Sunday, May 3, 2015

'Birling' Doc Comes to Bend

Between 1960 and 1972, four teenage girls from Lewiston, Idaho claimed 11 logrolling titles at the Lumberjack World Championships in Hayward, Wisconsin. Their exploits are the subject of the documentary Queens of the Roleo, which is set to debut May 14th in director Dave Jones' hometown of Bend, Oregon.

Jones lived for a time in Lewiston, where he started out his TV programming and production career with the local CBS-TV affiliate. His wife Shelley grew up two blocks from the public swimming pool in Lewiston where the logrollers - a.k.a. "birlers" - practiced. It was she who suggested the documentary film's title.

From the production notes:

At one time these world champions had their moments in the sun... Game shows... Hollywood and headlines... Competitions in Japan... Scrapbooks filled with memories, yellowed now with the passing of time. Dusty trophies. Dried up calked log rolling, or 'birling' shoes.
Because life goes on and young girls grow up, they were somewhat taken aback by a filmmaker calling them out of the blue asking about their log rolling exploits. And each was humbly pleased to be able to share this important chapter in their lives.

For the film, Jones also tracked down the girls' coach Roy Bartlett, now 87.

The May 14th screening is being held in Bend at the Des Chutes Historical Museum. The film premiered in Lewiston last fall and Jones was back in Idaho on April 21st to screen the documentary as part of the University of Idaho's "Logging Day" celebrations.

The film's four "roleo" queens - Barbara Peterka Newbry, Bette Ellis Jordan (a five-time winner), Cindy Cook Toste and Penni McCall Dixon - were all in attendance last fall at the Idaho premiere along with Bartlett. Their coach learned his so-called "pond monkey" skills working as a log roller himself at the Potlach Forests Inc. Mill in Lewiston.

The 2015 Lumberjack World Championships are set to take place in Hayward July 23rd-25th. The event was launched in 1960.

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