Harold Stevens saw hard times, made it anyhow

By Jack M. Willis
Journal Correspondent

Harold Stevens of Jena, Louisiana is one of the last by-products of what could be called the "Sawmill Generation" of the teens, twenties and thirties of the last century, when the big timber moguls were cutting out the virgin forests of North Central Louisiana.

Harold Stevens was born July 4, 1919 in huge double-pen house about five miles east of Jonesboro, Louisiana. At that time my father Albert Willis was already nine years old and living about seven miles east of Harold's birthing place. Harold had one older brother named Grady, two younger brothers named James and Joe Paul, plus a younger sister named Rose Marie.

His father, A.D. "Steve" Stevens, was a logging loader operator of great skill and considered kind of a "rolling stone," being continually on the move, going where his loader skills were in highest demand.

By the time Harold was old enough to start school they were living in a company house near Farmerville. Before the year was out the family moved to Joyce, Louisiana, just east of Winnfield where "Steve" Stevens was employed by Tremont Lumber Company. Harold's younger brother Joe Paul was born in a boxcar dwelling where they were living at Joyce.

Joe Paul would go on to become the top petroleum storage tank salesman for Baker Tank Company, based in Arp, Texas. It was often said that he could sell a load of sand to an Arab.

Then Mr. "Steve" got an offer to move to Clarks, in Caldwell Parish operating a loader for Louisiana Central Lumber Company and took the job. Soon thereafter, a gentleman named Arbuthnot from Catahoula Parish, who was the loader operator for Tall Timber Lumber Co. Having finished one clear-cut, the Tall Timber crew were moving his loader mounted on a flat car, to another logging site. The Shay engine was also pulling about six flatcars loaded down with logs destined for the mill. Mr. Arbuthnot was sitting in the operator's seat of the loader, hitching a ride to the next loading site. The engineer either got too reckless, or was in too big a hurry, because suddenly he had a train that was traveling at a much faster clip than he intended. With the acceleration of the flat car holding the loader, the boom began to swing and sway, and about the time they got to the bottom of a steep grade the flatcar and loader overturned, trapping and killing Arbuthnot instantly.

This left the company without a loader operator. B.T. Gallagher, the Chief of operations for the Buchanan interests had already heard of Mr. A.D. "Steve" Stevens' prowess as a loader operator. He placed a phone call up to Clarks, Louisiana to the Louisiana Central Lumber Co. office asking the clerk to have Stevens return the call, collect. He asked Stevens how much he was making. Stevens said he was making $150 per month, so Gallagher told Stevents he'd raise him to $175 a month if he'd move to Tall Timber in 1930.

So the Stevens Family packed up and moved for the last time to a Tall Timber Lumber Company house where his mother and father would live out their remaining years.

The Trout-Goodpine school consisted of two two-story buildings which later burned from being struck by a lightning bolt in the summer of 1937. Harold Stevens made excellent grades throughout his elementary and high school years, even though after the fire, his Senior year was spent with the rest of the high school students in the Trout Methodist Church, while the grade school students attended classes in the Trout Masonic Lodge Hall. Harold's 11th grade Senior Class was the first class to graduate in the brand new T-GP Gymnasium.

Only one basketball player from the south LaSalle Parish area had ever received an athletic scholarship to attend college and that was Malcolm "Sparky" Wade in the fall of 1930 to attend LSU, plus other offers from numerous colleges and university all across the Deep South. Harold was the second, receiving an athletic scholarship to attend Louisiana State Normal College (NSU)in Natchitoches in the fall of 1938.

Harold wasn't the recipient of the scholarship by accident--there was a lot of dedicated basketball practice which went into arriving at that point in his life.

Harold attended Louisiana State Normal for two semesters beginning in the fall of 1938, but war clouds were forming on the European mainland. Not wanting to be drafted in to the U.S. Army, he and a buddy joined the U.S. Army Air Corps.

The next seven years of Harold's life, preceding and during WWII, were a startling contrast to anything he had ever dreamed of.

After Harold got out of service, for a brief spell he contemplated going back to college, but he had seen so much horror, lost so many good friends while enduring so many borderline-danger assignments during his service time, he just didn't have the stomach for much of anything.

He began work for the Bodcaw Company planting trees and other related forestry assignments. Then it was off to West Texas to roughneck for a while. Lagter he worked on various road construction jobs in Central Louisiana, and then went to work for the Belden Corporation for 12 years where he retired at age 65.

Harold had always loved hunting and fishing and since retirement has made the most of the great outdoors for the last 24 years. He took up fox hunting as a hobby, owning as many as eight Walker hounds at one time, with which he won many show trophies.

He was a charter member of one of the original fox hunting fraternities in Central Louisiana made up of many members that have gone on to their eternal reward. Some hunters were Tom Wilson, Otto Slay, Leon Anders, Carl Craig, Bert Adams, Harvey McClendon, Dorsey Cockerham, Barney Basham, Thad Mayo, Everett Tolar and Lawrence Wilson.

Even though he's 89 years of age, if nothing happens to prevent it, Harold Stevens plans to be on his deer stand on opening day 2008.