July 8, 1998
20 pages Open
Mr. Daniels recalls his boyhood in Salem, Illinois and his father's job as a railroad
worker on page 1-2. Page 3-4 relates the memories of his family and the Depression,
and his decision to join the CCC.
Life in the CCC camp (first in Illinois, later in Wisconsin) is the focus of pages 5-17. In
particular, page 5-8 describes much of the daily life, including the physical he had to
pass, the military-type discipline that the CCC tried to instill, the daily meals, exercise
Mr. Daniels' work in the quarry is described in pages 9-10. On page 10, he also reflects
on the educational opportunities in the camps and the illiteracy that was common. He
recalls the occasional quarrels in the camps on page 11, as well as the solitary African
American member. Leisure activities are covered from 11-13, including his memory of a
party that local women threw for the camp members, women who later came to the
camps for dances.
More descriptions of the discipline, work and living conditions are on page 14-15,
including his memories of his commanding officer and the influence of Indians in the
local town. He recalls how he used to try and get around the rules of the camp on page
Page 17 treats his discharge from the CCC, and page 18, his susequent employment in
the oil industry. On page 19-21, Mr, Daniels reflects on what the CCC taught him, and
concludes with how the CCC helped his family during the Depression, and his favorite
memory from the camp.
Interviewee: Herschel Daniels
Interviewer: Julian Pleasants
Date: July 8, 1998
P: This is July 8, 1998. I am speaking with Herschel Daniels in Gainesville, Florida.
Mr. Daniels, where were you born?
D: I was born in Salem, Illinois.
P: What year?
P: Where did you grow up?
D: I grew up the same place.
P: What about your family? How many brothers and sisters [do you have]?
D: All together I had seven sisters, but I was the only boy.
P: How was that?
D: I was the last of the Mohicans. I was the youngest.
P: Where was your family from originally?
D: My dad was born in a little town, Shaubineer, Illinois, which is north of Salem
about thirty-five to forty miles. They had moved over into Arkansas and when
they came back, they came across the Ozark Mountains in covered wagons.
P: What year was this?
D: I don't know really. He probably has told me, but I can't remember.
P: Were you very interested in Abraham Lincoln at all when you were growing up?
D: We had just moved east of the town of Salem, there were only about 5,000 or
6,000 people there, that is when I went to the CCC. When I came out of the
CCC, the oil boom had struck there and it had jumped to 15,000 or 18,000.
There was the Half Moon Restaurant between Salem and Flora, Illinois, and he
had stayed there all night one time.
P: What did your father do for a living?
D: When I got big enough to know anything about him, he had gone to work for the
railroad. He was a boilermaker, washer helper for Chicago& Eastern Illinois
P: How long did he work for the railroad?
D: He worked for them until he had an accident. He was working on his garage,
driving nails and one flew and hit him in the eye and put his eye out. They kept
him on a year or so after that, but I don't remember just when. I was just a lad.
P: Where did you go to school?
D: I went to school in Salem.
P: How many years of school did you have?
D: I was in the ninth grade when I went into the CCC.
P: How old were you?
P: Did you like school?
D: I did. I liked school. In fact, I can't remember what grade I was in, but they said,
well, they're going to advance you to the next grade. I liked to have busted out of
P: It was not good to be held back. Back in those days they did that.
D: Yeah and a lot of times they would put you up when they shouldn't.
P: Talk about how your family was affected by the Depression.
D: We didn't go hungry because we had about four lots in that little town with the
house. My dad had a green thumb, he could grow anything. In fact, we raised
pumpkins one year, and everybody in that town had a free pumpkin for
Halloween. They all kind of made fun of me because I went in the CCC. I said,
well, I get a good place to sleep, I have clothes to wear, even if they were
handed down from WWI, and I got $5 a month and they sent $25 to my mother.
My father was still living when I came out of the CCC. He was about eighty-two
when he died.
P: When you were going to the CCC, how many of your sisters were still at home?
D: There was only one. She had been married and her husband had died. We had
the two front bedrooms that we fixed up for her to live in. Of course, she had to
work because she had a daughter.
P: So they had jobs. Was there any problem with anybody in your family losing
D: No, not that I know of.
P: What would be your worst memory of the Depression?
D: Like I said, we raised a lot of our own food. If you needed five pounds of sugar,
you had to trade five pounds of potatoes. That is about the only thing I really
remember about it.
P: So you didn't have to give up anything or you weren't denied anything?
D: I wasn't denied anything, but we didn't have anything extra like an automobile or
anything like that. We got by. We had the garden ever year.
P: Did you work in the garden?
P: What else did you grow in your gardens other than pumpkins?
D: That was just that one year we had pumpkins. I remember that because we had
so many. We had a nice, big strawberry patch each year. It was almost like
farming, but I never worked on a farm until I got big enough to pick up a bale of
P: What about family members? Did anybody else participate in any of the New
Deal programs? WPA?
D: Not any of my close family. One of my sisters had two or three boys and I think
one of them was in the CCC, but I am not sure.
P: How did your family feel about Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal?
D: They thought he was a barriers. Everybody did though. He was really a nice guy.
I met him one time in the first camp I went into. He came by with four or six men
and they were looking over the camps and seeing how they could make them
better, things like that. I haven't had anyone tell me that they didn't like the CCC.
The things I did was mostly quarry work.
P: I want to go through chronologically so we will get back to that. What did you say
to Roosevelt? Did you speak to him or shake hands with him?
D: No, you couldn't get close to him.
P: Why did you join the CCC?
D: You couldn't find a job and I felt like I should be helping out. So I talked it over
with my dad and mom and they decided it would be all right for me to go. They
wanted to help out Roosevelt.
P: How did you find out about the CCC?
D: I was in a restaurant, having a cup of coffee with another boy and the guy that
owned the restaurant came over and got to talking to us. Of course, he knew us,
it was just a small town. We would always go in there for a cup of coffee or
maybe Coca-Cola. It was about a nickel I think, if you had a nickel. He told me
he was going in and his brother was going to run the restaurant for him while he
was in. They were wanting all they could get, you know. Personally, I think it
kept a lot of us out of prison. If you hadn't got anything to do, you are gonna find
something to do.
P: When you joined, you were seventeen, right? What year was that?
D: Right. That was early 1936.
P: So this was a few years after the CCC had been established?
D: Right. It was 1932 when it was established.
P: When you signed up, where did you first go?
D: I went to Camp Point, Illinois, which is about twenty miles east of Quincy.
P: So you were basically right at home.
D: Yeah, I was surprised. I figured they would send me to Alaska or someplace.
P: When you got there, what did you do? Did they give you a physical? Describe
what went on there.
D: Oh yeah. We had our own infirmary. In fact, Camp Point was a pretty nice, well
situated camp. It was in the hills, they had a lot of lime rock quarries around
there. That is what the farmers needed for fertilizer. If I remember right, they
could get a ton of it delivered for a dollar. That was the government helping out
the farmers to help out everybody else. Sometimes I'd get to go on the truck out
with them, but most the time I was making little ones out of big ones.
P: When they gave you the physical, was it a very thorough physical?
D: Oh yeah, it was. The only thing I had, as a lad of about twelve or thirteen, maybe
earlier than that, we had the old swimming hole down by the creek. We would
crawl up in this little tree and dive in. Just as I dove in one day, another boy
raised up his knee, right to the top of the water. The concussion perforated both
my eardrums and, back in those days, they didn't know what to do. Boy I was
sick for a month. I went all the way through life that way until the early 1970s,
when I was down here. Our company doctor was checking me over one day and
he said, why don't you have your eardrums patched? I said, what are you going
to patch them with? He said, they'll take care of that part of it. I said, I really
need to do that because I had a lot of ear problems and still do. So this doctor
that worked on me, made my bad ear good and my good ear bad. Just swapped
P: Did it affect your hearing?
P: But that was OK for the CCC?
D: Yeah, they didn't say nothing about it, they took me right in. Now, when it came
to the military, they wouldn't take me in because of the noise, concussion or
P: You got lucky both times, the CCC took you and the military didn't.
D: Yeah well, we were under military rule. We had to go out in the morning and
stand in the cold before we had breakfast. But, shoot, that didn't bother us.
P: When you signed up, where there any requirements as far as character was
concerned? For example, did they ask you about if you had ever been in prison
or anything like that?
D: No, they never did ask me that. The questions they asked me were just like you
and I are sitting here talking. They were needing more [help] because they were
putting in camps all the time up until about 1938. I came out in 1938.
P: Did you know of anybody who was forced to go into CCC rather than say, go to
D: No, I've never heard of that.
P: When you arrived, what did they tell you your job was going to be?
D: They told us that if you could drive a truck or something like that, they would put
you in the motor pool or if you wanted to go into the motor pool anytime that you
were there, they would give you a driver's test and things like that. I took it in
Highland, Wisconsin, when I went in that camp, that was a holding camp. They
transferred me from Camp Point to Highland, Wisconsin, and from there to Gays
P: So that is where you spent most of your time?
D: No, when you sign up, you sign up for six months. Now if you wanted to stay on,
which they liked for you to do, then you would go to Highland, Wisconsin. That
was a kind of holding point. Then they would reassign you and interview you.
They would have your file. Each one had a chart, just like going to the doctor.
P: So what did you do at Gays Mills and how long did you stay there?
D: I was there six months.
P: What kind of day did you have? What time would you get up? Take me through
a typical day.
D: They would blow the bugle for reveille, just like the army. You didn't stay in bed,
you got up. Discipline was really strict and it was good for everybody, I thought
anyway. I didn't have any bad thoughts about any part of it that I can remember.
P: Would you exercise or have breakfast?
D: It depended on the weather. If it took you a little while to get your shoes pried
away from the floor. It wasn't so bad in northern Illinois, but I was in there mostly
in the summer. I was transferred into Highland. It was in the fall of the year.
Then I left up there and went into Gays Mills and I left there in August. I had all
the bad weather behind me.
P: You would have your breakfast in the mess hall?
P: Did everybody eat together?
D: Oh yes. I think the officers had a different table, but I don't think it was anything
better than you.
P: How was the food?
D: It was different. If you got used to it, you looked forward to it.
P: Was there plenty of it?
D: Yes, I might have been lucky, but yes.
P: I talked to some CCC people who came during the Depression and were kind of
under weight, and they got to the CCC and ate regularly and gained fifteen or
D: Well, yes, I think that was due to the fact that you were eating regular. I had
plenty to eat when I was at home. The thing of it is, your work was giving you an
appetite and you would eat more than you did ordinarily, so you would gain. I
gained a few pounds.
P: When you got up, did you make your beds and clean up around your area?
D: Oh yeah, you had to do that because you had an inspection later in the day.
P: What if you failed to pass inspection? What could they do to you?
D: They would make you peel potatoes or something like that. KP [kitchen patrol].
P: Where did you put your clothes? Did you have a footlocker?
D: I had a footlocker, most everybody had one.
P: Describe the barracks building where you slept. What was is like? How many
D: I'd say it was about a forty bunk building. The camps that I was in, seemed to be
all the same size. Maybe made to scale, maybe there was a crew that went
around and did nothing but make barracks. Like that swinging bridge over there.
There was a special CCC crew that built that swinging bridge over the river.
P: Which bridge is that?
D: The one over at O'Leno [State Park].
P: If you are in this particular camp, how many other individuals would be with you?
What was the size of the camp?
D: I would say it would run in the neighborhood of forty to sixty, not counting the
personnel, just the workers.
P: So it was a kind of a small camp.
D: Yes it was.
P: Tell me about the administration. Who was in charge of the camp?
D: Most all of them had a captain.
P: This is an army officer?
D: Yes, he was. And they had an army chaplain.
P: Did you have someone like a sergeant in charge of the barracks?
D: No, they had one guy, I don't know if they called him sergeant or not, but he was
over all the workers.
P: He was army as well?
D: No, he was CCC.
P: How did you get along with the military discipline?
D: [It was all right], after you got used to it. It is just like any other job. When you
start you don't know beans from apple butter, but after awhile you know both of
them and get along with them.
P: Did you have to do any marching?
D: No, we didn't. We exercised. We had all kinds of exercise we could do, but we
didn't have to do. You would do that until you got tired of it and then do
something else. They lined us up and marched us to a certain place where we
were going to have reveille or something special was going on, maybe they
would come out there. But we really didn't do marching like they do in the
P: What were your uniforms like?
D: They were WWI leftovers. They were all new, they had them stored somewhere.
P: Did you have an insignia?
D: Yeah, we had our camp number. That was about all they had on them. We had
two sets of clothes, summer and winter. We had tan in the summer and OD
[olive drab] in the winter.
P: Did you have any of those blue work uniforms? Some camps had those.
D: No. I heard about them, but we didn't have them.
P: Talk about a typical day at work, when you were out in the quarries. What time
would you get there and what time would you go home?
D: We were fairly close so it didn't take us too long to get there. I'd say we probably
went to work at 7:30 or 8:00. We usually got up at 6:00 and we would get our
breakfast. Then we would work until around noon and then we were close
enough that they would bring food out to us. It was those big pots, soup or
P: Did you have a canteen with you?
D: Yeah, I had a canteen and a mess kit.
P: After lunch, how long would you work?
D: We worked till around 4:00, 4:30. By the time we got into camp, it would be
around 5:00. We would clean up, shower and shine.
P: What would you do after dinner?
D: We had a rec room with a pool table and ping pong and traditional poker tables.
P: Did you have an educational facility?
D: Yes, in fact I had completed enough that I had about three or four credits that I
could use towards my education but I never got the chance to do it.
P: What courses did you take while you were there?
D: I took business arithmetic. I figured I could use that anywhere, anyplace.
P: That would usually be at night?
D: Yeah, and they usually had a CCC doing the teaching. We would take tests
once a month.
P: A lot of the boys, when they came, could not read or write. Did they have a
program for them?
D: Yes. We had someone who, I think he had a disability, was kind of slow, or
something like that because he couldn't read nor write. Everybody just jumped in
there to help him.
P: How many of your group could not read or write?
D: Just that one is all I can remember.
P: Do you recall any other courses they offered?
D: One I remember real good, he was a Golden Gloves boxer. We got to be pretty
good friends, because we were from Illinois. They had him in there to train
anybody that wanted to. They did some good exercise.
P: Did you learn how to box?
D: I really wasn't interested in it.
P: Did you have many fights?
D: No and I didn't see very many. Once in awhile, most of it was yelling at each
P: What would you get into a conflict about usually?
D: It was usually rumors. Somebody would say something that so and so did and
by the time it got back to you it was getting to be a big deal. It didn't last long. All
three camps that I was in, after I was transferred into Highland, Wisconsin, I was
waiting to get transferred out of there. I went to get a cool drink and I was
coming back, going down the hallway down the middle of the barracks. All of a
sudden, somebody ran up behind me and put his big old arms around me and
lifted me up off the floor. I didn't even have to turn around to see who it was. I
said, Moose, when did you get back? He was a big colored guy and he was so
P: So you had black CCC members in your camp?
D: He was the only one that I know of. He was the one that was teaching the
P: Where did he come from?
D: He was from Flora, Illinois.
P: What else did you do for leisure time?
D: We would play pool, all kinds of cards. You had to almost, to pass the time
away, like pinochle.
P: Could you play poker for money?
D: They did, but I never did. I never was much of a gambler.
P: You had $5 a month of your own. What did you spend it on?
D: I didn't even smoke back then. I didn't start smoking until I got out of the CCC. I
would usually spend it on a soft drink or something like that. They always had a
Coca-Cola stuck in a box somewhere. They had one guy in there, they called
him Grandad. If you ran out of money toward the end of the month, just before
you got paid, they always paid cash, there wasn't any check, you could go to
Grandpa and he would sign you up. He would give you a quarter or whatever
you wanted. Just before your money came in, he would bring you a total of what
P: So he was lending people money until they got paid. Did he charge interest on
D: Oh yeah. He wasn't supposed to be doing it.
P: What about town? Did you get to go to town on the weekends?
D: Yeah. I didn't [go] too much when I was in Camp Point, but when I got up into
Wisconsin, I enjoyed being up there because it was new to me. If they could get
twenty or twenty-five up, they would take them into town maybe once a week or
something like that. I have a little story I will tell you if I can add it in. There was
a lady in that town who felt sorry for us boys, being off away from home and all.
So she was going to throw a party for us and there was about twenty-five of us.
It was about twenty-five miles away in Reading, Wisconsin. You'd hear those
CCC boys talking--we didn't have anything else to talk about. What struck me
[was how] nice it was. We went, and, of course, she fed us all the nice eats that
you don't get when you're in the CCC. All kinds of goodies, cake and pie and
stuff like that. I guess we had been there about thirty minutes and she said, I'm
going to do something different with you boys. She cleared her living room,
pushed the furniture all back so we had a lot of room and she said, now you girls
take off one shoe and they all took off one shoe. Now she said, put them in a
pile in the center of the living room and they piled them all up so they couldn't tell
one from another. Then she said, I'm going to turn off the lights and boys, you
get you a shoe. She said, has everybody got a shoe? Everybody said, I got one!
I got one! Finally they got them all. Now, I'll tell you what you do. You find the
girl who that shoe belongs to and ask her to be your partner the rest of the
evening. I had never heard of anything like that.
P: So they had invited a lot of local girls to come out to the party?
D: Yeah, the town girls.
P: Did you get a nice one?
D: Yeah, I did. Just pretty as a picture.
P: Did you see her anymore after that?
D: Yeah, we would go back up there maybe twice a month. That'd be about all we
could get out.
P: Did you ever bring any of the girls out to the camp?
D: They would get somebody to bring them. They couldn't be anywhere without a
chaperone. They would have an uncle, dad or grandad or something like that
would get a bunch of them and bring them out there.
P: Did you all have dances where you were in the barracks?
D: Yeah, they did, but I never did learn how to dance so I didn't dance, but I liked to
P: Did you go to church?
D: Occasionally. They would furnish an old truck to take us to church.
P: You had a chaplain at the camp. Did you talk to him much?
D: That was part of his job, to talk to everybody sooner or later. Of course,
everybody wanted it later.
P: When you talked to him, what did you talk about?
D: Well, I had questions. My mother and father were pretty religious. Joseph was
his name. I cannot remember his last name.
P: So, would you talk to him about personal things, other than religion?
D: Oh, yes, he would talk to you about just about anything.
P: So if you had a problem, you could go to him.
D: Yeah, and even if you didn't have a problem you could go to him. If he saw you
out on the grounds or in the mess hall, he would come up and put his hand on
your shoulder and say, how we doing? Things like that.
P: Did you have much contact with the captain who ran the camp?
D: He had special times that he would come in, usually at the evening meal. They
called it supper instead of dinner.
P: What did you think of him, the commander?
D: I thought he was very nice. In fact, I didn't get acquainted with any of them
except the one in Gays Mills. I can tell you a little story about Gays Mills,
Wisconsin. It's about fifty miles from Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin. It's in the
Kickapoo Valley. That was a group of Indians and they had their own Kickapoo
Railroad. Everything was Kickapoo. They had a lot of leftover Indians there too.
But they were nice. They had a museum down in the little town down in the
valley. What I found so amazing there was, as cold as it got in the winter, they
still raised tobacco there in the summer. They shipped it all into Prairie du Chien
and that's where they had the King Edwards Cigar Factory. A bunch of us got to
go in there one time and they took us through the factory where they made the
King Edwards cigars.
P: Let me go through your various places. Your first six months was in Gays Mills?
D: No, you're backwards, it was in Camp Point, Illinois.
P: That was your first six. That was the quarries?
P: Then your second was?
D: Highlands, Wisconsin, but that was just a holding camp.
P: What did you do while you were in the holding camp?
D: They had plenty of things for you to do to keep you busy, but I was only there
about six or eight weeks. They had just build this camp and it set up on a hill
above Gays Mills, and, of course, they called it Gays Mills.
P: When you worked in the quarries, did you just break rock all day long?
D: They had a guy who was in the CCC, but he knew how to dynamite. They would
dynamite a bunch and then after it went off, then you had to get it out of there so
they could dynamite some more. Keep busy. We were constantly hauling it out
every day to put on farmer's fields. We didn't spread it, we piled it and then they
had their own spreader they used. A manure spreader is what they used.
P: Did you ever work with dynamite at all?
P: This guy who was an expert at dynamiting, was he one of the LEMs [licensed
D: I think he was.
P: How did they work out? Were they helpful in guiding you into what you should be
D: They probably got paid more than we did. They knew what they were doing.
They had a lot of experience. They used that rock for everything. Making
bridges, building foundations. They used a lot of it over at O'Leno, but down
here the soil is so fine and sandy. I don't know how far down they'd have to go to
get a solid foundation, whether they would ever get a solid foundation or not.
P: Were there any WWI veterans working with any of the camps?
D: Could've been, I don't know. I don't remember any.
P: What would you do in working, if one of the CCC workers were slacking off and
not doing his job? How would other people react to that?
D: They had some way of disciplining them.
P: Would you do it, or would the captain do it?
D: The captain would do it, but there'd be somebody to tell him. I never had that
problem. There was about a dozen of us that worked in this particular quarry.
There were two or three quarries there so most of the boys there worked in the
quarry. Some of them drove trucks.
P: So they all worked pretty hard?
D: I thought they did.
P: Let me go back to the barracks. How would you describe the barracks in terms
of whether they were dirty or clean?
D: They were clean. That was part of the punishment if you did something you
weren't supposed to do. You got to either peel potatoes or clean the barracks or
something like that.
P: Was it quiet?
D: Yeah, fairly.
P: What time did you have lights out?
D: It was nine or ten o'clock. You worked hard enough that you were ready to go
asleep when the lights went out.
P: Did you ever break any camp rules?
D: Oh yeah. Everybody did that. I was night guard for awhile in one of the camps.
I got to go into the kitchen and they'd be making pies or something like that and I
would get an extra piece of pie and stuff like that. We had a few thieves there.
They'd go up on the hill that the camp was on. All around it was apple orchards.
They called them Northern Greenies. They were green on the outside even
when they were ripe on the inside. They would go up there and take what they
could carry without being seen. My job as night guard, was to make sure the
fires were kept going in the winter. In the summer it wasn't so bad. Everybody
wanted that job because you got the extra goodies in the kitchen. Course, you
always made sure their kitchen was nice and warm too.
P: So all night long, you kept putting coal or wood on the fire?
D: Yeah. This replica that I showed you, you could go up the little stairway there
and look out all over the camp. If you saw any smoke coming out of one of them,
right away you had to ring the bell. Then once an hour, two of us would go
together, we had two night guards for the whole camp, and look around.
P: Did you ever have any big problems?
D: No, everything worked like a clock up there.
P: There are reports that a lot of CCC boys deserted. Either because they had
girlfriends or were tired of being in the CCC or wanted to go home. Do you know
of any instances of that?
D: In Highlands there, while they were waiting to be transferred, there would be a lot
of that. But I really didn't know any of them that took off like that.
P: What would you do in the winter when the ground was too hard in the quarries?
D: It didn't bother you working in the quarries. You just pulled that thing down
around your ears.
P: Were you ever homesick at all when you were in the CCC?
D: When I first went in I was what you would call kind of depressed. I wasn't really
homesick, I didn't think. Maybe I was.
P: Did you know anybody when you first joined up?
D: No, but you get acquainted real quick. Like this boy that couldn't read and write.
As soon as they found that out, everybody was his friend. I thought that was
P: You reenlisted two times?
P: So you had a total of eighteen months?
D: Something like that. Maybe not quite. Well, they counted that Highlands,
because they gave me a discharge from there.
P: Why did you leave the CCC?
D: One reason I think was they were trying to get their numbers down. They quit all
together I think in 1939.
P: They went a little longer than that, but it started then.
D: This was in 1938 when I left.
P: Did they ask you to leave?
D: No, no. My time was up.
P: You just didn't reenlist?
D: I didn't reenlist.
P: When you left, what had you planned to do?
D: Come back and get a job and I did. I came home and they had an oil boom and
that little sleepy town had become a monopoly. Everybody was working in the oil
P: What was your first job?
D: Driving a truck in the oil fields.
P: What kind of money were you making then?
D: To me, it was big money. Best I remember, it was around $5 an hour.
P: That is very good then. So you were making more than you were making in the
CCC. A lot of people left the CCC and got jobs where they were not making as
P: For a lot of people, leaving the CCC was pretty difficult.
D: Even then, if you go downtown, there would always be a certain amount of boys
sitting on the courthouse square. You say, well I got me a job. They say, where
you working at? I say, down at the furniture store. That ain't no good, they
would say. You're just wasting your time. They just didn't want to work.
P: What did you do with the truck? Did you drive people, supplies?
D: I drove a tank truck. Where they didn't have any pipelines, we had to haul it and
put it in a pipeline.
P: Where would you take it? Where was the nearest pipeline?
D: Sometimes we had different fields that we were working in there. The first one
where I went to work was for Texas Oil Company. I was working in Bible Grove,
P: Was this a big field or several big fields?
D: It was pretty good size. That one around my hometown was about three miles
out to the oil field. They had the derricks sitting leg to leg and if you were up in
the air, it looked like a great big town. They had it all lit up because they worked
all around the clock.
P: How long did the boom last?
D: Not long enough. That's just like everything else. It was backed by people who
had lots of money and they wanted to make lots of money. Instead of the
company throttling it down and making it last longer, they just blew the wells out.
They had some wells there that were 6,000-8,000 feet. That's pretty deep. They
wound up pumping salt water.
P: How long did it last, four or five years?
D: Oh, no, they're still there. They're still drilling some, not in the same place of
P: How long did you stay with the oil rigs?
D: I worked there until I got into the LP gas business. I got a chance to go into that
in Salem, Illinois. When I came down here, I told you about meeting that
P: What did you do mainly while you were here? What were your jobs?
D: When I was working for him I was the service manager.
P: So you were literally in the oil and gas business from the time you left the CCC.
D: Yes, really.
P: When did you retire?
D: I retired in 1985.
P: A few questions about the impact that your experience in the CCC had on your
life. How would you access that?
D: They learned you discipline. That was the first thing. How to get along with your
fellow man. In doing so you find out that you have to give as well as take. To
explain it, it's kind of like public relations. I had that all the way through my life.
That is part of my CCC work. That's the reason why I say they should bring it
back. Look at all the young people that they could take care of. I think it ought
to be for boys and girls. The majority of them that I talk to, the old CCC boys,
feel the same way that I do. I have one or two that I've met that didn't feel that
way. I went with my wife out to Missouri to the Precious Moments place out
there and I met this guy from Michigan. He was an old CCC boy and we got to
talking and he said, I'm too old to have anything to do with it and I don't want
anything more to do with it. In fact, he said, I'll give you my picture if you want it.
I said, well I wouldn't want to take your picture, you don't want to give that away.
He had a picture of his whole camp and it had their names and their addresses
and everything right there. I had one. I figured he was just making talk. Six
weeks after I came home, I had a package in the mailbox. He had sent that to
me. What he wanted me to do was take it over to O'Leno and put it in the
museum over there. About six weeks after that, I got another one. He said, I
don't have any use for this anymore either, so I'll just send it to you. He said, if I
want to see it, I'll know where to come to see it.
P: When you look back at your experience over eighteen months, how did that
change you physically and mentally? Where you stronger when you finished?
Did you learn some important skills while you were in there?
D: I don't know how to put it. You have a self assurance. It gives you self
assurance, even if you find something like working on a range or working on a
central heating job, or whatever. Believe it or not, I came upon problems and I
did not know what to do. I'd be in bed that night and I'd have a dream. It would
be so strong in my mind, I'd go back out to the job the next day and what I
dreamed about, I would do on that job and it would be repaired just like new.
P: The CCC taught you how to think and be resourceful?
D: Right. To have self assurance. I've had guys working for me. They'd go to light
a pilot [light] or something like that. They'd go out to a restaurant and have a cup
of coffee because there wasn't anybody home. And then the lady or man would
call up and say, I've got to have somebody out here to light this pilot, I don't know
how to do it. I would say, the man didn't make it to your house? No, I've been
here all day and nobody never did come. I'd go out on my way home and light
that pilot for them and get it going, where they would goof off. They didn't last
long and I never did complain about it. I never did tell anybody about it.
P: If you look back at the CCC, what do you think as a whole, they accomplished?
Not just your experience, but the entire program.
D: I think it was a fantastic thing. I don't know whether Roosevelt thought of it
himself or not, but he was the one that put it in, got behind it and pushed it.
When you pick up a newspaper and see a name in there that you know of a
movie star that's been a real nice guy all through life, you go all the way back
down through the CCC and there he is. I don't know how many have been that
way. And singers. You read about it in the paper. They'll tell you that they got
their start in the CCC.
P: Do you think they made contributions in terms of fighting fires, and planting trees
and that sort of thing?
D: Oh yes. Part of the CCC was called the tree camps.
P: They were the ones that did a lot of the work in the Ocala National Forest and
places like that.
D: We still plant trees. We've got a little thing over at O'Leno, that if one of us
passes away, they have a get together over there and plant a tree with their
name on it.
P: How about when you got home? How did you family react to you? Did they think
you were changed?
D: Oh yes. Just ma and pa were the only ones there. The rest of them were all
gone. Out of seven sisters, I've still got one living. She is eighty-seven.
P: How much impact did the $25 a month have on your parents?
D: It bought all their staples for them. Even during the Depression, $25 didn't go
very far, but it looked like a fortune when they first got it.
P: Do you keep up with some of the people you were in camp with? I don't mean
the group here, but the people you were in Wisconsin with?
D: No. I got a few letters from them, but they'd be here and there and I never could
get in touch with them.
P: When you look back on your experience in the CCC, what is your best memory?
D: I'd say one of them, maybe not the best, but one of them was when Moose came
through there and grabbed me. I could tell just the minute I left the floor who it
was. He wasn't being mean, he was just glad to see me.
P: Well that concludes the interview and I want to thank you very much for your