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Living Conditions

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Jake Krueger remembers the lack of privacy in his camp.


“Oh, the realities of life we had to contend with. Our laundry shack also doubled as a communal bath house, with a do-it-yourself water heater. A tub of water sitting on the barrel heater fed by wood slabs gave us our hot water, dipped from a barrel standing by the door, filled daily by the bull-cooks. Our bath tubs were regular steel wash tubs about 30 inches [75 cm] in diameter and 14 to 16 inches [35 to 40 cm] high. With no locks on the door, privacy was at a minimum as we bathed ourselves in the evening.” [ASM, 236]


He also gives a good description of his bunk house in BC.


“Our bunkhouses were all built to one pattern. A two by four frame clad with rough boards (not interlocking) on the outside, with a coat of black tar paper held in place by narrow slats, [and] that is it. [There was] no cladding on inside walls, no insulation, no ceilings, and definitely no paint anywhere.


“Kiln dried lumber was unheard of then, so the wet cladding dried apart, creating cracks in the tar paper. Fortunately, because of the dense forest all around, very little wind every touched our camp, or we might have woken one morning in wintertime with a small snow drift across our [sleeping] bags!"


“The open spaces between the two by fours were utilized by everybody for open shelves over our beds to store personal effects, as pilfering was not a problem. The floors were built of two by sixes which also dried apart permitting sickly looking grass to peek through in summertime. On the prairies these buildings would not have been good enough for cattle, but in B.C. with its milder temperature and practically no wind, they sufficed. Though our bull-cooks stoked the fires in our heaters before lights out and again during the night."


“But with no air circulation, other than our breath, those guys who slept close to the heaters roasted, while in the far corner they could not get enough blankets! In both camps I was lucky to latch onto a cot close to the heat, so to ward off the intense heat at times, Andy and I built a free standing partition, three feet high, of boards and had it standing at the foot of our cots."


“All bunkhouses stood off the ground about six inches [15 cm] on blocks, so as to keep the winter chill and wandering small animals at bay, they were ringed with tightly compacted hay bales, with a low wooden border keeping them snug against the wall. Each abode had about 10 windows and one door, which had no lock.” [ASM, 249-250]


Inside of a bunkhouse Montreal River camp photo

View some hand-drawn maps of actual camp buildings.

Map 1 | Map 2 | Map 3

Abram J. Thiessen served both in Manitoba and in BC. As Jake Krueger mentioned, making sure the cabins were well heated was important in the cold prairie winter.


“Our living quarter was a large H shaped bunkhouse. If I remember correctly we were seventy-five in one building which was heated by a number of wood burning heaters seemingly made by converting fuel drums. The bunk beds were all upper and lower so for perhaps some imagined reason I chose an upper bunk. A man with the title of bullcook was on duty all night to tend to heating and guard against fires. [ASM, 30-49]


Later, Thiessen moved to Camp Hill 60 in BC.


“What we first saw was a large water tank mounted on a scaffold tower approximately twenty feet [6 m] high in one corner of the camp. Next to the water tower was a large building which served a laundry, shower stalls, and sinks for personal washing. Next was a general purpose storage shed next to a food storage shed and next to that a large kitchen and dining room. Across an open area to the north were 14 of what I will generously call cabins which measured about 12 feet [3.6 m] by 14 or 16 feet [4.2 or 4.8 m] long. These cabins we occupied each had three cots for sleeping in and sitting on as no chairs were included mainly because there was no room for them. The cabins were of clapboard construction with tar paper siding and roof. About a foot [30 cm] above the roof a white canvas sheet was positioned and this had a cooling effect on the cabin.” [ASM, 33-47]

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