I was moved by Ryan Burns’ article, “Reinventing Scotia” (Nov. 26). I worked for the Pacific Lumber Company for 19 years and lived in Scotia for 12 of them. It brought back some mixed memories.
I didn’t have much of a feeling that it was my town. One reason was that it took years for many of the workers to accept me because they were prejudiced against “college boys.” They told me I didn’t talk like them. Clearly, I didn’t think like many of them, especially the fundamentalists among them. Also, my family lived in the Bay Area, my in-laws were in Fortuna and my friends were spread from Fortuna to Arcata and Berkeley to Houston.
There were other reasons for my not feeling that Scotia was my home. I let my anger and disgust at the administrators of the company color over any possible attachment to the town. Although Palco’s self-promotion as a company that takes care of its employees was incessant, it gave up the sustainable logging practices that would have ensured sustained employment for the workers. While giving lip service to its support for families, it stole time from them to be with their families by forcing them to work up to 56 hours a week, including Saturdays. It was all too often incredibly slow to fix certain safety problems. They reduced benefits and lowered starting wages for new employees. Morale suffered in various departments because people skills were apparently not required to become a foreman.
PL did all it could to cast dissenters and environmentalists as whiners who were out to get the jobs of loggers and lumberjacks when, in addition to wildlife protection, it was precisely the sustainability of forests and jobs that motivated the dissenters. It cynically played its power to pull the wool over the eyes of loyalists through the years with laughable slogans like the one on the huge banner stretched across the face of the administration building: “Every day for us is Earth Day.”
So, I had issues with the company. It had some with me. It recognized that I was a liberal. I had an M.A. in philosophy. I was an environmentalist. I’d refused induction into the Vietnam War. I attended ESOP meetings and demonstrated alongside Earth First’ers and others against the company’s policies. My early thoughts of moving into administration someday went by the wayside.
Still, I lived in Scotia, shopped at Hoby’s and Palco Pharmacy, and enjoyed having Buzz Rigney as my doctor at the Scotia Medical Center. My children lived and played there part-time. We hiked in the woods, played in the river and climbed the hills. I spent some time on the Murphy Elementary School Board.
When the second of three bad earthquakes struck (April 26-27, 1992) on April 26 , my children and I were horrified to see the Scotia Shopping Center burning to the ground. The flames melted away all the blocks I’d created in my mind and heart against any feelings that Scotia was my home. I grieved. I was, after all, like most human beings: Even if tacitly or unconsciously, I’d become attached to place. When it’s pulled out from under us, we reinvent ourselves, just as the town has and continues to do.
Steve Brudney, McKinleyville
Sweet Spot: Steve Brudney wins a Bon Boniere sundae for sending the best letter in months.