Life in a lumber camp
Note: Many Quebeckers worked in forest industries at the beginning of the 20th century. Did their work day in any way resemble the work day of today’s workers? What were the similarities and differences?
“But we shouldn’t feel too sorry for the fate of our fathers during this period because they didn’t find anything extraordinary about their daily lives. From their childhood, they had been used to working and toiling for what was little more than starvation pay. Their way of life provided their employers with big profits, but often there was also much bitterness and greed.
A century ago, the average working day was no less than 11 hours ; work started early in the morning and finished late at night. Everyone got up to be ready for breakfast for six on the dot, and as soon as the last bite had been swallowed, each man lit his pipe and headed to the woods in semi-darkness. Sometimes, men had to leave at six o’clock and travel three or four hours to get to a work site in order to be ready to start working at daybreak…
Carriage drivers had even longer days. Indeed, at four o’clock in the morning, they had to tend to their horses, feeding and currying them. They had a very tight schedule that required them to travel back and forth to the pier three or four times each day. Any little problem could make them an hour late. Even if something happened, the horses still had to be given food, shoed and rubbed down. This meant that sometimes the drivers never got to eat until eight o’clock at night. The earned more money, but they earned it! »
Source of extract: Free translation of Thomas Boucher, Mauricie d’autrefois, Le Bien Public, Trois-Rivières, 1952, 77-78. Cité dans Lacoursière, Provencher, Vaugeois, Canada-Quebec : Synthèse historique, Éditions du renouveau pédagogique, Montréal, 1976, p.448.