Family Life

WOMEN’S WORLD     1955

The only women employed by Pine Logging at the camp worked as servers in the cookhouse. That isn’t to say the wives had a life of leisure. Keeping house, raising children, cooking, and laundry occupied much of the day, but time could be found to visit among the other wives, or read, or take the children swimming at the creek. There was some radio reception but of course there was no TV. For two weeks every year, several of the women ran a Vacation Bible School for the children of the camp. This was a beloved event every year for decades. The Reverend Brooks was a Baptist minister who lived in Auberry and he was also responsible for the Dinkey Creek area and for overseeing the Vacation Bible School, although oftentimes young Baptist ministry students or missionaries in training would assist. The heart of the program, however, were the women living in the camp. They were the teachers and counselors also made sure that cookies and Kool Aid were always served.

Modern conveniences were limited, the men worked and the children played in the dirt, the very fine,  powdery volcanic Sierra dirt. In 1955 clothes were washed by boiling them in pots over a fire, in a wringer washing machine, or for the fortunate few, in one of the newer tumble action washing machines. Clothes dried on the line.  Millie Long, whose husband worked at the mill, did laundry for the single men in camp. A big washtub set over an open fire and filled with clothes was a fixture in her backyard, as were her clotheslines.

Meals were prepared on wood cook stoves although propane stoves were becoming more popular. Unlike propane, wood stoves had a constant and free source

of fuel. During the fall and spring wood cook stoves were a pleasant source of heat for the house, and pipes coiled alongside the back of the stove provided hot water for bathing. It also meant that the stove had to be working every day in time to heat enough water for after work showers, even on hot days. Wood cook stoves also required a constant source of fuel, bringing the wood scraps from the mill, chopping the wood, keeping the wood box filled, and getting up in the morning to start the fire to cook breakfast.

Because the entire household moved twice a year, in the spring and the fall, there were various arrangements regarding household belongings. A sizeable portion of the household belongings were packed and moved, including furniture, bedding, clothes and kitchenware. For example, until late in the 1950’s the Emmert household packed up the entire kitchen and tableware (except for the cast iron pans used on the wood stove), all the bedding, clothing, the washing machine, and most of the living room furniture. Left in the cabin were the beds and clothes dressers, the dining table & some chairs and sofa. Other families had variations of the same major move each season. Over the years newer items in the houses in the valley allowed older items to remain in the cabins and the moves became less extensive. Of course the houses weren’t completely mouse proof so it was always exciting to see if there were any baby mice nesting in a mattress in the spring. One year the cabin front door was locked in the fall and the next spring had rusted shut. It probably wasn’t ever locked again.


We used to feel sorry for the kids who had to go to summer camp. We lived in a summer camp. We could play outside every day in the dirt, on the rocks, among the trees, go fishing and swimming in the creek, set up forts and playhouses in the trees nearby our houses and play hide and go seek every evening, We would get really, really dirty.  1955 was in the middle of the baby boom and somewhere in camp there were usually several children about the same age to play together. The relatively secure camp setting allowed children to roam about the camp quite freely during the day in the residential section and down to Glen Meadow creek.

Using the materials at hand, one favorite game was to construct forts and other edifices built out of the wood scraps from the woodpile. With two flat sides and of lengths from several inches to two feet long, the boards could be stacked up 4 or 5 feet high, depending upon the skill of the builder, and have windows and gun holes and opening for doors. The longer boards served as lintels over the openings. Enemy invaders were known to knock down the buildings on top of the defending inhabitants but all escaped relatively unscathed at the end of the day. The wood blocks were also good to use as bulldozers to make roads when playing with cars in the dirt.  Add a little water and it was possible to make houses with roads running around them for the cars to drive on.

Another very fun place to play was on the hillside outside the cabin in the drainage water from the kitchen sink. Dams could be constructed and lakes
would fill and a sudden rush of water could necessitate a side canal to keep the dam from overflowing. There were endless possibilities for playing in the dirt, water and mud from the kitchen (and shower) drain, to the horror of several of the mothers.

Playing around the mill site was dangerous and strictly off limits. Occasionally, with an adult in attendance, we could sit on the bench at the mill and watch the boards being sawn. Teenagers were allowed to pull wood scraps for firewood from the chain leading to the burn pile. That chain feeder to the open burn pile is the same one that’s there today going up into the teepee burner.

Teenagers world expanded beyond the camp to hiking and fishing in the nearby creeks, jeep rides into the back country, and the eternal teenage quest of seeking out the opposite sex by driving through the campground and visiting the other lumber mills, the pack station, and residential sites for the construction crew building Courtright and Wishon Dams.

The teenage population dwindled as they became older and could work during the summer. There were few employment opportunities in the area for anyone under the age of 18 (18 was the minimum age for employment at the mill and in the woods) and so older teens sometimes stayed in the valley where they could find employment.

See also the excerpts from Montie Day’s memoir that is part of the Pine Logging Oral History – Emmert Family