Back to the Boom Town

I’ve started cleaning up and doing a few repairs on the old service station.  It’s more a social activity than I had realized.  Some stop who knew my parents – there are fewer of those, but frequently strangers to me.  Others stop and ask what my business goal is – and I don’t really have an answer.  Right now the task is to clean up, add structural walls to reinforce the roof trusses, replace the roofing, and then figure out what to do.  Another group stops and asks about the history of these old buildings. 

I’ve never felt like a part of history.  As I look for answers to these questions, I realize that I was alongside when many of these small local histories were being made.  I suppose writing the history of the construction boom will help tell the story.

The history actually applies to four buildings in the SE corner of section 18.  The old service station has board and batten siding, and the tanks and pumps have been taken away.  It’s not the first building on the corner – Wylie Osler told of a tie hack who stacked his ties on the spot years earlier, overwintered there in the cabin of stacked cross ties, then sold them in the Spring and moved on.

The service station isn’t the oldest building there now.  The northernmost building – 8’ wide – is the old bunkhouse that was moved from logging camp to logging camp.  The southernmost building – 10’ wide – is its companion cookshack, also moved from camp to camp.  I don’t know what sort of a deal Don Boslaugh made with Dad for the two logging camp buildings to change careers from logging camps to trailer court support buildings at Westwood Acres – but now they flank the service station.  The heavy timbers that allowed them to be loaded on trucks and moved to logging camps now sit on the ground – and I don’t know the condition now, or what will be done. 

Visitors have looked at the log building and commented on its age – but it was actually built in the mid-eighties, and is the newest building on site.  It was an instant old building – the log walls were originally cedar poles that supported the telegraph line that ran alongside the rails in the Kootenai valley.  They were unmarketable and abandoned by the guy with the salvage contract as the reservoir filled.  Milled on three sides by Pat Eustace, they became an instant “old building.”  I’ve repaired the back wall in the log building – one of the base logs had shifted and the wall needed reinforcement.  The front overhang will be the next repair, then the doors.

The service station was built by Kenny Gwynn – who owned the sawmill in Eureka (now Gwynn Lumber and Reload) and a fuel distribution operation.  Kenny leased the building to Howard Mee – with the shop in the north half and the sales floor in the south, and the name Trego Service.  The southeast corner housed a barber shop, run by Chet Apeland.  It was built in the mid-sixties, set to serve the boom that came with the tunnel and railroad relocation.

The mid-sixties saw four trailer parks built in Trego and a new school was to serve the increased population.  I’ve been associated with two of them.  I’m guessing that somewhere over 180 trailers moved in to Trego housing workers for the construction projects that accompanied Libby Dam.  While we have better equipment available today, I doubt if the construction could be repeated with the need to go through the county planning board and sanitarian’s office.  Compared to 1965, today’s county government is . . . well, somewhat distant from libertarian principles.

The service station, after 55 years, will be getting the structural wall back in where the barber shop was, plus structural wall extensions to strengthen the trusses over the old service station, leaving the rooms Dad built in place.  After the structural walls are back in, and a new roof is in place, we’ll start some remodeling.  Business plans may be nice – but my task is just to get things back in shape.

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