A Robson Valley pole-maker in the 1930s cut long straight cedar trees with a crosscut saw. This was before large machinery was part of logging. He used an axe to peel the logs and a peavey to turn them to produce a telephone pole. Peeled poles were often left in the bush to dry for a week or two making them lighter for horses to skid.
The peeled poles were skidded by horses to a landing beside the railway track. Then they were loaded onto CNR flatcars to be sent to market.
The gin pole was used to load the poles. It was a rigid pole with a block and tackle on the end and a rope or chain with tongs for lifting the poles onto the flatcar. The lower portion of the gin pole was set in a shallow hole and the top secured with three or more guy-wires. The wires or ropes could be manipulated to position the poles. The gin pole’s free end extended above the flatcar.
Teams of horses lifted the poles with the gin pole’s block and tackle. The man on the top with the peavey or cant hook directed the horses and teamster below. The top-loader would spot the logs just where he wanted them dropped.
The teamster hooked the poles with large tongs behind the horses. He often didn’t need to guide the horses as they listened to the top-loader to know what was expected of them.
When the top-loader called, “Get-up” the team would lean into their harnesses and lift the pole. “Hold’er,” meant the team should stop and hold the load up in the air over the railcar while the top-loader straightened the log the way he wanted it. He had to be careful not to snub the pole too quickly as he might flick the tongs ajar and the log would clatter down on to him or on to the teamster or horses below. “Down” was a call to the teamster to release the trip-hook allowing the log to fall. The top-loader might call “down easy” imploring the horses to back up but hold the tension so the log would come down slowly. Loaded telephone poles were shipped from the Robson Valley across Canada and to the southern United States.
Residents participating in this painting included four generations of one local family – Great Grandmother Rose Elliott, Grandmother Barb McFarland, parents Randy and Sherry McFarland, and children Liam, Cailey and Troy McFarland. Other residents participating were Sharon Hawkins, Leonard McClinton, Kelly McNaughton, Chuck McNaughton, Liz Haan, Bob Balcaen, and Fern Sanson.