The history of loggers' sports in Canada goes back over a century when loggers would spend evenings and weekends around camp testing their skills against one another throwing axes, sawing and chopping timber. This evolved into organized competitions and through the fifties and sixties several smaller organizations popped up across the country. The Canadian Loggers' Sports Association was formed in 1969 from those smaller organizations. Over the years a comprehensive rule book has been developed and the sport has been and continues to be show cased from the grass roots level to the international stage. Some of our accomplishments include having loggers' sports recognized as the Official Industrial Sport of British Columbia in 1971 by an Order in Council, sending wood chopping teams to Australia, Europe and the United States to compete.
Our primary base is in British Columbia but we have members from across the country, the United States, Europe, Australia and New Zealand.
There are key CANLOG members that have helped shape loggers' sports as we know it today. There are many legends we would like to honour:
For those of you who don’t know or don’t remember the origin of organized Loggers Sports in BC you should be aware of one of the original organizers, Bill Moore, of W.D. Moore Logging in Winter Harbour BC.
Bill was not a competitor but had great interest in all things logging, including the sport. He was proud of the Industry and thought that logger’s sports should become more of a showcase to show the world what was done in a fun way, and show how skilled strong, and talented our loggers were.
As early as 1966 Bill was involved in things such as fundraising and was called in by the PNE of Vancouver to consult on a new showgrounds just for logger’s sports. From the work of Bill, and others, in the Summer of 1971, the government of BC proclaimed logger’s sports as the “Provincial Industrial Sport of B.C.” This was done by Premier W A C Bennett in his Order in Council Number 712. Throughout the following Winter CANLOG committees organized together to create the rules and schedule upcoming shows.
Bill believed that CANLOG could help create a healthy and good image for our loggers like cowboys and sailors have. He felt all company managers should allow time off for competitors to attend the shows and that CEOs of larger firms should be in full support including funding, and attending the shows for support.
During the 1970s and 1980s, Bill along with others promoted logger’s sports to the world, by fundraising and travelling the world with a crew of competitors to Eastern Canada, Norway, Finland and other forest harvesting countries. He felt our competitors were the perfect ambassadors for Canada and the sport. This was proven true by the many accolades the crew received on their travels. In Europe skilled chainsaw competitions, very different from ours, were their “logger’s sport”, and they reveled in our teams unique and much more crowd pleasing style of show. On the Europe tours it was noted by our crew the professionalism of the sportsmen there and this information was brought back to Canada. Bill tried hard to bring the European style competitions to Canada as he felt their focus on safety and professionalism, while not as entertaining, had an educational factor for our public, and our loggers, however, other than a few small tours and the occasional addition to regional shows, it never really took hold. In the 1980s Bill was also instrumental in having the sport showcased at Expo 86 in Vancouver.
There were many people involved in the sport that helped to build its current form, and many pages could be written of them, Bill was one of them and a true supporter of our Industry, our workers, and our sport.
Bill was also a prolific writer and wrote monthly for many years for the BC Lumberman and other publications. Many of his articles were on logging sports. They are all available online at www.wdmoore.ca, there is also many other historical articles and pictures.
Bill passed away in November 2000.
Art Williams has been connected with logging and logger’s sports for most of his working life. Art lived in the Saltair district of Ladysmith on Vancouver Island. After leaving school early he began his career as a journeyman logger. This took him to the rigging crews, boom crews and timber falling. While he was working on the boom crews at Cowichan Lake, he met the Livingstone family (their father, Harvey Livingstone, was a very proficient boom man). Art was very agile on the floating logs - this made him a natural for the log birling events. Art practiced with Harvey and his son and he learned the many tricks needed to stay on top of the log in the water with them. At this time on Vancouver Island, the log birling events were filled with expert log birlers. The Wickheim brothers and the Baikkies to mention a few offered a difficult challenge.
Art got involved in all of the events: chopping, sawing, climbing and birling - a true all-round competitor. It was very common for him to watch a new competitor and offer his best equipment and advice. Art has assisted many competitors with very successful careers in this sport. He wore black pants and a black shirt for his events. The next challenge he pursued in logger’s sports was a tree act. He was able to observe many active acts on the circuit at the time such as those performed by Danny Sailor, Ernie Alexander, Kelly Stanley, Malcolm Harper and Hap Johnson. He soon developed his own act and he performed as the “BLACK KNIGHT” for his first couple of years. Then he got the idea to go as “COPPER CANYON SAL " - donning a dress and wig, he climbed the tree and lost his undergarments along the way. The crowds roared when he needed to perform a handstand at the top of the tree to keep his panties up.
He traveled around the world with his tree act. In Tasmania Australia, while at a wood chopping series, he performed on a very slim pole on New Year’s Day. When he stood on his head, over he went, trapping himself on one of the guy lines. He was very lucky another climber was present who assisted him out of this very embarrassing predicament - he blamed his misfortune on the after-effects of the night before. At the Pacific National Exhibition. in Vancouver,B.C., his wig got caught in his down pulley and had to be rescued by the Fire Dept. When he met the love of his life and decided to get married, where did they hold the ceremony? You guessed it, on top of a Spar Tree in Vancouver, B.C! This event was recorded on national television for many to see.
Art's vocation was timber falling and was unfortunately injured by a falling object. While recuperating from this incident, he purchased a tree topping company and equipment. This kept him busy for many years. He then purchased the trapping rights to a large tract of land in the Cariboo area. He now makes his home at Likely. B.C., and welcomes his many friends to stay and enjoy the ambience of the beautiful area that he calls home. He has since retired and is busy with his son and daughter trapping, fishing and wine making.
Ernie Alexander was a colorful character who lived on the west coast of British Columbia, and worked in the forest industry for over 50 years. His nickname was "FEET" referring to his exceptionally large feet. He was recognized internationally for his abilities both as a high rigger and a bull rider, a feat not surpassed by any other competitor to this day. In fact, during one week in the summer of 1950, he won the world championship tree climbing in Albany, Oregon and a bull riding championship in central Oregon. Ernie was also a well-respected stock car driver (maybe tree climbing and bull riding did not fully satisfy Ernie's need for adrenaline).
Ernie was prominent in the Logger’s Sports circuit on Vancouver Island, and he helped organize several competitions on the northern part of Vancouver Island. He was always keen to assist aspiring climbers, showing them his particular technique. His favorite event was the two man climb, a popular event in the 1970's. Ernie also tried his hand at the "tree act". His act also included one of his daughters up the tree with him. Ernie was the World Champion in the tree climb for 4 years, and also won the world championship in the eye splicing several times.
Ernie passed away in Campbell River, BC in 2001 at 77 years of age. I had the pleasure of meeting Ernie when I was a Physical Therapist in Campbell River. I felt like I was in the presence of a famous celebrity - he even gave me an autographed picture (featured below). He will be remembered for his fearless attitude, great skill and gentlemanly approach. Submitted by Brenda Boyko.
Jean was introduced to logger's sports by following her husband to the many programs that they attended. During this she found that she could do as good as the other female competitors. One of her particular assets were in the hand sawing events. She was sought after by many male competitors needing a competent partner in the jack and jill events. She has sawn with top competitors at the many shows that they attended. At one time she was on the winning team that won the Jill and Jill sawing event in Squamish for eight years in a row.
Axe throwing became her best event for years. She changed axe heads and handles until she got the right combination. Winning the ladies world championship five times, several Canadian championships and runner up countless other times.
Jean was responsible for many changes for the betterment and expediency of competitors entries, scores and placings. These changes that she made are still followed in many programs today.At many show centers she would gladly assist new persons and committees on proper procedures and tabulations of respective placings.She has trained her family members and many other male and female competitors in some of the winning techniques.
In 1974, Jean and Mavis Wickheim introduced ladies axe throwing in Australia while on an Axemans tour there.
Jube Wickheim had many outstanding contributions to logger's sports and CANLOG. He was a founding member of CANLOG and served on the executive committee for years. He also had the distinction of being the most winning log roller in Canadian history.
Jube and his older brother Ardiel began log rolling in the 1950's on Vancouver Island. Soon they were traveling across North America to the biggest shows of that day. Jube is featured in the Guinness World Book of Records as he won the World Championship Log Rolling Competition 10 times (to this day, no other log roller has surpassed this feat). Also during his prolific log rolling career, he also won the US open championship, Canadian Championship and Vancouver Island championship several times.
Jube is gain featured in the Guiness Book of World Records for the longest log rolling match in a competition. In 1956, he was rolling against Russ Harris, a US Marine from Kelso, WA, for first place at the Albany Timber Carnival. Russ proved to be a very tenacious component, as the two men ran out the one hour time limits on the 18 and 14 inch logs. After rolling for more than two hours on a 13 inch log, the first fall in the match occurred. Russ eventually won the match 3 falls to 2.
The Wickheim brothers were very much in demand; soon they started a log rolling exhibition act, and travelled to many countries. This blossomed into the formation of the "Wickheim Timber Shows". Many competitors from Canada and USA had the privilege of working with this elite group that exemplified the professionalism and atheticism of the sport. Audiences around the world were entertained with the red and green teams of lumberjacks as they demonstrated popular logging sport events such as sawing, chopping, log rolling and tree climbing. The following is an excerpt from a poem written by Bob Waibel, from Sweet Home, Oregon. He shares his wonderful memory about being part of the Wickheim Timber Shows (featured in 1979 at the Sea World in San Deigo, California).
Meet the men who created their own sport and folklore,
witness their skill in dangerous events like you've never seen before.
From the big cedar country, hemlocks and tall firs,
a land of timbered mountains, where only wildlife stirs.
From Wickheim Timber Shows, eight men come marching out,
meet a group of modern Paul Bunyans, great men beyond doubt.
Four loggers to a side, march around the show ground to do events like this,
the horizontal block chop, chips fly to the ground.
A logroller gives a demo across the pond,
two double-bladed axes hit the target with a thudding sound.
Two double buckers against a chain saw race...............
Jube worked hard throughout his career in logger's sports to offer his expertise to CANLOG and other executive committees. Jube has since retired from the sport, and lives with his wife Mavis on Vancouver Island. A true "gentleman", Jube's positive attitude and level of professionalism has helped develop our sport into what it is today. CANLOG is truly indebted to Jube, and wishes to honour his contibution by making him our first "Hall of Famer". Thanks Jube! Submitted by Alan Boyko, Port Alberni, BC
Long live the RED and the GREEN! Featured is the Wickheim Timber Shows crew at the Calgary Stampede in 1977 (Back row, from left to right: Ron Hartill, Alan Boyko, Les Stewart, Jube Wickheim, Dale Hartill, Eric Holmquist, Terry Patrick, Fred Wickheim. Front Row: Wade Stewart).