By Karla Kelly
FOR THE DIGBY COURIER
At an age when most people are enjoying retirement, 71-year-old Anselm LeBlanc from Weymouth still puts in a full day at a job he’d do all over again.
“I spent most of my working years driving a log truck,” said LeBlanc. “The best part was driving for myself and I’d do it again, only start when I was younger.”
LeBlanc worked in lumber mills from Weymouth to Annapolis in his early years before taking on the job of driving a soda truck for Wishing Well, a pop factory in Weymouth North.
“I drove for Wishing Well on a commission basis and made three times the money I’d earned working at the sawmills.”
When the pop factory burned in 1976, LeBlanc began hauling logs for Roger Hankinson, a logging contractor in Weymouth. It was a job LeBlanc held until he set out to work for himself in 1980.
“Driving an 18-wheeler was a new experience and shifting all 18 gears took some doing to get used to, but once I got the hang of it, I never looked back.”
LeBlanc trucked logs to mills as far away as Bowater in Liverpool, Kennetcook and Caledonia and as close as Lewis Sawmill Ltd. in Weymouth and Comeau’s in Meteghan.
“I usually made two trips to Liverpool everyday, Monday to Saturday,” said LeBlanc. “I’d leave well before dawn to be the first truck at the scales. Some days there was one run to Bowater and then a shorter trip around here.”
“I’d be up long before dawn and on some of the runs I’d need to pull over for a few minutes to rest. After a five-minute nap, I was ready to roll.”
LeBlanc’s niece, Jeanne Nesbitt of Weymouth Mills, recalled one such trip.
“I was on a run with Uncle Anselm when I was little and he pulled the rig over to have a nap,” said Nesbit. “He told me to wake him up in five minutes and I know he was fast asleep within five seconds. I didn’t have a watch so I started counting.”
Besides loading and hauling logs, LeBlanc was responsible for the maintenance of his truck. He would do most of the work himself and everything from the transmissions to the tires was checked and repaired or greased when necessary.
In all the years LeBlanc hauled logs, none of his trucks ever left the highway although he had a few hair-raising experiences.
LeBlanc remembers one close call.
“I was on the other end of Virginia Road out in back of Bear River when my trailer loaded with logs jack-knifed on the icy road. Half the load of pulpwood came off and the trailer was ruined but the truck stayed on the road.”
The worst experience for LeBlanc came on a trip to Bowater one icy winter morning in the late 1970s.
“I was making an early morning run through to Liverpool with a load of logs one winter and the roads were icy,” recalled LeBlanc. “I was on the other side of Caledonia going down the hill just passed North Hills Nursing Home when the truck began sliding to the other side of the road.”
“I went off the edge of the pavement onto the gravel and as I looked out the passenger window I saw the lights of the trailer coming up beside the truck. The trailer was coming sideways down the road perpendicular to the truck.”
“The hair on the back of my neck stood up just like a dog’s but I pushed on the gas a bit and she straightened up. It was a bit scary as I could have lost the whole thing or worse hit a vehicle coming the other way.”
After he left Hankinson’s Logging, LeBlanc went into the trucking business for himself and for him those were the best years.
LeBlanc admits that the hours were long but there was a good living to be made if you were willing to work hard for it.
“There were fewer headaches that way and if you were driving for yourself, you knew your own truck and what repairs it needed.”
“Trucking logs was competitive and if you wanted to get ahead you had to work hard and put the time in. Most days ran 12 to 15 hours, except Sunday, but it paid off.”
“A good reputation was born out of honest hard work and if you paid your bills you could get credit anywhere.”
LeBlanc says he is not yet ready to retire.
“I still enjoy trucking although I don’t own my own truck anymore. I work everyday hauling logs locally with someone else’s truck. Once in a while, I make a run to Bowater.
“I help other truckers with contract work or pick up and unload their logs. I use the experience I have gained over the years to help out the younger guys.”
But he finds LeBlanc the money isn’t there like it was 25 or 30 years ago.
“Operating costs have gone way up and the price of logs hasn’t matched that. It’s hard getting started today. You have to build up your reputation to obtain contracts but if you are willing to work hard, there’s a living to be made.”