KAPUSKASING - Guys will understand this concept: working long hours to buy a new vehicle, and in the case of this year’s Honourary Lumberjack, it was a 1960 Ford Fairlane 500 that helped start his illustrious, fifty-plus year career in forestry!
Rosaire Filion was born in Moonbeam in 1940. His parents, Lydia née Mailloux and Arthur Filion, moved to the village from Rivière-du-Loup in 1929. They arrived in Moonbeam with eight children and they made a bunch more, Rosaire being the thirteenth child of a total of fourteen.
It appears that forestry and entrepreneurship are family traits because when Arthur and Lydia settled in Moonbeam, Arthur started working on his own account rather than be employed by someone else. He was a lumberjack, he built fine furniture and he owned a saw mill on Route 52 between Moonbeam and Fauquier. He passed these traits along to many of his male children, including Rosaire.
Sadly, Arthur passed away in 1946, leaving his widow Lydia and many children, as well as a six-year-old Rosaire. His eldest brothers Aimé and René kept operating the saw mill to help support their families and their mother.
During the summer of Rosaire’s eighteenth year, he worked for his brother Aimé who operated a portable saw mill. That winter, he worked with his brother René. René had a contract with Spruce Falls and local settlers: the settlers cut trees, René hauled the logs out of the bush and sold them to Spruce Falls and he paid the settlers.
Rosaire’s job that first winter was to pull logs out of the strips with the horse team he bought with René. The horses, Pit and Menée weighed in at between 1600 and 1700 pounds. The horses stayed in the barn at the camp and were fed at the same time as their owners: breakfast, lunch and dinner, although the lumberjacks did NOT eat hay and oats (oatmeal, sure, but not straight oats)!
That first winter is the one in which Rosaire made enough money to buy his 1960 Ford Fairlane 500 for $2,300 and to pay the $400 in insurance! But it was hard work and long hours to get that car.
Rosaire recounted that life in the camp during that first winter was horrible: they occupied an old camp abandoned by Nazaire D’Amours and it was pretty rudimentary. The second year was better because they built a new log cabin for themselves.
When asked if they had a camp cookee, Rosaire said “No”, each lumberjack would “batch” for themselves. Batching was the term the lumberjacks used for cooking for themselves.
Rosaire was lucky because his mom prepared easy to make food for him for the week, things like beans, crêpes, bread and cereals. And when Rosaire came home for the weekend, she’d have his favourite sugar pie ready, he’d eat it in one sitting, and she’d spend the rest of the weekend babying him! In return and in appreciation, Rosaire gave his first couple of paycheques to his widowed mom, and paid for house repairs and upkeep while he lived there.
He worked with his brother for two years, then became an apprentice mechanic and school bus driver at Uptown Motors. In 1961, he bought his first heavy truck to haul logs. In that year, he drove a school bus by day, slept a bit then hauled logs by night!
Rosaire started working for Spruce Falls Power & Paper Co. in the 1961-1962 haul season. The way this worked is that Spruce Falls hired Rosaire’s truck and a day driver for the truck while Rosaire hauled logs at night. This type of contract netted Rosaire a salary for himself as trucker, and one for the hire of his truck!
He didn’t want to be a full-time employee because, as an independent truck owner and operator, he could haul logs for Spruce Falls in the winter, sell gravel and make roads for the Ministry of Natural Resources in the summer.
He kept buying trucks and trailers, working hard and earning a good living. But at the age of twenty-eight, his sister Thérèse thought he should settle down and start a family. She introduced him to Murielle Landry of Smooth Rock Falls at a Christmas party. They danced, played cards, Rosaire cheated at cards, Murielle called him on his card-cheating, and despite this, she married him!
Whenever he speaks of her, he says a little rhyme “Murielle, Grâce à elle” meaning thanks to her. Rosaire indicates that Murielle raised their children, three girls and a boy, and she took care of everything in the home while he worked hard, earning a living for them all.
During his fifty-plus year career, Rosaire hauled logs, made ice roads in the winter for Spruce Falls, made summer roads for the Ministry of Natural Resources, dug, sold and delivered gravel, hired out his trucks, and employed people to drive those trucks.
In 2012, Tembec presented 70-year-old Mononcle Rosaire (“Uncle Rosaire” as he is called by grown-up, burly bearded guys in the forest industry) with a certificate commemorating his FIFTY consecutive years of log hauling for Tembec – Kapuskasing Operations.
Besides working in the forest industry for another two years beyond this momentous accomplishment, Rosaire’s entire career was both accident and personal injury free!
Rosaire retired when he was 72, he’s a bashful 2018 Honourary Lumberjack, but call him Mononcle Rosaire when you see him in Riverside Park! It will make his day!