In the Blood

Here is a review of Saturday's program by Kim Philips Millican, who is a member of the Friends of the Library.  Thank you Kim! On Saturday, the Friends of the Somerville Public Library held a showing of “In the Blood”, a documentary by Sumner McKane that illustrated the history of the Maine lumbermen and river drivers. According to the documentary’s website (, Mr. McKane presents “a historical subject with a contemporary and entertaining presentation” which turns a history lesson into a “vivid and virtual journey into a bygone world”. This was certainly the case with “In the Blood”. The men often worked 12-14 hours a day and were paid up to $2 a day.  They lived in the camps from October to March. The documentary showed several black-and-white photos and film footage of the harsh Maine winters. Amazingly, none of the lumberman became sick or caught pneumonia while working in the camps. There was a known hierarchy within the communities. At the top of the hierarchy was the Camp Boss and his role was providing leadership and creating an efficient team. Other roles within the hierarchy include the under-cutter, sawyer, knotter, swamper, and cook. The documentary included oral histories from the men who worked in the logging camps. Some of the interviews had subtitles, as the authentic accents were difficult to follow and understand. The interviews were honest, full of emotion, and gave the viewer a sense of what life was like in the logging camps. One such interview was with a gentleman whose brother-in-law died in a logging accident. He went into great detail about the accident. In the end, it took the crew 20 days to find his brother-in-law buried in the river. One interview really grasped the attention of the audience – the raw account of the smell of the logging camp. The interviewee gave a vivid description of the stink and sweat that permeated the camp. He explained that some of the men did not bath all winter. The men slept in a row, underneath one quilt, and many of the men slept in their wet and sweaty work clothes. Another account was provided about the camp’s “stink pole” – a long pole used to hang wet clothes on. “In the Blood” definitely had a sense of humor. For example, the interview regarding the lumbermen’s diet was quite funny. The interviewee emphasized that the men ate beans, beans, and more beans and they ate their beans with knives, as there were not any forks available. The men also ate molasses, homemade biscuits, and donuts. Hot drinks were served every day at noon. The standing room only crowd enjoyed delicious food including Verna’s donuts, cider, and cheddar cheese.  It was a relaxing way to spend a cold and gloomy Saturday afternoon. A raffle drawing was held after the movie.   Kim Phillips Millican

Add new comment