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An Auditory/Olfactory ExperienceÖOr The Sounds and Smells of Bly in 1930/1950

Story ID:8756
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:In Memory
Location:Dillon MontanA USA
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More memories from my past...

An Auditory/Olfactory ExperienceÖOr The Sounds and Smells of Bly in 1930/1950
By Chuck Dishno
March 2013

I am sitting here with nothing much to do and I got to thinking about the unique smells and sounds of Bly, Oregon, my hometown, in the 1930ís, 40ís and 50ís. Here are some of the ones that jog my memory cells.

The first smell I can remember as you approach Bly from the West is passing Dixonís ranch. Mr. Dixon raised dairy cattle and if the wind was coming across his barn and feeding pens it would fill your nostrils with a pungent order that was unmistakable.

As you proceeded around the curve, the first thing that came into sight were the lumber piles on the right side of the road. These were the large piles of rough lumber that had just come out of the sawmill and were air-drying. If the breeze was coming off the hill behind them you could tell what type of lumber it was.

The next thing you saw was the millpond with its collection of fresh logs floating toward the gaping mouth of the sawmill. If you stood there a little while you could see a log truck drive up, unhook the chains binding his huge load and watch and listen to the winch dumping the entire load at once in the pond. This was always a thrilling sight, to see those huge logs sending waves across the pond and the guys with their long spiked poles who were walking the logs and herding them along. Some of the sounds were the choice words that would come from these men. The smell of the wet logs mingled with the musky smell of the pond water was a smell of itís own. As you got a little closer to the mill there was the rattle of the chains that were used to pull the log up the chute into the mill. Coming out of the saw mill was the sound of the large band saw combined with the smell of the fresh cut lumber falling off and making itís way through the mill. The other sound was the steam carriage zipping back forth with the carriage riders setting the ratchet according to the toots of the sawyers whistle. Some logs such as white fir had a very unique smell and was aptly named Ė piss fir. There may have been other reasons for this name but I canít think of any. Further along, the fresh cut lumber proceeded down the green chain to be graded and pulled off into piles. These men who pulled the green chain were usually very large and strong men with a colorful language of their own. When the piles of green lumber was ready the sound of a lumber carrier could be heard as it picked up the pile and took it to the drying yard to be restacked or to the dry kiln to speed up the drying process. The dry kiln had a smell of itís own that I canít describe. After the lumber was dry it went to the planning mill to be made into smooth usable boards. The sound of the planning mill is also hard to describe Ė it was a high-pitched whine that could be heard all over town. The other mill sound was the steam whistle, which signaled the end of the shifts and of course the noon whistle. Every one could set their watch by this whistle that was usually accurate plus or minus five minutes.

Once past the sawmill, there would be a slight break in smells but you would soon come to a group of houses where some of the mill and loggers lived. Most of these people had moved to Bly during the depression looking for work. They were great people mostly from the southern part of the U.S. with their quaint way of talking. One of the smells that was always radiating from their kitchens was the smell of good old-fashioned southern cooking including fried chicken and turnip greens.

A little further down the road, on the left, were the stock corrals. These corrals were used several times a year when the ranchers brought their cattle in to be shipped out by rail. Most of the times they were empty but when the cattle were ready to be shipped the corrals would be loaded with bawling steers who were a bit loose at one end. Just another smell with which to contend.

The next group of buildings on the right was the Bly Ranger Station and Forrest Service. There was always lots of activity there, especially in the summer months when the temporary summer fire fighters were on hand. Both sounds and smell of hard work and sweat. Occasionally one of the workers would catch a porcupine, bobcat or great horned owl. They would cage them and soon the Bly kids would be there to see the display.

Just past the Bly Ranger Station, on the left, is the Christian Missionary Alliance Church. Much joyful sound can be heard as you pass by on a Sunday morning and sometimes during a weekday service.

Next to the church is the Bly Post Office. Normally there isnít too much sound coming from that small building, but if you listen carefully as you pass by about 10am each day you can hear the chatter of the ladies of Bly as they swap the local gossip. They never miss a beat while keeping an eye on their respective mailboxes for mail. The chatter suddenly stops when the postmaster signals that all the mail has been delivered.

The next building down the line is the Arch Memorial Theater. Normally the theater is quiet during the day but Tuesday through Sunday, the doors open at 6:30pm for the eveningís movies, usually a double header with at least one of them being a western. On a warm spring or summer evening, the smell of fresh popcorn and the sound of horses galloping across the screen were always welcome smells and sounds.

After you passed the theater, you entered the start of the business district, such as it was, the first building on the right was the Loggers Club. This is one of the 4 beer joints in Bly and they were all typical. Hard liquor wasnít allowed to be served in bars. There was a state run liquor store in the center of town. The other beer joints were Jackís Place, Bly Hotel & Pool Hall, and the Pastime Tavern. They were all about the same and gave those hard working mill workers and loggers a place to un-wind after a long days work. All these beer joints were about the same with the exception of the Bly Hotel, which had a pool hall in the back. Us kids werenít allowed in the back because of the beer hall but the owner usually turned his head until the logger came in. I guess he didnít want the loggers to learn any new words. The sound of clinking beer bottles and clacking pool balls could easily be heard from the street.

Next to the Loggerís Club was the tower. This huge tower supplied the water to all of Bly. Not much sound here except in the winter when huge chunks of ice formed on it from its constant leaking. When the weather warmed up a bit they could be heard crashing to the ground. Not a good place to be standing near. Another sound that was associated with the water tower was the sound of leaking water pipes as they were very old and prone to squirting up through the ground.

Bly had only one paved road and that was highway 66 that went thru between Klamath Falls and Lakeview. All the side streets were dirt (and mud in the winter).

Down one side street behind the Bly Hotel, was a bowling alley. It was a two-lane alley but a very popular place for those loggers to work off their pent up energy. The crash of bowling balls and falling pins could be heard until late in the evening.

On the other side of the highway was a street that went past the Bly School, grades 1 thru 12. (Bly school never had a Kindergarten, because no one could spell Kindergarten including the teachers) With the usual sounds and smells that are associated with school kids. Beyond the school was the C.C.C camp that operated until the start of WWII. Coming from that camp could be heard the morning and evening bugle calls that got the boys up, call to mess and finally taps that put them to bed.

Proceeding west on the highway was a roller skating rink that operated until shortly after the war started. It had the usual smell of oiled floors, skate wheels and skating rink music.

In the 1930ís and í40ís there was a railroad complete with depot at the end of the line in Bly. Mostly the railroad was used for hauling logs back to Klamath Falls. Every day you could hear the train coming, blowing two long and a short for the grade crossings. Then it could be heard huffing and chuffing into town. It had a unique smell of itís own as it was a coal burner and the sound of a huge monster crackling and popping as the train crew parked it and went to the Pastime for dinner. It soon started up again and a whole host of sounds came from the train as the crew threw switches and responded to the engineers toots directing them on what to do next. The engine was soon turned around and hooked up to the loaded log cars then pulled out of Bly heading back to Klamath Falls blowing their farewell as they came to the grade crossings once again.

Across the tracks, heading east you came Fish Hole creek that crossed the valley. There were three bridges, aptly named ďFirst Bridge, Second Bridge and Third Bridge. One of the last sounds upon leaving Bly was the sound of small boys trying out their first fishing experiences, that of catching the many chubs that congregated under First Bridge.

Beyond that the main sound was the beautiful sound of Oregonís State Bird, the Meadowlark and the smell of cattle in Basil Hallís fields.

The final sound I leave you with are the sounds of the Canadian Honkers signaling the coming fall and making my trigger finger itch.