At the age of 24, John Daniel Kissinger found himself acting superintendent of a hardwood sawmill and logging operation. It was a small place--only 200 employees--but the Wisconsin farm boy felt pleased all the same. He was sitting in the boss’ chair because the boss was sick. But he did so well that he was named the company’s manager in a larger Wisconsin town. He took his final step up the ladder when he was called north to be resident manager of the old Puget Sound Lumber Timber Co. in Victoria. Retired now in his adopted town, Mr. Kissinger lives quietly and remembers 50 years of the lumber business.
He is the head of a large clan, being the oldest in a family of three boys and four girls and himself the father of seven boys and four girls. John D. Kissinger was the only one of his generation who wandered. The brothers and sisters are still in and about the old home town of Wisconsin Rapids, were J.D. was born on Feb. 14, 1882. He took a 9,000-mile motor trip and visited them in 1955. And among John D. Kissinger’s 11 children, all but one still live around Victoria. The exception is Raymond, now with the Shell Oil Co., in California. As the head of the family, John D. Kissinger was a serious-minded youth. After he left high school, he continued working on the 80-acre farm of his parents, near Wisconsin Rapids--then called Centralia. He started work at 18 in the office of a department store in Wisconsin Rapids, worked there for a year and a half, then took a nine-month business course. A job with the Frankfort Hardware Co. took him to Milwaukee. While still in business school he had heard that the bookkeeper of the R. Connor Lumber and Land Company’s Stratford, Wisconsin, branch, planned to leave. So he applied for the job. Six months later, the Connor Company summoned him to Milwaukee.
DID TWO JOBS: After he had been six years in Stratford, a chain of events put him in the boss’ office. The superintendent quit, and the cashier--office manager--took his place. John D. Kissinger became cashier. Then the new superintendent came down with appendicitis, which developed into a long illness. During this time, J. D. Kissinger did the cashier’s and superintendent’s job as well. The head office marked him for promotion from that time onward. In 1908--six years later--Mr. Connor himself called him from the company’s head office in Marshfield and asked him to take over as manager of the company’s plant at Laona, Wisconsin. J. D. Kissinger hesitated, being a cautious man, then accepted. The Laona operation was the biggest hardwood sawmill operation in the world. It employed 600 men in mill and woods. When John D. Kissinger, then barely 30 and looking younger, arrived as superintendent, some of the old-timers wagged their heads. "They’ve sent a kid here as the boss," some of them mourned. But in his dry, quiet, resolute way, John D. Kissinger showed them that he could handle the job. He soon became a leading citizen. John D. Kissinger is one of those men who are always asked to become president or chairman, whatever group they join. In Stratford he had had some experience with organizing a bank. He became president of the State Bank of Laona. He became secretary of the Laona Free High School and secretary of the Laona district school board, an elected position corresponding to that of a trustee here. In this post, he had a large measure of control over the hiring of teachers. The Connor Company had its own short railway--the Laona Northern--which was also a public carrier. Mr. Kissinger was superintendent of it. He was president of the first free library in Forest County. In the First World War he became director and resident manager of the Forest County Potash Company, which extracted potash from burned mill waste. At the same time he was a lay member of the County legal advisory board; chairman of the war history committee, county treasurer of the Red Cross; chairman of the committee to organize a company of militia in Forest County. As if all these jobs were not enough to keep him busy, he also served as postmaster of Laona--a town of 1,500--for some 11 years.
DODGED GERMS: He worked a strenuous day on war activities, up first thing and never to bed before midnight. The 1918 flu epidemic raged through the country, but for some reason J. D. Kissinger avoided it. So did his family--which by this time numbered eight. In October, 1919, the Connor company became interested in the Canadian Puget Sound Lumber and Timber Co. Mr. Kissinger received a wire offering him a job as manager of the company’s Victoria mill and logging operation. "Come on, Dad, be a sport," argued eldest son Raymond, then aged 12. His son’s urging helped persuade J. D. to make the move. "And yet Raymond was the first to get homesick," Mr. Kissinger recalls. Now, Raymond is the only one of the family to live away from Victoria. His job with the Shell Oil Co. has taken him to several widely-separated parts of the continent. The old Canadian Puget Sound mill--across the water from the present Crowe, Gonnason mill--was a big operation. It cut 30,000 feet an hour, 210,000 a day. In mill and woods, it employed 600 men, and had a payroll of $1,000,000 a year. Then the depression hit. Markets dwindled, prices fell. In 1931, the mill closed down. Mr. Kissinger was against the closure; he thought the mill should keep cutting on a reduced scale, buying logs cheaply, stockpiling for better times, and keeping the mill in working shape. But he was overruled. The mill shut down tight. It never reopened. When the depression did taper off and markets regained health, the mill had deteriorated so far that it was beyond profitable restoration. Two or three years ago, its giant stack, a long time landmark, was pulled down by the wreckers. Logging resumed under the Canadian Puget Sound name, and the firm was bought in 1946 by Alaska Pine and Cellulose Co. John D. Kissinger remained with that company until he retired, five years ago, at the age of 70.
In Mr. Kissinger’s time, the company was one of the first to make extensive use of logging trucks. The CPS manager also wore several other hats: manager, Island Logging Co. and Vancouver Island Towing Co.; managing director, Island Land and Insurance Agencies, Ltd.; director, Crofton Blooming Co. and Cowichan Bay Booming Association. He was president of the Canadian Puget Sound Basketball Club. Earlier, he had played both basketball and American football. He still remembers one sleepless, freezing night when the Wisconsin Rapids football team rode in a railway and caboose to Junction City, played in eight inches of snow, lost the game--and went to a dance that same evening. Formerly a Lutheran, be became a convert to the Roman Catholic faith. He is an honorary life member of the Knights of Columbus and a member of the Victoria council. He has three sons and one grandson in the council.
CHECKS THE TIMES: He has 34 grandchildren, two great-grandsons and one great-great-grand-daughter. Son John D. Kissinger, Jr., is a contractor in Victoria; son Leonard works for Moore-Whittington Lumber Co.; daughter Florence is Mrs. John Christian; Donald is an electrician at VMD; Lucille is Mrs. Arthur McKibben; Eleanor is Mrs. Charles Bell, wife of a garageman; Jeanette is Mrs. William Lynch; William A. is a fuel oil dealer; Kenneth works with Charles Bell, and Lloyd works as a mechanic with John. His eldest granddaughter is a nun, Sister Mary Deborah, teaching in New Westminster. Mr. Kissinger lost his first wife [Anna M. Laessig, daughter of Edward Laessig and Jeanette Baenen, of Eau Pleine Township, Marathon County, Wisconsin, USA born 16 March 1881 - died 13 Nov.] in 1949; remarried in 1953. He is a life-long teetotaler, and a faithful watch-winder. Promptly at 10 o’clock he winds the watch, and more often than not he goes to bed shortly afterwards. It’s a family joke that whenever he goes out, he is bound to say, sometime in the evening, "Oh by heck, it’s 10:30," or "Oh, by heck, It’s nearly 11 o’clock." The big-family habits of buying in quantity are still with him, and he sometimes buys such things as canned milk or berries by the crate, shares them with some of his sons, and figures out the cost to the penny. But he doesn’t reckon in the cost of being a chauffeur and deliveryman. He has the knack of being able to relax or concentrate at will, and seeming to be oblivious of noise. All his life he has been able to sit down for 15 minutes, doze without actually sleeping, and arise refreshed.
Note: Johns' house in Laona which he his wife Anna and 8 children was 5349 Beech Street (HWY 8), 2nd house northwest of St Leonard church. Johns' sister Hattie married Frank Beilke. Frank worked at old post Office. The Old Post Office was at Hyw 8 and Lindon St. .