Going home again

  • Thu Jul 30th, 2015 10:46pm
  • Life

Getting ready to take the Logging and Mill Tour July 1

For three sisters, a trip on the Forks Chamber’s logging and mill tour on July 1 was more than just curiosity about logging and mills. The sisters were making a pilgrimage of sorts, a return to their childhood home. Before Allen’s Mill closed, they wanted to go home again.

Patty Gustafson Fry and her sisters Sherry and Terry grew up in an Allen’s Logging camp-house. Although the houses have been gone for quite a while, their experiences of life there is one they wouldn’t trade for anything, even though life there was at times like going back in time.

It was 1958 when the Gustafson family moved to the little cluster of skid houses that sat along the highway south of Forks, the mill operation was across the highway.

Charles Gustafson had come to Port Angeles from Oregon for a job. But, when he got to Port Angeles, with his family, his wife and three daughters, the job was not there. He heard of a job at Allen’s and Charlie eventually would work almost 30 years for Lloyd Allen.

Charlie drove chip truck for most of his career and it was once calculated that his mileage during this time amounted to several trips around the world.

The Gustafsons’ new home had no phone, no electricity and so no television and it had an outhouse. Patty remembers that there was a generator and it was turned off at night. She said, “I remember it being so dark that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.”

The camp had an “appliance schedule” for using your waffle iron or other electrical appliances. Eventually, when phones were installed, it was a party line.

But even though the family was living in a skid house Patty remembers her mother decorating it nicely. “One time my mother painted the kitchen floor and then took feathers and made designs, it was beautiful.”

Since there were no indoor bathroom facilities, baths were taken in a big wash tub. Eventually Charlie added on a bathroom and a shower.

One interesting experience of living in the camp was when the “roof tar man” would come around. The tar truck came around about once a year and all the roofs in camp got a coating of tar. Patty said, “I remember the man would give us a gob of tar to chew, just like it was gum, when I think of that now, I think wow that might have been toxic!”

Since the girls were the only children in camp, their father built them a playhouse, rose arbor and a slide area for when it snowed. Another past-time for Patty was checking out the trucks when they were parked near the shop for the evening. “I know it sounds weird now but I would collect beautiful butterflies and other bugs that had met their demise on the grills of the trucks,” Patty said.

Going to school was an adventure, too. “Theodore Hudson was our bus driver. Missy Barlow would bring the kids from Oil City to catch the bus. We were so proud to have Mr. Hudson as our bus driver. On the last day of school he would pull the bus over at Sully’s (when it was on the south end of town across from the Baptist Church) and get us all ice cream cones.

In 1969, the school district honored Ted Hudson for 24 years of service driving the Hoh bus, and sadly in December 1969, he was killed in a car accident.

“I remember going to his funeral, there were hundreds and hundreds of people there, we were so sad,” she said.

Patty remembers all the tenants at camp and also working in the cookhouse.

“There was a big iron bar and you would ring it when it was time for a meal. My sisters and I all worked in the cookhouse. I remember feeling shy carrying the food out to the workers. We learned to play cards and cribbage and the cooks were Lola Penticost and Mamie Rued.”

The sisters also took turns cleaning Lloyd Allen’s office. “I remember Mr. Allen in his old orange pick-up and his dog. He was the kindest man. It was like a little kingdom and Mr. Allen was royalty. He was always so good to my dad. I can still hear the sounds of the mill, the saws, the whistles and the airguns in the shop.”

The Gustafson sisters got to hear the sounds of the mill for the last time on July 1. Patty said, “We had the best time on the tour, the other people sort of followed us around and enjoyed hearing our stories in addition to what the tour guide had to say.”

When the houses were dismantled in 1980, Charlie Gustafson salvaged a lot of the lumber and windows, some of which were used in other homes the family later lived in when they moved to Forks.

“Our life at camp was so special, we would come into ‘Forks, the city’ for school and then in the afternoon go back to a different world.”

With Allen’s Mill now closed, July 28, 2015, that world is one that most likely will never be seen again.