CHAPTER ONE – “GO TO AMERICA”
Natale and Magdalena Giustina wanted their sons to have a better life than theirs in San Vito di Cadore, Italy. The little village high in the Alps offered nothing but more hard work; no opportunity, none of the better things in life.
“You must go to America,” Natale told his boys as they grew old enough to understand. “There,” he said, “you can get ahead in the world.” So, in the early part of the 1900s, the sons said goodbye to their parents, their sisters, and their friends. First Gregario (George), then Bartolomeo (Bart) and Erminio, John, Roger and Anselmo (Ansel). Their voyages to America were similar: From Genoa, a ship across the Atlantic to New York and then to New Jersey where relatives took them in while they became acquainted with their new homeland. Then, after varying numbers of years, they all went West where their father’s prophesy came true – America was the land of opportunity.
The immigrants brought with them a long and rich heritage. The parish church at San Vito records that Bernardus Justina came to the village in 1500. There is no record of where Bernardus came from or why he came to San Vito, which at the time was nearly inaccessible where it sat at the foot of the Dolomite Mountains, near the Austrian border some 100 miles north of Venice.
When the Italian government modified the language and dropped much of the Latin, the name was respelled Giustina.
The generations that followed Bernard were hard working, thrifty, and linked to the soil. Living was hard, but the boys who came to America in the early 1900s recalled that the family was, by village standards, not poor. The Giustina’s were landowners who worked from dawn to dark to supply their needs and have a little left over for barter or sale.
On their farm, Natale and Madalena reared ten children – six sons and four daughters, each baptized into the Catholic church. Besides the boys, there was Maria, Theresa, Angela and Bersabea (Bea). Three others died in infancy.
San Vito was then a town with about 1,000 residents. At 3,250-foot elevation at the base of towering mountains, its summers are cool, and its winters bitter cold. Its growing season is short, and Erminia once recalled that the snow arrived before the potatoes were all dug. During winters, several feet of snow fell.
In their garden, the Giustina’s grew root and green vegetables, barley, wheat, corn, turnips, potatoes, and beans. Poppy seed was grown to sweeten the tops of cakes and some flax produced to be blended with wool for the family’s clothing. Wheat and corn were ground into flour in the village mill.
Precious food such as fruits, wine, and sugar were purchased at the village store. Coffee, much of it smuggled across the nearby Austrian border because of the locally high cost, was ground at home and often stretched with barley.
Ansel (the youngest and the only survivor of the boys at the time of this writing) recalls that when he was at home, the Giustina’s had eight cows, two oxen, ten sheep, two goats, two pigs, and perhaps a dozen chickens. Cow’s milk was made into cheese, and the family drank milk from the goats. Pigs were slaughtered and made into ham and other meatstuffs, and the chickens were kept and eggs untiI they stopped laying and then eaten. Sheep provided wool.
The family’s land was spread in patchwork fashion on the mountain behind the house. Mostly hay was grown there to be carted to the barn by oxen. Pasture land itself was shared by the village farmers, and the forest areas where wood was cut was also communal, as was the creamery up on the slopes. The Giustina ownership mark was three vertical lines with an inverted V imposed on them.
Until the boys started sending money home from America, most of the family income was from selling meat. But it was in the tradition to be self-sufficient. Not only did the big garden and the livestock provide most of the food and meat, but Natale himself carded, spun, and wove the wool from the sheep and mixed it with linen to make into “mazalena,” a stiff, rugged cloth that he and his daughters made into clothes for the family. The girls knitted socks, sweaters, and undergarments. Even the clog-like shoes worn year-round were made at home.
Menus were meager by today’s standards, but food was plentiful and nutritious. An important staple was the potato, mostly boiled with the skins on and peeled at the table. Since the only refrigeration was a cold storage room in the basement, meats were cured into salami, sausage and ham. Bread was baked on 10-day intervals.
For breakfast, bread was soaked in hot milk and served with coffee; the noon meal was polenta (corn meal mush) and cheese; evening, soup, barley or beans. Special foods such as veal and pasta were reserved for Sunday and special events. Lots of cheese was eaten, and goat milk was plentiful. Father cooked the meat on Sunday, carefully measuring each quantity and saying that “the women always spoil the meat.”
San Vito is not in that part of Italy that has been romanticized for its food. In fact, the boys didn’t taste macaroni and spaghetti until they were in America. And Ansel was disappointed when he ate his first tomato – he thought it would be sweet.
All facets of family life centered on the home. Social life, in the general sense, was nearly nonexistent; a little chatting after mass and some family visits when the elders had business to talk about.
The house, built in 1844, was typically Alpine – utilitarian and comfortable. It not only served the men, women, and children in the classic extended family, but in the winter, the livestock, too.
The cantina in the basement housed the curing room and storage for wine, cheese, butter, and other food. This area was dug into the hillside on the rear and had a window in the front.
On the first floor was the kitchen with its huge brick-lined oven, a brick cooking stove in the center, and a water-heating fireplace in the corner. One old photo shows a large kitchen table hinged to the wall.
The paneled living room was heated by the kitchen oven that extended through the wall. Attached to the kitchen level was the livestock shed with hay storage above it.
On the second and third floor were bedrooms enough to sleep 15 people. Sometimes, three generations of Giustinas lived there, with Grandpa and Grandma helping the kids with their studies and doing what these days we call babysitting.
The house, which was gutted by fire in 1954 and reconstructed soon after, was a busy place, with something to do for everyone. In his memoir, Erminio talks of the stress placed on four virtues – good morals, truthfulness, honesty, and pride in one’s work well done. “In my day and for many years previously,” he wrote, “every boy of our village had to learn and apprentice for one of the skilled crafts, be it carpenter, blacksmith, cobbler, tailor or any other. It was inevitable that he learn one, and if possible, put it into practice in horizons beyond the village boundaries. Owing to local economic conditions, migration of our young was a must.” Formal school was limited, with the village school offering only five years. But in that scant period, the Giustina boys learned the basics, including a heavy application of math in decimals. After they finished school, they were tutored in liberal arts and higher mathematics by the parish priest.
The migration away from San Vito was nothing new. Both Father Natale and Uncle Gregori in their youth had migrated to Rumania. Gregori stayed there and became a successful bridge builder, but Natale returned home when he was needed on the farm and spent the rest of his life there.
“It was not my father’s desire to return home,” Erminia wrote, “but it was the order of the day; he being the youngest, was requested to do so and thus carry on family traditions.” Natale was a very civic-minded man who served on the city council the greater part of his life. “To this day, he is remembered with very high esteem as having been a just man and a good neighbor,” said Erminio. For years, some of the old timers referred to him as “San Nadal,” Saint Natale.
Financially, Gregori did much better, and Natale never reconciled himself to having to return to San Vito. But there was no denying the order for him to come home, and this is why he insisted that his sons leave and go to America.
Not only should they leave, but first they must learn their lessons and their skills well so they could become independent.
He also drilled into the boys the lesson, repeated over and over: “Keep physically fit with plenty of work, good wholesome food and clean living. If you must economize, there are hundreds of ways to do so – but do not rob yourself of nourishment.” Everybody worked in the Giustina family. The summers were spent with the harvest, and winters were spent on getting ready for summer. All the boys and the girls, too, helped with the grazing and the haying. The steep hillsides made chores difficult, and when haying time came, the workers were up long before dawn so they could climb the mountain, do the mowing (by hand) and haul the hay down to the hayloft by nightfall.
Only Sunday was a day off. Yes, there were chores to do, and church to attend, but a few hours were left for the young people to visit others in the village.
As in many villages in Europe, war was no stranger to San Vito. When Ansel was a teenager, he could hear the guns near the Italian-Austrian border in World War I. Only 10-15 kilometers separated the little village from the battles.
And the Giustina’s almost lost a precious cow.
In October, 1917, the German army retreated through San Vito, and the village was occupied by the enemy. “The soldiers came to our house and took a cow,” Ansel recalls. “It was the only cow we had left because we had to take the other cows and turn them into the government.
“They stuck a gun in my stomach, so what was I to do?” Late that same afternoon, a soldier brought back the cow. He was an Austrian who lived near our town and I think he recognized our cow. I think he felt sorry for us.” Ansel and his father took the cow up into the mountains to hide it, and during the year-long occupation, that one cow was the miIk supply for 35 villagers. As much as they could, the people in San Vito hid their cheeses, sausages, and so on, because the occupying forces would take what they could find. Food became scarce.
But the hardy folk of San Vito di Cadore survived the war and the migration of the Giustina sons continued.
In their new land, the sons found the opportunities their father had promised. Four of them developed a wood products company that bears proudly the name “Giustina Brothers,” and is known favorably throughout the rambunctious industry that grows and harvests the trees that most American homes are made of.
Natale and Magdalena are long gone and the grandchildren of their sons are grown. It is to them and those who follow that this history is directed.
CHAPTER TWO – THE NEW LAND
It is difficult to place the Giustina brothers in their new land.
They knew few words of the language and their life on the San Vito farm scarcely equipped them for entering the American culture.
But there were positive factors working in their favor. First, there was the Italian community in New Jersey that took them in. It was the custom that when immigrants came from Italy their relatives on this side of the Atlantic would house and feed them and help find them jobs. This phasing-in was vitally important to the brothers as they came, one by one.
Second was their driving ambition to better themselves. They would work hard and send money home and rise above the status they left behind.
And they were skilled. This, and their fierce ambition, set them apart from many immigrants.
The America they came to in the early 1900s was in an important evolutionary phase. The frontier with its opportunities and dreams had been settled. The Irish, British, Germans and Scandinavians who had come earlier were on their farms and ranches, and the Giustinas were among the masses of Slavs, Poles, Hungarians, Greeks, Italians, Russians, Lithuanians and Jews – migrants from Eastern and Southern Europe – who came mostly to work in the factories.
Without the skills the brothers brought with them, it is doubtful that the American dream for them would have been anything more than working at low wages in the industries then burgeoning in the eastern part of the nation. But they were carpenters and wood-workers (John was a blacksmith) and they found work.
CHAPTER THREE – THEIR FIRST MILLS
The first arrivals, Bart and George, both worked in New York and New Jersey and then moved to San Francisco to form a building construction partnership to work in the aftermath of the famed earthquake. George· studied architecture and drafting while there and in 1910, they moved to Portland to continue the construction business as the Giustina Brothers, the proud name still carried forward by the present generation.
Joined by brother Erminia and, later Roger, the little company built houses in the new Laurelhurst region in Portland for about three years.
These were what are called “spec houses” today – with what capital they could muster, they found lots and built houses on them hoping they could find a buyer. They worked hard and lived together to save expenses and managed to survive. ‘”They made what you would call a modest living,” Mrs. George Giustina recalls.
When he was 14, Erminia had apprenticed to a master craftsman in wood construction in the old country, specializing in interior finishing and furniture. He first came to America in 1905 and worked as a carpenter in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. But in 1908, he was ordered back to Italy to perform his mandatory military time. He returned in 1910, worked for a time in the East and joined his brothers in Portland in 1911.
Bart, the eldest, died in 1914 from injuries suffered in an accidental burn at home.
George and Erminia, whose names will appear most in this writing, married the Onorato sisters of Kelso, Wash., the small town north of Portland; George married Mazie in 1914, and Erminia married Irene in 1916.
The girls were the daughters of an Italian immigrant who farmed and mined in the Brinion Mountain area near Kelso.
Not long after their marriages, in the summer of 1917, George and Erminia, with their newly arrived brother John, made their first move into an industry where they would eventually carve an envious niche. For a small investment they bought a lumber mill in Molalla, OR, a small town east of Oregon City.
Erminia said later the purchase was due to the brothers growing weary of the construction business in which they could see little future. In order to meet the competition, they would have had to lower the standards of their craftsmanship and this they did not want to do.
Trees were in their heritage (some relatives are still in the lumber trade in Italy), and the idea of producing lumber appealed to them.
This is also a possibility: The wives, who grew up in the lumber towns of Kelso and Longview may have had some subtle influence on the decision. They knew that the folks who lived in the big houses and drove nice cars were mill owners and managers, and they may have pushed their men in that direction.
The Molalla mill had a capacity of about 10,000 board feet of railroad ties a day when it was at full tilt. The brothers employed ten men and worked twice as hard as any of them.
A pattern developed then that was to be their way of operating for many years to come; George was general manager and salesman, Erminio ran the mill, and John kept the machinery operating.
“Because I was the only one in the outfit who had caulked (cork) boots, I was the jack-of-all-trades,” said Erminia. “I had to be pond monkey, as well as run the cutoff saw. We helped with repair and yard work after hours, and after the after-hours, I still had the time book and log scale to take care of.” Erminia also had to take care of some family responsibilities. Irene was expecting their first child, so the father-to-be built a small cabin (sometimes he called it a shack) near the mill.
The house was not quite finished, and the Giustina Brothers first venture into the lumber business was almost paid for when disaster struck.
On a Sunday morning, April 7, 1918, Erminio received word that his wife, Irene, had given birth to their first child, Natale Bernard, in a Portland hospital. Erminia hurried to the hospital and was barely adjusted to his new found family status when brother George came into the room.
Erminia was upset, to say the least, for he thought George should not have left the mill. But George quickly explained, there was no mill; it had burned during the night. There was nothing left.
“It was quite a shock and disappointment,” said Erminia later. “All our plans had gone up in smoke and my family was never to occupy my cabin which we had looked forward to … I really felt bad, it was like a bad dream.” But it wasn’t like the Giustinas to take a setback. They would find another mill to buy. They had paid for the Molalla mill in six months’ operation, even though they had constant trouble with keeping the steam up, and they didn’t want to go back to the building business.
“If we can make that much money in six months, I’m damned if I’II go back to building,” George vowed.
So they went shopping for another mill, counseled by a man named Hine who helped them with the finances.
Their second mill was in Vesper, Clatsop County, in the Nehalem Valley.
As the crow flies, the Vesper mill was only 16 miles from Clatskanie, the nearest community of any size. But with the roads of the day, it might as well have been 500 miles, said Erminia. Except for the summer months, from Vesper tq Clatskanie was a daylong journey.
George, Erminia, and John went to Vesper first, while their wives and their children stayed with friends in Portland. And, working a few hours at a time when he could be spared from the mill, Erminia started his second house. When it was finished, the girls took the Kerry Line railroad to Birkenfeld and then a horse-drawn wagon to Vesper. Erminia hired a moving van in Portland and brought up his and Irene’s few pieces of furniture.
Ehrman, Erminia and Irene’s second son, and Dolores, their first and only daughter, were born during the Vesper episode (at St. Vincent Hospital in Portland, which accounts for Ehrman’s middle name – Vincent).
Erminia finished his house near the mill, and the two families lived there until George built his.
Erminia’s kids had George and Mazie to play with. Madalena had been born earlier at Portland, and the stay at Vesper produced Dorothea and Alice.
Life at Vesper was pleasant for the young families. The Nehalem Valley is a favored placed, lush with growth, huge vine maples that turned color with the weather and a river so stocked with fish and crawfish that the girls competed to see who could catch the most for dinner at the cook house.
Mazie and Irene soon learned to cock – in a big way and in a hurry.
‘”A cook would just quit and walk out,” says Irene. “At night we could find out we had to get breakfast for 25 men.”
They bought beef by the side and did their own butchering, “because we thought we could do it better than the butcher.”
Whether cooked by the sisters or by an outside cook, the meals were huge in the tradition of lumber camps throughout the Northwest; plates of steaks, huge bowls of potatoes, a choice of several pies or cake and always peanut butter, jam and jelly. Breakfast was hotcakes plus ham and eggs and fried spuds, and lunch was almost as huge as dinner. The quality of the chow at the camps in those days was what held a crew together, and if a logger or a millhand heard that the food was better at another camp, there he would go as soon as he could draw his wages.
Like the Molalla mill, the Vesper plant was in bad shape. The several owners prior to the Giustinas had been underfinanced and could never bring the plant into full gear. The Nystrom family owns the property now, just as it did most of the time in the earlier years.
And, as always with mills of that era, transportation was a large problem. Their lumber had to be hauled over five miles of plank road to the railhead at Birkenfeld, a slow and labor costly procedure.
But the Giustinas had several advantages. They had credit with the First National Bank of Portland and they had John, the blacksmith who could fix anything.
In a short while, they fixed and renewed just about every square foot of the plant.
The brothers operated the Vesper plant from 1919 to 1923, mostIy cutting the big timbers and stringers needed for bridge and railroad construction and for ship keels that went to the shipyards in Portland and Astoria. They also turned out “Jap Squares,” the huge two-foot by two-foot timbers that were shipped to Japan where the Japanese remilled them.
There were obstacles at every turn. For one thing, the Nehalem Valley farmers raised hell about the damage caused to county roads by the horse-drawn sleds, and Astoria, the county seat where problems had to be solved, was a long way from Vesper.
The only way they could keep those roads in shape was to plank the weak spots, but this was costly, and they could get no help from the county. So, George made a trip to Astoria and presented the commissioners with $1,000 cash. “You take this to help with the road repaid and I’ll sell you the planks at discount,” he said. The deal was made and the brothers saved themselves a pot of money.
By 1923, they had just about run out of timber (in those days, a mill could only cut timber within a few miles because of transportation limitations) and they had set aside enough money to get into a larger mill.
Again, they went shopping and this time, they found the mills and the timber to set them up in good shape. Some say they “lucked in,” but the evidence is that they were canny and that their hard work, perseverance, and growing sophistication made much of a good opportunity.
In 1923, they moved to Lane County, where the family fortunes changed, and the Giustina Brothers name stood out among the pioneering lumber companies of Oregon.
CHAPTER FOUR – MOVING TO LANE COUNTY
Lane County’s lumber industry was kicking in its boisterous infancy when the Giustina brothers bought sawmills and timber at Lost Creek Valley and nearby Walker. Business was spurred by the post World War I boom, and raw material was abundant.
Hundreds of mills dotted the landscape, most of them small and crude by today’s standards, and the 1920s were a time when a small bit of capital, a lot of guts and long hours of hard work could put a man in the lumber business. The U.S. Forest Service and the federal Bureau of Land Management had vast acreages of forest for sale and private operators held the rest. The west side of the Cascades held (and still does) one of the nation’s richest deposits of commercial timber.
Lost Creek flows north from Mount June into the Willamette River near Dexter and drains a long and narrow valley. Pioneer Elijah Bristow probably named the stream and the valley because the area was so secluded.
It’s a pleasant area, still relatively wild in spite of the many homes that have sprung up since the 1920s. The small farmsteads have large gardens, and on washing day, clotheslines wave in the breeze. Many residents are descendants of the Bristows, the Kimballs and the Mathews, those hardy folk who first settled the valley.
Within a few miles of the valley (in an area between Pleasant Hill and Lowell), amateur historian Verna M. Mauney counted 37 mill operations during the first part of the 20th Century. They ranged in size from small family mills created to make lumber for homesteads to larger (but not much) commercial enterprises. Each had a history of being passed from father to son, from neighbor to neighbor, and from company to company.
There was very little stability in the business in the earlier days, most operations were undercapitalized and both milling and marketing were a hit-and-miss proposition.
A large reason for the smallness of the operations was the limits of transportation. An outfit that must depend on planked roads to bring logs to the mill and lumber to the railhead could not grow very large – the mills had to be near the timber.
Small though they were, the “peckerwood” outfits were cutting into magnificent stands of virgin Douglas fir. As far as one could see, the mountains piling up from the valley were dense with trees. Growing conditions were nearly perfect: good soil, lots of water and adequate drainage. “God sure knew what he was doing when he planted Doug fir in these mountains,” an oldtimer once said.
CHAPTER FIVE – LOST CREEK
The past had been the teacher, and the future held the promise when the brothers moved to Lane County. Lessons from.·the construction business and the mill operations at Molalla and Vesper equipped them well for this next large move, they had a little money, good credit and unlimited ambition.
They were young (George 37, Erminia 36 and John 34) and they were healthy. They just couldn’t get enough of the rugged life of lumbering and they sensed that what their dad had sent them to America for was just around the corner. As they mailed money back to Italy, they also conveyed their enthusiasm for the good life they were commencing to enjoyed.
With the Lane County purchases, the brothers gained stability; in just a few years, they moved from their previous wolf-at-the-door status into one in which they could plan ahead and operate their business on a firmer foundation.
Now they could dream and plan, wheel and deal and put their faith in the future.
The mill on Gossage Creek, just a head rig, an edger and two cutoff saws, turned out about 25 thousand board feet a day and in a few years, production was boosted to about 100,000 feet. Most of their early supply was government timber, but, gradually they bought private timber and started what’s known today as the “Giustina Bros. Tree Farm”, a progressive sustained-yield program that will benefit their heirs for many generations to come.
The pattern that was established back at Molalla was refined: George was general manager and “Mr. Outside,” Erminia was operations manager and “Mr. Inside,” and John kept the wheels turning. Nobody drew up such a formal plan; it just worked out that way. George, the more flamboyant, outgoing personality worked in Eugene at the company’s office buying timber and selling lumber. Erminia, quiet and introverted, was content running the mill: mostly running the cutoff saw and seeing that the logs from the pond were right for the day’s orders and taking the book work home with him at night. The two older brothers were the kingpins of the operation. While a full partner, John seems to have had little to do with the decisions made.
They were all good friends. On and off the job, they got along splendidly. They had been selling themselves and their skills since they first landed on America’s shores, and they took to the lumber business as if they had been born to it.
English language was not a barrier to these Italians, who had vowed to learn the language when they came to America. They spoke nothing but the new language, even at home, and while they never quite cast off the accents of the old country, they handled their second language quite well.
“It was a patriarchal society, based on the old country system,” says Horace Onorato, Mazie and Irene’s brother who was with the company in the late 1920s. “The oldest, in this case, George, had the authority and this made decision-making easier, although many’s the time I heard George say he would answer something ‘after I talk to my brother.'” “They were remarkable men. Above all, they were disciplined. They worked awfully hard and people around them worked harder because of the pace they set. Succeeding was an obsession.” “They were good millmen, good loggers and they had a lot of business savvy,” says Frank Graham, a longtime friend. “And they worked long and hard all of the time. Even when they were successful, they didn’t let up.
The mill cut mostly rough dimension lumber, bridge stringers, beams and ties for railroads. There was little or no market then for housing materials, especially for these small mills.
The old bugaboo, transportation, was still a pain, but at Lost Creek the Giustinas started with horses and skid roads and high lead logging, then made a bold move: they built a railroad. This brought the logs to the mill and a flume carried the lumber to civilization.
The railroad that went into the woods to bring logs to the mill was a crude affair, but it worked. The first locomotive, a 32-ton Climax, wood fired, was quickly dubbed “The Spirit of St. Vitus,” because of its shakiness, and brother John’s blacksmithing skills were constantly in need.
It was quite a feat to get the Spirit of St. Vitus to where it was needed. It came under its own power on Southern Pacific tracks to the siding at Lowell. Now what? So take the engine apart and truck it across the river on the Lowell bridge and then up to the mill. No trouble for John Giustina and Horace Onorato. No trouble, either, in putting the thing back together.
The “cars” as such nearly defy description – the load of logs made the “reach” that held together two sets of wheels – one on each end of the load. This lack of a reach gave the loggers considerable flexibility – logs nearly 100 feet long or as short as 24 could be hauled out of the woods.
On a ridge above the mill, the load of logs was disconnected from the engine and lowered with a “snubber” donkey down the tracks of the “incline.” This short and steep set of tracks saved a lot of rail laying, for its grade was 18 percent compared to about 5 percent for the rest of the route.
At the bottom of the incline, another donkey lifted the logs into the pond, and the “trucks” were pulled back up the incline, attached to the locomotive and the rig chugged back up the hill.
As the logging grew further from the mill, more track was laid. A section gang was kept busy; section gangs were made up of groups of Swede, Greeks, Italians or.Bulgarians, each ramrodded by a section boss of the same nationality. Several of the Greek section workers later became Eugene’s “shoeshine boys” with their own shops.
Track laying was crude and slow. First a gas-powered shovel carved out the grade and alignment. Nat Giustina recalls when as a teenager he delivered gas to the shovel on a rail speeder then carried it, ten gallons at a time, to the rig. “I used a yoke, a thing that went across the shoulders, to carry two five gallon cans a trip,” he says. “And that shovel used a lot of gas.” There were no bulldozers in those days.
When the excavation was completed, rail and track was laid by the section gang and then the rock was put in place. There was no way then to put the rock down first, for it had to be hauled by the rail cars which were behind. The cars with rock were eased onto the new rails, the rock was unloaded. The train backed off and the workers used backs and tampers to place the rock under and between the ties for stability and drainage.
For many years the Giustina railroad brought the logs from the woods to the mill, about six miles at the farthest. It was good transportation, but logging was limited to the economics of the distance – only trees near the rails – about 2,400 feet – could be cut.
CHAPTER SIX – MOVING LOGS AND LUMBER
The railroad brought the logs to the mill, but a unique conveyance took the lumber to civilization. The Flume.
There were no decent roads in the Lost Creek Valley in 1923 – none good enough for hauling lumber. The few roads were impassable in the winter and could only serve the few families who drove around the larger puddles.
A fellow named Jack Godman conceived the idea of building a flume, sort of an artificial creek, to carry lumber from the several mills in the valley. He evangelized his idea until he came up with eight investors, including himself, and he built the flume.
The up-in-the-air trough was built section by section, starting at the top, near where the Giustinas were later to operate. As a section was built, lumber for the next section was floated down. Supplying the lumber were the Hyland Mill at Zion and the Hills Mill on Anthony Creek, according to Jerold Williams, who wrote about the flume in the Winter 1976 edition of the Lane County Historian.
The flume was 7 1/2 miles long. From Gossage Creek it went by Dexter, crossed the Willamette River and terminated at the Pengra siding of the Southern Pacific RaiIroad. There, the lumber from the several mills that shared the flume was sent through the Lewis Co. planer and shipped out on the railroad.
The creaky wooden structure was a dominant part of Lost Creek lore.
In the winter, the dripping water from it created huge icicles, and in the summer, local kids would beat the heat by sliding down the flume when nobody was watching. The tallyman at the end of the flume was never surprised to see blood in the water; deer hunters sometimes saved a lot of work by sliding carcasses down a few miles.
In 1923, Williams says, the flume was in bad shape, and so was its operating company. But soon after Eugene A. Lewis bought a mill in the valley, he purchased the flume and put it into a semblance of good shape.
When the Giustinas moved into the region, buying a mill a mile above the Lewis operation, they negotiated with Lewis and used his flume on a board foot basis. So did the Wilson mill. Each piece of lumber was branded: Lewis – “O”, Giustina – “S”, and Wilson – “X”. Williams speculates that these symbols were chosen because they would be scrawled with chalk at great speed. At the end of the line, a tallyman with a large tally sheet credited the pieces to their companies.
The flume was quite an engineering feat. It was a 26-inch high V, supported much in the manner of a railroad trestle. It used water from Gossage Creek to move lumber at 4 1/2 miles per hour. Elevation ranged from ground level to as high as 40 feet where it crossed the Willamette. To keep the lumber moving – and some of it came in big and long pieces – a young and athletic crew patrolled on catwalks to clean out jams with peavies or pickaroons.
One jam up led to the only fatality on the flume. Twenty-two year old flume walker Eugene Parker was killed on May 19, 1933 when he fell about 10 feet and struck his head on a support timber.
In the summer of 1937, a spectacular accident occurred that is still remembered by natives of the area. Flume Boss Pete Kuiper had just stepped off the flume at the end of the day when “a sudden and ominous crack was heard all up and down the valley and a mile and a half flume fell like a row of dominoes;· according to Williams.
Highway 58 at Dexter was closed for several hours until the debris could be cleaned away. An emergency repair job was commenced with help from many areas. (Some itinerant workers from Minnesota worked on the repair and when they left, Ruth Parker’s peaches disappeared from her orchard.) The flume was quickly back in operation, so quickly that Lewis, known as something of a tightwad, hauled a truck of hard liquor to the site for a grand celebration.
As the 1930s waned, roads improved and the flume was doomed. The senior Lewis died and his son Jack, noting that as the structure aged the maintenance costs increased, lost his enthusiasm for keeping it going.
The flood of 1942 spelled the end of the innovative transportation system.
A major reason for the flume’s demise, though, was the Giustina decision to haul its lumber out by truck. (The company had purchased a planing mill in Eugene so the fluming and loading onto the railroad was impractical.) Roy Clark’s fleet of Dodge trucks was contracted and another new era came rambling in.
It’s easy to imagine that the residents of the valley missed the flume. Clark’s drivers were paid by the thousand, so they really high balled it down those roads, right down the middle. On the other hand, the flume was quiet and it couldn’t run over you or scare the cows.
CHAPTER SEVEN – GROWING UP IN CAMP
In most people’s lives there are places and times locked back on with smiling memory. With Erminio Giustina’s kids, this is “Camp.” It’s the mill, the commissary, the bunkhouse, the cookhouse and the· family home up Lost Creek. It all adds up to “Camp,” where Nat, Ehrman, Dolores and Greg spent happy childhood years. George’s family lived in Eugene where the central office was.
“You just couldn’t pick out a better place to be a kid,” says Ehrman, who was three years old when the family moved there and lived there until he was 10.
“It was perfect, and I have always considered Camp my home.” The kids were close to the exciting mill and the logging; they were outdocrs all the time; there were hills to climb, creeks to fish, an endless forest to hunt in, and they were in an adult world, a world of encouraging love.
“Most of the men who worked for the company and lived in the bunkhouse were young single men, so we had a whole bunch of older brothers, so to speak,” says Ehrman. “They played ball in the evenings, and sometimes we got to play, and they just adopted us.” He remembers playing late in the summer evenings when the always-burning slab fire gave out enough light to lengthen the play day and how there was enough milldust on the ground that it was easy to mark squares and patterns for games like Fox and Hounds.
“We’d get holes in our shirts from the sparks from the fire and go home and catch hell from Mother.” Dolores remembers all this and the Sunday picnics, too. “On Sunday, the family would walk the six or seven miles up the railroad where the logging was and we’d have dinner there.
“I grew up an outdocr person there and it was just delightful.” Of course, this idyllic experience had some flaws. Like the day Dolores nearly drowned under the cook shack.
A creek ran under the cook shack and one day, Dolores ran too fast across the log a little ways upstream from the shack, fell in the creek and disappeared under the building.
One of her brothers yelled and a logger, Bill Mountne, went to the rescue. On the downstream side of the shack, he saw a hair ribbon, reached for it, and pulled Dolores up by her hair. She was scared and wet but unbowed, the story goes, and in no time at all was scampering around Camp again.
“I hated to leave Camp when we moved to Pleasant Hill,” she says.
“It was just a great place to live.”
From her bedroom window, Dolores could see the conveyor belt that took waste to the top of the huge, flaming burner. “I could see Dad walking up that conveyor to unsnarl some waste that had stuck and it used to worry me a lot,” she says. “I heard later that he thought the job was too dangerous for anyone else, so he did it.” Mother Irene also recalls Camp with fondness.”I Iiked the outdoors. We were very happy.”
Camp is all grown over now. Only a few old timbers and some rustling machinery remain of the place that was once the bustling center of the family activity. Those rambunctious kids are all grown and settled down but if you want them to smile, just ask them about Camp, the best place a kid could grow up in.
CHAPTER EIGHT – THEY WERE BETTER ORGANIZED
As they improved their mill, the brothers bought just enough timber to keep things running.
Jack Lewis, the owner of the ill-fated flume and of a nearby mill, recalls one timber purchase the Giustinas made: “We had left some timber on one of sales because we couldn’t reach it,” he says. “We just walked away from it.
“Then one day, about 1943, Gecrge Giustina calls me and asks if I wanted to sell that piece. It was about a million board feet.
“I said sure, and he asked how much and I said a bottle of Scotch.
It was worth about a thousand dollars but we had lots of money then and didn’t want to fool with it.
“So we drew up a quitclaim deed and I got the bottle of Scotch.” A.O. McReynolds, longtime lands manager and forester for Giustina’s says that when that piece was logged a few years later, the severance taxes alone amounted to thousands of dollars – many times more than the purchase price.
In the 1920s when the move was made to Lost Creek, timber wasn’t worth much. A typical price of O and C federal timber was $1.75 a thousand board feet on the stump. And this was very good timber, good enough to meet the high standards demanded by the railroads to whom the Giustinas sold. Because of these grades and the limits of railroad logging, only about half the timber purchased was actually logged out; the rest waited until better technology came along.
Labor was cheap, too. About 50 cents an hour could hire a good logger or mill worker; a sawyer was paid around eight dollars for an eight-hour shift.
According to oldtime logger Slim Rasmussen, the Giustinas were good people to work for. “It was a real highball operation,” he said. “They really pushed you, but they were fair and they knew what they were doing.” Slim was working at Lost Creek when he retired.
“They were just better organized than other outfits,” he says.
CHAPTER NINE – THE LAST BROTHER ARRIVES
In 1923, Anselmo, the last of Natale Giustina’s boys, came to America. He is the only surviving sons as this is written.
Anselmo, now called Ansel, was born at San Vito Sept. 6, 1900. Most of his life, he planned to follow his brothers to America, but military service and family obligations detained his journey until he was 23.
“I knew that in America, the wages were high and if you used a little common sense, you could do well,” he says. “All the boys in.the village wanted to go to the United States.'” He remembers little about the trip over, except that he got up early to see the Statue of Liberty. No one had said goodbye when he left Genoa and no one greeted him when he arrived in the new country. “I got through Ellis Island and went out and asked what train to take to Trenton, New Jersey, where my cousins lived.” His path to Oregon took him along much of the same route as his older brothers. He worked in the East as a carpenter before he journeyed west to join his brothers at Lost Creek.
“He was just the cutest Italian young man you ever saw,” says Gertrude WalI, a longtime Giustina bookkeeper. “‘He was so handsome.” As a 10 percent partner, Ansel worked as millwright, grader and later, manager of the planing mill in Eugene. In 1933, he married Josephine Nenegus, an Italian girl he had met in San Vito. Josephine was an American citizen by birth and was visiting San Vito with her mother.
Ansel was at Lost Creek when he found that Josephine was in New Jersey, so he wrote and the romance bloomed. She came to Eugene and they were married in St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
Soon after, Ansel lost a leg in a mill accident, but was able to continue work until his retirement in 1972. He and his wife live in a large, comfortable home in Eugene, near their daughter, Sylvia, and the son, Jim.
A turning point in the Giustina fortunes was in the late 1940s, Ansel says. “We borrowed quite a bit of money and invested in land and timber, and that proved to be very good- business. Ten years later, the value of the timber was ten times what we paid for it. We took a big chance, but it was good common sense, too.” George Giustina died in 1946, so the decision for several large loans was made without his counsel. Ansel gives Erminia and his son, Nat, credit for the move. “We met and decided to go ahead,” Ansel says.
“There was no disagreement.” However, Erminia told one of his employees soon after one large loan was made that “we mortgaged our lives and the souls of our wives.
They have been good years,” Ansel says. “We got along so well and we turned a profit.” Ansel’s wife gives a hint of the influence George had on the business, even the family personal affairs.
“When we lived up at camp, I would go to town to shop with Lucy (John’s wife) in their car because we didn’t have one. But when we moved to Pengra, we needed a car.
“Ansel wanted a Plymouth, but George said, no, you need a Chevrolet, so we bought a Chevrolet. And Ansel never did like that car.”
CHAPTER TEN – FATHERS AND FAMILIES
What were George and Erminia Giustina like? Let’s look at them in the late 1920s and early 1930s when the business took all their time and energy, plus the unbridled strength and determination they had brought with them to America.
Although nobody in the family remembers any discrimination, even during World War II, a sociologist could make a case that they were members of a minority, and that on the one hand made things a little rougher, but on the other hand provided them with more motivation to succeed than people usually have. They never forgot that America was their land of opportunity and that they could rise above their meager background.
Both men were short statures – George at about 5 foot seven was an inch taller than his younger brother. They were wide shouldered and small waisted and were so strong, they were sometimes compared to professional wrestlers.
While Erminia seemed not to have cared much about his clothing, George, the more outgoing and social of the pair, walked the streets of Eugene dressed in boots, jodhpurs and a Navy pea jacket. He was considered a “dapper” dresser.
Both worked hard – 18-hour days, six or more days a week. When the company was young and struggling, they allowed themselves only Sunday afternoons off, so they could spend a little time with their wives and kids.
There were differences between the wives, too. Mazie was, like George, a city creature who loved music and University of Oregon social encounters. She dressed her daughters in white middies and pleated skirts to send them to St. Mary’s Catholic School.
Irene, Erminia’s wife and Mazie’s sister, seems to have been happy living the logger’s wife life at Camp. She and Erminia’s fourth child, Gregory, was born in 1926.
The families were close, very close. Sunday dinners were nearly always together and any birthday or anniversary called for a big party. Their descendants carry on the same customs.
Erminio’s boys and George’s girls were more like brothers and sisters than cousins. “If Nat or I didn’t have a date, we’d call a cousin, says Ehrman.
Erminia and George learned English in a hurry and hardly ever spoke Italian (except that Erminia counted in his native tongue), but they never quite cast off their accents, and when they were excited, they were not easy to understand.
Both loved to drink “Diego red” wine but were apparently able to handle it.
As fathers, they were as good as an/one could be, considering how hard they worked and their patriarchal background. Their work took so much out of them, there wasn’t must left; both were disciplinarians of the old school, and punishment for a breach of conduct was sure and swift.
“‘I didn’t mind the lickings so much, because I knew I had them coming,” says Erminia’s second son, Ehrman, “but Dad would hand me his old pocket knife and I had to go out and cut my own switch and it had better be big enough, too.” Dolores says she never knew her father, Erminia, very well until she was in high school. “Nat was in college, Ehrman was going to Eugene High School and mother and Gregory were in Italy for quite a while.
“I was the only one there and when Dad would come home, dirty and tired, I would meet him and sit there downstairs while he cleaned up.
Then we would talk about how each had spent the day; they turned out to be very special times and I’I I never forget them.” Given the male chauvinistic attitude of Erminia and his brothers, it probably helped that Dolores was a bit of a tomboy and a standout basketball player at Pleasant Hill High School. .
Nat, Erminia and Irene’s firstborn, recalls with fondness how the kids would go to Eugene to get their hair cut.
“The barber shop was next to Babb’s Hardware on Willamette Street,” he says. “When we finished at the barber shop, we would wait for Father at Babb’s, where old men (probably 25 or so) would sit around the stove and try to hit the spittoon with their tobacco.
“We liked to listen to the talk, and the store (later John Warren’s) was a fascinating place.” One of George and Mazie’s daughters, Dorothea, says the brothers were good fathers “when you consider the circumstances under which they had been raised.
“Their parents were strict, so they were strict; their life in Italy had been hard and austere, so that’s the way they lived in the New World for quite a few years.” Gradually, George and Erminia mellowed and found that with their increasing affluence, they and their families could buy things and enjoy themselves in the American tradition. Both became sports enthusiasts, and Erminio and son, Nat (former batboy for the Hills Creek team), invested in a minor league baseball team in Eugene, and the Giustinas were prime movers in the building of Eugene’s Civic Stadium.
While their sons and daughters do not make of them loving, kindly fathers, there is a great amount of respect. Ehrman puts some of this in these words: “These people, the ones who came from the old country and landed here with a suit of clothes and maybe a five dollar bill, had guts.
Sometimes I compare them to the pioneers who walked across the plains, the deserts, and the mountains to the West.
“They really had courage to come into a strange world, with no knowledge of language and customs. They were hungry for a better life, they were highly motivated, they were consumed by the work ethic, but they also had just sheer courage, to get out there and battle against really enormous odds. I’m very proud of that generation.”
CHAPTER ELEVEN – INTO TREE FARMING
Profound changes swept through the woods industry in the years preceding World War II, and when the war came, the Giustinas were prepared for the increased productions.
For the score of years that Erminia and George had been in the business, logging and milling had been rather simple, controlled by logistics.
The early mills were right in the forest, so close to the trees that several years of production could be had by merely skidding the logs right to the pond, without the bother and expense of raiIs or roads. And when locomotives and trucks went into the woods, only nearby trees were cut.
The land itself was considered worthless. An operator simply bought the acreage, cut the timber and let the land go. No property taxes were paid and western Oregon counties held vast acreages that had reverted for lack of tax payments. It was just the way things were done. Who needed logged over land, when so much timber was just a hoot and holler up the draw.
But as the price of lumber, and thus timber, rose, the old attitude of cut-and-get-out was changing. Slowly, yes, but inexorably.
When Nat Giustina, Erminia’s oldest boy, came out of (Oregon State) college in 1941, a series of conversations with A.O. McReynolds, then an official of the West Coast Lumbermen’s Association, convinced him that the future was in growing trees to replace those logged out.
“It wasn’t hard to see that there wasn’t an endless supply of timber and that the companies who were in for the long haul had better start growing their own.” Nat went to his uncle George with the new concept, and the company policy was changed. At first, the land they had logged and were letting go for unpaid taxes was reclaimed and then the purchase of other holdings was pursued.
In a major move away from the Lost Creek area, the company had already (1939) purchased 5,000 acres up Gate Creek in the McKenzie River area, a transaction that proved to be very fortunate.
“For many years, we let our lands regenerate naturally,” says Nat.
“As you logged a unit, you left a seed tree or two and the seeds from those trees would start the reproduction cycle.” But this was a hit and miss system and the idea of planting trees gradually came into use, with Giustinas among the early day practitioners. Such terms as “sustained yield,” “perpetual harvest” and “regeneration” came into conversations. It was a new ball game.
In 1944, Giustinas were given the honor of having one of the earliest nationally certified tree farms.
At first, the land was seeded by helicopter crews, with special seed harvested for proper elevation and other criteria. This was never cost effective (among other developments was the loss of considerable seeds to rodents) and since the 1970s, the land has been hand planted with one or two year old seedlings grown in industrial nurseries.
But the Giustinas don’t wait until the land is logged to initiate good forestry .. To allow the proper maturation of trees, some of them are thinned from the tracts and made into framing lumber. In Eugene, the family has a “Scragg mill” which turns the thinned-out trees into 2x4s and 4x4s. In an earlier day, these small logs would have been left in the woods and burned as slash.
These modern forestry practices ensure that good trees will always grow on the family’s holdings. Silviculture, the Giustina way, treats trees as a crop and the yield will be sustained forever.
CHAPTER TWELVE – THE DREAM COMING TRUE
Starting in the mid-1930s, it was apparent that expansion was in order. No longer was the Lost Creek timber and the old mill the end-all for the brothers. The timber was further and further from the mill; the mill was wearing out, and something needed to be done.
Erminia even expanded his family; Gregory, the last child, was born in a Eugene hospital. In 1934, the company bought the Fisher McDonald mill at West Second Ave., and Garfield Street in Eugene and made it into a planing mill. The office and headquarters moved to the new site.
Those Italian immigrant brothers, George, Erminia, John and Anselmo, were now successful business men. They were important employers, their opinions were valued in the lumber industry, and they could relax, just a little, from their rigorous lifestyles.
Now, too, was the time for them to become vital parts of community affairs. Just as had their father in Italy, they involved themselves in civic affairs. George was active in the Eugene Chamber of Commerce, a member of the Rotary Club and was a generous supporter of sports and athletics. Erminia worked toward improving public schools, was a member of Lions Club and the Eugene Country Club and with George and the younger members of the family was a large booster of amateur athletics.
Ansel was married in 1931, in a pull-out-the-stops Italian wedding with plenty of good red Italian wine.
Just two years later, misfortune came to Ansel. He and a friend were standing near the head rig when a cant hung up on the rig and each lost a leg.
When the Depression arrived in the late 1930s, the lumber industry shut down, and both George and Erminia took advantage of this down time by building large and comfortable family homes; George’s at 20 West 20th Ave., in Eugene, and Erminia at Pleasant Hill. The families moved to their new homes in 1931. Erminia Giustina finally had the family home he had dreamed of, a graceful, two-story porticoed building comfortably seated on rising land. The kids’ new school was just across the fence.
This was all well and good, but Ehrman says to this day that the house at Camp “will always be home to me.”
In 1940, a major transaction brought the brothers 5,000 acres of timberland in the Gate Creek area of the McKenzie Valley. This purchase proved to be one of the better ones, for the quality and quantity of the timber was better and more than bargained for.
In 1941, an era ended. The mill up Lost Creek was dismantled and operations moved to a new sawmill at the Second and Garfield site. Logs were trucked in from Lost Creek and the McKenzie.
(To build the new plant in Eugene, the Giustinas borrowed $125,000 from the federal Reconstruction Finance Corp. The entire outlay for sawmill and planing mill was $226,000.)
When World War II arrived, the Giustinas were ready. From the mill were shipped Douglas fir products for the building of mine sweepers, landing craft and aircraft carriers. For the big carriers, Giustina lumber was laminated to hardwoods for the decks for safety as well as economic reasons. In case of fire, a constant worry on carriers, the wood would only char, whereas had the decks been built of steel, they would have buckled. When a fire broke out, it was relatively simple and inexpensive to replace the charred wood.
Ehrman and Dolores both served in World War II – Ehrman as a patrol bomber pilot in the South Pacific and Dolores as a nurse in the Philippines. Gregory was drafted into the Army during the Korean war and was sent to Germany.
But Nat, despite his attending a West Point preparatory school near Washington, D.C., stayed home. His father simply told him that if he didn’t stay and run the mill, it would be sold. The government exempted him from service and he helped run the company which was a large contributor to the war effort.
In 1945, a new partnership was formed, with Nat, Madeline and Dorothea becoming partners. George had 24.5 percent; Erminia, 27.5%; John, 10%, Ansel, 10%; Nat 10%; Madeline, 10%; and Dorothea, 8%.
Book value of the operation was $594,000.
A small sawmill at Blue River, called the Lucky Boy Lumber Co., was acquired in late 1945.
Another reorganization came on Jan. 31, 1946 when John Giustina withdrew from the partnership and retired to southern California. His 10 percent interest was purchased by Erminia, Ansel and Nat, and Ehrman was admitted as a partner, purchasing interest from Erminia. George did not buy any of John’s interest, valued at $61,739., neither did his daughters.
After this reorganization, George owned 24.5%; Erminia, 17.5% (10% of his interest was purchased by Ehrman); Ansel, 15%; Nat, 12.5%; Ehrman, 12.5%; Madeline, 10%; and Dorothea, 8%.
These changes were all taken in stride. No longer was this a little company, headed by four immigrants; now it was a large integrated company with sophisticated manufacturing equipment, sustained yield management of the forest and younger people taking over the reins. The inevitable changes were nearly in place.
Was the dream coming true? Was there ever a real dream? One senses that the practicality of the Giustina brothers, the years of daylight-until-after-dusk work, the devotion to the honest principles of their father and the strong sense of family were more motivational than a demand for success. George, Erminie, John and Ansel had done very, very well, but it was a combination of their traits, influenced by hard-headed business savvy, that had brought them this far. Probably it never occurred to them back at Portland, or Molalla, or Vesper, or even the early days at Camp, that they would someday own and operate a major forest products company.
George died on April 26, 1946, and the remaining partners bought all of his interest from his estate.
In March, 1946, soon after their father’s death, Madeline and Dorothea sold their interest to the remaining partners, and most of the ownership passed to Erminia’s side of the family. The business was now owned by Erminie, Ansel, Nat and Ehrman. Later, in 1953, Gregory bought a 15 percent interest from his father.
In 1948, the company purchased 63 million board feet of timber (5,590 acres) for $224,493 (an average stumpage value of $3.56 a thousand) and another 15 million on the McKenzie at $8 a thousand.
Five acres of land and a plant called Timber Structures was purchased in 1950 – right next to the Giustina mill in Eugene, and in 1952, a veneer plant was built and the company started producing veneer for the plywood industry.
Purchase of the Mt. June Lumber Co. in November, 1954, was significant. Not only did Giustinas acquire 9,097 acres of land and nearly a billion feet of timber near the Lost Creek tree farm for $1,950,000, but the company greatly increased the value of the purchase because of an industrial change: A considerable portion of the Mt. June timber was considered worthless because of “white speck,” a fungus that attacks living trees – when the wood is cut, clusters of white areas show up.
But Giustinas had watched a development within the industry: white speck trees could be made into utility grade plywood. So all those “worthless” white speck trees (for which the company paid nothing), were logged and turned into plywood and profit.
Another major acquisition came in 1959 when Georgia Pacific purchased the old Booth Kelly Lumber Co., and sold off some of its timberland.
Giustinas bought $3 million worth of timber on 4,660 acres.
Where the “old way” was to stay out of debt if at all possible, Giustinas were now in the position of borrowing big chunks of money to consolidate their timber holdings and expand their operations. “Borrowing $1.5 million to buy out Mt. June bothered Nat and me more than it did our father,” says Ehrman.
Gregory, Erminia. and Irene’s youngest child, became a partner in 1953 by acquiring a 15% interest from his father.
A labor strike shut down the sawmill for several months in June, 1954. The veneer plant continued to operate.
At times, the partners made investments outside their own plant and operation. During the 1940s, as part of a war effort, the Willamette Valley Wood Chemical Co., was formed to process sawdust and hogged fuels for the manufacture of wood alcohol. Giustina Brothers bought 50 shares at $100 a share. The process was never economically feasible.
The R.H. Pierce Co., a major manufacturer of irrigation products, was formed in 1954 by a group of lumber executives, including Nat, Ehrman and Gregory Giustina, and in 1959, Nat and Ehrman joined a consortium of lumber people to form Cascade Fibre Co., the company was later sold to Bohemia Lumber Co.
Erminia Giustina died Jan. 20, 1961, while vacationing on the Italian Riviera. He was 73 years old and his quiet death was blamed on a stroke.
Now George and Erminia were gone, John and Ansel had retired and the baton passed to the next generation. Nat and Ehrman assumed control of the company.
And the boys, as they were known, ran smack into big trouble. Smoke and plywood ash from the mill in Eugene was blamed for a large part of the city’s pollution and the mill was closed.
To this day, Nat claims Giustinas were harassed out of business – that the pollution controls called for by state and local officials were so expensive it was not economically feasible to install them.
The sawmill was shut down in March, 1963.
Eleven years later, the same thing happened to the plywood plant.
The Department of Environmental Quality’s requirements were just too much for a profitable operation and all but the green end of the plywood operation was closed.
Of the major wood products operation, only the timberlands and a veneer peeling plant were left. Hundreds of employees had been laid off and Giustina Bros. was a company with more past than future.
At this writing, in fall of 1985, production is down to just one shift at the veneer plant. The industry is on slow bell as housing demands are constricted by lack of mortgage money. The Douglas fir segment of the economy is especially soft due to competition from Canada and the southern United States.
Giustina’s strength is in the ownership and management of trees, the husbandry of that timber which used to be so easily gotten but now is valuable. George and Erminia used to log out a section and let the land go for taxes, but now the land, too, is valuable for grows trees and stumpage prices are nearly 100 times what they were back in the days of Camp.
CHAPTER THIRTEEN – THE FUTURE
When George, Erminia and John moved from Vesper to Lost Creek in the 1920s, they had no way of knowing that the move was a profitable as it turned out. They bought a miil and some trees and started making lumber. That was all. When Ansel joined them, it was still a day to day kind of existence.
In time, they would employ as many as 300 workers and become important elements in the vast and growing timber industry. They would handle millions of dollars and influence the lives of thousands. They would see innovations in the way that trees were managed and harvested and how lumber was turned out. Many times, they themselves would lead.
Now there is no sawmill at all, the plywood plant is all but shut down and Giustina is a private timber company, selling timber and logs.
What is the future? Where does the proud company go from here? These are trying times for the Douglas fir industry and Giustinas has had it as rough (even rougher) as the (est. Mills are closing all 0\/81 the piace – Giust!nas closecJ quite a \.•;hiie t)ack. The n-cffHJn3! housing market is not enough to support ti’ie br-c1.wiin9 business of JL!St o_ feit-J years ago: and some experts say the industry in North America will never back.
But Giustinas hold some good cards: the cornpany o~vns a lot of 9oocl timber and good timber-producing land. It is not, as many others are, dependent on 9ove1~nment timber and the vagaries of fede(al m~r.a9ern2P-.:.
Giustina controls 60,000+ acres of land, with sustained yield of about 30 million board feet of timber a year. Ehnnan Giustlna says harvest will be continued at this level until the Old Growth and the young regenerated stands of Second Growth are harvested.
“The land then will be all hand planted under a plantation type planting. Then our yield and recovery will increase by 25 to 30. The future, then, is c!early not in production b:_.1: in t;r,;b2r management. In tirne, Giustina .s. Y·.fi/i se!! ner·u-!y 4-D rnii;/on board feet cf timber a year. That’s a iot of t1rnber~, but fts ,;alue dep6ncis on th,::; nationai economy, cornpetition from trees in other areas of the nation and the continent and public attitudes toward the growing of private timber.
i’–18.. Giustina 1 the company president ai1 d a battle-sca1~r-ed veteran of the carnpalgn to protect the industry from excess reg0iation, unfair cornpetition, ur/e::1.Hstic ta.,-,;a.t;0n cu-id the other- bur~ctens of the industry, sees the compa_n)”s future ii;·d-;,ed to the Lrtur-e of tt12 C,0~1::;is1.:3 fir- (eg/,:=:,,-,.
“Giustinas have passed 66 years in the lumber business. We started with a small mill, purchasing timber as we needed it. And then in 1939, started adding timber and timberland. Over the years, we had a large mill, a complete plywood plant, and increased our timberland holdings.
Because of environmental reasons, we closed our sawmill in 1963 and our plywood plant in 1974. We could not operate them at a profit and meet environmental restrictions.
“Wood fiber will always be in demand and the Douglas fir forests can compete with other regions – if forest growth is the only competition.
“Additions to the wilderness areas, scenic area limitations, highways, power lines, city expansion, wild life set-asides, etc., all tend to make the limited private land base more valuable.
But on the other side of the coin, logging and tree farming restrictions – fish and wild life, scenic, environmental and social – make harvesting more restrictive and more costly, as well as making tree growing more difficult. Property taxes that are not realistic further impede our ability to compete. Restricted use of herbicides and pesticides compounds our risks, problems, and costs.
“The “conservationists”, land use planners, wild-lifers, no-growth advocates, and so-called ecologists and defenders of the public interest, have hurt the Douglas fir tree growing and manufacturing business.
Many companies are leaving our region because of this and the fact that other areas, particularly the South, have a more understanding and interested public, so that their “social costs” are not out of line – are realistic – and let an operator continue to be competitive.
“Today, we in Western Oregon cannot compete with California or the South. I do not see inflation going wild again, housing should get better, but Canada will enjoy whatever increase there will be, having gone from 10% to 40% of the U.S. consumption in 10 years’.
CHAPTER FOURTEEN – THEY MADE IT
George, Erminia, John and Ansel could not have foreseen the troubles that their company has today, As the poet said, “It’s a whole new ball game.”
Theirs was a life of hard work, faith and just plain guts. In the hardscrabble existence in Italy, they had learned that to succeed you had to work hard and long, save your money and make progressive moves.
They brought to America hope; faith that they could succeed. Even before they learned the language ·of their adopted land, they saw how the system worked and they set about to make it work for them.
They tried hard, suffering through setbacks and smiling through gains. They didn’t know the word “quit” and even when they were old and had enough material wealth that they didn’t have to, they went on with their dawn to dusk labors.
There was always a strong sense of “family.” Whether it was building houses or making lumber, the brothers operated with a bond of togetherness. No rivalry seems to have existed, and misunderstandings between them were settled by persuasion.
In a sense, it is a remarkable story, the Giustina story.
Immigrants, with no money, no social skills, no knowledge of the language, become wealthy in one generation, become leaders in a rough and tumble industry.
There is little luck involved. No big breaks, really. They came, they worked hard, they invested their savings and they made it.
If there is a hero, it’s Natale, their father. It was he who insisted they go to America. “There,” he told his boys, “You can get ahead in the world.”
This they did.
THE FAMILY IN AMERICA TODAY
Mazie Onorato Giustina, wife of George Giustina (questionnaire not
Madalena Giustina Fox, daughter of George and Mazie Giustina.
July 16, 1915, at Portland. Married to Thomas J. Fox, M.D. for
years and lives in Portland. Retired fund raiser.
George T. Fox, son of Madalena and Thomas fox. Born July 20,
1946 at Portland. Lives in Lake Oswego and is a teamster.
Charles Joseph Fox, son of Madalena and Thomas Fox. Born Sept.
13, 1950, at Portland. Married Margaret Williams, Sept. 6,
1980. Lives in Moncks Corner, S.C. where he is senior research
analyst at Westvaco, manufacturer of Kraft paper and chemical
derivatives. Pursuing master’s degree in chemical engineering.
Thomas Joseph Fox, adopted son of Charles and Margaret Fox.
Born June 7, 1973 at Charleston, S.C. and lives with
parents at Moncks Corner, S.C. Attends Berekely Middle
School and is into computers and electrical motors.
Dorothea Giustina Kincaid, daughter of George and Mazie
Giustina. Born March 8, 1919 at Portland. Married Frank
Kincaid April 29, 1949. Lives in Blue River, OR and is retired.
John William Kincaid, son of Dorothea and Frank Kincaid.
Born Feb. 6, 1942, at Alhambra, Ca. Married Jeanette
Weaver June 5, 1972. Lives at Dallas, Tex.
Laura Lee Kincaid, daughter of John and Jeanette
Kincaid. Born Jan. 23, 1974, Dallas, Texas.
John William Kincaid, Jr., son of John and Jeanette
Kincaid. Born May 9, 1975, Dallas, Texas.
Cleveland Eugene Kincaid, son of Dorothea and Frank
Kincaid, born Dec. 8, 1944, at Bessemer, Ala. Married
Patricia??· 30 March, 1970. Lives at Springfield and works
for Georgia Pacific.
Tracy Ann and Stacy Luan. Daughters of Cleveland and
Patricia Kincaid. Born July 27, 1972 at Portsmouth,
Rosalie Ann Engelbrecht, daughter of Dorothea and Frank
Kincaid. Born May 9, 1948, at Westfir, OR. Married Larry
Englebrecht Sept. 30, 1967. Lives at Waldport, OR and
works as a cook.
Franklin Edward Engelbrecht, son of Rosalie and Larry
Engelbrecht. Born May 16, 1968 at Eugene.
Rebecca Ann Englebrecht, daughter of Rosalie and Larry
Engelbrecht. Born Sept. 9, 1970, at Springfield.
Dexter Martin Kincaid, son of Dorothea and Frank Kincaid.
Born March 8, 1955 at Eugene. Attends Portland Community
Bonnie Jeanne Kemp, daughter of Dorothea and Frank Kincaid.
Born April 19, 1946 in Bessemer, Ala. Married Michael
Kemp, Sept. 26, 1964 at Springfield, OR.
Sean Patrick Kemp, son of Bonnie and Michael Kemp.
Born March 19, 1966, in Eugene.
Candice Marie Kemp, daughter of Bonnie and Michael
Kemp. Born April 3, 1967, in Eugene.
Christopher Michael Kemp, son of Bonnie and Michael
Kemp. Born Aug. 21, at Corvallis.
Alice Giustina Dahlstrom, daughter of Mazie and George Giustina.
Born Jan. 4, 1921, at Vesper, Or. Married Pershing F. Dahlstrom
May 5, 1945. Her first husband, Tom Taylor, died in Europe in World
War II. Lives in Turlock, CA. No issue.
Gary Dahlstrom, son of Alice and Pershing Dahlstrom, Turlock,
Caroline Dahlstrom Finch, daughter of Alice and Pershing
Dahlstrom, Santa Cruz, CA.
Irene Onorato Giustina, wife of ERMINIO GIUSTINA, married Erminia, Mar. 6,
Natale (Nat) Giustina, son of Erminia and Irene Giustina. Born April
7, 1918, at Portland. Married Jacqueline Laraway April 25, 1943, in
Eugene. President and general manager of Giustina Bros. Lumber and
Plywood Co. Has held many offices in business and professional
organizations, including presidency of National Lumber Manufacturers
Assn. (now National Forest Products Assn.), presidency of West Coast
Lumbermen’s Association, director of National Assn. of Manufacturers,
presidency of Associated forest Industries of Oregon. Owner of
Tokatee Golf Club and member of many golfing and social clubs.
Irene Giustina Goldbeck, daughter of Nat and Jacqueline
Giustina. Born April 3, 1952 at Eugene. Married Erik Goldbeck
Jan. 21, 1976. Lives at Kirkland, Wa., where she and her
husba.nd operate a business and she operates a catering service.
Laraway (Larry) Michael Giustina, son of Nat and Jacqueline
Giustina. Born July 7, 1949 at Eugene. Married Carolyn Ellen
Keen Aug. 5, 1972. Lives in Eugene and works for Giustina Bros.
Lumber and Plywood Co.
Natalie Giustina Newlove, daughter of Nat and Jacqueline
Giustina. Born July 1, 1947, at Eugene. Married Robin Newlove
Oct. 8, 1983 and lives at Solana Beach, CA.
Ehrman V. Giustina, son of Erminio and Irene Giustina. Born July 19,
1920 at Portland. Married Marion Lee Barlow May 2, 1943. Lives in
Eugene. Vice president and operations manager of Giustina Bros.
Lumber & Plywood Co., president of Lee World Travel and partner in
Giustina Bros., director of First Interstate Bank of Oregon. Has
held many offices in business and professional organizations. Past
president of Associated Oregon Industries, Eastern Lane Forest
Protective Assn., former vice president of American Plywood Assn. and
currently member of the Oregon State Board of Forestry. President of
the University of Oregon Foundation.
Edward Nicholas (Nick) Giustina, son of Ehrman and Lee Giustina.
Born Nov. 7, 1948, Eugene. Currently writing instructor at Mt.
Hood Community College and is a professional writer with many
articles published. Champion telemark skier and has
participated in several international expeditions.
Ehrman Danell (Dan) Giustina, son of Ehrman and Lee Giustina.
Born in Eugene Nov. 30, 1949. President of Pierce Corp.,
Eugene, manufacturer of agricultural irrigation equipment.
Gregory Lee Giustina, son of Ehrman and Lee Giustina. Born
Feb. 24, 1961, in Eugene. Married Helen Chua Amaba in 1983.
Teaches sixth grade in a Tucson, Ar., elementary school.
Gennifer Giustina, daughter of Ehrman and Lee Giustina. Born in
Eugene, May 22, 1953. Married Sam Demander Aug. 21, 1976.
Lives at Parker, Colo., where she is a school nurse.
Thomas Anthony Giustina, son of Ehrman and Lee Giustina. Born
in Eugene May 5, 1955. Married Robin Ann Leddy in 1979 (?).
Lives at Ann Arbor, Md., where he is a resident physician in
dermatology at the University of Michigan.
Giancarlo Anthony Giustina, son of Thomas and Robin
Giustina. Born June 6, 1981.
Dolores Giustina Fruiht, daughter of Erminio and Irene Giustina
(QUESTIONNAIRE NOT RETURNED)
Bryce Eugene Fruiht, son of Dolores and Thomas Fruiht. Born
April 8, 1951, at Eu gene. Married Mary McWhorter in October
1979. Says he is now a house husband, raising two daughters in
Hilary Elizabeth Fruiht, daughter of Bryce and Mary Fruiht.
Born at Santa Rosa March 2, 1982.
Gretchen Eileen Fruiht, daughter of Bryce and Mary Fruiht.
Born at Santa Rosa Ap ri I 26, 1983.
Thomas Bradford Fruiht, son of Dolores and Thomas Fruiht. Born
Nov. 30, 1952, at Santa Rosa. Married Renee Burch in 1982 (?).
Owner, operator of restaurant in Santa Rosa.
Erica Rose Fruiht Manire. Born June 12, 1957 at Santa Rosa.
Married Philip Manire in 1984. Lives at Charleston, S.C. where
she and husband work in jewelry repair and appraisals.
Gregory Giustina, son of Erminio and Irene Giustina.
(DID NOT RETURN QUESTIONNAIRE.)
Sylvia Marie Giustina, daughter of Gregory and Verda Giustina ..
Born May 22, 1955, at Eugene. After several years in radio
broadcasting, is now looking for work. Lives in Tiga1-d, OR.
Angela R. Giustina, daughter of Gregory and Verda Giustina.
Born Sept. 1, 1958, at Eugene. Lives at Port Angeles, Wa.,
where she is a special education teacher.
Victoria Lee Meyer, daughter of Gregory and Verda Giustina.
Born No. 5, 1960 in Eugene. Married William Meyer in 1984,
lives in Sp1-ingfield where she is a homemaker.
John Gregory Giustina, son of Gregory and Verda Giustina.
July 9, 1963, in Eugene. Senior in business administration
Lewis and Clark College, Portland (HAS HE GRADUATED?)
ANSELMO GIUSTINA, son of Madalena and Natale Giustina. Born Sept. 6,
1900, at San Vito Ca.dare, Italy. Married Josephine Managus in 1932.
Retired after 25 years with Giustina Bros., mostly as operator of the
Sylvia Giustina, daughter of Anselmo and Josephine Giustina. Born
June 30, 1934 in Eugene. Lives in Eugene where she is senior
instructor of Italian in the Department of Romance Languages at the
University of Oregon.
Ansel James (Jim) Giustina, son of Anselmo and Josephine Giustina.
Born in Eugene Aug. 17, 1943. Attorney and partner in Hoffman,
Morris, Giustina and Fox in Eugene.