Living the dream.

My earliest memories of visiting a lumber yard was with my father, driving down the long open bays of lumber stacked and looking for the 2X4’s or whatever was necessary for the task at hand. The “staff” of yard boys would help sort the straight from the warped and keep count of the lumber as it was loaded on top of our old station wagon.

Gary’s Whaler in, on, around Lake Dora.

It’s an interesting contrast as I walk the stacks of a local big-box home improvement where you can have your choice of building lumber and little else. That is unless you live in a community where historic restoration and preservation is an industry to itself, like Charleston SC. Some years ago I decided to add a mahogany seat back to our little Whaler 15 that hauled family and dogs to sandbars and shrimping. I walked into counter sales where a gentleman, right out of central casting, helped me. 40+ years as a “counter man” smoking a pipe and briskly flipping thru the lumber pages of his desk books. He quickly understood I needed much more than lumber, I needed some hand holding. “What kind of mahogany?” “It’s for a whaler.” “Ok, you’re going to need some extra stock for the side braces, did you want to make the seat-back storage compartment too?” “Uhhh, no I don’t think I can make those cuts…”. “Well you’ll need XXX board feet, milled to width and thickness. Take this note to the guys in the milling building.”

Gary spreading the Whaler Love at lake Dora

So I ventured back in time past stacks of unobtainable lumber, Walnuts, Cherry, Oaks, Cypress and my salvation was an elderly gentleman with the thick Gullah accent of the Charleston black community who’s hands and finger nails looked like the raw lumber. He looked at the simple slip of paper and walked down to a lumber section where he extracted a plank, my worst nightmare. It was uneven and scared with a lot of bark still attached. I had no idea how I could work the down with a skill saw and belt sander. Then we walked back to the saw shop.

It was like stepping back a century, huge saws and wide planers converted from the long shafts of overhead belt drives which still hung over them in the rafters. On the wall were long planer knives marked with cryptic notes from their origin. You want to match the 14” moldings of a 1700-1800’s Charleston house? Here were the knives that may have been used to make the originals! I was handed off to another veteran of the wood shop and told in the beautiful lilt of the Gullah to “have um uppadah dey”.

A Reminder that Gary is a Big Wiener winner.

The Whaler seat back turned out perfect, needing only a light sanding after the skills of the saw shop and kindness of the men who quickly understood how much I needed their help. Have a good day: “have up uppadah dey.”

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14 Responses to “Have Um Uppadah Dey. Lumber Yards. By Gary Visser”
  1. Steve in the woods

    Service and skills have become a lost art; at least, difficult to find!

  2. Troy in FLA

    GREAT STORY!

    I blame the loss of service and skills on the consumer that only looks at price, not what one is getting for their money. I call it the Walmart mentality.

  3. Greg Lewandowski

    There are still some wood mills in our area that I have the pleasure of visiting occasionally. It’s an enjoyable experience!

  4. Scott K

    No one wants to pay for service…..only bitch when they perceive that they aren’t getting it.

    Armstrong Millworks in Highland Michigan and Johnsons Lumber in Charlotte Michigan are still thankfully living in the past. Places where you can still wander thru huge stacks of raw lumber, get help from a knowledgable old guy that still has most of his fingers, and walk amongst the huge old machines. I love the smell of sawdust in the morning.

    • Matt H

      I grew up in Livonia MI and would go to Armstrong’s with my Dad. I miss them both.

  5. m-fine

    We had a place like that. Unfortunately, the owners are so afraid of COVID they still won’t let customers in. That’s death to a relationship business.

  6. Mark in Ohio (sometimes da U P)

    There are still some Lumberyards like that in the backcountry of Michigan, and Indiana. We used to have some like that in this part of Ohio. Unfortunately they couldn’t compete with the big box stores. It is wonderful and refreshing when you find, and deal with a place like that.

  7. C Stang

    Sounds like Berlin G Meyers Lumber in Summerville, great source for okume as well!

  8. Wudzgud

    Well having purchased a lumberyard 27 years ago that is soon to turn 100 years old, I can say that there are not many of us left. The big box stores where people think they save more money don’t understand value. I still don’t charge for delivery and we still give out advice that means something. I purchase the best quality materials I can get. It might cost a bit more but my contractors say they don’t need to pick through the material.
    As I have said before, the two coldest places in the winter are a Lumberyard and a Boatyard.

  9. Royce Humphreys

    That is my nephew a number of years ago when he was lucky to grow up in the world of Whaler! Gary and I were not that lucky but grew up with and old leaky Crestliner 14′ leftover livery boat. Maybe that should be rephrased as that old Crestliner brought us many hours of freedom and love of the water that a lot of our classmates did not experience. Congratulations to my brother Gary on his “Weiner Award”. Hopefully we all see him in Dora with his Whaler 13!

  10. gary R. visser

    I only want to insure there is no misunderstanding about the picture of the whaler and two guys with wives: The skinny guy is Ned, the handsome one is me! And yes, we both married above our class.

  11. waynesworld

    That looks like a 13 ft whaler i had a 1961 until
    a few years ago.