Attitude & Altitude

Posted By Frank Milne: Retired Driver, Lease operator and company owner On 2021-09-10 17:09:36

If you read my last article about
learning how to drive, you will relate to how I started. You may think
that some of what you are about to
read is a little far-fetched. I’m here to
tell you that it is all true. I’m always
a little reluctant to use names, but
in this case, I will, as I am proud of
these two people and grateful for
their confidence in me and their help.

In the early Spring of 1958, I lived
in Campbell River on Vancouver
Island. The people I boarded with also
owned an Auto Court. One day a guy
came in with a big gravel truck and
rented a cabin – he was to be there for
about three weeks, so I got to know
him. His name was Martin Lagemaat
(Dutchie), and he drove for J.S. Brock
Trucking Ltd. out of Alberni (now
Port Alberni). I remarked that the
truck was pretty big, and he replied
that it was the biggest gravel truck in
B.C. It was an H.D. Hayes and had a
14 ¼ yard box, and it weighed 34,000
lbs. empty. It could only haul about 4
yards to be legal on the highway, so it
was an off-road truck. Martin said his
boss had only one truck before, but he
had ordered two Hayes trucks – the
other one was to be delivered shortly,
and his boss, Jerry Brock, would
drive it. The truck numbers were #5
and #6, as those were his call-out
seniority positions with MacMillan
& Bloedel. When they needed trucks
to build logging roads, many people
thought he had four trucks – not so.

I was on shiftwork, and some of
my days were free, so I asked Dutchie
if I could go with him, and he said
sure. I was 20, and Dutchie was
about three years older than me. The passenger seat was just a metal
toolbox with an upholstered lid.
The first thing I noticed was the
truck had two gear shift levers,
and there were two plaques
on the dashboard showing the
position of each gear. One had
five gears and reverse, and the
other had four gears. Naturally,
I thought I would know, by watching,
which gear he was in – but forget it,
this guy was slick at shifting both at
the same time. After two days with
him, he knew I was taking a real
interest in the truck, so he asked me
if I wanted to have a go at it. The first
thing he showed me was how to shift
the gears the proper way – one at a
time, not the show-off way!!

There I was behind the steering
wheel of the biggest gravel truck in
B.C. I still remember that first load.
I stopped at the top of a small hill,
turned around, and backed down
about 100 yards. I got to the bottom
and then had to do a 90-degree turn
to cross a one-lane bridge. Actually,
it was a 4-foot steel culvert covered
with gravel and about 15 feet wide
in total. With some instructions from
Dutchie, I made it to the other side and
dumped the load. I drove for about an
hour that day. Then a couple of days
later, another hour. Total driving time
was about 5 hours when the project
ended, and Dutchie returned to Port
Alberni.

A little later that Spring, I had
time off, and I went to Port Alberni
on the pretense of visiting Dutchie,
but in reality, I wanted to drive that
big red truck again. So I had phoned
ahead, and everything was good to go. His boss Jerry had picked up the
second Hayes, and both were working
building logging roads for MacMillan
& Bloedel.

I was introduced to Jerry when he
came to pick us up in the morning.
One of the first things that came
to mind was I thought he was quite
young (about 30) to be owning these
two big trucks. We drove about 15
miles to where the trucks were parked.
However, they were working at two
different locations. Being at the first
location, Jerry got out of the pick-up
and said for me to come with him. I
said I would rather go with Dutchie.
That way, I could drive the big red
truck. He replied that if I had time
in the afternoon, I could go and visit
Dutchie. Well, we got to the truck,
and he asked me if I knew which side
of the hood to lift to check the oil, and
I said, “yes,” as I had seen Dutchie do
it. Well, you’d better do it and check
the water, then you can get in and start
it – which I did. Then he looked up at
me and said, “Don’t move it until the
engine oil temperature needle starts
to move – if you get into any trouble,
I’ll be making coffee for the loader
operator,” and then he walked away.
Still to this day, I can close my eyes
and see that long red hood in front
of me and the radiator cap away out
there.


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Insecure Loads

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