well, of course, eight gallons of cream would be too much for us so we then in turn would divide that and my wife's sister and brother-in-law would take half of it and we'd take half of it. Well, we'd use part of the cream for cake, you know, ice cream cake, or put it on cereal and then part of it we'd churn into butter. Made our own butter. Well, there was- that butter cost us about eighteen cents a pound. Then there was a farmer over here at Viola that come through town here peddling and he had cracked wheat. And he was telling about how good that was for cereal, so I bought, I don't know, seems like it was about fifteen cents worth andAgot enough to run us for a year! Wheat was only selling for two bits a bushel. Well, then I stocked up on- they had a special on this MJB rice, you know come in packages. So I stocked up on- oh, gosh, I don't know how much of that. Enough to run us for a year or so.
And then we boughtflour; about four barrels of flour at a time, that was sixteen fifty pound sacks. And we got a good price on that, I don't know, I guess a sack of flour was, oh, somewhere around a dollar. I can*t tell you the exact price. And in our garden we put up about twenty sacks of spuds and we had several sacks of carrots and rutabegas and we had lots of cabbage and everything, so we had lots of food. Well, I went down here at the mill and I made up a few butcher knives and then I traded some of these knives to a farmer out here for half a hog. And you know, you can do a lot of things if it's necessary. But as far as any hardships is concerned we never knew what hardships were at all. We had more food to eat than we ever had in our life. And pretty near, might say just about every Saturday night, why, there'd be a dance up here in this Legion cabin and it would be just anybody that wanted to sponsor it, it really didn't cost 'em anything to sponsor it because all you do is probably downtown in the mid dle of the week and meet somebody and set and talk and say, "Well, let's have a dance Saturday night up to the cabin." "Okay." So talk it up and send the word out and the Ladies Aid bring a a few cookies or a few sandwiches and rustle up some coffee. Then the music, they had the boys, 'a bunch of brothers. They had an orchestra and they'd play for whatever they could get. They didn't have any fixed fee. Well, if you wanted to drop a dime in the hat or nothing at all or two bits or anything you wanted, you know, that you felt that you wanted to give; put it in the hat, and that's what the music got. Everybody socialized and fraternized and had a good time. Everybody, you know, was in the same boat. But then, just as soon as times picked up again and people start getting some money, well then, all this fraternizing kind of died out and then.divided up into small groups. You'd have two or three friends and I'd have two or three friends arid this way and that way. But during that toughest part of the Depression, why, they were altogether in a group.
SS: There was more fraternizing during the Depression than there had beenbefore?
AS: Oh, yeah, yeah.
SS: I wonder if that's why many people when they remember the Depressiondon't think of it as such a hardtime because they think of the close ness of people at that time.
AS: Yes, well, of course, that depends a whole lot on who you're talkingto and the area in which you're talking about. Take the people that really suffered during the Depression was the people in the cities. Because in the cities there's no fraternizing at all, and in the ci ties— Well, I know when they started them CCC camps, well, they started sending out an awful lot of these young men in the eastern part of the country out this way. Well, they had several CC camps up here in the timbered area. And I was in a dentist's office down here one day just visiting with the dentist, and he was laughing and he was telling me that they brought a bunch of these CCCs in and of course they was under the control of the Army. They had a real tough Army sergeant in every camp, and he had to be tough in order to get along with some of them guys. But anyway, I guess, I don't know, the Army doctors or what looked 'em over, but anyway of course, there was a lot of 'em needed some dental work done and so they brought three or four truckloads down here to give 'em a little recreation, and of course there would be several of 'em there that they had to go into the dentist and get some work done.
And there was one ofthese young guys come in and set down in the dental chair there and he had his foot all bandaged up so the dentist asked him, he said, "What did you do to your foot? What happened?" "Well," he said, "I'll tell you; you know, back where we come from we heard a lot about this wild west out here and the Indians and everything and so we got out here and so some of 'em they was telling us that we had to watch out for these wild animals; course we didn t know what they looked like." So they was clearing brush, clearing out an area for the camp and mostly just the small brush, and of course, they give 'em an axe apiece and they were chopping down these bushes and I guess the bushes were falling down around his feet, you know, and finally he said he seen something wiggle down in there, you know, and he thought that was one of them wild beasts and he let fly with the axe and he chopped his own foot! But there was a fellow here by the name of Ivor Ross, he was a carpenter that worked down here at the plant for a long time and he hired on as a camp carpenter when they was building these CC camps. And he had some men and he had to construct these bottoms for these tents, you know, they built a floor and sidewalls on it and then, of course, canvas top. And he said that in clearing these areas, said there was some of them guys- they had to issue handsaws to 'em for cutting this little bitty brush, you know, and said they didn't dare give 'em an axe, he said they was chopping themselves and chopping each other and everything else.
They didn't know what an axe was, so they give 'em handsawsto cut them little bushes off, you know. Well, anyway, I was working in the powerhouse and they was prorating the labor in the powerhouse as to make it go as far as they could so I was working four hours a day and I think about four days a week, getting in about sixteen hours. But anyway, I was working in the powerhouse there when a bunch of these CCCs come down there and they had somebody with 'em for a guide and was showing them the plant. Of course the plant was all down, but then they could come in and look at this big engine and they could look at these fires and that sort of thing. And they could see anything else in the plant they was interested in, but they was mostly young men^above average intelligence, you know, be cause they showed interest in something like that, so I was talking with one young fellow there, he was a big, tall fellow; pretty goodlooking young fellow and I asked him where he was from and he said he was from New York. So I said, "What did you do in New York? What did you work at before you come out here?" Oh, he looked at me kind of funny and I said, "Did you have a job?" "No." "Well," I said, "how in the world did you get by?" He said just as long as he could remember, from the time he was born, all he ever knew was just to go down and get in the soupline every day, and work their way up to where they could get the chunk of bread and a bowl of soup. That's all he knew all his life until he come out here. And he was a grown up man. So it was really tough back in the big cities. Of course, he was growing up and he was in that soupline long before the Dep ression hit. He was probably, oh, maybe nineteen, twenty years old.
SS: What happened to these men who did^ have jobs, let s say the guysthat worked on the saw? People who didn't have a job where they could just work in a powerplant or something that was necessary to maintain the mill? They didn't have any work or did the company make work for them?
AS: They made work for some of 'em, but they couldn't make work for allof 'em. Now there was- They started a WPA; they had those projects started after Roosevelt got in and so this highway from Moscow going towards Coeur d'Alene; most of that highway was built at that time, with WPA labor. And it was more or less hand labor. They had some machinery, but they used a lot of horses and fresnoes and slipscrapers And the men that worked on that highway, they were the same way, they got just four hours a day for so many days a week, you know, so as to spread it over as many as they could. And most everybody had some work of some kind. Now you couldn't be choosey on the work. If a job was offered to you, why, you'd better take it, if it would be dirty as the dickens or anything else. And there was one project that the company made was they put a new roof on this water reservoir for the town up here at the end of this street. And it's a big con crete reservoir, it holds about a million gallons of water, but the roof covers a pretty big area. Well, they refoofed that and of course, the company furnished the material. the company owned it. But for carpenters on the job, carpenters got paid twenty-seven cents an hour. And that's what we got paid down at the mill; twenty-seven cents an hour. Well, that's sure a far cry from what they're getting now! But of course, if a man earned a dollar, why, he could buy quite a bit with that dollar, you know, you could buy, oh, for half of that you could buy a pretty nice piece of meat and a sack of spuds would be about fifty cents. All things in proportion, people weathered the storm pretty well. Of course, nobody made any money.
SS: Do you think the company had to make any hard choices about who theywere going to be able to support or not?
AS: Well, it was- One thing that they did do, they definitely wanted tokeep all what might be considered key men here. They didn't want them to get away. You take men of skill in the production of lumber; you take the filers in the sawmill, they filed the saws, the sawyers in the sawmill, the edgermen, setters, lumber graders and some of the. top mechanics, they wanted all them to stay and they wanted to provide them enough work so that they would stay. Now you take just base labor, common labor, they was down at the end of the totem pole, because if and when the time come when they'd get to operating again why, those jobs could be filled a lot easier than these jobs that re quired a lot of skill, you see. But even those of just common labor I don't know of any of 'em that- but what they got some work some where, you know. If they didn't work here they probably worked on that road or someplace, you know. And pretty near everybody cut their own wood. Those days we all burned wood in their kitchen ranges and in our heating stoves and we could get all the timber we wanted for nothing.
All we had to do was cut it. Of course, we hadto provide transportation for hauling it home, but I know there was a lot of cooperation there, too, even in making wood there. Most everybody that cut wood, they would cut in four foot lengths and haul it home and pile it up. Well then, there was oh, two or three or possibly individuals that had buzzsaws; an old automobile they'd converted over into a wood cutting outfit, you know. Took the body off it and just had the running gear and they'd get ahold of a saw^and so whenever they d go to cut somebody s wood, why, that per son that owned the wood he would get-some of his friends or neigh bors to come over and help. Well, you know, it wasn't too big a trick to cut forty cords a day because with one man or two men bringing the wood up to the saw and they generally moved that saw, kept it right up to the woodpile, one man actually sawing the wood and another man off bearing, you know taking these chumks as they come off the saw and throwing them out of the way, why, they'd probably cut ten cords for you and over and cut maybe ten cords for me and maybe ten cords for somebody else in a day. But the only one that got any pay was the man that owned the saw; he got so much a cord for cutting the wood. The rest of the help is all cooperative, one would help the other one, you see. But generally in making the wood out in the woods, usually it was a one-man deal there, sometimes two would go together, and if they was using a crosscut saw then the two men would work together and they'd divide the wood^they made. But there wasn't any power saws in the woods, it was all crosscut saws.
SS: Did the company give preference to married men over single men as faras helping?
AS: Yeah. They did, except if there was some single men that held jobsof importance; then of course, that single man. he was given the same consideration. But they were pretty fair about keeping families to gether. I think they done a real good job of administering the whole thing. After all, it was pretty difficult times for everybody.
SS: If you were going to adait up and look at the advantages and disadvantages of a company town, how do you think they would weigh out? I mean, I'm not saying that the imbalance is going to be terrific or it's going to be bad, but what do you think would be the advantages and the disadvantages of it?
AS: Well, somebody listening to these tapes, if they ever do in the future,and you put a question like that to me about the advantages and dis advantages of a company town, you've got to take into account there's a lot of differences- there might be a lot of differences in a company town.
SS: Well, I guess I happened to be thinking of this one.
AS: But .this one here; oh,'you take- I think in every aspect of the town,the people were better off as a company town than they are in an open town because of the fact that the company maintained and they done a good job of maintaining all the facilities and all the buildings and everything and there was no added expense to any of the people that lived here. When a person rented a house; well houserent run from about eight dollars a month up. And I guess probably the top rent for some of the best houses in town probably run up to maybe thirty-five dollars a month. But when you stop and consider that the streets, sidewalks, the buildings inside and out, the schools, the churches, everything was maintained and paid for entirely by the company and you didn't have to pay for any of that, you was bound to be better off in a company town than you was in owning it yourself. The only thing is that when a person gets to retirement age, well, even when you retired^1 have to pay the same taxes and the same in surance and the same maintenance cost as person would that's thirtyfive years old. There's no difference. I pay the same taxes as any body else would that's paying taxes for evaluation. So moneywise, why, you're bound to lose money by owning it. The only thing is, you've got something there, an equity, that probably if you ever did want to sell you'd have something to sell, which you wouldn't have if you was renting.
SS: In a company town is there any drawbacks as compared to a noncompanytown? Were there any drawbacks at Potlatch that you can see?
AS: Well, I can't see any for this town with the exception that if aperson,say wanted to start some private enterprise; if you wanted to start a grocery store or another confectionery or something that was already here, you couldn't do it in this town because they wouldn't give you a permit to do it, see. If you wanted to start up something that wasn't already here, why then, fine, you could do that. But they protected those that was in business by not allowing any competi tion in that business in this town, but they could just go over the hill here, just a quarter of a mile to Onaway and that was an open town. And they had a grocery store there and they would run competi tion with the grocery store here. You know, some people liked to trade over there and some didn't. But that's about the only disad vantage that I can see to a company town is that they control all private enterprise, too, in the town.
SS: Back in the old days, did there used to be some people who were critical of it just because it was a company town?
AS: Oh, yeah, yeah. I think that you'd find that, but I think if you'dtry to analyze it, these same people would be critical of any system in any town in the country, regardless of what it was. Some people are just naturalborn gripes and want to bellyache about something all the time. It's just a matter of human psychology. If you could canvass this town or Moscow or Troy or any other town right now, if you could get somebody to sit down on a bench #n that Freedom Square in Moscow right now and talk with you and talk with you for an hour and.get somebody else to talk with you for an hour on the same sub ject in the same sequence of subjects and you do that for eight peo ple for eight hours there, an hour apiece, you'd probably get eight different pictures of what you want to talk about. Some of 'em'd be happy with everything and some of em'd- not one single thing in the City of Moscow was right! The town council was all wrong, the mayor he should be shot! The sewer systems are no good; the water system is no good; you can't drink the water because it's putrid. Anything, I don't care what it is, but that's just human psychology.
SS: I think in a company town, looking at it in the past, the reasonthat it wouldn't have a good name would be because of things like what happened in the East and places like Pullman, you know where it was a company town and the dissatisfaction of the workers was so great that it lead to severe labor distrubances and riots. I think that's where I would see the source of that.
AS: I don't think that held entirely true with company towns in the Easteither. Their big riots and troubles was trying to organize labor. But you take the Pullman Railroad Car Company and the steel mills and the coal miners, they fought an awful hard battle for years, you know. But most of those people outside of the coal miners lived in their own homes or in houses that they were renting from the individual and^wasn't company owned. But their troubles was all ttn being able to organize labor. And these operators.they spent millions of dollars in trying the prevent the organization of labor. But then they finally did win out On the organization of labor and then when they did, they created a monster that they can't control anymore. Labor has taken control of the world. Labor is much more corrupt than management ever thought of being. . They're looking for Jimmy Hoffa right now. They don't know where he is. But it's just a matter of involvement in organized labor. He's trying to take over the teamsters union again. So, I don t think there's any,cut and dried answer on any of these things. It's just a matter of more or less a personal opinion.
But I think though if you just wanted tobreak it down in regard to a company town, break it right down just to the fundamentals andj.the nitty gritty, the whole thing is that that I would have to say that they were alright. They had a lot of advantages just for the fact that in those days the average person didn't come into a town with any or very much money in his pocket. He might have lots of kids, but no money. And in a company town, if he was hired and he got a job, he was given a house. And he could get fuel delivered to his house and that would be taken out of his paycheck. He didn't have to have money to get it. He could pay for it by working. And he could establish credit at the store to where he could buy food and clothing for his family and he could get that on credit. He could pay for that as he earned it. So you take from the standpoint of a person that's in that category economically it was really a blessing. He had everything that he needed for to sus tain him and his family and he got it with just the idea that he would work for it. And that's something that you couldn't get in other enterprise. Now you take at the same period of time, if a man come into Spokane, say, with his family and he come in there and he was broke, but he went out to one of these sawmills or he went to the slaughterhouse or he went to any other business establishment in Spokane and asked for a job and was given a job, well then, it'd be up to him to ram around town looking for a place where he could find a place to live. And, he'd probably find some old broken down apart ment building or some old house that was ready to fall down, but the owner of that property, he wanted cash in advance for rent before he'd move in there. Then, he would go^to the store to buy some groceries or buy some clothing for his kids and they wanted cash before he could get it. So, you see, the advantage of the company town over private enterprise, when you're looking at it from the point of a person in that particular category. Now, in the early days that fit pretty near everybody. There was very, very few people that had really saved up anything. Those that did save were people that were well established and had been there for a long time, but the ordinary person that was moving into the area, why, they didn't have much when they got there.
SS: I'd like to ask you some more about what you were just saying becausebefore when we talked you said that it was very hard for most people to get ahead, they'd just get by and spend what they earned.
AS: That's right.
SS: I'm wondering about why that was. Why if you stay and work in aplace for years- and what you're saying now is that if you stayed for long enough in a place and got well enough established you would be able to accumulate some money.
AS: Well, you take- if you just stop and figure how say, a man gets ajob and his income for the month would be say, seventy dollars, that's his total income for the month. But out of that seventy dollars he has to pay a few dollars for rent and he has to buy his groceries, buy his clothing and in some cases he'll probably make a small pay ment on whatever furniture he had to buy each month, and then, of course in most cases they would probably use a little bit of money for recreation; might want to go to the baseball game. And then, another thing, too, is that- I think the majority of the families at that period of time .the man of the house.he probably drank a lot of booze; he spent quite a little bit of money for booze. And I know that the people that I knew and was in contact with at the time that I was growing upheld very much true. And it was generally the woman in the house that really had to manage to keep food on the table and keep their kids clothed and ready for school and all that sort of thing, because a man would work hard and he would come home and he'd eat and pile into bed and the next morning he'd get up and go to work but then weekend come he'd go out and he'd get drunk on Saturday night and.stay drunk til Monday morning. So really no money would be saved.
There was a big percentage of the women that had families that theirhusband was working, but still the women wouldAtake in boarders or do laundry for single men and do all kinds of things; they'd probably go out and do some housework for some of the brass, you know, in or der to get a little additional income so that they could buy a pair of shoes for Johnny or a dress for Nellie or something like that, see. But as far as saving money was concerned, that was just almost a thing that you couldn't hope for. And that's the way the coun try was built. That's the way conditions were I think from the time that the country was started up until about- oh it got straightened out after the depression period, so that was a long period of time that the country was run just that way. You take people your age and most of the young people around the country, they've got no con ception at all of how people used to live. I think after even being told and even if you've seen pictures and you could read books and stuff it's still hard to really imagine and picture in your mind just the way people lived.
And I wouldn't say that that is sufferingany hardships because that was just the way people lived, that was their mode of living they, at the time probably didn't think that they was being put through any particular hardship. Now, you take, for instance even people that were fairly well-to-do, they still had to go out in the backyard to that little house out there to go to the John. And in the wintertime you'd go out there, why, you'd wrap up with mufflers and sweaters and wrap up in mittens and everything to go out and go to the John, But they didn't seem to mind it, be cause that's all they knew, they didn't know anything else. Now, if you go to the bathroom, you've got to have- it's got to be heated, it's got to be heated with the furnace or electric heater or some other method of heating it. And people that's working under the most menial jobs right now live better than the very top did years ago. You know, I can recall when I was a little kid, there was three of us kids in the family; I had one brother and one sister, and you know in order to provide some- what my mother considered something that we really needed in our diet, why, she probably had two eggs and she would boil those two eggs and probably mash 'em up and,divide it up into three parts; we each had a little part of an egg. And we didn't think that we was really being deprived, we just had to do. The womenfolks, especially, they had to- their heads had to be going all the time to figure out how to keep things going. Because, that's something that the men didn't take any part in at all, you might say. They went out and they worked and they brought in part of their paycheck, at least, and then it was up to the woman to see that everything was held together.
SS: You mentioned to me before that these people on Nob Hill were manyof them living beyond their means.
AS: Well, that's very true. You take that Spokesman Review newspaper,it was daily, you know daily and Sunday, and the kid would peddle that to the house every day and in the wintertime he'd have to break his OWfn trail, they wouldn't evan shovel the sidewalks, and get up there to the house with that newspaper. And that newspaper cost seventy cents a month. And that kid'd probably on some of those houses up there he'd probably make five or six trips up there trying to get his seventy cents. And they'd keep stalling him off and stal ling him off and stalling him off; say, short of change, just a lit tle bit short, you'll have to come back. They had more darn excuses, by golly, to keep from paying that kid for that paper. But you take the average person in this part of the town over here, the kid'd come and get their money for the paper, they give him his money right there but up there on that hill they didn't.
SS: What's the cause? Were they making just about- they had to be makingmore than the average worker.
AS: I know it, but then generally their wives had more parties and probably would buy a little more expensive clothes or something, they used it up. But anyway, it was simply jawbone, the whole thing. It was^putting on a front and they didn't have anything. There was a few of 'em up there, you know, that were responsible; they weren't all that way, but there was a few up there that all they wanted to do would be able to get a vacant house where they could get up on that hill up there and when they got up there, why, of course, they paid more rent when they got up there, too, you know. But-
SS: Was that hill reserved for the management?
AS: Yeah, to beginpith, and of course I say, management,and of coursethe doctor he was - that was private enterprise, but to begin with it was built in a square; four-sided square and the square's still open up there, if you've been up there why, you'd see it. Well, there's three houses on the west side of the square and there's three houses on the eat side of the square. And then there was two houses on the - three houses on the north side of the square and only one on the south side, so it was just in that square. And of course the general manager, assistant general manager and then the man that was the assistant that was in charge of all lands, you know, that is timber and town and everything else, then there was a master mechanic that is, he was the master mechanic of the railroad shops and the machine shops; they had a roundhouse here and they had five locomotives in there and they had these passenger coaches too, and they ru n a passenger train to maintain. So the master mechanic, he lived in one of 'em and then of course, they had the salesmanager and the assistant sales manager and then they had the store manager and they had the planing mill superintendent and then they had the prea cher. The preacher he was up there, too. But that was the beginning, the population around this square, you see. Well, at that time, the population of that square, I don't believe you'd find any of those deadbeats in there at that time, you know, bu t then they start building a few more houses on the square and they get more population then's when you start running into deadbeats.
Have you ever heard it called Snob Hill?
Ohhh, I think so.
I heard it called that not too long ago.
But just the common name for it was Bug Hill. Everybody called itBug Hill, see. I suppose that's because they figured that was where the big bugs were, you know. That's an expression that used to be used. But of course, they liked to have it called Nob Hill, but then Bug Hill was just the ordinary expression for that parti cular area
SS: I wanted to ask you something about safety and accidents in the mill,I was curious about- you know, we talked about how it was open and there really were no safety devices in the early days. How much awareness was there among the men? How careful. Was there an idea where you got to watch what you're doing?
AS: You might have what you might total awareness, because theyknew that they was working in those areas where they had all these hazards, But I think, as far as my memory goes, that after they started guarding machines and putting in safer walk, areas and all that thing, they had more accidents after they put in guards than they ever had before they put in guards. Because when a machine is guarded people just tend to be more relaxed and careless. Of course, whether a machine is guarded or not guarded they still have some accidents on account of loose clothing and stuff like that,you know, a person can get wound up. But if you'd see some of the ma chines that they used to run and the size, the immensity of it, you know, it would scare you to death until you got used to that area. But to just give you an example of one thing that they used some; if you had a conveyor that was conveying sawdust and slabs and then it was emptying into either another conveyor going in the same di rection or going at right angles to that, out at the en d of this conveyor they would have some spike rolls. Now they would probably have rolls that were probably eight inches in diameter and they were drilled and tapped at about maybe three inch spacings the length of the roll.. Each row of these holes that they drilled in there and then they would tap those out, thread 'em, you see well then they would take squareheaded set screws and the blacksmith would heat those and point those up to where these heads come up to a sharp point, you know, four-sided, and they would screw them into these holes, so you see, on one roll there would be probably a hun dred of these spikes.
And there would be about two of these rollsat the end of this conveyor. Well, the sawdust would fall through between these rolls but slabs, these spikes would take 'em and throw them over into this other conveyor. Well, now, you can imagine what would happen if your clothes come in contact with a thing like that; like this, you see, with those real sharp spikes in there, it could reslly wind you up, couldn t it? But knew what that was and they give it plenty of clearance. And I don't recall anyone get ting wound up in one of these spike rolls. And as far as fatalities are concerned over the years; take in the earlier days there was one man killed unloading logs at the logpond. They come in on these rail road cars and the loaded cars was on one track and then right next to it there was another track a steam crane travel'Pand they had these cables that was under the load and the man on the ground would hook these cables from the crane onto these cables that was under the load and then they would take up the slack, hold it up you know, then he would break this hook on this chain, on these binder chains, you see to release the load and then the crane would dump the load into the pond. Well, one day there was a log on top that as they started to lift that log swung and it come off the wrong way and it hit this man and killed him. And I believe, in what you might consider the earlier period here, that was about only fatality that I recall.
But then in the more modern times afterthey got a lot of guards and areas protected and signs, safety signs, all over the place and safety meetings where they would discuss sa fety and all kinds of safety inspections, then they started killing people! There wafife't too many, but there was a few. One man was working on the construction crew down there, he come out of the dry sorter shed; well in there, this lumber'd come out of the dry kiln, would come out on a chain and they would pull it off into different bins and into piles and then they had an overhead crane, traveling crane, that traveled a monorail, and they d pick up these loads and pick 'em up and carry 'em outside the building and then set 'em down on bunks where one of these straddle carriers would come up and get it and haul it away, you see. Well, this particular day why this man was in this building and he come out the end of the building right out under this roadway, of course that was all con crete paved, and thinking about something else and walked right out in front of one of them straddlecarriers and lacked him down and a wheel run over his head and his head busted open like a dropped watermelon. And another time, right in the same area, there was an electrician's helper that was up on the roof of the building and there was this highpower line crossing there and so he thought that that this juice wouldn't jump as far as it did, so he didn't duck very far going underneath this line and it knocked him off and of course he fell about thirty feet down onto the ground and killed him. And there was another time where there was an oiler in the sawmill; he was oiling the- some of the transmission shafting out on the greenchain and this particular drive was all boxed in solid all the way around, so there was a door on one side where he could open it up and turn down these grease cups on this side and then he was supposed to " around to the other side and open a little door there and turn down the grease cups on the other side. But this particular day he didn't do that, he reached through there and when he did he went in between a belt and a pulley and it just crushed his head. So that's the way it goes. Now I don't advocate having open machinery running; everything should be guarded, but still and all, when it is guarded it's carelessness of people that is the reason mostly for them getting hurt or getting killed. There's a few mechanical fail ures that are responsible, but most of 'em are human failures.
SS: Were there any jobs in the early days that were regarded as dangerousmore than others?
AS: Well, I think you might say that they were all dangerous, as far asthat goes, because where ever you had any moving machinery, it was always a hazard. But, gosh, people grew up with it and they'd pro bably been around it all their life, and you take for a stranger going into one of those areas, even if we could go back to when they had— run this big engine and they had all that duct transmission of power throughout the whole mill, and if I could take you down there today and take you on a tour around there you'd be ducking and squir ming and you'd be scared to death before you ev en got started. You take, just for instance, static electricity, on some of those belts there you could put your hand up like that and the fire would fly out of all your fingers there a distance of three, four inches; blue flame'd just fly. And if you walked by there your hair'd just stand right up, just like that, you know. And that was always one thing that - usually always was shown to visitors. They used to have quite a few visitors nighttime, you know, people would be working days, you know, women and men, too, in someplace else, they liked to go down and visit the mill at night; in the early part of the evening. Of course, it wasn't compulsory that you'd have a guide, anybody could come and go as they pleased and they didn't question anybody, but usually if somebody come down there in the evening probably some men and women or maybe just some women, there'd always be some of us around there that would volunteer to act as a guide and take 'em around. And of course, you never missed that thing. I think pro bably you remember reading of this old lady, she was telling about electricity in the belt, the static electricity; but anyway, just about everybody that come in there as a visitor they'd always take 'em around there where they could hold their hand up there and see the fire fly out of their fingers! (Chuckles)
SS: Were accidents fairly common? I don't mean the critical ones butjust injuries on the job?
AS: No, I wouldn't say that they were. I think for the number of manhoursworked and all that, I think they were held down to a very reasonable percentage. You know, you take in any walk of life, any work, some guy's bound to drop a crate or.board and you know, mash up his toe or mash his finger and some people are more prone to ac cidents than other people. I think you've probably seen people too that stumble over their own feet! Falling down continuously. People like that are dangerous. You can't let people like that work in an area where this is a hazard. I think that in most cases where a man proved to be accident prone, why then they probably tried to move him into some other area where he probably wouldn't get hurt. They were pretty considerate about all those things. That's one thing, regardless of the time or the age, people don't like to see somebody else get hurt.
SS: Do you remember any injuries that were really lucky not have beenfatal?
AS: Yeah. I remember one man that; they were building a tower to supporta blowpipe, that is. a big pipe that carried shavings, and this tower was up oh, possibly around forty feet in the air and he fell off of that tower. By rights, you might say, he might have gotten killed. But he busted his leg and he laid in the hospital for a long time. And I know I went to see him and that's the first time I ever seen the contraption lilpfc. he was in. Doctor bored a hole right through his knee and then he drove a steel pin through there and then he had a bale on that and a rope hooked on it and some pulleys and weights to put some traction on that. And gosh, when I seen that thing going through his knee there, I said, "God, don't that thing hurt?" "No," he said, "I didn't feel it at all." And I said, "What about taking that out of there?" "Well," he said, "that pin is tapered a little bit." And he said he asked the doctor about that and1heKsaid, oh, he'd just take and tap it on one end and it'd pop right out of there. And I guess it did. But that is one accident that oh, probably could have been more, but it's a little hard to recall all them things, you know.
SS: You were saying that guys really thought about- really did think alot about in the early days, when they had to think about safety at work and were just naturally very careful what they did,
AS: Well, they were very careful and to prove that they was careful wasthat they was still there.(Chuckles) And of course, I don't think they really had to be told to be careful because eyerything was so open and so frightening all around ^em that anybody that really wan^ ted to live, why, they had to take on themselves to be careful and watch what they were doing.
SS: You think that in a situation like that the men would get superstitious, just have real ways of combating the risks?
AS: No, I don't believe that superstition had anything to do with it.It was just a man that trained himself for that particular job. Now whether or not he was an oiler or whether he was a millwright, if he was an oiler he had to understand something about how much tem perature a bearing might stand, and if it got too hot he had to have some knowledge as to how to combat that heat til time that the mill would go down, and then if he was a millwright he had to be a mechanic. So, he was a mechanic working in this particular area, but a millwright's work was usually done when the mill was idle. You couldn't do any repair work while it was running, except maybe some clobbered up makeshift thing to keep it running until time to shut down. And of course, there was a good many times when, over the years, the mill had to shut down, you know, during the running period on account of a breakdown or something. Well, whenever that happened, why, the superintendent he was over there just right now, wouldn't be only a few minutes til he'd be on the scene and heM want an estimate right away as to how long it was going to take to make that reftfln'r and get it to running again. Well, say that some thing broke down at ten-thirty and was going to take 'em an hour or probably an hour and a half to fix it, they wouldn't let the crew stand around there, they'd just send 'em home; come back at noon. And that's the way those things were handled, you see. Generally the superintendent he wanted an estimate right away as to how long it was going to take to get it fixed and if the millwright foreman was wrong on his estimation, why, then he generally got chewed out pretty good you know because if they called the men back and the thing wasn't ready yet to run, well then, they would have to pay these men wages until they did get ready to run. And they didn't want to do that. They didn't want to pay anybody that wasn't working
SS: That sounds like a pretty tough responsibility for the millwrightforeman. Because I would think that if he didn't always know in some cases what would be—
AS: Well, I know but then if a man had worked at that work long enoughand was trained well enough to be the foreman, then he should have a pretty darn good idea of what it'd take. Now you're working in big heavy machinery, but still and all, you've got a good idea of what it would take because you'd probably done something very similar to that before. And of course, sometimes you' 11 run into some dif ficulty that your estimate'11 go haywire. And I know one time in particular where there was a coupling that- well, I was telling you about these big , these big gears with the wooden teeth in 'em; well, there's been several times that those things would strip all the teeth right out of 'em, you know if you allow it to wear wwhere it was getting slack in there, well if one tooth'd break well then of course, it might just break the whole thing. So they stripped the one day and they generally had another one all made up with the teeth already in it and all they had to do was just set the keys. Of course there was a key between every two teeth that was just the shape of this wood and they drive this key in it and pull this tight into the socket.
Well, in order to- the quickestthing to do would be take that off and put the other one on, the other one where the teeth was already fitted to it, but otherwise they would have to fit a new set of teeth to the core and that would require a lot more time, so they was going to change this , in order to do that they had to take a coupling off of the shaft, there's a coupling so big around, you know, on a seven inch shaft, and then they had to jack it up and then take one-half of the coupling off, you know off of the shaft where the was and then get the key out of this and slide it off the shaft and put the other one on. Well, doggone it, you know, someway or other when they put it back together they had the on and they had it back in place and they was driving the key into this coupling, you know, keying the coupling to the shaft, and I don't know just who it was that done it or how it was done, but anyway, they drove the key in from the wrong side. Of course, this key was tapered and so they bolted it altogether^and started up and when they did, this half of the coupling busted. Now that superintendent he was just fit to be tied because he had an estimate of how long it was going to take to do this job and then of course, they had to do this all over again and rustle up another halfcoupling and put on there and a lot of machine work and everything else. Boy, he was just like crazy man around there. But that's probably one incident in a good many years. But it's just something like that that can happen.
SS: I was wondering too about the longterm effect we talked about inyoumentioned the deafness. I'm not thinking of accidents, hazards, but what happens when you do hard work for decades, some guys working in the mill; I'm wondering what other kinds of job disabilities be sides deafness could develop? I've heard for one thing that riding the saws could be really hard on the man that would do it for years.
AS: Well, you mean riding the carriage? The rig? No, I don't think so.You take usually the men that were chosen to do that work were men that were real light and catty on their feet, you know, And somebody "jhas to have a good sense of balance. Although you take the sawmill noise, the noise of the saws and the gears and rollcases and every thing and everything, it has alower pitch sound that really, I don't think affects a person's ability to hear quite as much as in the planing mill. The planing mill say that you've got- in the old days there was twenty-two machines in the planer and they were all just about pitched up to about the same sound pitch, you see, just a real high pitched sound. And boy, you could really lose your hearing there. I was never- never worked in there long enough to ever affect me but then I know men that worked there, you know, made Lifetime of it, why, most all of them were almost totally deaf. But you take nowdays, with all their safety engineers and their highly educated people; any area of any noise, noise area at all, even though it's very low, they have to wear ear protectors; earmuffs, safety gear.
SS: Are there any other disabilities that you can think of that woulddevelop through the years? I know in the woods and in some of the small sawmills that a lot of guys developed back problems and things like that from the work that they did for a long time.
AS: Well, that can happen I think in most any category of work. Youknow, some men are qualified to do job and other men are not, even though they work at it. A man might work at a job for years and years and still be qualified ever for that work, because he just can't adapt himself to that kind of work. You take in the case of lifting something; well, you know one man can lift a certain load and another man 'd kink his back. One man knows how to do it and another man doesn't know how to do it. And that's what you run into. And I think the smaller the operation the more of this awkwardness yourll find, because they've never been trained either by seeing somebody else do it or doing it themselves in a more efficient way. And I think with the bigger the operation the more efficient people are in their methods of doing things. You take in a little one-horse operation there in the woods.
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46:00 - Distinctiveness of Potlatch as company town; superiority of Potlatch over company town of McCloud
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85:00 - Reasons for kicking someone out of town; Shipping of liquor to town. Potlatch a very law-abiding town
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121:00 - This company town was better than an open town could have been - free maintenance of town by company
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Segment Synopsis: Only drawback of Potlatch was that competition wasn't allowed among businesses in town. Dislike of company town is typical of human psychology - some people complain about everything. Struggle to organize labor; currently labor is out of control. Advantage of company town for incoming, poor labor.
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Segment Synopsis: Danger from conveyor belts. A fatality in the early days; three more recent fatalities. Fearsomeness of the mill to people who didn't know it. Night visitors at the mill and static electricity. Accidents were uncommon; some men were accident prone. A lucky accident. Workers naturally were careful in the mill.
174:00 - Responsibility of millwrights; repair that failed; loss of hearing from work in the planing mill
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Segment Synopsis: Responsibility of millwrights to estimate how long the mill would be down in a breakdown; a repair that failed. Loss of hearing from work in the planing mill. Some men are qualified for the work they do, others are not. Small operations have more awkwardness in their methods of doing work.