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Good cooks were a treasure at bush camps

The Feldman camp was known for its excellent food
Two men in aprons outside square, timbered building.

It had taken roughly two years to build up the Porcupine gold camp. In 1912, the camp was producing gold from the big three mines totalling about half a million dollars per month.

Various industries had camps where men would live and work for extended periods of time. This was a major source of employment. For example, over 2,000 employees were working in the lumber industry of Timmins in the first few years after the mines opened. The Feldman camp, where many lumberjacks based themselves, was known for its excellent food. The Feldman brothers had a farm and supplied the camps with meat.  They had a well-balanced diet and staple items like flour and beans. Cooks were treasured in the camp. Jack Andrews, a bush worker in the early days would say, “A good cook was a treasure and a few dollars extra for a good one was money well spent.”  

Some camps were nicer than others. One Abitibi camp in the mid-'20s had a two-storey “sleep camp” with a solid wood frame structure with trappers, a cookery, a stable, blacksmith shop, stovehouse, office, and jobber’s shack (contractor quarters). It has electricity and 75 men were employed plus staff. The staff included a clerk (ordered supplies and kept accounts), a cook, a cook’s assistant, a man to take care of the hoses and barn, possible blacksmith, and a crew of foremen.

Pulpwood jobs were seasonal and you were paid for what you produced rather than fixed wages. Men usually supplied their own tools.  The bush camps offered employment to women as cooks and laundresses. There were a surprising number of cases of working single women or women with children accompanying their husbands in the camp, 

Bush work wasn’t easy and for some, it wasn’t enough money to survive. Many worked in the bush for the winters/season and the wives tended the farm back home – dual income.

The Timmins Museum: National Exhibition Centre regularly provides TimminsToday readers with a glimpse of the city’s past.

Find out more of what the Timmins museum has to offer here and read more Remember This columns here.