John Paudois

by one of his grandchildren

In 1886, Jules Julian Pierre Paudois moved from France to Canada with his wife, daughter Josephine, and son, Jules Pierre Paudois II, by freighter.  Jules II was later married to Marie Mesnage.  Mary Marie Mesnage was a widow.  She and her four daughters moved from France to Quebéc, Canada.  Her daughters were Rosalie, Anna, Valentine, and Marie.  Their son, John Paudois, was born 8 July 1907 in Forget, Saskatchewan, Canada.  Marie was married in Canada.  John’s mother and Jules Julian’s mother were probably cousins.

He grew up in Forget and around the age of seven, in 1914, his family moved to Montana, USA by excursion train.  They homesteaded north of Glasco, Montana, near Opheim. They had a half-section of land, 320 acres, on which they raised cattle and wheat.  His dad trapped coyotes in the wintertime for their pelts.  A premium coyote would bring $40, a lot of money in those days.  The pelts were shipped to St. Louis and made into hats and coats.  They lived on a lot of jackrabbits they snared.  His dad even trapped skunk for their hides.

He remembers killing a badger with his jackknife when he was a kid.  He used to play with whips and try to smack the badgers on the nose with it!

In about 1925, John traveled to Los Angeles with his cousin Lucienne, who was Aunt Anna’s daughter.  He got a job at the Biltmore Hotel on 5th & Pine Street.  The Biltmore was (and still is) a prestigious hotel in Los Angeles where celebrities and famous stay.  In 1927 rooms were $250 a night, a very expensive room in those days.

Grandpa worked in the ice cream department in the basement of the hotel.  He carried ice cream buckets upstairs to the third floor where the icehouse was.  He also cracked eggs. When he got really good at cracking eggs he could crack two at a time with both hands!  He earned about $20 a month plus vegetables and dairy products.  He was delighted to get a job there because back then ice cream was a special treat and he was around it nearly every day.

He’d gotten this job with the assistance from his Uncle Chomel who was a pie-maker there.  Chomel made three hundred pies a day.  He lived with his two aunts, Valentine and Rosie, and Chomel who was Valentine’s husband.

Around 1927 or 1928, John’s relatives returned to Central Point, where his parents were farmers.  The aunts bought an old three-story hotel, tore it down, and rebuilt a new hotel.  Chomel was eventually the Mayor of Central Point, Oregon.

John decided to leave Los Angeles, too.  He departed in his seven-passenger Oldsmobile en route to Wallace, Montana.  He was headed back to Montana to find a friend who lived there.  His Olds broke down in between LA and Montana somewhere.  John met up with another man who was on his way to Montana, driving a Model T.  There was sixteen feet of snow at the time and they kept getting re-routed due to closed roads.

The road they traveled was hard rock and the Model T kept getting flat tires about every ten miles.  They’d have to stop and patch the tire and then they’d travel on.  They were both penniless and traded a blanket for a gallon of gas. Eventually they made it to John’s destination in Montana, only for John to find that his friend had moved away.  He went looking for word of him and met a preacher who took him in for the night.

He ended up getting a job at the Copper Smelter in Great Falls.  He made $4 a day for an eight-hour shift, but there was a $2 union or copper tax taken from each day’s pay.  I didn’t get the feeling he liked that job.

Sometime later he walked 16 miles to the J. B. Long cattle ranch.  He was hoping to find work there.  The rancher told John he had no work available, but he allowed him to sleep in the barn.  He had to settle between hay and an old horse blanket for the night.  The next day the rancher decided he could use another man to help with the sheep.  It was lambing season.  There were six hundred head of sheep and for some reason John recalled, there was a particularly high loss of lambs that year.

He worked at the ranch about 6 weeks.  He remembered quitting on the 4th of July.  He headed back to Wallace to pick up his Oldsmobile, got it fixed and returned home to Opheim, Montana.  Once there, he got a job on a cattle ranch making $60 cash a month plus room and board.

John used to break horses for $10.  He even broke an eight-year-old, he told us with a big grin!

Once he rode a horse for 24 hours, played poker all night, got back on the horse and rode again, off to Forget, Canada.

On 24 July 1933 he married Ruby Lambert St. Germain.  She had three children with her late husband, Joseph St. Germain.  They were Arthur, Thelma, and Lola.  John didn’t have a job, but used to make $10 a night playing poker.  As soon as he got $10 he’d quit and head for home.  They’d moved into an abandoned farmhouse in Opheim, Montana.  It had boarded up windows and four inches of sand on the floor but they stayed all winter.  They bought an old cow for $6 so they’d have milk.  For $5 you could buy a sack of flour or a hundred pounds of potatoes.  Ruby made shirts and pillowcases out of flour sacks.  Alvin John Paudois was born 31 August 1934.

John started a trucking business with one truck in 1945 during the war.  The mill started running an extra shift so he began buying additional trucks.  In 1946, during the prime of his business empire, John ran nine trucks.  Five of them ran 24/7.  The sawmill was in Tiller.  They moved about three million board feet of lumber per month.  The tire bill alone was 25% of his gross income.  Driving on roads of solid rock tore them up.  Alvin started driving for John in 1951 at age sixteen along with Art St. Germain & Jim Roberts.  In 1957 Alvin rolled his truck off a mountain called Jump Off Joe Creek.  Then years later John rolled his own truck off the same mountain.  The story goes that Ruby put her foot down and said, “That was your last truck ride!”  The trucking business changed, taxes and repair bills took their toll, …

His son-in-law in Terra Belle., California was a manager of a large Black Angus cattle ranch.  He asked John to come and work there, so he and Ruby moved to California and lived on the ranch.  John worked there for about two years until Ruby unexpectedly died from complications of a surgery.  Shortly after, John returned to Medford and lived with his daughter, Thelma, and her family.

John wasn’t done working.  He found employment as a custodian at Don’s Hideaway, a local tavern.  He worked there for almost twenty years, retiring at age 82.

With the help of those wonderful people who helped care for him, he was able to live at home until his last day, then silently rode off … to a very special reunion in the sky.