The camps and the Depression
The logging camps were “a necessity when the operation was distant from the mill,” Tovar wrote in “Conasauga”:
“(Camps) were set up at strategic locations and moved as the work progressed. Certain facilities remained in key places. Buildings were constructed in units, sometimes three to a house, and could be lifted through the roof, loaded on flat cars and moved to prepare foundations without removing the furnishings.
“Often men stayed at camp throughout the week and returned home on weekends. Those working the train on the main line went to the woods every day and came back with the logs for the mill each evening.”
Gardner, who contributed to “In Touch with the Past” with a chapter on the Cohuttas, wrote that “large logging camps housed all the men necessary to work such (a logging) operation. At any given time three to four logging camps operated simultaneously, each housing 80 to 100 men. Some locations were Panter Bluff, at Beech Bottom by the (Jacks River) falls and at Bear Creek Branch.”
Boatwright remembered the logging camps in “In Touch with the Past”:
“They had boarding houses called ‘lobbys’ owned by the lumber companies, (which) charged you for your bed and board out of your paycheck. I made $3.50 a day crosscut sawing. It was good money in them days. The camps were mostly men. We slept in bunk houses. The commissary had good food and plenty of it, things like beans and meat. There’d be 40 or 50 men at a meal.
“There was a few families in camp and the women did the cooking. Men stayed at the camp for months. They didn’t usually go out on the weekends. Many of them lived in North Carolina. Women came in on the Shays sometimes for a visit and a picnic.”
In his book, Painter tells of a startling feat of meal-cooking at the camps, revealed by his mother-in-law.
“I’ve heard her (his wife’s) mother say that at times she helped make 1,400 biscuits for breakfast to help feed the men. People don’t know what work really is today. There was plenty of hard work but very little pay.”
He also noted a doctor visited the camps on a rail motorcar to tend to the men and their families, and at night “the musicians around the camp tuned up their instruments and played string music to everyone’s entertainment.”