Henry McGuey tells Rory MacKay about Shanty Life, 1976

Henry McGuey, Rory MacKay
c. 1900
Ontario, CANADA
© 2007, Friends of Algonquin. All Rights Reserved.


H: They had a caboose [camboose]. You make a fire right in the centre of that. The caboose is there and you make a fire like in the fireplace, one of them fireplace, you know? And there was a pipe that would go up here, you know, and take the smoke out.
R: I see.
H: And the fire was here and everybody gathered around that and dry their clothes, yeah. I seen them, I seen them. Yeah, I saw, but I never was old enough to be working when they were using them.
R: Can you give me a little bit of an impression of what it was like inside? Was it well-lit, or…?
H: Well, as far as that go, there’s surely a lot of light now. And there was surely a lot more light than one without it. Because when that part was on, it throws a lot of light on a dark night.
R: I see.
H: But you still…all they had was coal oil in them days.
R: Was it drafty inside?
H: No. They were prepared for that, you don't want too much draft on this. They wanted the fire to burn slow and not make a great big blaze. They had hardwood, they used hardwood, you know, they smoke that, dry hardwood. To hold the fire and hold the heat, but don't forget they used to cook in that too. They'd make homemade beans in that, in the sand. They put the bake kettle right down in the hot sand and leave it there all night and you have lovely beans in the morning. Oh, yeah that's what the caboose — the caboose [camboose] would make. Made square, good size, made square, and there was a pipe run down here, up to the top of the roof of the camp. And that was there and there was forms built on the side here. You know, I have seen a lot of places where they bend down tin on the side here. Sometimes you'd see when they’re threshing grain on the machine, you see these coats hang over here to draw any dust. And that was hanging over around that big pipe here and then when it sucks mud, it goes right up, and draws that too.
R: I see.
H: And any blaze that comes, it'll be up there. But no sparks in there at all, but a lot of heat all around. Oh, the camp was nice and warm.
R: Now, you mentioned that the men would gather round and dry their clothes. Did they have a rack that they put their clothes on?
H: Yeah, they had a rack of poles.
R: I see.
H: With hooks on them.
R: Well, what kind of stuff would they have to dry?
H: Well, now they'd have to dry, in them days in the lumber camps, they'd wore nothing but Macinaw pants. Heavy Macinaw pants, heavy underwear, everything was heavy, you're out in the cold four o'clock in the morning with your team of horses and you're out there to maybe nine o'clock at night. Long day to make a dollar, you know.

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