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Dateline Cowichan: Cancelled bus service leads to forest walkout

William Gadsden took this shot of Hillcrest Lumber Co. mill in Sahtlam in 1936. The planer mill is on the left. - courtesy Cowichan Valley Museum and Archive
William Gadsden took this shot of Hillcrest Lumber Co. mill in Sahtlam in 1936. The planer mill is on the left.
— image credit: courtesy Cowichan Valley Museum and Archive

Like most small forestry companies in the Cowichan Valley, the Hillcrest Lumber Company at Mesachie Lake is long gone.

But in January 1962 it employed close to 100 men in its logging operations — and most were off the job in what the company called an illegal strike. Two years earlier, the company’s mill men had accepted their free transportation from Duncan to work in Mesachie had come to an end.

However, when the logging crew’s free bus rides were cancelled Jan. 2, the men refused to make alternative arrangements. The company regarded the dispute as a strike: the men were withholding their labour when their jobs were open to them. The company had the right to discontinue free bus transportation at any time, they said. Meanwhile, officials of the men’s union, Local 1-80 of the IWA, said the bus was a condition of employment and wished to negotiate.

“The company has supplied free transportation for these employees for a period of 20 years, fully aware that those employees were establishing homes in the Duncan and Lake Cowichan communities,” the union wrote in a statement to the press. “It is a reduction in take-home pay and amounts to a loss in wages.”

1962: music

Organizers of the Cowichan Music Festival were looking forward to increasing the previous year’s 630 entrants. Those interested were reminded to send their entries for the March 9 to 17 event to Miss Winnie Campbell.

1962: salmon

Some 65,000 coho salmon made it into the Cowichan River during what Inspector F. B. Harrison of the Cowichan sub-district of federal fisheries called a “quite fabulous” run of coho into both the Cowichan and Koksilah rivers.

1962: radio

Canon Brian T. Page told Duncan City council during its inaugural 1962 meeting he was interested in the revived plans for a local radio station. It would pull the people of Duncan together in community spirit, he said.

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