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The first convention after World War II was held in Sonoma, Ca. in 1946. Bert Bryan of Strable Hardwood, Oakland, was President, Dallas Donnan, Ehrlich-Harrison, Seattle, V.P. Good whiskey was still scarce and there was a surplus of wartime “Four Roses” on hand. Not bad but not good either. (Bob Sullivan contends that the liquor at Sonoma in 1946 was not 4-Roses but “THREE FEATHERS” – and it were not too tasty!)
C. H. White was instrumental in securing the services of a fine actor. An elderly man who posed and looked like an English Nobleman. He sported a monicle and a handlebar moustache. His accented English was impeccable. When the clan began arriving at Sonoma Mission Inn, he showed up as a world traveler stopping off for a few days. C. H., Bert and myself, of course, showed no recog-nition altho we were “introduced” at a chance meeting in the lobby. This gentleman was so charming that a little later after meeting others attending the convention he was invited to address our dinner meeting. When it came his turn to speak he was introduced with a long title and as a world traveler. At that time the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was only ten years old and of course being the longest bridge in the world was a continued source of pride especially in the Bay Area. When our English friend began his speech he ident-ified himself as an engineer of note, particularly in connection with bridges all around the world. As he developed his talk he spoke more and more of the Bay Bridge and in less and less glowing terms. Finally he started depreciating it, the Bay Area and Americans as bridge builders. It got so bad that Bert Bryan finally jumped to his feet and in the most uncomplimentary terms, berated the Englishman, his talk and his ancestry, declaring he would listen to no more. Then muttering to himself he stamped out of the room. Of course by now the entire assemblage was in an uproar and the air wasn’t cleared until the M.C. finally re-introduced the speaker by his real name and explained that it was all part of an act. It was a pretty good stunt.
Fred Smales was President, C. B. White, V.P. One day around the pool movie actress Loretta Young and party were in her regular cabana. Our group was congregated on the opposite side near the diving board. George Burns, Burns Hardwood Company, Los Angeles, was enthralled and wandered to Miss Young’s side where he held a prolonged conversation – then the exuberance of the situation overcame all sense of prudence and as he returned to our group, he walked to the end of the diving board, gave a Tarzan yell and dove in. What’s so different about that? He had all his clothes on.
The golf tournament was really done in style that year. There were plenty of carts and about eight people volunteered their sterling services as traveling refreshment centers. These silent machines, delicately balanced with various and sundry liquid delights, plenty of ice and glasses as well as other additives followed the players in a close formation requiring great skill. None of the participants made it past the first nine and some didn’t even get that far which was a blessing as the back nine was quite steep and wild. The best part of it all was the scores which were quite low. Had we been able to conclude this gala event the records would have fallen in a direct ratio to the players.
In 1939, the year of the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island, our convention headquarters was the old Palace Hotel, San Francisco. They wouldn’t let us supply our own refreshments but required we buy it from them. We went whole hog anyway and the scotch was Findelators with other liquids of equal excellence. To ease the pain of it all they graciously provided the club rooms for free. W. T. White was President, Norman Sawers of J. Fyfe Smith, Vancouver, V.P. It was inevitable we attended the Fair every day and we had all of our dinners there. One particularly festive affair was a fancy banquet at one of the best (of many) restaurants on the Island. It was a Friday night and just before the main course of roast beef was to be served, Betty Connolly (Western Hard-wood of Los Angeles) reminded me it was Friday and some of our people couldn’t eat meat. There was one hell of a scramble to replace that part of the menu with a fish course but the magnificent establishment finally succeeded. (Probably went clear back to San Fran–cisco for it.) Later on that evening we attended a Nite Club in which one of the events was a show featuring the famous strip teaser SALLY RAND as the main attraction. Just about the time her sizzling act came to its “Piece de resistance” she called for a volunteer from the audience. With a galantry much beyond the call of duty, Bob Kahn of Forsyth Hardwood, San Francisco, responded. He was an instant success there on the stage but his wife Mabel didn’t speak to him for the rest of the evening.
One of my earliest recollections was in 1928 – Victoria. Ted Higgins, J. E. Higgins Lumber Company, San Francisco, was President, Roy Stanton Sr., V.P. In those early days people seemed to be more “sedately reserved” than we are today and in Victoria, some were quite formal. One of these was the socially distinquished wife of J. Fyfe Smith, J. Fyfe Smith Hardwood, Vancouver. Someone bet Ted he wouldn’t dare to kiss her in the lobby of the Empress Hotel. In a weak moment he accepted the challenge and at tea time when the cream of the town’s “400” were congregating in the main entrance of that great hotel he rushed up, threw his arms around her and with dramatic abandon kissed her enthusiastically on the mouth. In winning his bet Ted became an immediate hero but as far as I know he was never forgiven.
Also in Victoria, 1947, Dallas Donnan, Ehrlich-Harrison Hardwood Co., Seattle, was President, Clarence Bohnhoff Lumber Co., L. A. was V.P. I think the main body of our group were viewing Buchart’s Gardens while Hal Von Breton, Bruce McLean, Larry Culter and myself were sampling the delights of Victoria in a chauffeur- driven open touring car. Along the way we decided some “Piper’s” would enhance the banquet that night and each time we stopped the idea became more intriguing. It took some doing but in a few productive hours we had rounded up our quarry and engaged them to appear in full dress. They arrived in “civvies” about the time our party went into high gear. We found an adjoining room for them to change into their kilts and as they began to “test” the pipes I cautiously inquired if they would like a drink. “Losh Mon”, said the older of the two pensively, “I wurik doon at the Rrum bottlin plant and ginerally durink aboot a bottle a day but Mon I haven’t had a sip since I got home” I had an uneasy feeling I was setting a course for things to follow as I handed him a bottle of scotch and one of those old barrel shaped hotel water glasses. He filled it to the brim, said “Schlonsh Avor”, and downed the whole thing without lowering his arm. (I tried this later with him and almost ended my career before it-began.) Because of this (or in spite of it) another idea was hatched where-in the Maitre’D was persuaded to have some of the waiters and waitresses enter at a signal and drop large trayfulls of old chipped dishes on the floor at strategic areas behind certain tables. This may not seem so funny now but as the crockery hit the floor and splattered all over it had everyone in stiches. We also painted some signs with Scotch names, MacBeath, McLean, etc. A cute little Chinese waitress led the pipers to certain tables where she would hold up a sign (like McLean) and the piper’s would stand next to it and play a “bonny” tune. She finally stoppe d at the last table and the sign read “McTaenzer” for Bob Taenzer, American Hardwood Company, L.A.- Then the leader of the Piper’s gave a scotch toast in Gaelic and drained another full glass of scotch. (Schlonsh Avor again old buddies.) Later on when the orchestra was playing and people were dancing, a final arrangement was neatly executed when about eight hotel people came thru the door with electric vacuum sweepers and brooms and began to tidy up the place, darting and whirring their cleaners between dancing couples. This of course terminated the cheek to cheek stuff, but ah, “the band played on”, For some obscure reason this also seemed hilarious at the time. Later when I tried to settle-up for the broken dishes and the extra service the Matre ‘D refused any remuneration at all, saying it was the best time the hotel staff had in years.
It started probably with the first convention in 1924 at Old Del Monte. C. H. White was President and D. J. Cahill of Western Hardwood, Los AngeIes, was V.P. As Bruz White said it was attended only by men and most everyone stayed up all the first night and played poker. When wives and families began attending, they generally retired early while the men stayed up for their game, In those days White Brothers and J. E. Higgins Lumber Company were about the same size and the two yards were within blocks of each other. Altho competition was keen, Harry White (C.H. as he was called) and Ted Higgins were quite good friends. Whether true or not, Ted always delighted in telling a story where there was a particularly generous pot. He raised C. H. one hundred dollars and he said Harry, after some hesitation, phoned my mother’s room and asked if he should meet the raise. It was one of Ted’s good jokes for years. If it really happened I never found out who won that hand.
I think the first convention that Jean attended was in 1941 at the Santa Barbara Biltmore. A goodly number of us “young folk” (and we were in those days) also stayed up all the first night but not playing poker. A group of us left the club rooms for some air and I guess it was getting late. Someone suggested we wake up Roy Stanton, Jr. who had turned in earlier. The Bilt-more had many rooms spread around acres of lawns and gardens. Forming a serpentine we gaily wended our way across the lawns to his ground floor room. Whoever was “the leader” had already un-raveled a fire hose and placed it carefully thru his upraised win-dow when a wiser head talked us out of our brilliant idea. We didn’t awaken Roy, make the papers, or the stony lonesome. As dawn reared its welcome face we went “follow the leader” style thru the nearest deserted hotel kitchen and bribed a cleanup man to provide bread, meat and coffee for a pre-breakfast snack. And so to bed.
1951 with Bob Sullivan, Sullivan Hardwood Company, San Diego, in charge and K. E. “Mack” MacBeath, V.P., was held in Coronado. One of the events was a bus ride to Tiajuana. After wandering about seeing the sights, some ten of us irreverently obtruded an unsuspecting Cantina to learn the vagaries of Tequilla. Thru the warm haze of late afternoon we eventually made our way back towards the border and our waiting bus. Along the way we all acquired Mexican wear including some of the most preposterous “Sombreros” imaginable. As we swayed in line to the tune of silent mariachi music waiting to pass thru American Customs one of the blase’ officials sighed softly – “Now I’ve seen everything”.
It was also at Santa Barbara in 1941 that our first woman member attended. Francis Bauer, (in those days Francis McIntyre) represented Slattery Hardwood Company, Los Angeles. She was young, beautiful, vivacious and charming, and hasn’t changed one bit except like the rest of us is a little older. She was then as now a terrific golfer and I remember Nelson Jones slyly warning the good men golfers as they warmed up for the tournament to “Watch out – She’d beat them all”, which she did handily.
1949 was at Lake Tahoe, North Shore. I was President and Bruce McLean V.P. The first nite for some reason found everyone at the gaming tables. Jean White decided to shoot craps altho she knew absolutely nothing about it. Later that evening I got tired and badly bent so returned to our room at Tahoe Tavern which was headquarters. Sometime later Jean came in and practically lined the room with money. I slept happily that night but I guess her conscience bothered her because she returned all that loot the next nite.
I was still going to Cal and didn’t attend but from what I heard, one of the nicest conventions was held at Avalon in Catalina, 1934. Hank Swafford of E. J. Stanton and Son was President, C. H. White, V.P. The weather, a delightful setting, a well planned gathering of great people combined for a wonderful time.
Again in 1941 at Santa Barbara I remember the first night banquet. A. C. “Aub” Pascoe was a guest. We had started off the cocktail hour with a flourish and at dinner he impulsively decided to provide wine for everyone. (About a hundred bottles, I guess.) Well, as dinner was waning, Aub left the tables and wandered into the lobby. After a while Frank Connolly of Western Hardwood followed to see if Aub was all right. When Frank didn’t return I was sent out to find them both. I don’t know who came out next but he found the three of us, Aub, Frank and myself, sitting upright together on a large settee – all sound asleep.
Back to 1949 and the convention at Tahoe Tavern. Hattie and Hal Von Breton of E. J. Stanton flew up from L. A. a few days early to rendevous with Pet and Bruce McLean, General Hardwood, Tacoma, together with Wye and Larry Culter, J. Fyfe Smith Hardwood, Vancouver. They did good old San Francisco for a day or so, then rented a touring car for the scenic trip to the Lake. It seemed appropriate to travel via the wine country which was quite a detour. A wrong turn at the beginning brought them to the Golden Gate Bridge by way of Fisherman’s Wharf where cracked crab, etc. was enjoyed. One of the stalwarts invested heavily in french bread and fresh fish. All was carefully stored on the floor of the back seat together with various sustaining refreshments and lots of ice. The picturesque tho circuitous route consumed many hours before they arrived at their destination, beautiful Lake Tahoe, and on arrival the car was valet parked under the trees where it remained throughout their stay. When it was brought to the Hotel entrance at departure time for the delightful ride home, the ice had disappeared but the fish were still present and formidably unmistakable. Altho there was some disagreement as to specie – Smelt, Crappie or both, it was generally conceded that despite the threat of inclement weather the return to San Francisco was driven entirely with the top down.
Probably the Sectional Reports were conceived early in the history of our group. I remember even in good years hearing some depressing tales about how lousy business was as each reporter strived to soft pedal any thoughts his local competitors might have that he was getting more than his share. It was at Coronado in 1963 when Jim Sullivan, Sullivan Hardwood Company, San Diego, as President just finished with this part of the program. It all seemed so melancholy that one of our Northern California members was heard to murmur – “Worst boom we ever had”.
It was in 1969 at Del Monte – John Higgins of J. E. Higgins, S. F., was President, Len Hall, V.P. Jack’s face fell a little as one member arose to caution we all should be more careful in our conversation around the breakfast tables. He said, “I was a little late, the meeting was about to begin and my waitress said, “Sir, You had best hurry – I just heard them say the Sexional Reports are about to begin”.
I found these scribbled notes pertaining to a Resolution Committee’s report at Victoria, 1977. President Jim Spellman: “May we now have the report of the Resolution Chairman.” Resolution Chairman, “President Jim, I have some good news and some bad news. First the good news, I proudly took your assignment to heart and drew up two fantastic resolutions. I couched them in elegant English prose with lots of exciting words. I inserted (where as’s), (to wit’s) and some (be it therefore’s) in strategic places. When delivered in the dulcet tones as I practiced before the mirror my admiration for this blending of a non-cacophonous masterpiece continued to soar as I suspect yours will also. Finally my proposals were honed to a razor edge. In due modesty what I had to offer was nigh-on near absolute perfection. Because of my fondness for this great group I didn’t stop there – No Sir. I asked my old buddy Bill MacBeath to edit this splendid work. We ordered a modest bottle of Findilators and with a reckless disregard for any cost to our health and well-being gave our mightiest to your cause. We ended up with a veritable masterpiece and an empty bottle almost in a dead heat. Bill was exhausted but I still had my duty to spur me on. I walked from the Club Room, down those long Hotel halls, outside the front, down the steps and around 2 1/2 long blocks to a two story building where a public steno-grapher held sway. I climbed 67 steps to her upstairs office and explained why I must have this important piece of literature typed and ready by four o’clock that very day. She agreed of course. As I turned to leave a short fat man dressed in a sinister black overcoat and a sinister black hat came in laying both the hat and a sinister looking black leather case on the desk over my papers. “Four o’clock”, I said speaking naturally. “Four o’clock”, she replied in flawless Canadian. I precariously wended my way back to the Club Rooms to console Bill. We split the chore between us. It started to rain but promptly at four I returned for the typed resolution. Now sadly for the bad part. As I climbed those stairs again the typing lady was coming down. I said, “Are my papers ready?” She said, “Oh, Dear”. (I don’t think she was referring to me.) I said, “Remember, I need them right now.” She said, “Oh, Dear”, again. Then she turned about and said, “Follow me.” We reached her office. She looked all over – on the desk, in its drawers and finally in the waste basket. Finally she said, “I’m afraid that man in the black hat inadvertantly took your papers when he left this offlce and I just plain forgot about them”, I said the equivalent of “Oh, Dear” but softly to myself. She said, “You can reconstruct the papers and I will type them now”, I said “Lady, I don’t think Bill MacBeath can do it.” She said, “What?”. I said, “Never mind.” In a panic I returned to my room. By a super human effort the proposed resolutions have been redone but of course these cannot resemble the super-excellence of the originals, produced with such travail. (Note: the Resolutions were presented and graciously accepted by an understanding membership.)
Old Del Monte – 1938. Frank Connolly, Western Hardwood Company, L. A. was President, Bob Kahn, Forsyth Hardwood Company, S. F., V. P. The second afternoon turned clear and bright with plenty of sun and a large party of us congregated around the hotel’s magnificent “Roman Plunge”- prepared to swim. There were many tables by the pool seating the elite of the old Monterey Peninsula and way points. Nelson Jones, Jones Hardwood Company, San Francisco was a large, well proportioned man and rather stout. He was a keen wit and lots of fun. With a full head of steam he came charging out of the side lines, neatly skirting the tables and with a roar he leaped six feet over the water in a magnificent bellyflop. When he arose from the depths his stentorian voice resounded with these words attached to suitable music. “Oh I love to go swimmin with bow-legged wimmen and dive between their legs.” For a moment the silence around the pool was almost audible, Seconds later our group was in convulsions – not so the other guests. Pity.
1956 saw us at Victoria again, Bud Radditz of Wanke Panel Company, Portland, was President and Bill Fahs, California Panel and Veneer Company, L. A., V.P. It must have been the second day because most everyone had acquired various and sundry clothes with a tartan motif – skirts, pants, coats and many a Tam-O-Shanter. Those in power had planned an all day excursion in the Strait of Juan de Fuca (some of the most spectacular scenery anywhere). A good size vessel called the “Deerleap” had been chartered and well provisioned to meet our peculiar high standards. We were transported by bus to its moaring and gaily boarded whilst crew members stood by the lines awaiting orders to cast off. It was a beautiful day. The sun was out and by a preposterous miscalculation, so was the tide. The very weight of our numbers had us stuck fast in the mud. It was a good two hours before Mother Nature relented, the water rose and we were afloat. Accepting the old adage that “Time and Tide wait for no man (or woman), most of us descended to the spacious main cabin for sustenance and comfort. We finally got underway and as our delicate bow split the green waters and the white wake receded behind our churning propellers the large group playing poker exhorted the kibitzers to “draw the curtains” so the sunlight would not distract from the game. So much for sightseeing.
K. E. “Mack” MacBeath was President and Larry Culter, V.P.
At many a gathering in those days a self appointed committee would at an appropriate time, go on a buying spree to procure favors and prizes to be awarded at the Banquet to honor a distinguished guest or members. Generally the current President of N.H.L.A. was invited and often the current President of N.W.L.D.Y.A. among others. But anyone could be a recipient and it was a lot of fun. I forget who won the “Bottle of Champagne”, but it was delivered to the table on a dolly frozen in a fifty pound cake of ice. (Defrosting time was 18 hours,)