Clint Eastwood is like many other actors in Hollywood in this one area. Before he hit it big, he needed to do something mundane or non-glamorous to pay the bills.
Back in 1949, Eastwood left Oakland Technical High School for a potentially dangerous job working outdoors.
He was a lumberjack for the Weyerhaeuser Company Mills. His father worked there as well. Eastwood moved to Springfield, Oregon. He earned $1.80 an hour — huge money for the time — for cutting down trees.
Clint Eastwood talked about his experience as a lumberjack in the 1992 biography Clint Eastwood Sexual Cowboy. He told author Douglas Thompson about the danger of the business of cutting down and hauling trees:
“I heard a shout and looked up and saw the crane driver and I hadn’t quite got it organized,” Eastwood said. “A nasty load of giant logs hung suspended over my head. I don’t think I’ve reacted faster in my life. Yet even as I started to run, down came the logs. Any one of them could have crushed the life out of me. I just barely jumped clear- as the logs hit the ground they jammed against the crane, which was a lucky break for me.”
Clint Eastwood Loved Being Outdoors, But Said Job Was Dangerous
Clint Eastwood said he loved the mountain setting of his job. But you really needed to know what you were doing. Or else.
“The money was good in the logging business and so was the food,” Eastwood said. “The guys you met there were like wild characters out of a novel. It was pretty hard living but working outdoors in this fabulous country- rugged mountains, tall pine and fir forests – made it worthwhile. I never stayed long enough to work up into one of the really skilled jobs: if a man doesn’t know what he’s doing he can really pay for it.
“Some of the Douglas firs grew 250 to 300 feet tall,” Eastwood continued. “And a man who goes up to the top of one of those to lop off the high branches has to be experienced. Log – rolling – that’s riding the logs in mid-river – is another job where you either know what you’re doing or you don’t live long enough to have grandchildren. I earned good money felling trees.”
Clint Eastwood then described how thick the trees were. It definitely was a two-man job.
“I’d pick where I wanted a tree to fall,” Eastwood said. “Take my axe and cut a ‘V’ so it would fall in that direction. Then another man and myself would work a two-man double saw. It took two of us because some of these trees were six feet in diameter. Some of the time was spent in the sawmill which was better pay but I preferred being outdoors.”
Odd Jobs and Breakthroughs
Clint Eastwood lasted about a year as a lumberjack. He then worked briefly as a lifeguard. By 1951, the U.S. Army drafted Eastwood and assigned him to Fort Ord in California.
Before he got his big Hollywood break, Eastwood also managed an apartment house in Beverly Hills by day and pumped gas at night. And he dug swimming pools.
After a series of bit roles, Eastwood, who was 30, finally received a career break. He earned the role of Rowdy Yates in the new TV western, Rawhide.
And the rest is Clint Eastwood and Hollywood history, with the subtitle, how a simple lumberjack evolved into one of the most well-known actors in the world.