MARCH 4, 2010

Margaret Calland-Fine, author of Fun in the Woods, an autobiography, the story of a young girl in a logging camp in the early 40’s. Her book is available at the Clearwater Historical Museum.

Margaret Calland-Fine, former logging camp “flunkey”

By Alannah Allbrett

   After leaving her family’s small farm in Grangemont in 1939, Margaret Calland came to the big city of Orofino to finish high school. She was able to stay with her aunt and uncle, Claire and Tim Edwards on Michigan Avenue.

   Finishing high school, Margaret then rented a small room from the Harry Walrath family on Kalaspo. They were very nice to her, and the room included laundry, fresh flowers from the garden, and a shared bathroom. She ate all her meals at the hotel except on Sundays when she shared meals with her family or at the restaurant.

   Margaret took a job washing dishes, making salads, and scrubbing floors at the Helgeson Hotel for 25 cents an hour. Although she enjoyed her room with the Walraths, she was delighted when another aunt and uncle, the Johnsons, later asked her to live with them. “Moving was easy at that time of my life; all my belongings fit in a cardboard box.” She enjoyed being part of a family again.

   The Johnsons owned the weekly newspaper, the Clearwater Tribune in Orofino. It was World War II, and Hitler was trying to take over the world. “We were always interested in the news,” but the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, “which gave a new look to the war that was already in progress,” Margaret said.

   She later went to work at the phone company (where Verizon is now located) as a switchboard operator where she could make more money, a whole 35 cents an hour. She worked the nightshift from 7 p.m. through the morning – sleeping on a cot provided by the phone company.

    An alarm was set to wake up an operator if a fire alarm or emergency call needed to be put through. It was their job to contact the fire department. In those days, people’s telephone lines were party lines (shared services between many neighbors). Margaret said listening in other people’s conversations was common practice and called “rubbering-in on the farmer lines.” She said it was her job to alert the people in Cavendish that this was not acceptable behavior. She was told to send out letters to everyone on the line saying, “We solicit your cooperation to alleviate the situation.” “I don’t think it made a bit of difference,” she said. “Everyone just kept listening in on each other’s gab.”

   From a friend she saw on the street, Frances Odenwald, Margaret heard of a job up in the mountains in Headquarters, for the lumber company Potlatch, which paid $84 a month.

   She thought she could save money and go to nursing school as some of her family members were encouraging her to do.

   “Few young people had cars in those days,” Margaret said, “so I took a stage to Headquarters.” The Gaffney Stage Lines provided stage coach transportation then between Lewiston and Orofino, and the Clearwater route ran between Orofino and Headquarters.

   Arriving in Headquarters, she was told to catch the “speeder” – a boxcar on the railroad line. “For those who do not know what a speeder is,” Margaret said, “it is a single railroad car without sides on it. Some had covers; others did not. Some had benches to sit on; others did not.” But this is what the railroad employees used to get from one camp to another. After the scenic ride on the speeder, where she admired the beauty between Pierce and Headquarters, she had to get on a supply truck with a bunch of men. “I thought that I should have been asked to ride in the cab, but no such luck. I had not envisioned me in the back of a supply truck with eight or ten lumberjacks. Oh well, we made it all right,” said Margaret.

   Thus began Margaret’s colorful career as a “flunkey” in the logging camps. The flunkeys, as they were called, were the people who served food. “Their duties were varied: including waiting tables, peeling vegetables, and scrubbing floors,” said Margaret. “There had always been men flunkeys in the Potlatch camps, but they were starting to hire women due to so many men serving in the military during the war.

   Home was a one room bunkhouse shared with three other girls which had bunk beds, a wood stove, and wardrobe closet in the center. There was also a wash stand with a mirror over it. In the early mornings a man, known as the Bull Cook, went to all the cabins and started a fire in their stoves to warm up the place. Even though it was summer, the fire felt good in the chilly air.

   In the fall of the year, the men were thinning out, and the other girls were sent home. “They got canned, and I got to stay,” said Margaret. Her family was upset, and said they would come and get her. There was a telephone in the kitchen, and the baker and cook said, “Tell your folks, don’t come and get you; you’ll be alright.” “I was respected and treated nicely by the men,” said Margaret.

   She worked all winter, in a number of camps, and ended up in Lewiston where she met her future husband, Deryl (Dude) Fine, a truck driver. They fell in love and got married. On October 5, 1943 they were wed in a double ceremony with their good friends Don McCollum and Charlene Jenks at the Methodist parsonage in Lewiston.

    By now, she had two suit cases of clothes and belongings. “We settled in Orofino,” she said. “I used curtain material, which I put up with thumb tacks, and made a little home.” She and Dude were married until his passing in 1993.

   Margaret has many adventures and funny stories to tell of her days as a flunkey in the logging camps. Luckily, she has preserved those memories in a small book she wrote called, Fun in the Woods, an autobiography. This book has many interesting photographs of the old days, the logging camps, the cabins, the people, and the work being done. The book is a delight to read and tells a charming story from a charming lady who started out with all her belongings in a cardboard box, then later to a black bag, to orange crates, to two suitcases, to creating a home and family in Orofino.

   Margaret keeps busy these days at the senior center where she writes Crumbs from the Mealsite, their weekly article in the Clearwater Tribune. She enjoys playing cards with her sister and her brother-in-law. She also is makes the communion bread for the Methodist Church.

    Twice a month, she enjoys membership in a group called The Hit and Miss Club – which Margaret says is comprised of 18 women. “What do you do in your club, Margaret?” I asked her. She giggled and said, “We don’t do anything! We get together, talk, and tell jokes. They meet either in a restaurant or in each others’ homes. “Once in awhile, she said, “we get a little money in our fund and contribute it to some good cause.” Margaret also belongs to the VFW Auxiliary and the Clearwater Historical Society. She was secretary to both of these organizations in the past.

   Her book, Fun in the Woods is available from the Clearwater Historical Museum or from Margaret. The price is $15. Contact Margaret at: 476-5469.

Pictured above is a copy of the handwritten letter from Evelyn Moorers, who just celebrated her 100th birthday. She was Margaret Fine’s fourth grade teacher in Grangemont.