Hal F. Butler
April 27, 2006
By Joyce McBride
Show Low Historical Museum
Hal Butler: And when I went to work for the Reidhead Lumber Company I was the office manager and dispatcher and payroll clerk and you name it.
Joyce McBride: So, now you have an office job.
HB: Well, yes. I had trained after I came back from the Service, I had extensive training back in North Carolina on that, and so I knew how to manipulate that pretty well.
JM: Did you take bookkeeping?
HB: Yes, uh huh. And so I fell into that and in a year's time I was the general manager of that plant. And I stayed there until Mr. Ed Reidhead had died. And at that time, Bruce Reidhead and I went down north of Show Low and built a mill down in there. And I bought lumber from different sawmills in the area from O'Malley Lumber Company in Vernon and from Webb Brothers out of Big Springs, and the Chlarson Mill and the Reidhead Mill. It was all coming into there and we were reprocessing it out of there.
JM: And you were making boards?
HB: Yes, we were making dimension lumber, boards, sheeting, whatever the market called for.
JM: And then, where were you selling this?
HB: Selling it all over the western part of the United States. That business grew into a pretty big business and we had a fleet of trucks running at that time. I was taking the output of the sawmill in Whiteriver that the B.I.A. was running. I took their production. Later on, they decided that they wanted to build a bigger mill down there and wanted me to concentrate on marketing their products because it was big volume and to transport it, which we at that time had 23 Peterbuilt trucks. And we were delivering all over the United States. But I could see where the advantage was there because they had extensive timber right behind them where we had to bid constantly on the outside here for timber and didn't know if we were going to be in business the next day or not. So, I sold my ½ interest to Bruce Reidhead and contracted with the Tribe to market their lumber and transport their products.
JM: And so then you started working off the Reservation then?
HB: Well, I commuted every day. Yes, in fact, we flew every day. I had 4 different airplanes. We flew from here to Whiteriver and all over where our sales were. My son worked with me at that time, Greg did, and wherever the market called for, we'd fly to the customers place.
JM: So you were into marketing, you were more into . . .
HB: That started out to be, but after the first year down there, they'd went through three different managers. And each time they asked me to sit in their place until they could get a new one. Well, the third time they let these guys go, they asked me if I'd take it again. And I said, "Yeah, I'll take it again, only under these conditions. That there is no political interference." Because I saw this with the other three operators, managers that was there.
JM: Was this with the B.I.A.?
HB: No, it was with the Tribe itself.
JM: The Tribe itself. They were forming their Council at that time, weren't they?
HB: Well, they formed a Council in 1938, got away from the chief to a governmental body. But this was the first business adventure they ever got into, and it did spring from the Bureau of Indian Affairs' little mill there. It let the Tribe know that after, we could market everything they could produce, they decided they might as well build a bigger mill because they had millions of feet of timber behind them and go from there, so.
JM: Now was this after McNary had peaked and gone down, or was McNary . . .
HB: No, McNary was still full-blast and they were still buying half of their production from the Reservation and half from the National Forest. But as we got into it more and more, we eventually took over the total output on the Reservation. That's when Southwest quit, and they closed the Southwest Forest Industries in McNary. We went on to expand that mill at FATCO.
JM: You named it FATCO, am I right?
HB: Uh huh
JM: What does FATCO mean?
HB: Fort Apache Timber Company
JM: Okay, Fort Apache
HB: Timber Company, and I made the first logo for it and they're using it to this very day. And then, getting back to the time of the management portion of that, I, like I say, had contracted with them to transport the products and to sell the products. And that was what Greg and I, my son and I, were doing. Then the last time I took it over, they asked me if I wanted it again, and I said I'll do it so long as there was no political interference. And this went on for 23 years. I ran it for 23 years. And we built it from a small mill to one of the largest ones in the whole western United States. We were producing 120 million board feet a year.
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The opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewee only. They do not represent the views of the Show Low Historical Society Museum. Please contact the Show Low Historical Society Museum with questions about the use and reproduction of this resource.