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Wood Shortage

Jack Patrick returned to the U.S and was discharged from the military in February 1946. He immediately went to work for the Company (at a monthly salary of $250) and was named Treasurer. He already held 60 shares in the Company, which had been gifted to him over the years by his father. Jack’s sisters, Marylou and Patsy, had also been gifted 60 shares each. Marylou, who married R.W Emerson in 1941, worked at the Company before and during the war, but Patsy never did. In these early years with the Company, Jack worked as a lumber trader along with fulfilling his duties as Treasurer.

While the war effectively ended in August 1945, the government bureaucracy created to manage the effort wasn’t dismantled until at least a year later. Price controls remained in place until November 1946. Many in the industry expected somewhat of a depression with the drop in military demand but the Veterans Administration home financing programs for returning vets spurred a housing boom, resulting in continued high demand for lumber. However, supply was not so easy to come by, as the shortage of labor during the war had limited development of railroads and other infrastructure into the woods, so logs were not immediately available to feed the mills.

Retailers were desperate for materials to supply their builder customers and they were willing to accept almost any sort of selling arrangements. Many retailers went directly to producers in attempts to locate lumber to buy, but the producers, for the most part, weren’t tempted to appease them. Judd Greenman, president of Oregon-American Lumber Co. (a major supplier to Patrick Lumber Co. at the time) responded to one such request:

“There is not a chance in the world that we will be able to let you have any lumber…. Obviously, if we could increase shipments into your good state at all, the increase should go to those people who have long depended on us for lumber…

“We would like to be able to send lumber to each one of our good friends scattered over the nation and you would be surprised at the number of good friends we have developed since lumber became so scarce.”

(Thanks, again, to the authors of The Oregon-American Lumber Company Ain’t No More.)

While price controls were still in effect, the end of the war brought with it an end to patriotic constraint on the part of those in the industry, and good old American ingenuity began to take hold. As jack Patrick recounted in his earlier history of the Company:

“A typical car of two and better green fir dimension sold for $30/mbf under price controls. But there were many special situation add-ons for industrial requirements. No. 1 common was worth $3 extra and another $5 for Select Structural. Free of heart center demanded $2 – $10 extra, depending on size. Vertical grain was worth $12 extra. So by applying these add-ons, not intended for dimension lumber, to the above routine car, the average price could be raised to $40/mbf or more.

“And buyers were anxious to pay it. Was there ever a 4×4 that didn’t have a vertical face?”

Jack Madden’s mill relationships continued to pay dividends after the war as producers gave preference to those with whom the relationships were strongest. Patrick Lumber Co. was able to find product for its customers and sales continued to grow, despite general supply shortages in the industry. Another sales record was achieved in 1946, with almost $2.5 million in sales.

Jack Patrick and Bill Brushoff reacted to the supply shortage by each taking a small partnership interest in a Midwest retail lumberyard. Soon after, that yard had lumber to sell when its competitors had little or none.