Thursday, 1 February 2007

1948-49 Moving on

Of course, playing the piano was to some degree a form of social recognition, but asking Clint, he’d simplify the reasoning. 'You might play for a while and look up and, hey, you might have a date.' To the envy of his friends, Clint was never too far away from the attention of young girls. Back at the Eastwood home, his father began working in sales for the Georgia-Pacific Timber shipping company; it was a long-term career move that would eventually take Clint’s father to executive status. The Family was once again on the move, this time settling in Seattle. Graduating from Oakland Tech at the age of 18 Clint once again decided to go it alone. It was a pretty uneventful period in his life, if he wasn’t busting his back digging either ditches or swimming pools he’d be working the furnaces from Midnight to 7.00am for the Bethlehem Steelworks up near Oakland, ‘My job was general maintenance around the big blast furnaces, and the heat got so intense you felt as if your skin would peel right off your body. I didn’t like the work, even though the pay was good. I was working the graveyard shift, from midnight until nine in the morning. I had my days free, but I was too tired to enjoy them.’ Clint had always dreamt about the prospect of lumber jacking and always wanted to experience it for himself. So it was perhaps inevitable that he headed for Springfield, Oregon by way of the Willamette River. Upon his arrival Clint eventually found work and was hired at the Weyerhaeuser Company mills. He’d only worked there a matter of weeks and soon became aware that lumber jacking could be a dangerous business. In Douglas Thompson’s 1992 book ‘Sexual Cowboy’ Clint explained, ‘I heard a shout and looked up and saw the crane driver and I hadn’t quite got it organised. A nasty load of giant logs hung suspended over my head. I don’t think I’ve reacted faster in my life. Yet even as I started to run, down came the logs. Any one of them could have crushed the life out of me. I just barely jumped clear- as the logs hit the ground they jammed against the crane, which was a lucky break for me. The money was good in the logging business and so was the food. The guys you met there were like wild characters out of a novel. It was pretty hard living but working outdoors in this fabulous country- rugged mountains, tall pine and fir forests – made it worthwhile. I never stayed long enough to work up into one of the really skilled jobs: if a man doesn’t know what he’s doing he can really pay for it. Some of the Douglas firs grew 250 to 300 feet tall and a man who goes up to the top of one of those to lop off the high branches has to be experienced. Log – rolling – that’s riding the logs in mid-river – is another job where you either know what you’re doing or you don’t live long enough to have grandchildren. I earned good money felling trees. I’d pick where I wanted a tree to fall, take my axe and cut a ‘V’ so it would fall in that direction. Then another man and myself would work a two-man double saw. It took two of us because some of these trees were six feet in diameter. Some of the time was spent in the sawmill which was better pay but I preferred being outdoors’
 
On the weekend the entire lumber jacking community spent their money in the town of Eugene, where they would turn the place on its head. They were loud, very loud, but the locals had grown accustomed to the loggers’ behaviour. Clint would often make the journey to the outskirts of town where he could grab a few beers and listen to some live country music, rather badly played live country music. There were as always, girls on the scene, but nothing that Clint took too seriously. Earning $1.80 an hour was certainly enough to keep him happy and in beer. As the job was seasonal the pay was well above the average. During the cold season the company would close down and Clint stayed at the camp with the other loggers, when they were working it was a long day, working from sunup to sundown. In terms of money, they remained fairly comfortable due to the simple fact that most of the time they were simply too damn tired to spend it. That winter was hard for Clint, especially as an acclimatised Californian. The sun could hide itself for 6 months and along with the humidity Clint began to find the conditions quite depressing. ‘In the winter you can go Six or Seven months without seeing blue in the sky. Finally the dampness got to me and I moved on.’ Clint had worked the mills for around a year but decided he’d rather move back to Seattle before a second winter set in. Aged 19, Clint returned home to take on a series of pretty non-eventful jobs, including truck driving for the Color shake organisation. During an excursion to the state of Texas he found employment in Renton as a lifeguard. Deciding to put his natural athleticisms to good use, he was also required to teach as a swimming instructor. He would later of course state that the most beneficial part of the job was enjoying the natural beauties that would visit the pool in their bathing suits! Clint remembers fondly, ‘Believe me, those jobs were hard to get.’
Inside though, he still remained pretty uncertain as to what he really wanted in life. He has since looked back at that time of his life with such self-inflicting terms as ‘a bum’ or ‘ a screw up’ yet, despite this, he remained clear, he wanted to be himself, and to earn his own way in life. After much deliberating, Clint finally came to the conclusion that he was going to continue with his music studies at Seattle University. No sooner had he become comfortable with his position and perhaps ultimately his plans for the future, the American government decided to intervene, and for the time being at least, Clint’s Plans would definitely be put on hold.

5 comments:

greg freeman said...

I'M 54 YEARS OLD AND MY DAD KNEW CLINT EASTWOOD AT WEYERHAUESER SAWMILL IN SPRINGFIELD OREGON...CLINT
WAS A LOG BRONC OPERATOR AT THAT TIME AND DID'T WORK IN THE WOODS. MY DAD MOVED TO WRANGELL ALASKA IN THE '60'S TO RUN WRANGELL IRON WORKS MACHINE SHOP...IT WAS ON PILINGS AND SHOOK SOMETIMES. HE BUILT HIS OWN SHOWCASE SHOP LATER AND DIED. MY STEPBROTHER RUNS THE SHOP NOW...THE TIMBER INDUSTRY SHRUNK IN THE 80'S.

Clint's archive said...

Hello Greg,
Firstly thank you so much for taking the time to contact me. And what a fabulous story. I really appreciate it when people take the time to provide additional information. So tell me Greg, does this comment suggest that Clint was in fact not out cutting down trees? You must excuse me, as I live in England I don't know what a Log Bronc operator does exactly. Could you explain a little more detail.
So did your father know Clint during Clint's entire duration while working at the mill, which is down on record as only being a matter of weeks... any additional information would be great and much appreciated.
Finally, from the quote, Clint says 'Some of the time was spent in the sawmill which was better pay but I preferred being outdoors’
Can I ask if your father worked inside the saw mill? And if so, could it be possible that your father only knew of Clint when working inside the sawmill, and possibly was unaware that Clint had done some work in the woods?
It would be great to hear back from you.
Greg are there any photos that exist of the men working inside the mill around this particular time?

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The Clint Eastwood Archive

Dustin Hill said...

Clint worked with my grandfather for Weyerhaeuser in the woods, as a choker setter.

Dustin Hill said...

Clint worked with my grandfather in the woods for weyco

Pearl in Progress said...

So cool tell more stories and show pictures if you have them! I loved reading all of these things!!