BERGREN, Myrtle




Author Tags: Forestry, Labour, Mining

Myrtle Bergren wrote Tough Timber: The Loggers of British Columbia - Their Story (Toronto: Progress Books, 1966; Vancouver: Elgin Publications, 1979), a look at the struggle to form a union in B.C. The story is based on interviews with men who experienced the struggle in the '20s, '30s and '40s. Her earlier memoir A Bough of Needles (Toronto: Progress Books, 1964) reflected her life as the wife of a logger.

Myrtle Bergren was married to Hjalmar Bergren [shown at right], a member of Local 1-80 of the IWA and one of the leading organizers for unions in the 1930s and 1940s. He toured the Queen Charlottes with John McCuish who told Myrtle Bergren, "The beginning of the IWA in British Columbia was one day in August when Bergren and I held a meeting on the raft camp at Allison's in the Queen Charlotte Islands. Thirty-six people were there. Not counting Hjalmar and myself. That old bugger [Hjalmar] spoke to them. An agreement, and it was a mis-spelt, mis-worded agreement. And the boys voted for it. It was [an]... agreement that Hjalmar [and I made up] and I got typed by a young girl in the Queen Charlottes. She didn't know how to spell words... Every logger that was in Moresby Islands agreed with that program we started. Bergie's trip to the Queen Charlottes was the turning point in the union... And do you know that Bergie said he didn't say a word more than he had to." Myrtle and Hjalmar Bergren were involved in the strike against Bloedel, Stewart and Welch in 1934 that convinced one of Bloedel's rivals, Lake Logging, to sign the first major union contract with loggers in British Columbia. Local 1-80 on the southern half of Vancouver Island signed the first closed-shop provision in a collective agreement within the Canadian lumber industry in 1941 with Lake Logging.

Myrtle Bergren also conducted 130 hours of essential interviews that laid the foundation for Lynne Bowen's Boss Whistle, The Coal Miners of Vancouver Island Remember (Oolichan 1982), an indispensible oral history of Vancouver Island colliers and their families that was supported by Nanaimo's Coal Tyee Society. It received the province's foremost book award at the time, the Eaton's B.C. Book Award, and gave rise to a sequel, Three Dollar Dreams (Oolichan 1987).

[BCBW 2015]