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Hungry Jacks: 1937

Hungry Jacks: 1937

September 1937. "Lumberjacks at dinner. Camp near Effie, Minnesota." Nitrate negative by Russell Lee for the Resettlement Administration. View full size.


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Samoa Cookhouse

If any of y'all ever visit the northern California coast, there's a lumber camp cookhouse kept open for tourists. It's located in Samoa, near Eureka. All-you-can-eat rib-sticking food.

It's been ten years since I visited, but I do remember enjoying it.

Mr. Manners

Not a single hat is being worn at the table - and there are no elbows resting on the table as well. Heck, I don't even see anyone talking with their mouth full!

Still, they probably all curse like, uh, lumberjacks.

Not your mother's best china!

Long tables and benches and all those porcelain covered steel dishes, bowls and cups (most of them chipped) reminds me of summer camp 30 years ago!


No chitchat here. Eating is all business for these guys, and the food better be good, especially after a full, hard day at the mill or in the forest. Now drinking -- maybe that's another story!

Good 'n Plenty

The food had to be good, filling, and plenty of it, though there were some camps where the food was terrible. A logger needed double the number of calories of a regular worker to carry them through a day of hard labour in the middle of winter.

There's a great book called... (wait for it!) "The Lumberjacks" about life in the lumber camps which has a chapter on the cookhouse.

Fried pork was such a popular part of the men's diet that in 1857 when the camp bosses decided that the pork should be boiled and not fried (boiling meant that the pork went further so was cheaper) the men put up such a stink that they had to back down.

Coffee didn't appear in the in the camps until Norwegian lumberjacks started demanding it.

The Food They Ate

Here is my all-time favorite forestry article from my years working for the Forest Service (though it isn't one of theirs). It is utterly fascinating, especially one of the statements that a working logger could eat 9000 calories a day.

I wonder ...

... if I can make a grab for them cookies?

The age thing

You kind of expect lumberjacks to be young. Most, if not all, of these seem to be middle age or more


I'm trying to imagine what that dining hall smelled like.

Probably not the Emo Vegetarian camp

I don't see any wildflowers being pressed.

Soap, Scrub, Rinse and Towel Dry

And imagine the mountains of dishes, bowls, glasses, cups and cutlery that had to be washed and dried!

[No need to imagine -- we saw them a few days ago. - Dave]

Dig In

Doesn't look like much dinner-table conversation going on. In that neck of the woods, so to speak, dinner refers to the noon meal, so they might be too hungry and pressed for time to gossip much.

My grandfather was a lumber-camp cook in Upper Michigan back at the turn of the century. He said heaven help you if the men didn't care for your cuisine.


What immediately strikes me about this photo is that there is not a plastic fork, paper plate, disposable napkin, or disposable tin casserole dish in sight! Today at least some of those throwaway items would definitely be a part of the scene.

Not that I'd want to wash all those dishes, but ...

And there's pie too.

What a great picture! Imagine the amount of work it took to feed these guys.

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