MONEY WITH LITTLE EQUIPMENT
Parks Carle of West Princeton told of a way he earned money at a time when jobs were scarce. He cut hoop poles!
In the time before cardboard boxes, many products were shipped and stored in barrels, wooden barrels. The barrel staves were made of different wood depending on what was to be shipped in the barrel, liquid or dry material. The staves for potato barrels were often cedar and the hoops were of ash. Aroostook County farmers were big users of locally manufacture barrel parts.
Parks cut ash poles in October and sold them to Horace McLaughlin for l cent each. These poles were seven feet long and a little over an inch in diameter. Horace would shave the poles into hoops, and tie them in bundles of 50 hoops each. He would sell 20 bundles (1000 hoops) for between $20 and $30.00. Parks earned enough money to buy half a bicycle; his parents to other half.
Horace McLaughlin was known as Hod. A story about Hod that has lasted through the years goes like this. Hod had cut some poles himself and had a pile of them in the woods since he was shaving purchased poles. Some boys found Hod's pile, took possession of them, and took them in to Hod one evening after sunset and sold them to Hod. The next day, Hod started to manufacture the poles into hoops and he recognized that they were his. He had bought his own poles!
Others at this time and in earlier years gathered spruce gum. During the hay day of lumbering, some lumbermen collected this resin of the spruce tree to supplement their earnings. And some of these men used the evenings at the lumber camp to carve spruce gum boxes as gifts for their loved ones at home. Today these boxes are prized collector items.
A good spruce gummer could earn $5.00 a day in the 1890's. During that era, 150 tons of gum was collected annually with a value of $300,000. In the 1930's as in the l 890's, not all the resin made good gum for chewing. The resin was graded and only the highest grade was used for medicinal purposes for as much as $7.00 a pound. The inferior quality was melted and sold as gum sticks for about fifty cents a pound.
In the nineteenth century, gummers would go to the woods for the winter, living alone in isolated camps, and making their rounds on snowshoes. By the depression years, gumming was done while living at home. Gummers would climb the trees on the branches or some used climbing spikes. The holes left by the spikes would make a place for a wad of resin to form during the next year.