History

'WOODEN PACIFIC:' MEMORIES


by Boyd Simmons

The year was 1930. I had just turned thirteen and was a freshman at Kalama High School. The Great Depression was running rampant across the country and a small town like Kalama was catching the full brunt of it.

Jobs were as scarce as hen's teeth, and full¬time ones were almost non-existent. Kalama had long been mainly dependent on the logging and lumber business, but it had come to a screeching halt. One small mill was running a few days a month, and another small shingle mill also ran occasionally as orders were found. The only positive thing at all was the railroad tie business which, because of a demand from China and Japan, was fairly constant. But the price was very poor because no local business was available. As a result, several] small independent mills were opening up the Kalama River and in the foothills east of town. It was very hard to log on the south side of the Kalama River because of the steepness of the terrain. Some had tried to build swinging-cable bridges across the river, but one had collapsed while moving a large cat across and two well-known and liked men were killed in the fall.

In the early years of the century' the Mountain Timber Co. had a mill in Kalama and a logging camp near Little Round Mountain, about 12 miles east of town. They built a railroad between the two and logs were brought to the mil] by flat cars. They eventually ran out of old growth timber and went out of business. By now the tracks were grown up to brush and trees. "The rails were taken up during World War 2 for scrap."

Lots of second growth still grew in this area and second growth was ideal for ties. Tie mills, unlike the larger mills, would set up where the timber was growing and then would move when the timber was gone from an area that could be logged at one donkey-setting. As a result, for many years large sawdust piles and slabs were found dotting the countryside. Many years later sawdust and shale wood was salvaged from this area.

Since there were no roads into this area E.H. Adams, one of the local mill operators, got the idea to build a road from railroad ties laid end to end, with two side-by-side for each side track. This soon became known as the "Wooden Pacific." Several of the young daredevils in the area were soon driving old 1¬ton trucks, most Fords, hauling ties to the Port in Kalama. Since it was a one-way road, turnoffs were built every mile or so and when two trucks met the driver closest to a turnout would have to back up to it.

This led to reckless driving by the boys so they would not have to be the one to back up. This road was really slippery when frosty, or in the fall when wet leaves covered them. The road crossed gullies and ravines that were sometimes 50 feet or more above the ground on trestles. The drivers drove these roads like crazy men and it's a wonder they weren't all killed. It was a real thrill to hitch a ride with one of these guys and tour the "Wooden Pacific."

Some of the "fools" that held these jobs were my brother-in-law, Tommy Dunn, who passed away a couple of years ago, Jay Adams (son of E.H.), who graduated from high school with me in 1934 and still lives in Kalama, and Ben Thomas who later, during the war, moved to Woodland and became one of the largest and most successful loggers in the area. He still lives near Woodland.

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