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Friday, 18 May 2012

Paul Hosmer - humorist of the lumber camps

[Paul Who? He isn’t an Adventure author. I ran across him in Short Stories, in the Story Teller’s Circle, where he was talking about his early life.  He was a humorous writer, and I felt like learning more about him. He’s an interesting guy, and it’s neat to see pulp authors coming from all sorts of backgrounds. Inside this article, you’ll also find a link to a short piece by him on how Hollywood forest fires are different from the real thing.]



Paul Hosmer
Paul Hosmer
(Image courtesy of the Oregon State Library)

Paul Hosmer was a writer, humorist, editor, lumberjack, boxer, musician, photographer and amateur naturalist. He wrote about the people he knew best, the lumberjacks in the logging camps:

Mr. Sven McSvenson—deeply engrossed in an imposing book of the heavier and more intellectual type of literature, sometimes referred to as “the Lumberjack’s Bible.” It was written by Montgomery Ward, a famous eastern author. (probably referring to the mail order catalog of Montgomery Ward)

Mr. J. Whoopit Upp — draped gracefully over the bunkhouse billiard table (pool has gone. out as too crude). Mr. Upp is a bachelor of means, the catch of the season. All three dining room girls have been waiting patiently for weeks for him to say when, but Mr. Upp values his liberty highly and never leaves the bunkhouse after dark.

Mr. Michael P. Finnegan - Retired capitalist and railroad builder, now holding the distinguished title of bullcook. He retired from railroading 5 years ago when a 5 gallon keg fell off a handcar and broke his leg. Mr. Finnegan is listening intently to a broadcast of the Boston Symphony He likes the deep tones. He used to prefer opera but not since TV. When a lady singer came on the screens Mr. Finnegan had to get up and find his pants.

Mr. Peter Van R. P. Pitt—son of the man who invented the falling wedge (which keeps loggers from holding the weight of the tree off the saw by putting their fingers in the saw kerf). By shrewd management the Old Man acquired timber and piled up a vast estate ($47 and an old saddle) which this young man soon dissipated. However he is now reformed and holds a responsible position with the company as accountant and mathematician. His business is to go out in the woods each day with a log rule, measuring carefully all the logs cut by fallers and adding them up so they average 100 feet per day less than the fallers claim they should.

He was born in St. Paul, Minneapolis in 1887. He moved to Bend, Oregon sometime in 1915. Here’s his account of the period before he went to Oregon:

I was born in St. Paul in 1887 and attended Central High School, where my own aunt flunked me three straight years in algebra. Decided that if I couldn’t even get by one of the family I might as well do something else, so I took up boxing, football, basketball and baseball instead. Mike Gibbons, Morrie Selfe, Young Miller, George Barton and I, altogether with a number of others who afterwards became famous later, all worked out in the same gym together every afternoon and some of the brawls in that place are still written in history. I did passably well till I found myself in the same ring with the famous Joe Gans one night. This proved to be a tactical error on the part of my manager as the management refused to bank the turns for me and I was practically ruined. Joe caught up to me.

Tramped around the country as a newspaper reporter daytimes and a fighter nights for several years. Put in a year on the Houston Post and left there to make a dash into Mexico as a war correspondent. Francisco Madero was staging a little outburst at the time and practically the first thing he outbursted against was me. I spent three days in a very unsatisfactory jail, nursing a broken head, but at the end of that time I got mad and pushed out the end of the jail. Made a successful getaway into the States.

The Pinkertons inveigled me into joining their forces for a year but, while I got a lot of excitement out of it, I failed to make enough to keep the home fires burning so I went back to the papers.


In 1912, he joined the Shevlin-Dixon company as a stenographer, “in the era when lumber outfits preferred stenographers who wore trousers and shaved at least once a day”, and came with them to Bend, Oregon, when that firm started logging on the Deschutes river.  He entered World War I with the 20th Engineers in 1917 and became a sergeant.

I tried the lumber game a couple of years, and enlisted in the engineers in 1917. Spent a year and a half in France, but managed to sidestep all the high explosives and the government passed me up completely when it came time to give out the medals.

Paul Hosmer
Paul Hosmer

In 1919, he got out of the army, and joined the Brooks-Scanlon company in 1920 as the editor of the company magazine, Pine Echoes. His stories of lumberjacks were collected in a book, “Now we’re logging”, in 1930. He contributed articles and stories to magazines like Short Stories, Top-Notch, St. Nicholas magazine, the Saturday Evening Post and others. Here’s a sample of his writing – a review of a movie about a fire in a lumberjack camp.

He was a musician, running a local orchestra where he played the banjo.
Paul Hosmer orchestra - newspaper ad
Paul Hosmer orchestra - newspaper ad

He was a photographer, as was his son. He took pictures of the logging camps, the lumberjacks who worked there, the equipment as well as photos of the places he went camping, fishing, canoeing and skiing. I've put up some of his pictures below:
Tree felling with rubber man
Tree felling with rubber man
(Photo: Paul Hosmer)

Horses pulling logs on high wheels
Horses pulling logs on high wheels
(Photo: Paul Hosmer)

High wheel graveyard
High wheel graveyard
(Photo: Paul Hosmer)


He was a character, using sails on his cycle during World War 2 as a way of bypassing the fuel shortage.

The most famous picture he was ever in was probably this one from Life Magazine, July 4, 1955, showing him in a canoe. It was taken by his son at Devil's Lake, Oregon, where the water is so still and transparent that the canoe appears to float above the water.


Paul Hosmer in floating canoe on Devil's Lake, Oregon
Paul Hosmer in floating canoe on Devil's Lake, Oregon
(Photo from Life Magazine, July 4, 1955)


He retired from Brooks-Scanlon on March 1, 1961 and passed away the next year, on January 19, 1962.

[Next post: Coming up in a couple of days, one more article about lumbermen’s camps from Paul Hosmer.]

Sources:


Article title
Author
Journal/Book
Date
That grinning lumber-jack, The Story Teller’s Circle
Paul Hosmer
Short Stories

1930
Now we’re loggin’
Paul Hosmer


1930


LIFE

July 4 1955


The (Bend) Bulletin

June 9, 1919
Bend writer objects to ‘Hollywood loggers’

Eugene Register-Guard

August 19, 1954


The Bulletin

September 4, 1981
Bicycling just a “breeze” now

St. Petersburg Times

April 12, 1942

4 comments:

  1. I love the floating canoe picture. I'm not sure if I've come across any of Hosmer's stories in the pulps, but he certainly did lead an interesting life. Keep up the good work - I'm very much enjoying your blog. These posts on forgotten authors are invaluable.

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  2. Grand photo, isn't it? I've already posted one article of his, and another should be out this week. Let me see if the pulp story he wrote was copyright renewed or not. Then i can post it.

    It's amazing the variety of experiences pulp authors had. I'm just thrilled to be doing this.

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  3. Picked up a copy of "Now We're Loggin'" at a barn sale yesterday for $5. I had never heard of Paul Hosmer, and was delighted to find this site! Thanks for the background!

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    Replies
    1. You're welcome. Do share your review of Now We're Logging. I found it to be a fun read.

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