June 19, 2000
31 pages Open
Richard Ives describes his family's move down from Ohio to Florida on pages 1-2.
Page 2 also contains his memories of growing up during the Depression. He explains
why he went into the CCC and what that process entailed (page 3-4; see also page 6).
At Camp Brooker, Florida, he talks about his first jobs and how he opted for kitchen
work after a few weeks (page 5-6). Subsequently he was transferred to California (page
7), and he talks about the train ride out there, as well as his new jobs (page 8; 9; 12).
Mr. Ives discusses the two communities around his camps in Florida and California on
page 8, and the different physical layouts of the camps on page 10 (see also 16). Page
10 also contains his memories of firefighting jobs (se also 26-27), as well as the
standard procedure when he reported for duty. Mr. Ives also talks about the hazing and
hierarchy of labor in the camps (11), his free weekends (13) and the discipline
administered int eh camps (14). He also speaks on his commanders and goldbricks in
the camp (15), his foremen (16), and the propensity for accidents and the details of
barracks life (17-18).
Leisure time is addressed on page 19, as well as the breaking of rules including fights
on page 20-21. Page 22 concerns leave policy, fellow campers; page 23-24 Mr. Ives'
life after the CCC and some surprise reunions he had with former CCC friends (see also
28). Mr. Ives speaks more generally on his likes and dislikes about the CCC and a
typical day in camp (page 25-26), as well as his judgement on the CCC's effectiveness
(page 28) and its significance to history (29). He concludes with an anecdote about his
trip out west via train (29-30).
Interviewee: Richard Ives
Interviewer: Ben Houston
Date: June 19, 2000
H: It is June 19, 2000, and I am here with Richard Ives, a member of the Civilian
Conservation Corps. Mr. Ives, when and where were you born?
I: Cleveland, Ohio. April 25, 1923.
H: Did you grow up in Cleveland all your life?
I: No, we moved to Warren, Ohio, when I was about a year old. Then in 1936, my
father and I come to Florida for the winter. We came to Gainesville, and I've been
here ever since. This is been home to me ever since.
H: Why did he come down to Gainesville?
I: My grandparents used to come to Gainesville from Cleveland, by train to New
York, and then a boat from New York to Jacksonville, and a train back to
Gainesville. My grandmother died in Gainesville in 1913, I believe it was.
H: Did they come down for health reasons, or just to vacation?
I: Yes. My grandfather had asthma. He was a farmer there in Ashtabula County, in
New Lyme, [Ohio] and his doctor left there and moved to Gainesville. So, he'd
come down to be with his doctor. He would just come down in the wintertime,
[and] they'd go back home. I don't know how often they took the boat, but I know
they did one time.
H: Was your father vacationing down here, too, or did he have health problems?
I: No, we'd just come for vacations.
H: He just liked the climate.
I: He and my mother come to Florida in 1911 for their honeymoon. He always loved
H: Do you have siblings?
I: I have one brother, and he lives in Florida now. He has been here since, oh,
1949 or 1950, somewhere along there.
H: What did your father do?
I: My father, in Ohio, he was a mechanic and worked for two different automotive
companies in Cleveland, the Stern's automobile factory and the White factory. He
road-tested for them. In Warren, why, he had a gasoline station, grocery store
and done the county court, got in the airplane business built an airplane and they
flew it. Then my mother died in 1935, so we come to Florida a year later. He
never done much of anything after we come down here. [He] more or less retired.
H: Was he foreign-born or American-born?
I: No, American-born.
H: Who lived in your house after you moved down to Florida? Was it just you and
your brother and your father?
I: After my mother died, my cousin and her husband moved in with us and kept
house for us until we came to Florida. He eventually rented it after they left, and
then he sold the house.
H: How far did you get in school when you were growing up as a kid?
I: I went to the eighth grade.
H: Was that only in Ohio?
I: No, here in Florida, at P. K. Yonge [School in Gainesville]. I suppose I was the
first kid that ever quit school at P. K. Yonge. I don't know.
H: What kind of jobs were you holding down when you were growing up?
I: I drove a taxi in Gainesville for years, for a long time, and then I went from there
to Fort Lauderdale. I peddled water, five-gallon jugs of water for two or three
years. I'd go north in the summertime once in awhile, work up there for the
summer. I finally settled here. This is been home since sometime in the early
H: Can you share some of your memories, either good or bad, of growing up in the
I: I don't think I ever had any bad memories of it. My folks, I suppose you could call
them pretty well-off. We was never on relief. With his business he had, why, he
supplied kerosene and gasoline for county people that was on relief. At one time,
he had two or three trucks on the road, peddling it, delivering it from house to
house because the people didn't have cars or anything. So I can't really say that
we had any hardship that I remember during the Depression. Maybe things was
a little tight, but a young kid like I just didn't realize it. We had a good school. We
was there at Warren Howland Township. We was one of the very few schools in
Trumbull County that had full nine-month classes because we was in Mahoning
Valley. All the steel mills was in our district, paid taxes and all.
H: So did you find that it was hard for you to find jobs during the Depression?
I: No, I don't think so. I always said I never knew anything so I could always find a
job. I wasn't particular, you know. I tried different things to a trade and all, but
they just never did pan out.
H: You don't feel that your family was very much affected by the Depression?
I: No, I don't think so. I really don't believe so.
H: Did your brother participate in the CCC or any of the New Deal programs or
I: No. He is ten years older than I am. After our mother died and we came to
Florida, he stayed in Ohio for a long, long time, several years. We didn't have
much participation that way.
H: How did your family feel about FDR and the New Deal?
I: As far as I know, they liked him. They thought he was all right.
H: And how about your campers at the CCC? Were they pretty happy with him?
I: Oh yeah, I believe so. There was a few hardheads that grumbled about different
things and all, but I think the majority of them, like myself, enjoyed it. I liked it.
H: If you were, at least comparatively speaking, pretty well-off during the
Depression, what made you decide to go into the CCC?
I: My father had remarried, and, well, I had a stepmother and I felt like I was kind of
in the way. They'd done some arguing and didn't get along too good, so I felt like
I was in the way. I knew another kid that had been in the CCC. He talked me into
joining up with him, although I made it and he didn't. But I enjoyed it. Like I said, I
joined it to get away from home mostly. But they sent me to Brooker, just twenty
miles from Gainesville. I wasn't very far from home then.
H: Didn't really escape as much as you wanted to.
I: No. I was there six months, and from there, I went to California then.
H: Had you heard about the CCC before your friend told you about it?
I: Oh yes, I'm sure I did, read about it and all.
H: When you decided to sign up, what was the process for that? Did you have to go
see a recruiter?
I: Yeah, as near as I remember, there was some kind of a process there. It was in
a building behind the old police department.
H: In Gainesville?
I: Uh-huh [yes]. You signed up, and they kind of took your history. Now, evidently,
they interviewed my parents. I don't know. My father, as far as I know, he never
went down there or went to the office. He and my stepmother-she was from
Wisconsin-they was going north that summer. I stayed in Gainesville and waited
to go to CCC camp. I had a call--I knew I was going to go in October, so I stayed,
waited for that. I worked for a fellow pulling moss. He paid $3.50 a week and my
room and board for pulling moss for him. I worked there until I got my call to CCC
H: When you signed up, did they tell you what kind of work you would be doing?
I: I believe so. I'm sure it was tree work and things like that.
H: Do you remember how much you made?
I: Yeah, I got $30 a month.
H: And how much of it had to be sent home?
I: $22, when I went in. $22 was sent home, and I got $8.
H: Did your father save the money for you?
I: Yeah. That was one of his and my stepmother's arguments, about that $22.
H: Your stepmother wanted to spend it, huh?
I: I guess so.
H: You said you signed up in October. What year was that?
I: Let's see. I wasn't seventeen years old. I lied about my age and told them I was
eighteen when I went.
H: You wanted to go that badly, huh?
I: So, that would have made it, what, 1939. October, 1939.
H: Did you have other friends from Gainesville who were in there, or just that one in
I: No, just that one. There was other ones that went that I knew before. You know, I
didn't know they were going, but there was two others that I knew from
Gainesville that was there, that we went in together.
H: What was this camp again?
I: Brooker, Florida. 5441 was the number of it.
H: Were there any African-Americans in that camp?
H: It was strictly segregated?
I: Yeah. As far as I know, I'd say it was segregated.
H: Any Native Americans that you remember, Indians?
I: Yeah, there might have been. It's been so long ago, but I suppose there was.
They wasn't all from Gainesville. They was from all over the state. We had them
there from Sarasota and Fort Myers and Wauchula. They were from all over,
every place in the state, so I would presume there were some Native Americans
H: What were you doing at Camp Brooker?
I: We were building roads and putting in telephone lines to the fire towers. We built
a fire tower in Lacrosse [Florida] and put in graded roads. We had to dig stumps
and palmettos [up]. I did that for, oh, two or three weeks, and I decided I wasn't
much of a person for something like that, so I got a job in the kitchen. I stayed
there and done KP work the rest of the time I was there. That digging stumps,
that was no job for me.
H: Too backbreaking for you, I guess?
H: Did you regret having gone into the CCC, just to be on KP?
I: Oh, no. No, I never did. No.
H: So you would stay back and sort of take care of the camp while others were out
I: Yeah. In the kitchen, we got up earlier and got the kitchen all set up for breakfast.
We'd feed breakfast and do our dishes and clean up, and we'd have a little time
off. Then, it was the same with lunchtime for the few that was in camp for lunch.
They sent the food out to the roads, too, where the crews were working. They
sent food out there. Then, the evening was the same way. We worked longer
hours in the kitchen, but, I don't know, to me, I enjoyed it. I started out washing
pots and pans. Finally got promoted to washing dishes. It was a good
experience. I enjoyed it.
H: When you say that this camp was just doing conservation-type work, was this
already an established park that they were just maintaining?
I: No. It was just a new camp. It'd only been there about three months. If I'm not
mistaken, it came there from Nevada. They transferred it in from Nevada, just the
main boys in the thing, like the company clerks. I know you've met Mike
Tilghman and J. C. [Keene, fellow CCC members who meet with a reunion group
in Gainesville] up there. They were the clerks. Well, Mike was the sergeant. He
could holler fall in and scare a sixteen-year-old kid half to death.
H: I am going to go back to when you signed up with your recruiting officer. How
extensive was [it]?
I: You know, it seems like I gave two or three different people as recommending
me, but I don't think they checked too close on it. I think if they did, they'd have
checked my age.
H: Were you ever aware of people who went into your camp who were given a
choice of going there or going to jail?
I: No. As far as I know, there was nobody like that. I just kind of think if you had a
record or something, I don't think they would've taken you. I don't know. It seems
like there was something, you know, when you were signing up or something that
there was something in the application about it. I wouldn't say for sure.
H: Were people ever brought into their camps against their will?
H: You said that you wanted to go away from Gainesville. They didn't give you any
sort of choice in which camp you would go to?
I: Oh no, not until the second enrollment. Then they just said we were going out
West. If we wanted to re-enroll, we could go out West somewhere. They didn't
H: Were they transferring the camp, and they were giving you the chance to go with
I: No. They had new fellows coming in, and the ones that was going, they would
take our place. The rest of them, they shipped out with us.
H: Was that normal?
I: Yeah. That camp was kind of, I would say, a recruiting place, really, because
they would bring them in and process them.
H: Kind of a way-station?
I: Uh-huh [yes], and then move them on somewhere else.
H: Where did you go out in California?
I: I went to Capitola first. The company out there had two camps. The one in
Capitola would be the winter camp. I was only there about a month. It was New
Brighton Beach. It was right on the ocean. I was there, I would say, about a
month. From there, we went to Yosemite National Park. That was a lovely place
H: What kind of work were you doing?
I: Our main thing there was fighting forest fires. They trained us for that. They also
dug gooseberries and currants. They were causing a disease in these pine trees,
these big sequoias and redwood trees. It was a disease that would go from the
currant or the gooseberry to the tree and back to the bush. We were digging
them out. Big sections of land. On the way up, going back, we took a train from
Merced, California, to El Portal. That was right at the entrance of Yosemite
National Park. Then they put on trucks, and they had big strings up through the
wood, about every three or four foot apart. Going up through the woods, going up
the road, we thought, boy, they've got some big spiders, you know, to have
things like that. What it was, they'd take these sections of land, quarter sections,
and they'd lay them off in three-foot strips, and put one or two kids in each three-
foot section. You'd dig them gooseberries and currants, and you counted them,
and they tallied the numbers. They had some way to tally the things. Blister rust
is what this disease was called.
H: You dug them up entirely?
I: Yeah, pulled the roots up.
H: And what did you do with them?
I: Just destroyed them.
H: Burned them?
I: Well, I'd just throw them out, and they would die, I suppose. Down in the valleys
and the mountains, they were so big they had bulldozers, tractors, in there pulling
the things out, digging them out. It was so wet and damp, the things would grow
much faster down in there than they would on the side of the mountain.
H: Do you remember African-Americans or Indians in those camps?
I: No, we had no African-Americans.
H: Do you remember when you were in the CCC whether there were certain
reputations given to particular camps? Were you excited that you were going out
to California because of the camp itself?
I: No. As far I know, we didn't know where we was going in California. I was excited
about going. I just thought that was a chance to see the country.
H: You had never been out West?
I: No. As young as I was, I was ready to go.
H: How did you feel that the communities nearby felt about having the CCC camp?
I: The one in Florida, in Brooker, they appreciated us. You know, we got along
good. There were very few people there. But when we got out to Yosemite, we
were kind of segregated. They didn't want too many CCC boys down in Crane
Flat, down in the valley where all the activity was and all, so we didn't get to go
down there very often. We would slip down.
H: Why don't you think they wanted you down there?
I: I don't know. It was a higher-class type of people that lived there, and it was a
tourist attraction, like it is today. You read about it, and it still is a tourist attraction
in the valley, in what they call Yosemite Valley.
H: If you were working in Yosemite, you weren't ever working for any private
I: As far as I know, no. I think in Brooker, if I'm not mistaken, it was kind of private
landowners. What I've read since then, where they went out through and put
these trails and roads in, and they're good graded roads. You can go through the
country now, and you can pretty well see where one of these roads has been
through, where they've graded the things up. It wasn't done sloppy or anything. It
was nice graded up roads.
H: So, you weren't aware that it was private when you were there. It was just
something you discovered.
I: No, we were never told.
H: How long did it take you to get out to California?
I: Six days.
H: And you took a train, you said.
I: Yeah. It was a troop train that started in Gainesville. There was only two or three
Pullman cars on it. By the time we got off the train in Watsonville, California, I
suppose there were fifteen or eighteen cars on the train then, that they picked up
along the way.
H: How long were you at Yosemite?
I: I'd say about five months, to the end of my enlistment, to the end of my term of
enrollment. Then I came home.
H: Did you participate in the fighting of forest fires there, or did you stick to the
I: No, I was on a fire suppression crew. On our crew, there was seven. If there was
a fire, we went first, and if we couldn't put it out or anything, why, then they
called. I don't remember how they called back or anything, but then we got
reinforcements. Other people would come out. Then when the rest of them, more
people, would come out, we'd go back to camp, wait for the next fire. In the time I
was there, I was never on but a couple of fires. It was at night where the lightning
had struck one of them big trees and set it on fire, the crown of it. We'd have to
go down and go and find it and cut it down. We had foremen, you know, that
knew the woods, knew how to get around in there. We were never lost or
anything like that. He knew right where to go. I guess the different towers would
pinpoint it, give him the sections where it was at. We'd cut them big trees down
and put the fire out.
H: What sort of training did you have to get in order to be on this crew? What did
they teach you?
I: We had backpacks with water we carried. We had shovels, had these big flapper
things. We was taught how to shovel and rest ourselves although it wasn't too
much work, you know, just manly labor to do it. To me, it was all interesting. I
enjoyed it. Like I said, we wasn't on but a couple of those crown fires like that.
They used to tell us, when we heard thunder, to pray for rain because where
there's thunder there's lightning striking big trees. There was other camps in
Yosemite, too. They were spaced around. They went to some of the fires, too.
They had their sections to go to.
H: Were these big fires like the ones that are going on now?
I: Oh no, not where we were.
H: You were able to take care of them before they reached that point?
H: Did your friend from Gainesville go to California or had he not made the cut?
I: Yeah, the ones that I had [known] got in the camp. One of them went to
California. The other one, I don't know what happened to him.
H: What sort of differences did you feel you saw in the camp in California and the
one in Florida, either with the camp itself or with the guys who were there?
I: The camp in Florida, we had barracks buildings, all wooden buildings. In
Yosemite, we was on the side of a mountain. It was at Crane Flats, and it was
terraced out. We had three rows of tents. They were boarded up, I would say,
about four feet with a wooden floor, and they had these old Army tents where
they were raised on both ends and the corners. We slept in them all the time we
was out there. We had good cots and beds.
H: But it was a little more primitive.
I: Oh yeah. The only wooden building, I guess, we had out there was the one with
the bathhouse and the kitchen and dining area, that was the only wooden
building. The rest, the officers' [quarters] and the dining hall and the bathhouse
and latrine was all separate buildings.
H: When you first arrived at the camps, either Florida or California, what happened
when you got there? Was there a procedure?
I: Here in Florida, they gave us a bunch of shots in getting us ready and all. It
seems like it was about two weeks before we ever done any work. We just laid
around camp. Maybe they had us cleaning up around, sweeping or raking until
we went to the woods, went to work or anything. I guess we was there a couple
of weeks, kind of in quarantine. After we'd got to California, because we'd had
everything then, we weren't in quarantine. We went right out and went right to
H: Did they give you medical tests or anything when you got to the Florida camp?
I: Oh yeah, we had a physical when we got to camp. I don't remember now what all
that consisted of, but it was a pretty good physical. I suppose there were some
kids that was turned down. You know, maybe they were sent back home
because of some physical defects. We was all strangers to each other. We didn't
know, so it'd be hard to say whether there had been some sent home or not.
H: Do you feel like there was any hazing among the men when you were at the
camp, any sort of difference between the old-timers and the new guys?
I: Yeah, I guess there might have been a little bit. The news guys, they was always
going to initiate them when they first came in. I know our first night in Brooker,
some of these guys who'd been there, they was running through the barracks
after the lights went out. They was grabbing the bunks and turning them over.
This other kid and I, there was a vacant bunk between us, and we pulled it
crossways with the hallway there and they stumbled over that. That was kind of
the end of it in our barracks. I don't know whether they broke a leg or what.
H: You said earlier that you switched from doing the grunt work out in the fields of
Florida to the camp cook. Did you feel like there was sort of a hierarchy in the
sort of jobs that you had?
I: No, I don't think so. I just didn't like shoveling and digging palmettos, these old
palm trees and all. There were too many roots on them. That was my biggest
problem. I'd never done any real work, you know. As young as I was, I'd never
done any real manual labor and all. Maybe that was the reason. But it was hard
H: You didn't feel like there was any difference between the people that stayed back
and took care of the campers versus the ones who went out.
I: No. The only thing I didn't tell you, working in the kitchen, we didn't have to work
Saturday or Sundays. We had the weekend off, where the rest of them would
have to work, went to the field. They had to work half a day Saturday. Then, they
would be called in for extra duty, KP work and things like that on the weekends.
We didn't have to do that. We didn't have to stand reveille or nothing by being in
the kitchen, in the dining area.
H: Was that true in California, too?
I: Yeah. Well, I did there when I was on the fire crew and working out in the woods.
H: Did you feel that fire work was easier than the stump work back there in Florida?
I: No, I don't think so. Maybe I'd gotten used to it, you know, a little bit of the
working part of it. There was a difference in the kitchen work, though. There in
California, I think the cooks was a little harder to get along with than they were
here in Florida. Maybe that's why I didn't work in the kitchen. I worked in the
kitchen a little while but not very long.
H: You didn't mind going from the cushy job in the kitchen back to the actual work?
I: No, I didn't mind that.
H: Well, if you didn't like it in Florida, then why did you turn around in California?
Was there something different about it that appealed to you?
I: Oh yeah, being out on the side of mountains. To me, you just couldn't believe
how big the trees were. You know, there were things like that. We had boots to
wear out there, leather boots, and they had hobnails on them where you could
walk up the side of the mountain. Being here in Florida, everything is so flat.
Maybe that was the difference. But I didn't mind it. It was all right. Like I said, I
had a chance to get away from home and go somewhere and see something, so
I enjoyed it. There was kids in there that didn't like it. They'd sit around and cry
about being homesick. I used to laugh at them.
H: You didn't know what they were talking about.
I: No, I didn't. They'd talk about how much better they'd had at home and all, and I
know that some of them didn't come from any better family than I did. You know,
so they couldn't have been any better off than I was. I didn't think they were,
H: Did the California camps have mostly guys from the West, or was it people from
I: They were from all over. The one we was in out there, I think there was a bunch
of fellows in there from Louisiana. How they got them mixed up or something, I
don't know. From what I understand, when they first started the CCC, they kind
of kept them close to home and all, and eventually they got to where they were
shipping them out. I was some of the last to go, too. I think 1941, 1942 is when
they disbanded the whole thing. I was kind of the last of the bunch. Where we
was, way out there up there in the mountains, you could hear a log train, I guess,
a whistle on an old locomotive. Them kids would hear that thing, and they'd get
so homesick. Never been away from home before, I guess.
H: When you had these weekend passes, what would you go and do?
I: Out there, there wasn't nothing to do but just lay around camp. We was about
fifty or sixty miles from any town. They would have a recreation truck go down in
the valley Saturday afternoons and Saturday night. We could usually go on that
down there. The whole camp could do that.
H: And what would you do?
I: Nothing to do but walk around. There wasn't much to do, really.
H: What about in Florida? Did you go into Gainesville for the weekends?
I: Oh yeah. From there, we'd go into Gainesville and into Starke. They had a
recreation thing going to Starke all the time, every weekend.
H: And what did you do there?
I: Oh, there was movies and stores, you know, that they go to.
H: Spend all that money they had saved up, right?
H: Did you learn any new skills from the work out in California or in Florida that you
put to use later on?
I: I don't know whether I learned any new skills. In Florida here, if I would've
stayed, they would have made me a second cook. But I wouldn't stay. I wanted
to get out and see some of the country. I had got to where I was helping some of
the cooks in there with different things. To this day, I do a lot of cooking and all.
Maybe that is what started it.
H: But the firefighting, it's not like you brought those skills back to Florida and could
H: You might have touched on this earlier, but clarify when you were in Florida, they
gave you the option to re-up for California?
H: Or you would have to be discharged.
I: No, I could stay. We was allowed to stay. I think we could be in it eighteen
months before we'd have to leave, and I was in a year.
H: A year in Florida and then off to California?
I: No, six months in each place.
H: Were you ever promoted when you were out in California? On the fire
suppression crew, was there the same division of labor like there was in Florida?
I: Yeah, everything was about the same, I think. About the only promotion you
could get, like I was you get to be a second leader, assistant leader,
the leader and then the assistant leader. That was about the only thing, though.
Out of 200, there wasn't too many in each camp.
H: Did you ever run out of work and get bored?
I: No, there was always something to do.
H: They managed to keep you busy, to earn your pay.
I: Yeah, and I don't think you was overworked really. They kept you busy, kept you
out of trouble. That's kind of what they were for, to keep kids in these cities, all
getting into trouble, getting away from the streets and all. In fact, this kid that I
wanted to go with, why, he wound up in jail after I left, in Gainesville.
H: Was there any sort of company punishment for people who got out of line?
I: Yeah, they'd give them extra duty. It was usually in the kitchen or on weekends,
you know, policing up while the rest of them would be able to sit around. They'd
give them extra duty for doing the things they weren't supposed to do. When they
was in camp, they was under the direction of, I guess, the Army really. It was
kind of like the Army. Then when we was out on the roads or out in woods or
something, we were more or less under the forestry department. We worked for
H: Did you have any real troublemakers that they had to deal with?
I: No, I don't think so. Really, I don't know of any. Like I said, there was some kids
that were dissatisfied, and they just run away. They went back home and all, and
they'd get a dishonorable discharge. I don't know if that meant anything or not.
They didn't care.
H: How many of those were there, approximately?
I: I don't know. In Brooker, I suppose there might've been two or three the six
months I was there.
H: And in California?
I: No, I think they was all too far away from home.
H: Talk about your camp commanders. What were they like?
I: Here in Brooker, we had a commander that he said he liked to eat. Whatever the
mess store was allowed per kid to eat, why, he made them spend it. So the food
was a lot better here than it was in California. They were pretty strict. They was
old Army people, I guess, and you had to more or less listen to them. I never got
in any trouble. I was always somebody trying to mind their own business and not
get into anything. Some of them did. They'd get into trouble with their extra duties
and things. When I got out to California, we had a big old lieutenant there. In fact,
he was on the troop train that went from here, went from Gainesville out there.
He had us all lined up when we got there and said that he was the blond-haired
daddy of that outfit, and if there was any arguments or fights, he wanted to see
them; if we didn't fight in front of him, he'd make us fight again where he could
watch it. Whether he did or not, I don't know. In fact, when I signed up for the
CCC, I had caddied at a golf course in Ohio. I had put that on my application and
all. He played golf, and he took me with him to Fresno one day. We went down,
he played golf, and I caddied for him.
H: Did he tip you when you did that?
I: I don't remember. I guess he paid me all the time.
H: What did you do about gold bricks?
I: I don't know. They would punish them with more of that extra duty where they'd
make them work some more extra stuff, and they'd try to get out of it. They had
ways of making them do things. It's been so long ago now, I don't remember that.
H: Scrub the toilets and stuff.
I: Oh yeah, the latrine. That was a good place to work. In our kitchen here in
Florida, we had wood-burning field ranges. Every night after supper, when the
stoves would cool off, they would take them all apart, take all the ashes out of
them. They would grease all the cast iron and all that, make it shine. Boy, the
tops of them would shine. That was what most all of the extra-duty guys had to
do. It was an old sooty messy job. Then they'd have to get the wood in, stack the
wood for the next day. Didn't many of them like that job. It was kind of a messy
job, you know.
H: What about the other leaders, not just the commanders, the foremen? How good
was your foreman?
I: The foremen, I guess, was all more or less civilians. Then they had the boys, the
leaders and the assistant leaders under him. They was all pretty good. I don't
remember who we had in Florida now. I know we had one we worked under out
in California. He had been an old logger in them woods there, in them big woods.
His name was Luke Stewart. He was quite a fellow. He was comical and all. You
could cut one of them trees down, and he could holler "Timber!" and it seemed
like he'd holler it hearing for four miles. Boy, he could make his voice carry. He
knew what he was doing, though, about cutting the tree and falling it where he
wanted it to go and all.
H: He was pretty easy to work with.
I: Oh yeah, very easy.
H: Did you have any experiences with LEMs?
I: No, I don't think so. As far as I know, we didn't. I didn't.
H: Did you feel that there were enough qualified leaders to run the camps?
I: Oh yeah. As far as I was concerned, there was. I don't know what other people
thought. I was very well pleased with them. They was good to me. I guess as
long as you done your work and what you were supposed to do, you never had
no problems with them. I never did. I always was a, kind of, pretty easygoing kid
anyway to get along with, or I tried to be. I've been that way all my life.
H: Go ahead and describe the entire camps as much as you can, both in Florida
I: In Florida here, I guess the camps was built on kind of a U-shape, and there
must have been about four barracks facing one way. I think on one end, there
was a recreation hall with a canteen and all in it. Down the other end was where
the kitchen and mess hall and all was. Kind of back behind the four barracks is
where the latrines and all was. Then over on the other side, there was a motor
pool where all the trucks and all the equipment was kept. I guess the office was
over there, too, somewhere along in there. There was a first-aid building where
we had a first-aid guy in it. To me, it was pretty well equipped, looking] back
now. It was a good-sized area. There was a parade ground between the
buildings, you know, in front of the buildings and all in there where we marched.
We didn't do much marching or anything here in Florida, but after we got to
California, we done calisthenics, a lot of that out there.
H: Did you ever have occasion to use that first aid guy? Were there accidents in
I: Oh yeah, there was things. In fact, I was grinding meat with an old hand meat
grinder one night, making hamburgers or something, and the handle come off
and hit me over the eye somewhere here. He wanted to take a stitch in it, but I
wouldn't let him. I didn't trust him. But he was pretty good for doing things like
H: Then why didn't you trust him?
I: Oh, I don't know. I told him I saw him to do it somebody else with an old dull
H: There weren't any serious accidents?
I: No, no. If there was, why, there was an ambulance that come in from Lake City
to the VA Hospital over there. I guess there was a camp of World War I veterans
over around Lake City somewhere. They manned the ambulances and was
chauffeurs for the commanding officers to go around. There was never many
H: How did you feel about the barracks here in Florida?
I: They was all right. They weren't finished off inside or anything, you know, just the
studs and all. But the windows and all, they opened, swung open. They had
screens on them, so we had no problems with skeeters [mosquitoes] or nothing
I: Oh yeah, there was electric there, but it was turned off a certain time at night and
they didn't turn them back on until the next morning, I don't know, 6:00 or
something like that.
H: Were those heated by the wood-burning stoves as well?
I: Yeah. It seems like here they had a big stove kind of in the middle of the building,
about middleways of both ends of it. But there in California, the tents we slept in,
there was just eight to a tent, and they had a little thing [that] looked like an ice
cream cone turned upside down for a stove or [to] heat with. It was made on a
H: So, it wasn't portable even though you were on the side of the mountain?
I: No. I guess they were portable, too, but they were just put at one end of the tent.
It got pretty cold there at night. Our camp, I think, was up 7,000 feet.
H: You didn't have electricity and plumbing up there, did you?
I: Oh yeah, we had electric.
H: Plumbing, too?
I: Yeah, they took the water right off the side of the mountain where it come down
[in] a stream. They had a big wooden tank that it would run into that tank some
way, and it supplied water for the camp then and had hot water for the showers
and all. In Florida here, we had hot water too, but they had wells here in Florida,
where out there it just come off the side of a mountain. Out there, it was only, oh I
don't know, a couple of miles above where we were at was the snow-line
because there was snow above there. So that water was cold when it come
H: Did your family ever send mail packages or anything like that from home?
I: Oh yeah, we had mail call every day. Maybe once a week, I'd hear from my
family or something, maybe once every two weeks. We wrote home. You know,
we had our letters. We could write home. We took a lot of pictures. Well, I did. I
don't know if a lot of them did. They sent me a camera, so I took a lot of pictures
of out there. In Yosemite-every once in awhile, you see it on TV-there's a big
dead-looking tree where a truck runs through it. That was just below our camp. It
was mariposa grove of big trees.
H: I guess those letters would have been more from your dad than your stepmother.
I: Oh yeah. My brother, he was in Ohio at the time, so he wrote to me. I had some
aunts and uncles up there who'd write, aunts that wrote to me pretty regular. I
had plenty of mail. There was no problem there. They'd sent me stamps. I guess
then they were $0.03 stamps.
H: Do you remember who did your laundry at camp?
I: They had a truck. I don't remember in California, but I'm sure they did here in
Florida. I know there was a certain day we had to have it all at, I'd say, the
canteen, recreation hall. A truck would come by and pick it up and maybe cost us
$1 a month or something like that. They'd take that out of our pay each month. If
we didn't sign our pay slip right for the following month, if you went over the line
or something, they would redline it. Then you wouldn't get any pay until the next
month, and then you'd get two months if you was lucky.
H: Why did they do that?
I: I don't know, just to make us be accurate, I guess.
H: Did you like wearing the uniform?
I: Yeah. In fact, I wore it all the time. I never had much of any regular clothes,
civilian clothes or anything with me.
H: Was it denim or khaki?
I: Khaki. Here in Florida, we had khaki for dress and denim for work, denim
trousers and jackets and hat. In California, we had some wool clothes and khaki
because of the cold weather, and denim too. For a work jacket, you had a great
big plaid jacket, wool plaid, to wear. We brought all that stuff home with us. They
gave it all to us.
H: What did you do for fun at the camps in your recreation time?
I: Oh, I don't know. There was different things to do around camp for different kids.
They had pool tables. I never shot no pool. I was never a pool player, but I could
always find something to do. If nothing else, getting out and walk out through the
woods, especially there out west, you know, going up and down the road, teasing
H: Sport teams? Games?
I: We didn't have much of anything in either camp that I was ever in. I guess we
had ballgames among ourselves, but as far as challenging other camps, I don't
remember. I don't think so.
H: Would California have been a little too isolated for that?
I: No, they weren't too far apart out there. I'd say there was camps within twenty,
thirty miles of each.
H: Did you ever get the CCC newspaper?
I: Oh yeah.
H: Did you read it?
I: Oh yeah, I used to read it. In fact, I get it now through the National Association.
H: Did you ever write anything for it?
I: No. It doesn't seem like they used to give us a paper about once a month or once
a week or something. I forget now just how often. CCC News or something, they
H: Happy Days.
I: Yeah, Happy Days. That was it.
H: I understand that some of the camps had educational opportunities available for
anybody who wanted it.
I: I guess they did, the older [camps], the camps that had been there longer. Like
over here in Brooker, it was just a new camp and all, so they didn't have anything
there. As far as I know, we never had nothing.
H: And in California?
I: I don't think so. As far as I know, we never did. They would have church services.
A fellow would come in on Sundays out there. Here in Florida, they didn't
because we was right there at Brooker, and there was churches around Brooker.
But out in the mountains there, we had church services on Sundays, for those
who wanted to attend.
H: How about breaking the rules? Did anybody ever break the camp rules? Did they
have cars there, alcohol, breaking curfew, anything like that?
I: Oh yeah, we was all trying to get a bottle of wine or something once in awhile,
you know, just being dumb kids. I think in Yosemite, if we could get somebody to
buy, we could get wine for about $0.75 a half gallon or something like that. The
better stuff was about $0.85 or $0.90. Two or three of us would go together and
buy a bottle, get somebody to buy us a bottle. Then we'd have to give him some
of it, you know, to buy it for us. We had a cook-I don't remember his name, a
great big guy-he could buy it pretty much everywhere. Us kids, us young kids,
we couldn't. In fact, if they saw us drinking, they'd take it away from us.
H: Any fights or anything like that ever break out?
I: There was fights there. I was never in one, but different ones would fight.
H: Just personalities clashing?
I: Yeah, I think that's all it was. Just disagreements.
H: Were any women allowed in the camps at all?
I: No. Well, yeah, you could have them out for a dinner or supper or something
here in Brooker. I had my parents out for Thanksgiving and Christmas, both that
year. I had a girlfriend in Gainesville. In fact, I eventually married her. When I'd
go to Gainesville, why, we'd get somebody to take me back to camp, friends of
ours. So we could take them in, could go around camp. You couldn't have them
overnight or anything like that. Still, you know, in the daylight, in the daytime, they
could be there.
H: Did you ever break curfew coming back from Gainesville late, after visiting with
I: I don't know if we ever had much of any curfew. If we did, I don't remember it. It
was tough getting back to camp from Gainesville at night, especially if you tried
to hitchhike because from out there at Paradise where the road goes from 441 to
Lacrosse and then to Brooker, boy, there was very few cars on there. If you didn't
know somebody along there, you might have a long walk or a long wait.
H: Do you feel that there should have been camps for women at this time period?
I: They had some camps for women. As far as I remember, they were called NYA
camps. Over here in Ocala, they had one. It was out south of town, and it was
called Camp Roosevelt. I remember even after the war, they were still [there].
They had little cottages there, as near as I remember, where they all lived in
H: What sort of work did they do there?
I: I think sewing and things like that. I don't remember. I don't know, but I know
there were some girls in them.
H: Did they ever try and mix with the CCC camp for recreation or weekend visits or
I: No. As far as I know, they didn't.
H: Did you ever think about deserting?
H: You wanted to be there too bad, huh?
I: Oh yeah. When I was kid, in fact, when my father and I come to Florida, my
cousin had wanted me to stay up there and go to school and all. I always liked
the military. I always wanted a military career, anyway. I'm sure if I'd stayed with
them, I'd have gotten it, went to a military school of some kind. That's why I liked
it, because of the military stuff, the marching and things. I didn't mind it a bit. I
H: Do you know anybody who was ever expelled from the camps for disciplinary
I: No, I sure don't. It's been so long ago, I don't remember.
H: Can you describe the leave policy? It sounds like you had a chances to visit with
your family while you were here in Florida, and then it was kind of more
problematic when you were in California.
I: Yeah. When we signed up to go to California, then we were assured we'd have a
six-day leave after we got there. We took our leave, I believe, in July, another kid
and I. We took our leave and we hitchhiked, went into San Francisco and down
the coast. We had ten days. I think my father had sent me $15 or something to
go, and we was gone eight or ten days. We went into San Francisco and down
the coast and come back across and up to Reno, Nevada, and then into camp. I
think it was against the rules to hitchhike, but we did. Everybody hitchhiked.
H: You weren't allowed to have a car at camp?
I: No. You couldn't afford a car, anyway. There was some here in Brooker, now,
they had cars.
H: Did they have to hide them away?
I: Hid them in woods or somewhere. In fact, like the ones who lived down in the
southern part of the state, if they wanted to go home, why, he'd take a load down
south, you know, four or five or six, whoever might want to go, and charge them
so much for going. Other than that, why, I never...I was too close to home. I didn't
have to do anything like that.
H: Can you sort of describe what your fellow campers were like? You mentioned
that they came from pretty much all sorts of different states, but what was their
sort of family, their economic, their religious background?
I: Gee, I don't know. I wouldn't know what to say about that. We all got along pretty
good together. In fact, we had to. That was one of the things we was told, we had
to get along together. We were away from home, and that made a difference too,
to try and get along with them. I suppose there were some of them we'd like
better than others and some we didn't like as good. But as a whole, we all got
along pretty good together. I suppose there was all different kinds of nationalities,
Italian, Polish, you know, the whole works in there. But as far as I know, we
always got along pretty good together. I think they all knew what they were
supposed to do when they got there, you know, that there was going to be work
involved. I don't think anybody overworked themselves. They did get to see a lot
of the country, which I was grateful for. I appreciated it.
H: So, you re-enlisted in order to go to California, but after that, you had to leave.
I: Yeah, we come home. My girlfriend got writing to me. In fact, I got home in
October, the 1st of October I guess, and I was married in December. Seventeen
H: Didn't waste any time, huh?
H: Did you have to leave because your enrollment time was up?
I: No, I could've re-enrolled for another six months, but I didn't. I just come on
home. Some of them, if I'd have been out there a year now, you could re-enroll
and come back to Florida. I hadn't been there but six months, and I'd have
stayed out there.
H: What did you end up doing after you left camp?
I: I guess that's when I started driving a taxicab in Gainesville. As a kid, I started
out on a bicycle pedaling groceries, delivering groceries. Then I kind of
graduated from that to the Western Union, delivering telegrams. Then when I got
back, I drove a cab. I did it off and on. I'd drive a cab. I worked for the state a
couple of times in the convict department. I finally left Gainesville, I guess, in
1948, 1949 somewhere, decided it was time to do something. Better grow up.
Had a good time most of my life, and it was time to settle down.
H: Do you have any particular stories you remember or memories, either good or
bad, from your time in the camps? Any happenings that went on with some of
your friends from the camps or anything like that?
I: No. There was a fellow from St. Augustine, name was Suddith, and he and I got
along good together. In fact, I went home with him a couple of weekends. We
kind of palled around together out there, he and I, and we worked together and
all. He was just a nice guy. He and another one. There was another guy from
Fort Myers, and we got along good together. The three of us kind of stuck
together. In fact, the three of us went on that six-day trip that we took, hitchhiked
around. In fact, I had been to the CCC reunion over at Keystone Heights,
whatever that is that they have over there. I went down through St. Augustine on
1-95, and I stopped and called. Found Suddith in the telephone, Franklin Suddith,
and that was his name. I called and told him who I was, that I had been in CCC
camp with a Franklin Suddith. The fellow I talked to said, well, that was my father.
He had been dead then a couple of years. He said that he had wanted to go back
to California to the camp. There was some place out there that he said he'd
carved his initials in a tree, and he wanted to find it. I guess it took somebody, a
forest ranger or something, to find, but they found it. I don't think I was with him
on that. Then this other fellow from Fort Myers, after we came home from the
CCC, he was going into the Navy. He come through Gainesville and stopped to
see me. The next time I saw him, my brother and I was going to Miami. We went
down and went across Tamiami Trail, and we'd had a flat tire on our trailer. We
pulled into the little town of Ochopee to get some air, and here a guy said, Dick,
what are you doing down here? And it was him. He worked for the Coca-Cola
Company then. I hadn't seen him in three or four years. Last I'd seen or heard of
him. I've thought about trying to find him, but I just never have. But we got along
good together. Like I said, we palled around together quite a bit, the three of us.
Yeah, we'd go down to the valley, and over here, we'd go into Starke to movies
or things like that. All three of us kind of stayed together. Other than that, it's
been so long I don't remember anything really happening. Although there in
California, in Yosemite, one time I was on a crew that we caught bears. In the
valley down where the people were, these bears would get down there and they
got to be a nuisance. They used to tell us that the people would get down to take
a picture of them. They'd get too close, and the bear would run over them. They
wouldn't hit him or anything, but it scared the people and say the bear [was]
attacking them. Well, the forest rangers and the foremen and all told us that
these bears had a special place they walked, and they didn't go around or
anything. You know, they went straight through. They had a big trailer like a drum
on a trailer with a gate on it and a ramp going up in it. We'd park this trailer down
there somewhere. They'd put food around, and these bears would get up into
that trailer and it would snap the door shut. Then, I guess we went and checked
them every so often. I don't remember that. Anyway, we'd take them way back
up in the mountain, maybe twenty or thirty miles from there, and let them out.
Sometimes, they'd put food around or there was garbage pits up there in the
mountains where the camps and everything would throw their garbage and all. It
was kind of a feed place, trough, for these animals. Sometimes when they'd
come out of that trailer, they would just go like the devil. It seemed like they never
quit running down the side of that mountain. And other ones, why, they'd just look
around and start eating. They weren't concerned about it. These old, I guess,
brown bears. It wasn't grizzlies or nothing. I done that for awhile. That was kind
H: I'm surprised you didn't go into the military, considering you liked the military
discipline so much.
I: I don't know. I got married, I guess. When I'd come home with the money he'd
saved for me, my father had wanted me to take flying lessons and learn to fly.
Maybe the war come along and, you know, be a pilot or do something flying. I
never did. Maybe I should've, but I didn't. I was foolish and got married, the main
thing I guess.
H: Did that mean that you were exempt from the draft? How did that work?
I: Yeah. When they first signed for the draft, I was too young. By the time I was old
enough to sign up for the draft, by then I was married. That kept me out awhile.
Then, by the time I could've went or they could've draft me, well then I had a son.
So, it just kept me out all the way around.
H: The CCC was pretty controversial in its day. Did you ever hear people talking
about the CCC ever being fascist or socialist?
I: No, I don't remember that. I don't think so. As far as I'm concerned, it wasn't. It
was just a good place to be.
H: What did you like and dislike about your experience there?
I: I don't know. I liked the discipline and the regimental thing of it. I'd never had
anybody tell me what to do or what I had to do. Like I said, after my mother died
and we come to Florida, my father didn't give up on me, but it wasn't like it was
when my mother was living. So I could go and come as I wanted. He never
worried about me. He always said I knew enough to stay out of trouble, and I did.
I never got into any trouble. There, you had to do things. You know, you had a
certain time to get up and you had to go to bed a certain time, and you had
certain meals. I liked it all. I liked that.
H: Why don't you go ahead and lead me through a typical day at the camps.
I: Here in Florida, now, I was working in the kitchen. I'd get up early before the rest
of the camp would, all of us kitchen help would, get in there and go into the
kitchen and get the tables set and get the fire started. I imagine about 5:00 and
get the fire started and get the stoves hot. Then the cooks would fix the
breakfast, and we would serve it. KP would serve it. We had benches, tables.
There must have been about eight to a table, four on each side of it. We had big
dishes of oatmeal and eggs, grits, bacon, biscuits. We always had biscuits or
toast. It was all served, and we'd have to do that. Then when the crew would
leave, they'd get all through and they would go to work, or as soon as the dining
area would get cleaned up. They might've had to bring their dirty dishes up to a
rack at the kitchen there. I don't remember. Then we'd have to wash them all up
and clean them up and get them for the next meal. By then, the cooks and all
would start another meal for lunch and get stuff ready to go out to the road, go
wherever the working crews were, and send them out where they were with
sandwiches. In the wintertime, they'd send some hot soups and things like that,
probably coffee, tea, or coffee and milk or something out there. Then in the
evening, it was about the same thing. Afternoon, between lunch and suppertime,
why, that was kind of a rest time. If we had potatoes, we'd get to sit and peel
potatoes. A 100-pound sack of potatoes, three or four peeling them, you know, it
took quite awhile. We'd rest doing that. Onions, peel onions, and getting things
ready. Then, too, the dishes was all scalded and wiped. There couldn't be any
spots on them because every once in awhile, you never knew, the company
commanders or one of the inspectors would come through, and if they found
dishes with spots on them or silverware. Silverware was bad. They'd get a lot of
spots on them. Boy, they'd just raise Cain about it and make us redo them all
then. So we had to be pretty careful with that. In the kitchen, as soon as we was
through with supper and everything and get the kitchen cleaned up, then we was
free for the rest of the evening. On weekends, they had extra duty guys come in
and do all that work on weekends. We'd take off. We wouldn't have to stay there
if we didn't want to. It was about the same way out there. On the fire crew I was
on in California, I believe there was two crews. We'd be on duty twenty-four
hours and off duty twenty-four hours. We had our regular work schedule we had
to do close to camp, cut wood and different things like that. Then when you was
on call, why, you couldn't leave. You had to stay right there in camp. That was
week in and week out, every other day it was. Not weekends or anything like
that. It wasn't so bad though. Like I said, we didn't go to many fires, so we didn't
have much to do other than that. We had to stand our reveille and all. They
started then out there up in the mountains, in Yosemite, we started doing
calisthenics and running. We was running two or three miles a morning to get
kind of loosened up and limbered up. Out there, you'd get up in the morning,
there'd be frost on the ground. By 10:00 in the morning, you'd have your shirt off
working in the sun. The mornings like that, we have to trot. We had an old leader
that he had us going. We'd all string out along behind. We had a course we'd
run. It built up your strength and stamina.
H: You got in pretty good shape in the CCC, I am sure.
I: Oh yeah, I did. I'm sure I did. Just everything, regularity, you know, that had a lot
to do with it.
H: On those days when you were on duty for the firefighting that you had to stay in
camp, did you have anything to do while you were in there? You had to stay
close by, I understand.
I: Oh yeah. These trees that had this blister rust in them, we would cut them down,
in California, this disease from the gooseberry and currant. We would cut them
down and build a fire lane all the way around them, trim them up, build a fire
lane, and then chip the bark all off of them and set that bark on fire. We burned
that thing all the time, burned the bark, and that was killing the bugs. These bugs
would get between the bark and the wood itself.
H: So, the fire lane would be a ditch that would direct the fire down to the bushes.
I: Yeah, it was around the tree and it was a fire line to keep it from jumping out, you
know, where the fire could get out. Because that bark was just smoldering. It
wasn't big flames or anything like that. It was just a place that was dug out down
to the ground, to the earth. You know, there wasn't no leaves or nothing down
there to catch on fire. Up there in the mountains, too, when we were working
there, they had a smoking period. These kids that smoked, you'd start the work
and then you had a smoking period, and everybody had to get around in a great
big circle and dig out a place and get the debris out where it wouldn't catch on
fire and you could smoke. Then at lunch time, they could smoke again, and then
in the afternoon between then and quitting time, why, you could smoke again.
You couldn't smoke on the trucks, going out or coming back or anything like that.
That was all because of forest fires. It was a preventative thing. A lot of them
tried chewing tobacco instead of smoking. I tried it once, and, boy, it didn't take
me long. Chewing tobacco was nothing for me. Some of them could, but, boy, I
couldn't take it. Whew, that's awful.
H: Do you think that the CCC was an effective program?
I: Yeah, I think so. I really do. I've been up through the mountains through the Blue
Ridge Parkway, and I've asked, stopped at different places, you know, and every
one of them turnouts, little bridges you see up in there, it's something that the
CCC boys had built. I've been up that other trail going up on further...
H: The Appalachian Trail?
I: Yeah, up in there, and it's the same thing. Everything you go, it's good. Like I
said, I can take you right here now and go to Otter Creek and go towards
Gainesville, and I can show you roads that the CCC built down through there,
can pick them out. And out there at Brooker, there's roads out there I bet I could
go and find that they had built, and they were all grated up good. They were
through swamps, too, but they was up high enough the water didn't get over
them. Loggers have used them for years, and timber people, turpentine people
back years ago. I think it's a good thing. In the bigger cities, it kept a lot of the
kids off the streets that got in a lot of trouble. Even today, I think any kid, when he
finishes school, that he should leave home and find out what it is to have to worry
about taking care of his own clothes and keeping clean and where the next meal
is coming from. They ought to do that before they settle down. It taught us all
that, it did me. It taught me to kind of take care of things.
H: Do you think we should have a CCC nowadays?
I: There should be something like that. I don't see how they could with as much as
they would have to pay them and all. It just doesn't seem like that. And I don't
know whether they'd be interested enough in it or not anymore. There's too many
potheads and all that. They'd have a tough time keeping dope and stuff like that
out of it.
H: Do you think your experience in the camp changed you?
I: Oh yeah, I do. I think it made a better man out of me. Taught me responsibilities,
taking care of myself, and kind of being better to my neighbors, get along. If
nothing else, it taught me that.
H: Did your family find that you had changed when you got back?
I: I think so. All my relatives in Ohio, they was all kind of proud of me, to think I'd
been there. I gained a lot of weight. I think I weighed 130 pounds when I went in
there and then weighed about 175 when I got out. A lot of it was muscle, too.
H: So, you went ahead and just did some odd jobs after you got married, just
dabbled in different stuff. Did that take care of you for the rest of your life, or after
you finally decided to settle down, did you stick with something?
I: After I finally settled down, why, I came here. I met Virginia, and we married and
we raised a family. I had a business up here on the corner of 19th and 40th where
that Little Champ store is there. I was there twenty-some years. Then I sold it,
and I'm still here. She died, and my kids both left home. I think I done pretty good
by settling. Something taught me something along the way where when it was
time to settle down, I guess I knew enough to do it. When I was single, I wasn't
interested much in anything but having a good time.
H: What was your view on allowing the older World War I vets into the CCC?
I: I don't know. We never saw many. I never saw many of them. I think it was a
good thing. Some were homeless, you know, that they needed a place. It's like
today, there's places they need to be, some of them that's homeless. Back then
in those days, I don't think that they lived on the streets like they do now. We
have a fellow comes out of the Masonic Lodge works at the VA Hospital up in
Gainesville a couple days a week. He was saying the other day how they've got
about 200 veterans a day, homeless veterans on the streets in Gainesville. My
God, I said, when I lived here, I don't think I knew what a homeless guy was
really. So, it would give them a place, something like that, something to do if they
would go, if they would do it. I think it's a good thing. There needs to be
something, some way to take care of some of them. World War II, Vietnam, the
whole bunch of them. World War I. Not many World War I veterans left now, I
H: Why did the CCC end in 1942?
I: I guess it was because of the war. A lot of them went right from there into the
service, as far as I know. They paid more than the Army did. I think the Army
paid $21 a month. Then the young fellows like that, they was all recruiting them
and drafted them into the Army, into the service. Evidently, they had to do away
with it, get rid of it. But I think it was a good thing. I enjoyed it. I had a good time
H: Why do you think it is significant to American history that the CCC came about?
I: Oh, I don't know. It's something that people should remember and think of. It's
like a silver dollar, you know, with a date on it. It's the same thing. It's part of our
history. It's not an old history, but it's history right now, and it will be eventually.
You can say something to people today and they say, well, what's that? I never
heard of it. It's too bad it didn't last longer, it didn't go longer, or start again after
the war. But, I guess that's progress.
H: Is there anything that I missed that I should've asked you about? Are there any
stories that you remember to tell about your time there?
I: No, not right off-hand. I don't know. On our trip out West, when we left
Gainesville, we were supposed to have gotten off the train every so often to
stretch and all that, and we never got off the train but one time. I think it was out
in Mexico. I was appointed as kind of a leader in our car. They'd set up field
ranges in a couple of baggage cars where they had the kitchens and all in there.
So, if one our cooks was working in there doing part of the cooking, if we'd get
hungry, I'd go back and help him a little bit and bring stuff up to our car. Our train
pulled back into St. Louis, a big railroad station in St. Louis, and they was
changing engines, took a coal burner off from here in the South and put a oil
burner on. They were to be in there quite awhile. It was during the night, late at
night, and I woke up, boy, and I was hungry. I saw their restaurant open at the
railroad station there, and so I run over there and ordered a couple of
hamburgers. I think they was about $1.00 or $1.25 a piece, and here I was used
to paying about $0.20. They were good, but they were sure expensive. Then, we
had Pullman cars for sleeping and all in them. They didn't put petitions up, but
they would bring the top bunk down. They had things that propped them down.
Two fellows would sleep on the bottom and one on the top. We'd have pillow
fights. The Pullmans, the windows then would raise and lower in them. After we
got into the mountains, the old porter would come through hollering, close the
windows, there's a tunnel ahead, close the windows, tunnel ahead. Well, about
the time you'd get to the tunnel, they'd have all the windows closed but about one
or two in there, and that thing would just fill up with smoke and just about choke
us. They had little hammocks to put your clothes in along the windows. Some of
the kids would stretch them across the aisle, and they'd get into them hammocks
and sleep. They slipped up one night. A little kid, he was in his top bunk asleep,
and somebody slipped up there and released both latches, both ends, you know,
and let it swing up with him in there. You just could hear him holler. They went
and got the porter. They had a big old crank they put in to crank it and let it down.
A big old black porter, went and got him, and he couldn't get the crank in there,
and somebody finally had to take the crank away from him and pull the thing up.
But that kid just got smothered in there. We'd run back and forth through different
cars and all that. We wasn't supposed to, but we did. Yeah, it was a fun trip going
out. Holler at people on the tracks. Like I said, we didn't know where we was
going. We were just going.
H: Is there anything else you'd like to share, sir?
I: No, I don't think so. I think that about covers it, as far as I can remember.
H: Well, I thank you for your time.
[ End of Interview.]