For those of you who don’t know or don’t remember the origin of organized loggers’ sports in BC you should be aware of one of the original organizers, Bill Moore, of W.D. Moore Logging in Winter Harbour BC.
Bill was not a competitor but had great interest in all things logging, including the sports. He was proud of the forest industry and thought that loggers’ sports should become more of a showcase to show the world what we do in a fun way, and see how skilled, strong, and talented our loggers were.
As early as 1966, Bill was involved in things such as fundraising and was called in by the PNE of Vancouver to consult on a new show grounds just for logging sports. From the work of Bill and others, in the summer of 1971, the government of BC proclaimed loggers’ sports as the “Provincial Industrial Sport of B.C.” This was done by Premier W. A. C. Bennett in his Order In Council Number 712. Throughout the following Winter CANLOG committees created rules and schedules for upcoming shows.
Bill believed that CANLOG and loggers’ sports could create a healthy and good image for our loggers, similar to what cowboys and sailors have. He felt all company managers should allow time off for competitors to attend the shows and that CEOs of larger firms should be in full support by funding the competitors and attending the shows.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Bill along with others, promoted our sport to the world, by fundraising and travelling with a crew of competitors to Eastern Canada, Norway , Finland and other forest harvesting countries. He felt our competitors were the perfect ambassadors for Canada and the sport. This was proven true by the many accolades the crew received on their travels. In Europe, their loggers’ sport focused on skilled chainsaw competitions, which was very different from ours, and they reveled in our teams’ unique and much more crowd pleasing style of show. On the Europe tours the professionalism of the sportsmen there was noted and brought back to Canada. Bill tried hard to bring the European style competitions to Canada as he felt their focus on safety and professionalism, while not as entertaining, had an educational factor for our public, and our loggers, however, other than a few small tours and the occasional addition to regional shows, it never really took hold. In the 1980s Bill was also instrumental in having the sport showcased at Expo 86 in Vancouver.
There were many people involved in the sport that helped to build its current form, and many pages could be written of them, Bill was one of them and a true supporter of our Industry, our workers, and our sport.
Bill was also a prolific writer and wrote monthly for many years for the BC Lumberman and other publications. Many of his articles were on logging sports. They are all available online at www.wdmoore.ca, there is also many other historical articles and pictures.
Bill passed away in November 2000.
Peter Holmquist’s first experience with crosscutting was working in the forest industry on the Pacific Coast in the mid 40’s. Much like many persons from the prairies, after the crops were harvested, he migrated to BC’s coast, where there was plenty of work in the forests and mills.
Peter competed in the sawing and chopping events in Hope, BC in ’46 to ’48. After a serious falling accident, he changed his vocation and worked as a sales representative for IEL chain saws. These were manufactured in Vancouver and Marketed through the Purves Ritchie company. The owner, Roy Byers, was a very strong supporter of loggers’ sports. Peter made sure that in every community he was in, got support for the sport one way or another.
A few years later, Peter formed his own company, Pacific Equipment. Chain saws were widely used around the province. Peter competed in many sawing events, handsaws or chain saws. He was good, and made sure his company supported the sport at all levels. He was very prominent in supporting colleges and forestry schools, small town competitors who never had access to good equipment.
Peter competed widely, contest sites and exhibitions around the country. He won the prestigious World Championship in single sawing at Hayward Wisconsin in 1973. It was under his company’s sponsorship that hosted the loggers’ sports at the PNE in Vancouver. It went on for many years and was the showcase of our sport on this coast. It was well attended by many competitors from around the world.
Peter was instrumental in the design of the chain saws that were used here on the pacific coast. He lobbied the manufacturers to build appropriate equipment that suited the demands presented by the size of the timber encountered. Engineers took his words seriously and they profited from his experience and advice.
Peter sold his company and retired to Coquitlam with his wife Doris and family, where they still reside. He had two daughters and a son. He made a very strong effort to see our sport get the recognition and financial support that is always needed. Peter was always a friendly and congenial host, making sure everyone around his motor home got a taste of his famous “Swedish Meatballs”.
Peter has since passed away after a long illness. His funeral was very well attended by family, friends and many persons in the related industries. He has left a void that needs to be filled so our sports has the recognition that he gave to it.
-Submitted by Alan Boyko
Les Stewart has long since retired from loggers’ sports but still attends the CANLOG AGM, spectates a few shows a year and still helps out with the show in Port Alberni, BC. Les had a long career as a timber faller, tree service operator and involvement in loggers’ sports. Les, as a competitor, was fairly small in stature but he made up for this with more practicing, decent technique and loads of determination.
Les Stewart grew up in Sooke, BC where he watched many All Sooke Days until finally deciding at age 24 to give the sport a try. He was helped along and mentored by Art Williams, John Kassnic and Alan Boyko. 1968 was Les’s rookie year where he entered 11 novice climbing events and was undefeated. At the final show of the year, Les won the PNE novice climb, and he decided to enter the PNE Open Climb as well (entering more than one division was allowed then). In that same rookie season, the student ended up beating his teacher, Art Williams, and ended up winning the open climb!
The next year, Les won the novice climb at the World Championship Albany Timber Carnival and from there he went on to have a respectful open division career throughout the 1970’s. Mainly known as good climber and topper, he was also a proficient log roller, axe thrower and choker racer. One of the highlights was winning the World Championship Tree Topping at the LWC in Hayward Wisconsin in 1971 and later winning 4 Canadian Championships in climbing and one Canadian Championship in choker race.
The father of three, spent many summers travelling with his family while performing with Wickhiem Timber Shows in Sea World marine parks and at Canada’s biggest fairs and exhibitions. Les was lucky enough to have also performed in Japan, Denmark and Sweden. Les taught his son, Wade to climb at age three who went on to win many world titles and held some world climbing records. Les continues to live in Parksville, BC with his common law wife Louella.
In 1974, Norman Gagne was working in Grande Prairie, Alberta, as a professional tree faller. He knew what it was to do manual labour and work in the woods, most men of his generation did, but as new and modern technology replaced those skills where could his be used? He was told by a colleague to enter into the Grande Prairie Logger Sports Competition being held on the August long weekend. Norman took his work axe and swede saw and entered the local competition. He had only ever run a chainsaw and swede saw but he was not unfamiliar with an axe. His first year (1974) he was Bull of the woods.
At this first competition, the Grande Prairie Logger Sports Association brought in professional wood choppers to demonstrate the entertaining yet dangerous “Spring Board” event. Norman watched in awe as these skilled axemen chopped pockets, inserted boards and then sliced a log in half at the top. He was hooked! This was the event he was going to master. Without coaching, the proper axes, or practice set-up, he would go on to place in his first ever competition spring board chop and win multiple Canadian Championships. Once, Norman even used a traditional heavy broad felling axe in the hard-hitting underhand chopping event. In the hard-hitting event the least number of swings in the fastest time to sever the log determines the winner. Norman didn’t win the hard hitting event, but he did win the hearts of spectators who watched a small Frenchmen swing a giant axe with all his might.
Once Norman learned these skills, he felled six logging trucks of timber in the Canal Flats, BC to practice his standing block chopping techniques. He used these logs to build his home from the ground up; every inch of it done by hand and utilizing his loggers’ sports skills and traditional trades.
Norman was introduced into loggers’ sports in Alberta. He annually flaunted his skills in Grande Prairie where he broke records, triumphed and set the path for his future. Norman not only competed across North America, he also made a living doing travelling wood chopping entertainment shows. He chopped wood at venues like Sea World, and was sent to Rio, Chillie in 1985 by the Canadian Government to represent Canada as the iconic Canadian Lumberjack image.
Norman still competes today. He passed his love of lumberjack sports on to his family. Norman still performs in wood chopping shows as he creates history with three generations of his family chopping: grandfather; Norman, son; Gerald, and grandchildren. This year Norman’s great-grandson is 7 years old, and Norman plans to awe the crowds with a fourth generation in the lumberjack show!
His passion, drive and his interest in the history of loggers’ sports started in 1974 with the Grande Prairie Logger Sports Show. Norman Gagne’s first loggers’ sports event had a phenomenal impact on his life. Alberta will impact many others by continuing to offer these events, while promoting the forest industry, its history, and sparking interest and inspiration to study the past.
Future research will be following-up on the Grande Prairie Logger Sports Association, the history of the Rocky Mountain House Lumberjack Competition, the Alberta Logging Association, and the chronology of wood chopping events in Alberta. If you have information regarding any of these or similar events please contact Kat Spencer at Katherine.email@example.com or 780-914-9609.
Currently initiatives are underway to develop a permanent loggers’ sports facility in Morinville, Alberta. With help from the forestry community and any interested party, ECHO Chainsaws, “Lumberjack” TV series, has proposed to film and promote logging sports in Alberta and its sponsors in 2017. Interested contributors are asked to contact Kat Spencer for information on how supporting wood chopping events can promote businesses and forest history in Alberta!
Art Williams has been connected with logging and logging sports for most of his working life. Art lived in the Saltair district of Ladysmith on Vancouver Island. After leaving school early he began his career as a journeyman logger. This took him to the rigging crews, boom crews and timber falling. While he was working on the boom crews at Cowichan Lake, he met the Livingstone family (their father, Harvey Livingstone, was a very proficient boom man). Art was very agile on the floating logs – this made him a natural for the log birling events. Art practiced with Harvey and his son and he learned the many tricks needed to stay on top of the log in the water with them. At this time on Vancouver Island, the log birling events were filled with expert log birlers. The Wickheim brothers and the Baikkies to mention a few offered a difficult challenge.
Art got involved in all of the events: chopping, sawing, climbing and birling – a true all-round competitor. It was very common for him to watch a new competitor and offer his best equipment and advice. Art has assisted many competitors with very successful careers in this sport. He wore black pants and a black shirt for his events. The next challenge he pursued in logger sports was a tree act. He was able to observe many active acts on the circuit at the time such as those performed by Danny Sailor, Ernie Alexander, Kelly Stanley, Malcolm Harper and Hap Johnson. He soon developed his own act and he performed as the “BLACK KNIGHT” for his first couple of years..
Then he got the idea to go as “COPPER CANYON SAL ” – donning a dress and wig, he climbed the tree and lost his undergarments along the way. The crowds roared when he needed to perform a handstand at the top of the tree to keep his panties up.
He traveled around the world with his tree act. In Tasmania Australia, while at a wood chopping series, he done this on a very slim pole on New Years day. When he stood on his head, over he went, trapping him self on one of the guy lines. He was very lucky another climber was present who assisted him out of this very embarrassing predicament – he blamed his misfortune on the after-effects of the night before. At the Pacific National Exhibition. in Vancouver,B.C., his wig got caught in his down pulley and had to be rescued by the Fire Dept. When he met the love of his life and decided to get married, where did they hold the ceremony? You guessed it, on top of a Spar Tree in Vancouver, B.C! This event was recorded on the national Television for many to see.
Art’s vocation was timber falling and was unfortunately injured by a falling object. While recuperating from this incident, he purchased a tree topping company and equipment. This kept him busy for many years. He then purchased the trapping rights to a large tract of land in the Cariboo area. He now makes his home at Likely. B.C., and welcomes his many friends to stay and enjoy the ambience of the beautiful area that he calls home. He has since retired and is busy with his son and daughter trapping, fishing and wine making.
Ernie Alexander was a colorful character who lived on the west coast of British Columbia, and worked in the forest industry for over 50 years. His nickname was “FEET” referring to his exceptionally large feet. He was recognized internationally for his abilities both as a high rigger and a bull rider, a feat not surpassed by any other competitor to this day. In fact, during one week in the summer of 1950, he won the world championship tree climbing in Albany, Oregon and a bull riding championship in central Oregon. Ernie was also a well-respected stock car driver (maybe tree climbing and bull riding did not fully satisfy Ernie’s need for adrenaline).
Ernie was prominent in the Logger Sports circuit on Vancouver Island, and he helped organize several competitions on the northern part of Vancouver Island. He was always keen to assist aspiring climbers, showing them his particular technique. His favorite event was the two man climb, a popular event in the 1970’s. Ernie also tried his hand at the “tree act”. His act also included one of his daughters up the tree with him. Ernie was the World Champion in the tree climb for 4 years, and also won the world championship in the eye splicing several times.
Ernie passed away in Campbell River, BC in 2001 at 77 years of age. I had the pleasure of meeting Ernie when I was a Physical Therapist in Campbell River. I felt like I was in the presence of a famous celebrity – he even gave me an autographed picture (featured below). He will be remembered for his fearless attitude, great skill and gentlemanly approach. Submitted by Brenda Boyko.
Jube Wickheim has had many outstanding contributions to logger sports and the Canadian logging sports association. He was a founding member of Can-Log and has served on the executive committee for years. He also has the distinction of being the most winning log roller in Canadian history.
Jube and his older brother Ardiel began log rolling in the 1950’s on Vancouver Island. Soon they were traveling across North America to the biggest shows of that day. Jube is featured in the Guinness World Book of Records as he won the World Championship Log Rolling Competition 10 times (to this day, no other log roller has surpassed this feat). Also during his prolific log rolling career, he also won the US open championship, Canadian Championship and Vancouver Island championship several times.
Also, Jube is also featured in the Guiness Book of World Records for the longest log rolling match in a competition. In 1956, he was rolling against Russ Harris, a US Marine from Kelso, WA, for first place at the Albany Timber Carnival. Russ proved to be a very tenacious component, as the two men ran out the one hour time limits on the 18 and 14 inch logs. After rolling for more than two hours on a 13 inch log, the first fall in the match occurred. Russ eventually won the match 3 falls to 2.
The Wickheim brothers were very much in demand; soon they started a log rolling exhibition act, and travelled to many countries. This blossomed into the formation of the “Wickheim Timber Shows”. Many competitors from Canada and USA had the privilege of working with this elite group that exemplified the professionalism and atheticism of the sport. Audiences around the world were entertained with the red and green teams of lumberjacks as they demonstrated popular logging sport events such as sawing, chopping, log rolling and tree climbing. The following is an excerpt from a poem written by Bob Waibel, from Sweet Home, Oregon. He shares his wonderful memory about being part of the Wickheim Timber Shows (featured in 1979 at the Sea World in San Deigo, California).
Meet the men who created their own sport and folklore,
witness their skill in dangerous events like you’ve never seen before.
From tbe big cedar country, hemlocks and tall firs,
a land of timbered mountains, where only wildlife stirs.
From Wickheim Timber Shows, eight men come marching out,
meet a group of modern Paul Bunyans, great men beyond doubt.
Four loggers to a side, march around the show ground to do events like this,
the horizontal block chop, chips fly to the ground.
A logroller gives a demo across the pond,
two double-bladed axes hit the target with a thudding sound.
Two double buckers against a chain saw race……………
Jube worked hard throughout his career in Logging Sports to offer his expertise to Can-Log and other executive committies. Jube has since retired from the sport, and lives with his wife Mavis on Vancouver Island. A true “gentleman”, Jube’s positive attitude and level of professionalism has helped develop our sport into what it is today. Can-Log is truly indebted to Jube, and wishes to honour his contibution by making him our first “Hall of Famer”. Thanks Jube!
Long live the RED and the GREEN! Featured is the Wickheim Timber Shows crew at the Calgary Stampede in 1977 (Back row, from left to right: Ron Hartill, Alan Boyko, Les Stewart, Jube Wickheim, Dale Hartill, Eric Holmquist, Terry Patrick, Fred Wickheim. Front Row: Wade Stewart).
Submitted by Alan Boyko, Port Alberni, BC