The above picture: my wife took the picture, October 5th 2018. I stood, 14 years old at this spot, give or take 50 meters, one half hour after an Allied plane dropped 13 bombs, narrowly missing the forestry workers one block away but protected by dense forest. Never could I have imagined that 74 years later I would be able revisiting the spot, coming from the far-away West Coast Canada. (And, in this connection, down the valley, in the little village of Kornbach, my wife took a picture of me in front of the one room village school, where I stood as the one and only survivors of nine children, standing at this spot, in spring of 1937, most of us six and one half years old. So maybe Canada with all its challenges an immigrant has to face could not have totally negative for this one “immigrant” (coming by default as I like to point out).
Forestry in my Bavarian Homeland (long ago and now) and Forestry in Canada today.
In preparation of this letter which I asked the Editor Tyson to please publish it for me, not again, to seek publicity but to help promote a more “civilized” (sorry folks) way of working condition for the working man/woman in a capitalistic system and society. Just now I heard once again, one of our big companies had to lay off quite a number of workers, shutting down a number of sawmills, and just before I went to my last trip to Germany last September/October, our company in Woss had announced the layoff of forestry workers, due to “Whatever” — how painful this must be to families when the bread winner finds himself suddenly unemployed.
On one of my trips since 2009 I picked up the phone book of my home area in central Germany, an area of forested highlands, interspersed with small farms surrounding the villages and small towns, the phone book the size of about the city of Victoria phone book. If you visit our Seven Hills golf course (as I recently did, conjuring up painful and yet joyful memories of my “Heimat”, home area and not homeland, the ancient Greeks called it “poli”. From the golf course, on a clear day you see Twin Peeks in the distance, with the neighbouring mountains and foothills and this area comes as close to the area I left in Germany as any compared.
If you know where “Linda” runs the Port McNeill shake and shingle mill. Let’s say, that particular area of Twin Peek road is not just a few feet elevation but is at an elevation of 2000 feet, a village at the foot of Twin Peeks and a neighbouring lesser mountain. That is the location of my home village. From there the teacher dismissed me at 11:30 to deliver the my father’s warm lunch and taking me about a good half hour to three quarter of an hour. If you look at Twin Peeks from the distance, there is a “foothill”, what is probably an ancient moraine, created by the latest ice age, and that is the equivalent of my “Hohe Heide” high heather, the place where my father, the foreman of a crew of four or five were working. The area the bombs hit was about an area from the CIBC bank to Safe-On and from Nappa to the Rotarian senior citizen home, bombs dropped all at once, or they would have been much further apart as they hit ground. The closest I came to “war” — I escaped being a soldier in Germany and then in Canada, one of my more fortunate aspects of my often trouble-some and painful experience in a new country. (Although, on balance, I had a wonderful life and “never actually worked a day in my life,” as I did what I always enjoyed: teaching/construction/forestry, my great passion — to quote an ancient philosopher, if you do what you like, you never work. Adventures in the forest, no tourist could ever match!) (No wonder they say: Bill, you don’t look your age!” —but, let’s not fool ourselves: Bill is beginning to feel his age! I won’t tell you about the negative stuff; most of you know about that anyway! “Life is very, very difficult, to quote this Jewish psychiatrist philosopher, Sachs.)
I picked up the phone book, found Gefrees (the villages belong for administrative purposes now to the nearest towns) and here I found my successor of my job with the Bavarian Forest Service, 1945 to 1951, Robert S. No, actually I should, must say, the son of my successor. It was HIS FATHER who took over for me in 1951 — that’s what happens when you get to be close to ninety, even the kids are suddenly retired!
“Robert, I need some information about your forestry jobs with the Bavarian Forest Service”, and my locals expect me I speak German the way I did 67 years ago when I left for Canada for one year, ignorant and naive what it means to leave the security of your job, your village, your country, your friends, your “geography”!) (Did any First Nations person ever talk of emigrating! Smile or weep!)
An apprentice gets 800 Euros per month, from day one (an Euro maybe 1.4 dollar). Here, in Port Hardy, the College offered a three months course in basic forestry work (I should have double checked and someone correct me, if I am wrong), the cost for the apprentice, a cool $3000.00. That seems cruel, considering it does not guarantee you employment or permanent employment as it does in Bavaria and as it was in my time in 1945.
Their forest district is now three times the area as it was in my days but for this, Forestry provides them with vehicles as it would be too far to walk as in my time. For 1800 ha they employ four people, using machines of course now to facilitate the work. Basic pay is 17 Euros. There is never a layoff, except if there is deep snow in winter (elevation from 2000 feet to 3500 feet, similar to Twin Peeks but inland and not coastal, so that there is more likelihood of snow in winter). They get 75% of the regular pay as unemployment money.
The Bavarian government forest comprises about 800,000 ha of forest, employing about 3000 people, with, at any time about 125 apprentices. There is no clear cut anymore. Also, to prepare for global warming they plant now an under story of beech trees to the now about 90% of “Fichte”, that is black northern spruce, the rest is pine, balsam (“Tanne”) and Canadian Douglas fir, and, yes, quite a bit of “Lerche”, larch. At the moment they have a serious beetle problem, caused by global warming.
The little creek that runs through the village: I told Shelley, I am sure it does not have by far the water it used to have and she argued, No, you only saw it with the eyes of a young person! Not so! My friend tells me: the “miller” reports that the water is only half of what it used to be and he does not have enough to turn the wooden wheel for power and has to store the water in a pond, to be used only once there is enough water accumulated.
I just looked out the window. It is getting daylight and the fruit trees in my front garden are such a memory of my little farm I left in Germany and did not have to leave, and I shall give you in a moment a verse of two of Alexander Pope of what I am talking about.(Imagine, to have to live in a high rise! Hong Kong/even Vancouver!)
There is so much on the mind of an old man now, at least that is what I am supposed to be at my age. Old!? What does it mean? The neurologist I was privileged to see, if he can figure out something about my troublesome sleep: I think I know what it is! I have exposed myself to so much, it does not let go at night in my dreams. The report on Brazil I heard on the Deutsche Welle. How can they have such a president, such a stupid man, in what he said. And the suffering of the indigenous people there. What a shame for humanity.
And when I see my/our First Nations people coming from these Inlet villages and then become victimized, instead of everyone being cared for one by one as I was in 1945, leaving Grade School. Every kid was assigned a place to study or to train and not left to him/herself. And now kids have to spend huge amount of money to get educated for a technological age, so someone at the top gets super rich (you heard about this super rich who parted with 34 billion —- can you believe it — for a divorce settlement, while all us dummies use a $500 little gadget to entertain us.
And now, the Chinese! First they build an island in the middle of a pristine ocean, and no one says meow. (Imagine if Cuba had started building an island in the middle of the Atlantic. The UN would have send a psychiatrist to the president of Cuba, if not a UN force to stop them.)
There are so many tourists, the locals are afraid to leave their houses, polluting mother earth. Too much money for many and others cannot buy a coffee at A & W in the morning in Port Hardy and this guy spends more money to help First Nations than he gives to his church.
I left my Bavarian forestry job and my little farm I would have taken over from father. Yet with an extended family of about 45 members here in Canada — all my brothers and sisters followed me, unreal! — we only can attempt to help to make our new country Canada a good place for all and especially the First Nations people, custodians of this great land for the last 10,000 years or more; yes, they too were immigrants! The city of Marseilles in southern France was started by immigrants from ancient Greece 600 years B.C. to solve a problem as we still are solving problems of people surpluses today— except now the situation has become very global and critical with China and India having a population of 2.8 billion people. (and between the two countries adding a population of Canada within two or three years! Can you believe it! Look up stats in the latest World Almanac!)