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Interview with Emerson Blanton and Margaret Blanton

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  • Blanton and Blanton 1 Interviewer: Becca Rhinehart and Meghan Franklin Interviewee: Emerson Blanton and Margaret Blanton Location: Balsam, North Carolina 04-05-2017 Becca Rhinehart: Okay so what’s your full name? Emerson Blanton: My name is Emerson C. Blanton BR: And how old are you? EB: 77 BR: And where are you from? EB: Right here in Sylva North Carolina BR: And what’s your full name? Margaret Blanton: It’s Margaret Blanton BR: And how old are you? MB: I’m 76 BR: And where are you from? MB: Well I was born in North Carolina but we migrated to the State of Washington and that’s where I was raised. BR: And are both of y’all aware you’re being recorded right now? EB & MB: Yes BR: So, Mr. Blanton, how are you connected to the logging industry? EB: Well I went to the state of Washington when I was 18-year-old and I got a job in the woods, working in the woods for Mr. Sam Forrester and Son and I didn’t work there that long until I went in the plywood part of it. And I hooked chokers and that consists of they go in first and cut the logs and they buck them up into lengths. And the chokermen they go down and you got two chokers each for four logs and you run back up in the road and there’s a motor up in the road above you and you take them up there and then to the plant and they drop the chokers and they come loose from the log so they just pull the cable up and then run back down the line into where the timber is at and you go back down there and do two more or four more and there will be two of you there. BR: How many years were you doing that? EB: Well I didn’t do that very long at all. I hated it because it was too hard of work but I just did it long enough until I could get another job. When I went to work there I rode in an old school bus, a crew bus they called it from the little town of Darrington back to where we were logging at which was about 30 miles one way and rode back there worked all day and got on the crew bus and rode back home which took about 8-10 hours counting travel time and all to get a shift in. Timber, tree when they fell a tree Blanton and Blanton 2 they topped it first, that’s to keep it from splitting. You know when it hit the ground so hard they took the top off of it and they fall it a certain way where they won’t go over each other and that keeps it from splitting the logs. And they have what they call, thems the fallers that do that. Then the buckers come along, they call them the buckers they buck them up into lengths whatever length log they want to make 8, 16’s or whatever and they saw them up. And that’s where I come in then hooking the chokers. They put a yarder up in the road a big machine, they rig a tree, a big tree up there and go up in it and tie cables and run that cables from the yarder up through where they got the tree rigged down in there where the choker runs up and down the cable and when they drop the logs the choker comes lose automatically and they raise the cable up it slides right down the cable and down to where you work. And they’ve got this standing up in the road, there’s one guy that stands up there and they call him a whistle punk. That’s all he does is blow a whistle and give a signal he’s a signal man is what is he is, but they call him a whistle punk and he gives the signal when it’s safe to go back down there. And when he blows the whistle go up there and hook two more, come back up in the road and he gives a signal that you’re safe and the yarder will bring it around. It’s just a continuous thing all day long. And they’ve got a truck up there that comes in and they’ve got a guy that drives the truck and they have what they call a second loader. He gets up on the cab of the truck and he places the logs on the truck as a yarder loads them on there. And he places them on there where the load be nice and round and level and even from one side to another and then they put the cables on it to take them out. And a little while they will be back after another and you will have them already waiting on ‘em after the first load when they get back. And then they haul the trailer on the truck and the trailer comes too. I know you all have seen trucks come through here pulling a trailer. Out there they pick the trailer up and set it up on the truck the boom of the trailer goes out over the cab and makes the truck much shorter to get around curves and stuff. And that’s the way they deliver them. And when they deliver them most of the timber we worked with belonged to the US Forrest Service or the State Forrest Service and they had they call it a shack down there. The Forest Service man worked there and they’d take that load of logs by the shack the Forest Service shack, there’s a guy that works in there and he scales the logs and he stamps them on the end with a stamp, and that’s how they pay the stumpage on the logs. That’s how they pay the Forest Service back for it. And they also have, there’s not many big companies there, there wasn’t when I was there, but they bid on the job through the Forest Service or the state Forest Service, US or State. And then they sub contract a lot of it and they call it Gyppo Loggers to a crew of men that just go in and do the falling and the bucking to getting it ready. That way they sell to different outfits from the time you start til you get through working on the same stuff, just small companies. Gyppos they call them, there may be 8 or 10 of men. One job I worked on there was just one man who just stayed at the truck and he had a truck load of power saws and that way when they fall that timber and something happens to one of their saws you go right down there and hand him another. All he does is just work on saws. That way they never break down because he keeps one running all the time, they don’t lose time that way. They have to take them into the Forest Service and they scale them and that’s how they get their pay, the Forest Service gets their pay. I only worked there a while and I hated it because it was hard work. When I was working there in 1958 they payed me $30 a day working the chokers which sounds like big money. When I was left here I was making $36 dollars a week and I went out there and got that job for $30 a day I thought I was going to buy the world. BR: So how did you hear about the jobs out in Washington? Blanton and Blanton 3 EB: Well I have a lot of people who lived out there, who went out there back in the 20’s even they moved there when that was a new country out there all the logs out there was new. I’m talking about timber, you probably saw those logs we showed you that was just one, there were millions of them like that. And in fact before they even had power saws, they fell them trees with cross cut saws and they sawed a place in them they put a spring board and slid it back in there and one man stood on this side and one on this and they took a cross cut saw and sawed that tree and when it fell see they were over here and they fell them right down the mountain. Which was dangerous, but that was the only way to do it, that was before saws came out. And when saws came out that was a miracle. I mean a miracle. The saws they had when I was there the bar on them where the chain fits the bar most of them were 44 inches long just the bar from there to 50 inches. Could you imagine taking a cut 50 inches long? And I mean they put them on the ground. And then I left there and went into the plywood which was that’s what they made out of all the logs, was plywood. Now I loved working in the plywood. I was in the dry and I could wear a t-shirt and keep my hair fixed. Different world. MB: They unloaded the logs in the pond too. EB: Yeah they unloaded them logs into a pond. They had a big pond. They unload them in there and they had a crew that worked on that pond. They had a pole with a metal prod on it and a live chain went up into the mill. And some men worked down there and they had a little shack there they stayed in. When they got that chain full they could take a break. Well when they got low on logs they had to get up there on them logs in that water now with a pole to get them over there to where the chains could get ahold of them and take them up. BR: Was that a dangerous job? EB: Oh yes it was but I never seen anybody fall, but I’m sure there was. I know I tried it one time and I didn’t last two minutes I got to walking on that log and it got to going like this and well you know what happened next. BR: So when you were working in the actual logging, what were the camps like you lived in? EB: Well that was after the camps had gone when I was there. But there’s still some old camp houses there that they’d moved down… in fact we lived in one. People bought them, fixed them up and made apartments out of them. They was pretty nice. They remodeled them and it was kind of like a trailer park some of the loggers started driving and getting roads so they could drive to work and they done away with the camps. And the people who owned the camps they just sold them to them boys who wanted to buy them for almost nothing just to get them out of there. So they took them down and made apartments out of them. And we lived in one for quite a while. MB: And he made the roads in the woods. EB: Yeah, the Forest Service go in… when you bid on a timber sale that included the building and the road and the gravel in the road, you had to pay for that. But when you got through with the logging job that you were on the Forest Service come in and inspects it and if you did according to the way they bid on it then they would reimburse you for building of the road and they used that for Forest Service roads to get to fires and stuff. What they would do is build a road and they would log as far as they could reach which is usually 300 or 400 feet each way as far as the yarder would reach. They would log all of that and clear it all out and then they would go on up the mountain and build another road and they had Blanton and Blanton 4 roads everywhere that way they could go in a re-seed their timber and when they got through with it was just as clear as this floor. And the Forest Service went in and re-seeded it, it was like planting corn, had it in rows. They would fertilize it and in another 20 years they could get another log, not a big log like them virgin logs was but they would get big enough to log. MB: They would pay people to gather the pine cones that’s how they get their seeds. EB: Yeah you could make some money if you was a kid in school picking up pine cones they would pay you so much for a pound. MB: A bag. EB: A bag. I mean there was boogoos of them, just pick ‘em up. I’m sure when they hear this tape they hear this here correct English I’m speaking like boogoos. [laugh] MB: She has to make a paper out of it. EB: I’m sure you’ll want to share that with everybody. BR: Part of this might go on a website were doing a website that is going to present the research on the logging here. Ideally these tapes will be put on the website so the genealogical society or anyone who’s interested could come back and look at the website and read about logging and hear y’alls stories. EB: Now the cutters, people who fell the timber now I had an uncle that did that there’s usually two of them that fell timber and that’s all they done just fall it. And they paid them… a lot of them could made $100 a day just falling timber. I know of school teachers quit teaching school and went falling timber because they made just so much money back in that time. It was hard to get anyone to work in the plant because they could make so much money working in the timber if you could stand it. And the fallers they’d contract fallen the timber so much a thousand. Then the buckers would come behind them and the buckers they just cut it in length, they did the same thing, they paid them by the thousand. BR: Whenever you were up there was it really noticeable there were a lot of people from Western North Carolina up there with you? EB: There were very few people in that town that wasn’t from North Carolina at some time or another. MB: And Sedro-Woolley and Lyman. EB: the whole north Western Washington was made of Carolina there was a lot of Swedes there and there was a lot of Norwegians. Some from Tennessee and Some from Georgia. Most from right in this area right in here. BR: Could you definitely see the Appalachian culture up there? EB: Oh, could you ever. BR: Can you tell me more about that? EB: We had a preacher there where we went to church his name was Breedlove and he was from right up here in Glenville and every Sunday morning when we would sing the opening hymn he would say now let’s sing this hymn so you can hear it wailing through the Appalachian Mountains. Blanton and Blanton 5 MB: And our doctor was from here too. EB: Our doctor was from Charlotte one doctor is all we had it didn’t matter if you had a tooth ache or an ingrown toe nail he would give you a shot of penicillin and put you on buttermilk and light bread. And you done well. Charge you about $2. BR: Was there a big musical influence from the mountains up there? EB: Oh yeah bluegrass, in fact they got the blue grass capital of… they have a big bluegrass festival in the town of Darrington. They built a big thing up there and people go from everywhere there from all over the world thousands gather up there. BR: Have you ever been to one? EB: She has. See they built that after we left and she went back out there to see her parents and went. But I’ve been to the grounds down there. A lot of groups, Mountain Faith was there a couple of times, this group from over there in Asheville. BR: I think Rhonda Vincent is going to be there this year. EB: Yeah and when she’s there you can figure its big time talking about $30-40,000 to get her there if you can get her for that. BR: Mrs. Blanton, so how are you connected to Washington? MB: When I was 9 months old my dad and mother of course went out there in a model A Ford car we were packed like sardines and a couple of men went with us to help with expenses. Anyway that’s where I was raised and daddy went immediately into the woods he worked I think he was what you were, a choker. And almost every year someone is critically injured or killed and I was like 5 or 6 years old and Daddy had his summer and a log knocked him off a cliff and a he crushed his back and was broken up all over, his leg and his arm and I can’t remember what all was broken. But they brought him out of the woods in the back of a pickup truck, that’s all they had of course. and we were at our cousins house because it was summer time and I was fixing to go to school, my brother was in first or second grade and then I had another brother who was two years younger and Mom and the three of us knelt on the running board of that truck and prayed for him and then they took him on to town to the doctor. They didn’t even pull his clothes off for like three days because they thought he would die but he didn’t so they cut his clothes off and put him in a body cast and he stayed in a that for months and months, but got better and he went back to the woods and that’s when he whistle punked couldn’t do the hard work and so he whistle punked. And gave signals and stuff. Then he went out of the woods and into the, did he go to the plywood first and then the door. He went to the plywood mill, it was pretty hard on him I guess and then he moved out of Darrington and to a town on the coast somewhere, a town called [Okium] and they lived there for several years and he worked in a door factory. Which was a miracle he was even alive and up walking, but he raised us kids and did well. We were poor but we didn’t know it [laugh] and we never went hungry had good clean clothes. Then we got married when we were both 19. It’s been a long time ago. But anyway, when the children were just babies his parents had never seen them, his dad was just convinced there was something wrong with the baby because we never sent a picture of him. EB: We didn’t have a camera. Blanton and Blanton 6 MB: So that summer a friend of ours was coming back here on a train so I packed up the children and brought them back here so that his parents could meet them and see them and see that there wasn’t nothing wrong with them. Then we went back home and that winter when he was not working it was snowy and everything and so he came back here for Christmas and while he was here he put his application in over at the rubber factory and then he called me and said I’ve got and job and said if you want to come you pack up the kids and bring them back. And that’s what we did we’ve been here ever since. BR: So, both of y’all are from this area, but you met across the country? EB: Well she left here when she was what 9 months old? MB: Now when anybody asks me where I’m from I just say them I’m from out there because that’s where I was raised. BR: That’s just so interesting. So Darrington is home for you? MB: And guess what, we get to go this summer. Going for a class reunion guess which one? BR: Which one? MB: 59. EB: I’ve got socks older than both you. MB: I started to say put your ages both together and we’ve been married more than you’ve been alive, [laugh] I’m trying to say. EB: We never had much money but we’ve been a lot of places. We’ve made I don’t know how many trips we’ve made. Across the United States visiting. We’re going to make one more lord willing. We’re going to drive. MB: Now I’ve flown several times when my parents were dying. EB: Yeah she would fly out several times. MB: I lost my brother in May but I didn’t go because I had broken my leg and they didn’t have an actual funeral they just had one of those celebrations of life. EB: He was cremated. MB: So I have one brother left so I’m going to go see him and he’s going to put me up for a few days. BR: So, when y’all go back to Washington what kind of similarities do you still see left out there from here? MB: It’s been 15 years since I was out there. EB: Well, it’s totally different I had a bunch of kin folks and they’re all gone. I have one cousin that still lives there and they’re all dead. So I don’t have a whole lot. She has a few cousins. MB: I have a lot of cousins and I’m looking forward to seeing the kids from school. Blanton and Blanton 7 EB: I’ve got several that lives in Skagit County around Sedro-Woolley I have a cousin that lives over there. But they’re about a fourth generation, some of them I don’t even know. MB: And I had never been to Sedro-Woolley until I met him. EB: She ain’t done a lot of things until she met me, I blessed her heart. MF: So y’all met out there, what’s the story? MB: Ohhh, what’s the story? EB: Want me to tell it? MB: No, I don’t. EB: oh, come on. MB: So I went to the Assembly of God Church which was a Pentecostal church and his cousin went there too and we were having a little contest on young people’s night to see who could bring the most people so I mean I think it was the day he got there she brought him. And I was leading the singing and he said “I’m going to marry that girl up there” to his cousin and I don’t know if we went out that same day, same night or what. EB: No, we didn’t. MB: But anyway, we dated probably a year. Well all in all it was. EB: We went to California and got married. You know back when we were growing up here people could either go to Clayton, Georgia or Walhalla, South Carolina to get married. There was very few church weddings when I was a kid. You had to go to either Clayton or well we decided we were going to Coeur D’Alene, Idaho that was the plan. MB: Oh we planned that wedding first. I mean we had the cake was made and in the freezer ready to be frosted. Had my dress, had bridesmaid dressed, had the invitations written out and I was having the shower that night I decided I didn’t want to get married. So I run off and guess where I came? Here. Mother and I, my aunt and uncle came back here. While his parents went out there for the wedding. EB: Well now you see why I don’t have any hair. MB: And when I came back a month later, then we went to California and got married. EB: We went down to, I have an uncle that lived in Eureka, California we went to Coeur D’Alene, Idaho was where we were going, come to find out I had to have a blood test. Well we decided to go on down to California which took 3 or 4 more hours more and went on down there and met my uncle we met them coming to church, we just happened to see them. They said just go on home, I know you’re wore out just go on to bed and we’ll be back from church in a little while and I said, no no no we’re not even married. MB: We’re not married yet. Blanton and Blanton 8 EB: So, we went on to where they lived and they came back and you know what I had to do, I didn’t have my birth certificate with me so I had to call my dad back here and he had to go to the courthouse get my birth certificate. MB: A notary He had to get a notary. EB: He had to get a notary and then mail that to me, and that took a week. MB: By then we had been to Church and we met everybody and we had an outdoor wedding. EB: So, I went ahead and got a job and went to work down there and we got married once the birth certificate got there at their house. BR: That is so interesting. MB: Actually, the girl had to be 18 and the boy had to be 21 and since we were both 19, that’s why he had to have the birth certificate. It was a notary too. EB: They said I looked like a baby. MB: You should have seen that conglomeration in that house. I was sleeping with one of the girls, he was sleeping with his uncle and the aunt had to sleep with the other cousins. He didn’t like that at all. EB: He said I kicked and carried on all night. MB: He wanted us to hurry up and get married so he could have his wife back. EB: So I hope that never happens to y’all when you try to get married. Let that be a warning. Do it right. MB: We could write a story and sell it couldn’t we. EB: Yeah we could. But we’ve done good and we owned all these houses you see around here and now we’re in a mobile home. MB: We own that one down there and build this one down here. EB: But now when I retired from Dayco, why do I need a big house, that’s the best move we ever made was right here. MB: That’s our kids down there and we told our son now you take the house and we’ll take the trailer because that’s what they were going to do. BR: So is Dayco where the new Walmart is in Waynesville? I think I remember the shut down of the plant when I was younger. EB: Yeah, I retired in ’94 before they shut it down. I retired before it shut down. END OF INTERVIEW
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