One man’s trash is ‘treasure’ for local’s craft

Published 3:17 pm Friday, September 18, 2015

Bogalusa salvage dealer Will Branch travels far and wide, reclaiming antique building materials. He ultimately turns the unwanted scraps into gifts and presents for close friends and family.

Branch’s mill on Spring Valley Road is filled to the rafters with wood reclaimed from buildings throughout the southeast region, including from the old Dixie Beer Brewery in New Orleans and buildings located near the Jackson, Miss., fairgrounds. He also has material from Bogalusa’s old Floyd’s Café.

Branch will be a guest of the Museums of Cassidy Park and speak at 2 p.m. Sunday. His talk will be in the Pioneer Museum.

Branch said a meeting with former Texas Gov. John Connally initially got him interested in salvaging building materials. Connally was shot in Dallas in 1963 while riding with President John Kennedy.

“I moved from Bogalusa to Bandera, Texas in 1978,” Branch said. “There was a flood there on the Medina River and it washed trees down. Those trees were all cypress trees.

“While there, a gentleman named John Connally hired me to get his logs, mill them and stack them. He invited me to his home and it was the first house I had ever seen with all recycled wood.

“It was the most beautiful house you had ever seen. All the floors were made out of heart pine and most of the walls were cypress salvaged from the Medina River.”

Branch returned to Bogalusa in 1981 and built a home out of cypress. Material for the home was wood salvaged by O.A. Green from the former junior high school in Northside.

“All of the wood was cut by the Great Southern Lumber Co. It was a lot of wood,” Branch said.

Branch said he has learned to match a customer’s flooring material.

“I’ve learned to quarter saw flooring to match the customer’s whole flooring material,” Branch said. “Not all grains go one way, but I’ve learned to do it.”

Branch said the recycling business keeps him busy.

“All I do is heart pine floors. I’ll install and finish them,” Branch said. “I really don’t want any more flooring business. I’ve got all I need. I never thought recycling would be as big as it is. I never dreamed I would be this busy.”

Reality television shows like “Salvage Dogs” and certain episodes of “Swamp People” touch on reclaiming materials. Branch said he isn’t a fan of those particular shows.

“I never do watch them,” Branch said. “I live the life.”