The Killians, Jane, Buck, John Amy Max, Kim, Shane, Bootsie, Mike and Briand have been named Grand Marshals for the 2012 Loggers Jamboree, in recognition of their long-time support and involvement with the Jamboree as well as logging and its collateral professions.
Photo courtesy of Roger Robinette
Jane’s husband Paul, a long time logger, passed away in 1982. Jane and Paul came to live in and love the area before the Jamboree even began. Paul, Jane, and son buck were native North Carolinians. Paul came west on a freight train in the late 1930’s, initially to work in the grape vineyards of the San Joaquin Valley. He began logging, working for the Yosemite Sugar Pine Lumber Company in the Big Oak Flat area near Groveland, making about $20 a week. Through the years Paul worked for numerous logging companies, ending his career driving his own logging truck.
When he returned in May of 1940, Jane Whitener followed him in July and they were married in Reno so that he could go right back to logging. For a while they lived in what had been the cook shed at Hardin Flat, which was built for the workers of the Hetch Hetchy Dam. There Jane had a two burner gas stove, a tin oven, and no refrigeration except for two apple boxes which were covered in burlap, hanging in a tree. That was literally the ice box. There was an outdoor toilet and while Jane took a tub bath, Paul would wash in the creek which was very, very cold. Jane soon became friends with Avis Punkin whose folks lived nearby. Many old time loggers from North Fork worked in the same area.
In the beginning, Jane knew little about shopping for food. The farm she had been raised on had almost everything that was needed. There was a grain mill 5 miles down the road and they made molasses 5 miles up the road. They also grew all their own vegetables. Margaret Chartier, a logger’s wife would take Jane to the store and help her figure out what to buy. A beef truck came by a couple times a week.
During the war they returned to North Carolina where son Buck was born in 1941. Paul worked at the shipyards in Savannah, Georgia. But the summers were too humid, and the winters too cold and the trees too small, so they came back to California. Meanwhile Associated Lumber and Box Company opened the North Fork mill on April 1, 1943. In 1944, Jane, Paul and Buck returned to North Fork.
In the summer of 1944 Jane, Paul and Buck lived at the logging camp at Clearwater. There the tent had a cast iron wood stove, and the door to the stove had to be propped shut. “Paul got his biscuits every morning,” Jane remembers. That fall they moved to South Fork and son Max was born in Madera.
Once when Jane and Cousin Dorothy “Dot” Whitener were taking baby Max to the doctor in Madera, their car just stopped running by the eucalyptus trees that used to be along Highway 145. Max was in a laundry basket, and Jane and Dot each took a handle and walked him in the basket to the doc.
For a short while the family moved to Redding, following Paul’s logging. The year was 1946 and daughter Bootsie was born in Redding. Jane can remember the trip to Redding which was during the period when tires were still rationed after the war. A tire “blew” but Paul was able to punch holes in the tire and take boot laces and lace the tire together to get them the remaining part of the 300 plus miles of the journey. The family returned to North Fork in 1947, remaining here until 1988.
All three kids went to North Fork School and on to Sierra High School. Jane was a room mother continually from when Buck started school through when Bootsie left grammar school.
The Killians lived near South Fork where they and the kids from the Mill Compound played and swam at the Rec swimming hole. Jane and cousin Dot would rake and clean up the swimming area for the summer. The kids can remember Dad and the Whitener cousins going to the Rec Center on Sundays to clean out the swimming hole and build a baseball diamond using a dozer and grader. The main goal was to keep the area safe and clear for the kids.
At one point there was a Go-Kart track at the Rec Center, and the concrete slab with the picnic benches was an area where kids could skate. The cost of insurance saw those two kid-friendly events fall by the wayside.
The kids remember it being a fun area to grow up in. “As kids, we had fun at the lumber mill, watching the logs go up the chute from the pond. As they got older, Buck worked at the Movie Theater and Max and Bootsie worked at Wenham’s Drug Store.
Jane cleaned houses, including the diminutive Judge Marcia Putney who served as judge in North Fork for 20 years. Son Buck did her yard work. Jane remembers taking the children to her for school clothes one year. Jane also remembers the Judge trying to hula hoop.
Jane also worked 14 years for Dr. Cohlan. She had always wanted to be a nurse but had no training. “We will teach you,” said the doctor’s wife.
The Loggers Jamboree started in 1959. Jane remembers the big Jamboree parades where the Shriners would come with their little cars. Competition was down where the horseshoes are now thrown.
Jane remembers dances at what is now Town Hall. Jane with her cousins and friends would work the kitchen. One dance would raise money for the March of Dimes. At another dance, 1934 World Campion Box Max Baer was there, to encourage more folks to attend. And there were wonderful dances at the old Falls Resort at Bass Lake.
North Fork in those days was a thriving place to live. Even though the make-up of North Fork has changed, it is still a place where people go out of their way to help each other.
After leaving North Fork, for a while Jane wintered in Nyland and summered in Madera and Auberry. But she returned to North Fork in 2009. She turned 90 March 15th of this year, with a surprise birthday party at the Scout Building. Jane was amazed at how many friends and family attended her special day.
Buck is married to Michele, and is retired after many years working for the Forest Service and other private construction jobs; his son John works installing well pumps and daughter Amy is a school teacher in Lemoore. Son Max is with his long-time friend, Rosalie, and is a retired logger; his son Shane is a contractor and daughter Kim is a stay-at-home mom. Daughter Bootsie is married to Bruce Ervin, and was a school bus driver in Coarsegold for 25 years; son Mike is a logger who donates the belt buckle every year which is given to the winner of the Jason Taylor Memorial Axe Throw, and son Brian is a mechanic. There are 6 grandchildren and 8 great-grandchildren with another on the way.
Max has stayed involved with the Jamboree doing clean-up and also does the watering to keep the dust level low. Shane or Max always brings a backhoe to help. Bootsie and her husband Bruce also help with the Rec cleanup. One year all the grandsons were involved in the Jamboree competition. In 1992 Amy, Buck’s daughter, was Jamboree Queen. Several of the great-grandchildren have participated in the Jamboree parade. Tanner, Bootsie’s grandson, has won plaques in the last two parades.
Since the first Jamboree in 1959, Jane has been at most of the competitions and as thoroughly enjoyed every one of them.