Bunkhouse Men

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With various construction projects of the Royal Canadian Navy, men were now scattered among hundreds of work camps, hydro or navigation camps, railway camps, logging camps and mining camps.  In 1907, pay varied from $1.20 to $2.50 per day depending on the risks and level of danger. The highest paying jobs, like felling the tops of trees, paid the most.

Bunkhouse men had to contend with poor ventilation. Men sleeping just under the ceilings enjoying the heat that would rise, but feeling the cold of the open vents cut out of the center of cabins. Men with hammocks nearest to the floor felt the cold faster. In the center of the cabin, the wood burning barrel ticked throughout the night. With entertainment being scarce, many men brought musical instruments which they hung on the walls of the crowded cabins. Some cabins slept 4 or 5 tiers of men from floor to ceiling, perhaps 4 rows of these hammocks, 16 to 20 men per cabin.

With projects lasting multiple years, families would come for a visit and enjoy using dedicated family cabins for a week or so at a time.

On some occasions, men would have died from some accident, the families never notified until they showed up for a visit. Foremen were not beneath keeping the wages of dead men from their payroll rosters for months before being forced to prove their headcounts.

In 1907, pay throughout the Quebec Province was .18 a day for a general female farm helper, $1.30 a day for a male farm helper.

Men lucky enough to have some general engineering background would be hired in dozens of railroad positions from yard men to brakemen, cargo loaders to engineers that controlled the train. Pay for the rail yard laborers who worked the tracks (those absent from their families and working on a train route as much as 11 days away at a time) was $30.00 a week. Pilots, the one man who controlled the train, made $110.00 to $300.00 a week.

Joyce

Joyce Derenas is a historical fiction author who writes stories based on the real lives of her French-Canadian ancestors of the Beauce Valley in Quebec.