Title: Sam Thompson
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Title: Sam Thompson
Series Title: Sam Thompson
Physical Description: Book
Publication Date: 2000
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CCC 12
Sam Thompson
June 19, 2000
38 pages Open

Mr. Thompson begins the interview by describing his early education, life during the
Depression, and the public perception of President Franklin Roosevelt (page 1-2). He
then discusses farming in south Florida and the plight of sharecroppers (page 3). Mr.
Thompson and Mr. O'Neal recall how they heard about the Civilian Conservation Corps
(CCC) and compare their experience to army recruitment (page 4-5). Mr. Thompson
talks about the time limits of the program; he personally enrolled three times because
there was no other employment available (page 6-7). They both explain the different
positions within the CCC and their corresponding pay levels (page 8). Mr. O'Neal
analyzes racial segregation in the camp (page 9-10).

They review the different projects undertaken: road building, putting up fences, and
reforesting (page 11, 14). Mr. Thompson explains the relationship with white
administrators (page 12). They talk about law enforcement in the camp, physical
requirements, and the issue of choice of camps (page 13). Then, community relations
are discussed, and they point out the effect of different camps' reputations (page 15).
Mr. Thompson talks about joining the CCC with friends and the hazing of rookies (page
16). They both relate the racial hierarchy of labor in the camps as identical to society in
general (page 17). They mention the role of seniority in the organization and the added
responsibilities it carries (page 18-19).

They again mention the various types of labor, the intensity of the work, and describe a
typical day in the field (page 19-20). They talk about the skills acquired during the
experience, for example, being an understudy to a secretary (page 21). They discuss
the conditions of the camp: the toilets, sprinklers, and barracks (page 22). Discipline
and punishment are mentioned, and they then turn to a discussion of moonshine, its
legality, and its appeal to the workers (page 23-24). They recall the recreational events
of camp life: ball games, card games, dances, movies, shopping, etc. (page 25).
Education and literacy classes were also available at the camp (page 26).

They discuss desertion (page 27) as well as the medical facilities and doctors that were
available to them (page 28). They talk about homesickness and the leave policy (page
28-29). They treat racial tensions as a problem among individuals rather than a camp
issue (page 30). The CCC was not seen as controversial, as fascist or socialist, but
rather as a good program that accepted anyone who wanted work (page 31). They feel
that the CCC was deserving of its reputation as one of the New Deal's best programs,
but do not believe it would be successful today (page 32). Mr. Thompson discusses
how the program helped prepare him for military service (page 33). He talks about the
CCC as a godsend for the south during a time of famine and as a significant program
for African-Americans (page 34). They both feel a sense of pride when seeing physical
evidence of old CCC projects in the present day (page 35). Finally, they talk about life
after leaving the CCC and the fate of some of their fellow workers (page 36-37).

CCC 12
Interviewee: Sam Thompson, Willie O'Neal
Interviewer: Ben Houston
Date: June 19, 2000

H: It is June 19, 2000, and I am in the home of Mr. Sam Thompson. Mr. Thompson,
thank you for agreeing to meet with me on this. Where and when were you born,

T: July, 1917, Miami, Florida.

H: Did you grow up in Miami?

T: Yes.

H: Do you have siblings that you grew up with?

T: I had two brothers and one sister, yes.

H: Did they follow you into the CCC?

T: No. One brother followed me in.

H: What did your folks do for a living, sir?

T: Common laborer.

H: Where did you go to school down in Miami?

T: Liberty City Academy, I think they called it then, and a short time at Booker T.
Washington High School.

H: That is in Overtown [section of Miami], right?

T: That is in Overtown.

H: How far did you get in school?

T: Eleventh grade.

H: Did you like it?

T: Schooling? Yes, I guess I did. I had to have an education, and my parents would
not let me sit around the house, so I had to like it. Did I like school? That is a
good question. I think I did. The company of the children, you know, the

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classmates and things like that, it was all right.

H: Did you work as you were in school, before you went into the CCC?

T: Yes, at little odd jobs. Raking leaves and things like that, running errands.

H: I would be interested in hearing some of your memories of the Depression, either
good or bad. Did the Depression hit your family especially hard?

T: Really, I do not remember too much about the Depression, except talk. I heard
an awful lot of talk from the old folks, who were saying, well, we do not have this.
Then the newspaper and the radio was telling about people committing suicide,
especially the rich people and all that sort of thing. In the black community, there
was no such thing as suicide. I mean, they just did not believe in killing
themselves over a little piece of money or the stock market going broke. As far
as the food on the table, my dad always took care of that. Our clothing and
school supplies and things like that, we always had that. I guess, maybe like
everybody else, we felt the Depression in a way, but it was not shown to us like
we were starving, or something of that nature.

H: Did you feel that the Depression helped or hurt race relations when you were
growing up?

T: It might have aggravated an awful lot of people to the point where the few jobs
that were there, they were giving [them] to the whites. That made an awful lot of
people angry, because of the fact that people would be working for a company a
pretty good while and then, here is the Depression and they laid you off,
[because] there is a white person who just come on the job and he is there. I
think maybe there was a little friction there. I do not know this, but common
sense is telling me things like that might have happened.

H: How did your family feel about Franklin Roosevelt and the New Deal?

T: Godsend. He was the man that had the plan, so to speak. Actually, Roosevelt
had something, well, he had a winning voice, one thing. I remember a lot of his
speeches, especially the one declaring war, and those fireside chats he used to
have, they were really good. There was no question about it. He was a person
who did not have anything to hide from the American people. He told them
exactly what he was trying to do, the progress he has made along these lines,
and the plans that he had for the people.

H: We do not have many politicians like him anymore, do we?

T: Oh Lord, no.

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H: Do you remember how your fellow campers at the CCC felt about Roosevelt?

T: They all felt the same way, I do believe, because whenever he would have a
speech, we would all gather around the radio to listen. It is a funny thing that you
ask that because I do not know, I think we were too young to really realize the full
extent of what was going on at that particular time, the Depression, the build-up
of war in Europe and all that sort of stuff.

0: [Willie O'Neal:] Let me just say this, concerning that Depression. See, as far as
we were concerned, we could not vote for a county commissioner or governor of
Florida. We could vote for the president, but it was a U.S. deal. That filled a little
more bottom-entries for us at our ways at that time in the 1930s. Because all
we knew was the president. Our governor, we just knew that he is elected, and
they mostly got elected to what they could do to us more so than what they could
help us with, at that time. See? That is what I wanted to say. That was part of the
facts of life at that time.

H: How did you feel that the Depression affected you on a long-term basis?

T: Long term? Well, if it was not for the Depression, in all probabilities, I would not
have come in contact with the knowledge of the CCC. Like I told you, odd jobs
did not do that much, so when the CCC came along, naturally everybody-not
everybody, but a lot of people-said, well, this is it.

0: To go with that, there were so many other things. The CCCs were [for people the
age of] eighteen to twenty-four, but [there was] the WPA [Works Progress
Administration; New Deal Program] and other things that went for the older
people. But that is the way it was. Now, we got different backgrounds. [Mr.
Thompson] was born and raised in a big city, but I was born in Marion County on
the farm. The farm was different from the city, see. Everybody there did not have
hogs and cows, but the ones who did, the others could get it, so nobody had to
go hungry too much, really. Still, it was no different, just less money. You know,
everybody was not poor and broke, but most were. And the ones who had it did
not know how to keep it, see? That is the way it was.

H: Did your folks grow crops as well? I mean, you were in Miami, but did you have a
garden plot?

T: We had a little garden, yes. Everybody had a little garden at that time, a ten- to
fifteen-foot box, and that was about it. Land was too expensive to grow crops on
in my section. Now, further south, they had farms down there around
and south Miami. They had a lot of crops growing down there. I think they called
it truck-farming. The land was so rich, you could grow two or three crops a year.
Most of your vegetables and a little fruit and whatnot came from that area at that

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particular time. They have gotten to the point now where they got fertilizer and
everything else that they could grow, probably, something here in this room.

0: Well, they still grew farming on this way, but with south Florida, like you said, you
could grow two or three crops. You could not, up here. You could grow one crop.
That is mostly what they did down there. That was the place. A lot of people went
from down here to down there [south Florida], you know, to work on those farms.
That was the lowly country, south Florida, see. But anybody, just like today,
somebody is going to get left [behind, economically]. Some had harder times
than others, some at their own will and some just hard luck. It is the same today.
Not the same today, because there are a lot of things people have a chance at
now. We did not have a chance at it. We happened to be on the farm, but we
were not sharecropping. We had our own little farm. People sharecropping, the
man they were sharecropping from, he was the one who had the say-so over
what they made, and [the sharecroppers] always wound up in debt. Still, if you
had your own [farm], you had to get the fertilizer through them. You had to deal
with them, and this was different, some of them just good as gold, really. That is
the way it was, just how lucky you were, who you were dealing with. They were
the ones running the hardware store, the seed store, the banks and all that.

T: That was one of the reasons why you had such a big migration from the South to
the North during that time, sharecroppers just leaving those farms because they
were not doing anything there. They were just working themselves to death and
had nothing to show.

0: And Florida, really, it was most like Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi. It was
just about like going north, coming into Florida. [South Florida] was
segregated, but it was not as bad. See, that was where the difference was.
Yeah, [North Florida] was just as bad.

T: Yes, and that was because of the northern influx into Florida.

0: Yes, because tourists come down to Florida.

H: How did you come to hear about the CCC? Do you remember?

T: It was advertised.

0: And Roosevelt, after he got elected, see, at that time, you know, the president
did not take office until the 4th of March. He got elected in November. They [are]
is still called the president-elect, they go into office on the 20th of January. Still
the thing, but it is just in March. But, Roosevelt, I think they changed it after his
first term, but anyway, that is the way it was. But in term when he got elected, he

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had all these things. The first camp was built in the CCC in April in 1933, so
these things were right in plan.

H: Yes, it was a priority of his.

0: So, that was one of the things, and the other: WPA and the NRA, you know,
National Recovery Act. That was for farmers until you get paid. But the war is
what really changed things. The Depression had changed a lot, but I am just
saying, the war is what made things really change.

H: Do you remember going to the recruiter to sign up? What was the procedure for

T: It was more or less like an army recruiting [center]. I mean, there was an office
sitting up in a certain place, and you go in there and you sign up. Then, they tell
you what time to come back with what they need to carry. You did not carry too
much with you, shaving equipment or something of that nature. Even then, they
issued you those supplies and things after you got into the boot camp. But they
would tell you when to come back and when you were leaving, and they
explained to you what the pay was and, you know, the general overall of the
program. They explained all that to you before you leave.

H: Did they tell you where you were going?

T: They tell you which camp you were going to, for, what do you call it, break-in?

0: And you took that examination so you get to go. I went to
Everybody but Putnam County, all of the counties met in Gainesville. That is
where they examined you. Then that was when you know what camp. Actually,
everyone, black, white and all. Not the same time, but that same place. Same
exam for both kinds. When I went, there were only twenty of us blacks, for
example. Sixteen went to Olustee, where I met [Mr. Thompson]. Four went to
Mississippi. But the whites, some of them went to Louisiana and all. Even then, I
remember when we got the white boys talking to them and things. It was not that
you would have no contact, but it was a lot of places more than others.

H: So you were at Olustee as well?

0: Hm-mm [yes], that is where I met him at.

H: Did they explain what sort of work you would be doing at Olustee when you were
recruited, or did you have any choice in what camp you could go to?

0: No, you did not have no choice on that, but it was choice of camp. You just

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happened to day park, federal park, national forest, private forest,
whatever. See, so you went. It was a camp, you know, that they sent them to.

H: So did you feel that your experience was pretty faithful to what they had
promised you?

T: Yes. Oh yes.

0: What it did was, you learned how to get along with people and you know what
work was, if you did not. See, I know, because I come from the farm. You know
what work was like in there. Still, I was nineteen when I went, so I was still a
young man, never come up the country, so

T: I think when you left the camp, when you left the recruiting station, they put you
on a bus and they sent you...we went to south Florida to the Church
in Columbus. This was an Army base. Now, they will again indoctrinate you as to
what the Army expects and what you are supposed to be doing. If not, they will
boot you out right then and there, you know, if you get too out of line, so to

0: This is another thing. In Florida, in the beginning, it was only two black camps,
Sandestin, Florida, and Chuluota. But was not a whole lot of blacks that was
going. What did go, they sent them But 1935, they went and
expanded, which Olustee is a new camp. With the new camp,
,__ it would be a couple of hundred blacks they would send at a time, see,
at that time. August was the big month in 1935, July and August, but I did not go
until October, so it really was not March 31 and September 30, six
months in between. If you went, discharged in March, well, in April then,
discharged in September, October.

H: So when did you enroll?

T: I do not know. I do not remember. I had enrolled several times in the CCC. I
would get out because you had a time-limit.

0: Yes, six months, it was supposed to be, when they started you.

T: Then, you would get out and go home, and if you could not find a job or you feel
like, well, I was making money there and I know what it is all about, I will go back.
So I did that three times.

H: Did you go back to Olustee each time?

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T: No. What was the first place I went?

0: Did you go to Sandestin?

T: Yes, I went to Sandestin. Sandestin was the first place. After Sandestin, then I
went to Hilliard. After Hilliard, I think I went...

0: Yes, you come to [Olustee]. I remember when you come.

T: Yes, to Olustee, but the dates I do not remember.

H: Did you feel there were special efforts to target African-Americans for the CCC?

T: I do not think there were any special efforts. I think maybe it was just open to
anybody who wanted to...

0: This would take, you know what it was, but like I said, there was not
a whole lot of other camps. There was plenty of us to go, but they did, when the
expanded. Because I did not go until 1935, but 1933 was when it started in
Florida, Sandestin and Chuluota. I think Sandestin was 1441. You go to 2401, I

H: What made you do it? Was it just the economics of it?

T: The economics. You could not find a job at home. When I quit school, I did not
have anything to do, no work or nothing like that, and here was the CCC camp.
This is an opportunity. The Depression was on, so what you were trying to do
then was help your parents and things, trying to take care of the household. They
explained to you about your finances, how that would happen and all like that.
Well, when they tell you what you were going to get and what they were going to
send home, you would say, golly, mama could do this with this, you know, and
mama could do that with that, and all that sort of stuff. You were concerned about
the little bit that you were going to get because, I mean, they were going to feed
you and clothe you and all that sort of stuff. So, you just went on and signed up.

0: There was a tragedy on my part. My grandmother raised me. She come up in
June, 1935, up to the doctor because she had cancer. and it kept
spreading. You know, back then, people would probably be having to go to the
doctor But when she did go, that is what it was. Dr. Jones said that.
When that started, that is when the cancer started, which was twelve years
before that. But that was the finding. The medicine, what she had to have, was
$6 an ounce. I went to the lady and talked, explained to her like I am talking to
you, and I will never will forget it. That was twelve miles out there in the farm
where we stayed, but I convinced her and she drove out there. I

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would get a notice in October if I went. Because, see, down in that section, in
August, they were building up all around, which was Shady Grove, the camp. But
me, I was not even thinking about it then, but they did not tell me
exactly what had happened at the beginning. But then when I knowed then, I
went to thinking about being sure she got that medicine. The doctor said, he
could not cure her and nobody else could, but he could keep her living, and he
did. I went and stayed three years, and she went back in 1939, and she died in
January of 1940.

H: How much money did you make?

T: A private made, what, $30 a month, an assistant leader made $36 a month, and
a leader made $45 a month. In other words, you could advance while you were in
the CCCs from a private to a leader if you had the qualities and capabilities.

0: See, it was natural. The company had to have a first sergeant and a mess
sergeant. Just so many went with that Now, he was up in it, but I
drove a truck. I drove a

H: And how much of that did you have to send home?

0: $25. Of $30, which I sent $25 home. I got $5, but it was not a problem.
That $5 done me.

T: Like I said, we never thought about what we were going to get. The CCC was
going to feed us.

0: See, in the CCCs, just like the Army, the private and all were members,
assistant leaders and leaders, and sergeants. Mess sergeants and the first
sergeants were the sergeants in the CCCs. The leader was $45, assistant leader
was $36. It was minimum. Then a truck driver and then them things
carried you as a member ____ cook, all of them. Then, leaders on detail,
because all the crews detailing. Now, you know you would pass by O'Leno State
Park down there named W. C. He was the forester down
there. Do you remember Jesse Crawford?

T: Yes, I remember him.

0: I think Jess Crawford _, but I do not think they had any leaders. There
was not many men down there, what he had, but I know Jesse Crawford was
assistant leader. Being a truck driver, that is how I know that, because I used to
go down to the river there and get the assignment, had to pick up
cement or something.

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T: A crew would be assigned certain jobs, you know.

0: Our camp was P67. We were a private park, but then that was a state park. Still,
that detail went there.

H: Did you feel that the CCC, and what you had known about it before you went in,
was pretty much how it was when you got in there? Was it pretty faithful to what
you were expecting?

0: I did not have no idea what it was, and it was not really that much thought [to it].
You know, if I could just make You go and get examined and get
there, well, I thought I could work and stay, you know. What are you supposed to
do? They changed it some. I mean, I stayed long and through the time. But I
once I was in, I went and stayed in the same place. But I enjoyed it.

T: Once you got used to the army regimen, everything was all right. But, you take a
guy off the streets or from home or something like that and put him in an army
camp, right away he catches hell because he does not know what they expect of
him. Incidentally, the first sergeants that we had were real army men, see, so
they were hard on us. Boy, you talk about hollering and swearing and jumping.
We were just on pins and needles all the time, because you did not know what
you were doing wrong.

0: See, the Army was the CCC. Different projects. They did not care if it was a white
camp or a black one or if it was a national forest or a state forest or state park or
what, but the CCC and the Army, that was the same. The projects were different,
but that was the same.

H: Were your camps segregated?

0: Oh yes,

T: You are in the South. We are not in Ohio, now [a reference to the interviewer's
home]. Oh yes.

0: The commanding officers, everything from the top, just like a black camp. The
top sergeant was black, the mess sergeant was black. everything
was white.

T: The administrative officers were white.

0: You know, the doctor and the....
T: Commander.

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0: The planner's office, first lieutenant, captain or whatever, it was segregated.

H: In others words, for example in Olustee, there was just one camp and it was
black. There was not a black camp over here and a white camp over here?

0: Black camp at Olustee, white camp at Ocean Pond, right across, in the same

T: Exactly. About twelve miles distance, I think, would be a good estimated distance
between them, maybe a little more.

0: You know where we both stayed, you come down there and you turn before you
get to Olustee to go around where the camp was. It was on the north side of the
lake. It could maybe be that far But ten or twelve miles, anyway,
from that.

T: So, the white camp was there and the black camp was here.

H: Was there any interaction between the two camps?

T: Yes, there had to be. I mean, when we were out of flour, we would go over there
and get some. We played ball together once in awhile, but it was more or less
administrative or a shortage of food, clothing, or whatnot. Once a group of
recruits were coming in and they did not have enough clothing, and we had it
here at our supply room. They requisition what they wanted over there, and we
give it to them. When they get their supplies, they give it back to us.

H: So, it was pretty reciprocal. It was back and forth.

T: Yes.

H: Was there any tension in that relationship?

T: Once in awhile, you find that. I mean, there were some rednecks in that group
that did not like the setup, and so you had a little problem there. By the same
token, we had some people who, like me, came from the big city and did not
have no dealings with no whites until then. So, you had a little friction. Now, that
was not on the base. That was when you were going to town.

0: See, because it was a white camp at White Springs. Actually, the camp that we
had at Olustee was white first. Then, they moved just a brand-new
camp, you know, for the people, but it had been white. But Ocean Pond was
white from the beginning, and White Springs. Then, Sandestin, which still in

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Baker County was a black camp. Then, in Nassau County, Hilliard was a black

H: So, did the white camp and the black camp have the same jobs to do in Olustee?

0: Ocean Pond was national forest, same CCC but not the same project. We were
over there in Olustee, same CCC but we were private, [camp] P67. They were
[camp] F1, Federal 1, over there in Ocean Pond. The CCC deal, what the Army
had to do with it, that was there but the projects were different.

H: What were you doing?

0: We put roads and things. See, it was a private forest. At that town, a lot of
sawmills, turpentine, cutting roads and things. around Olustee, a guy
named Dan Hower. He was a big man. He had the turpentine-stills and sawmills,
all those things. We cut roads all through there Then, the federal and
national forests, they cut roads and in there. But, they did not come
out here and do it.

T: Made boundaries for the federal lands, putting up fences and things.

0: Yes, see, take down Ocala National Forest, Osceola, and Apalachicola, three
national forests in Florida. Just like I said about when Sandestin
up there near Quincy.

T: In the federal camp, I think they did a survey of what is needed in this place that
could help another place, like when we got a lot of cows...cows were dying in
Texas. I think there was a drought or something.

0: Oklahoma and Texas.

T: So, they were dying, and the ones that were fairly decent, they would send them
to Florida because, number one, there was open range at that particular time.
Then they got to dying down here, so you had to get rid of them.

0: You know, in those days, in Hoover days [when Herbert Hoover was president]
when they organized the national forests. That is when

T: Then, you did a lot of...you mentioned the the pea services. They had
devastated this part of the state as far as logging was concerned. Nobody was
planning, replanting, reforesting. So we did a lot of reforesting on private lands.
0: Oh yes. That was, as I believe, the seed trees I planted, 100 down in
there at Lake Butler and just between Olustee and the camp, in 1936, we planted

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those trees there.

H: Were you ever aware of any white camps that were working for private

0: White Springs was. It was a private camp. See, it may be just like a federal. Right
out on [Route] 441 they called it 4430, F11. That was a black camp,
but it was a federal, you know, a federal forest on this end. Ocean Pond in there,
and then Sandestin up there, it was a black camp but it was also a national forest
camp. So, whatever work force, it was not limited to where all black went to the
federal and all. It was whatever they come up with.

T: Yes, and I am thinking that the administration saw the need for whatever was
necessary in a given area. That was the type of projects that they instituted for
that particular area.

H: How did you get along with the white administrators in your camp?

T: We got along all right with the white administrators. They had rules to follow, we
had rules to follow, and that was it. I mean, as far as you [as] a student and your
professors have a same type of situation.

0: Let me tell you one incident, just how segregated it was. See, I drove for the
doctor. He took care of Olustee, Ocean Pond, Marietta, which was a black camp
this side of Jacksonville, and then the white camp up at Fernandina. I would take
him in his truck, and we would go to Marietta, stop there and check in, and I
would carry him on to Fernandina. See, I could not stay at Fernandina. I would
come back to Marietta. Then, the next day, the white people would bring him
back to Marietta, and I would bring him to Olustee. You know, but that was the
rules. That is the way they did it. Then, if a white driver or something
come to our camp, he did not stay over there in the barracks with us. He stayed
in the officer's quarters or somewhere else. That was the way it was.

H: When you signed up originally, were there character requirements along with the
physical examination?

T: No, I do not think there was. We got a lot of bad boys in there.

0: Just a physical, you know. They had _, but it was not even if you could
not read and write, they would turn you down, but some could not. But if you
passed that physical, that did it.

H: What was the physical examination like?

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T: Just like the Army.

H: Standard.

T: A standard physical examination.

0: And still like could go, a lot of the little defects somewhere. As long as
they figured you could do your job, you know, it was not as strict as the Army.

H: Were you aware of any people who were brought into the CCC instead of going
to jail?

T: I do not think that was happening back then.

0: No, they would put you in jail, not CCC, if you done wrong. No, they did not stand

T: If you broke the law [on the] outside [of camp], just like he says, you were subject
to confinement, in spite of the fact that you were a CCC person.

0: Yeah, they did not play If you did not go by them rules, they would
have you on that train. See, back then, the train run through here twice a day and
night, you know, four times. You could go that way twice a day and this way
twice, and they did not you know, if you broke the rules. One rule was
short army inspection, they called it. If you had any kind of thing, they would
send you home for that, too. This was after you were in there, they would have
inspection for that.

H: Were you ever aware of anybody that was brought into the CCC camps against
their will?

0: On no, it was you wanting to get there more so than they were wanting to drag
you in there. I do not think that ever happened.

T: Had you heard of situations like that?

H: No.

T: That would be like a Gestapo [German military] camp then.

0: That is be wanting to go. I do not think they thought of that.

H: So you were not given a choice of camps. You only had a certain number you
could go to because they were black.

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0: Now, he knows more about this than me, because he was company clerk. My
understanding, when a camp broke up, and they were scattering them, sending
them here, you could have a choice. But if more want to go yonder, then they
would send you where they want to. That is my understanding, that you could
have a choice, if a company broke up. You were asked if you wanted to go to
another camp.

H: So, when you enlisted, they said you are going to Olustee...

T: You go to Olustee, and if Olustee break up, where they were short of people,
they had the first choice. After that, then they would send you around to other

H: Were you doing the same work in these other two camps that you were in

T: The first time I was there as a cook.

0: See, like he said, the first went to Sandestin, so that was different in
Olustee. We were a private camp. like Ocean Pond. Now, as far as
the work force, they were the same.

H: So how was the labor different?

T: Out in the field. Like the projects that we told you about, building roads, building

0: Cutting down trees...

T: Dig and plant and digging fire lines and culverts, I mean, little gullies, drainage

0: Then, we had a nursery up there at Olustee. Now, every camp did not have that,
but we had a nursery of growing trees, shipped them for other camps wherever
they sent them out. Then, we sent out a lot of them. But, we had a nursery up

H: So, it was the turpentine places. That was Olustee. though.

T: Olustee, yes. You talking about turpentine all over? It was all over this area. That
was a form of employment, I guess, or a form of livelihood all over this part of the
state of Florida.

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H: But that camp, in particular, was geared towards the turpentine.

T: Refurbishing the trees and whatnot, at first.

0: See, that was really the purpose. That is where they get to selecting, or where to
send. These private people want roads cut to take their timber. Actually, the trees
are already there to start with, but they cut them down and then they replant

H: Did you feel there was a difference in any of the three camps that you were at?
Did you feel that they were all pretty uniform in your experience?

T: Yeah, they were all practically the same. Could not change much. Army rules
could not change too much.

H: How did you feel about the communities that you were near when you were in
these camps? Were there good community relationships if you were near a

0: Well, we were in town when were at Olustee in Lake City, but it was a real rough
time. The thing is, I had never had a minute's trouble, none, but a lot of guys did.
They got put in jail and this and that and the other. It was not the town, just what
you happened to get caught up with or whatnot.

T: The character of the person determined the kind of people that he associated
with, in camp and outside.

0: Now, when we was down there, they have White Springs up there and Ocean
Pond, Our side was the north side. You know, it is not now but it was
a street. But we never had no problem with a Ocean Pond boy, I never did, but
some boy did, but that was a White Springs boy. You know, they were hitting
some, but you just go into your truck and all. I know somebody, I do not think
they went to jail or something or fights. There would always be some....

T: Harassment.

0: Yeah, you know, there was some harassment at Ocean Pond.

T: There were too close to us. You know, we got along very well with Ocean Pond.
This camp up here in White Springs, I guess they thought they were superior.

0: Just like in the street, there were a lot of white people just as good as they could
be, and a lot of them, you had to do nothing to them. That is just the way it was.

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H: Did certain camps have a good or bad reputation from what you heard about?

0: I just remember whenever we was in Gainesville and getting examined. Do you
remember ? Well, I knowed him before we went. Anyway, he-and
why, I do not know-said, I just hope they do not send me to Sarasota. So, I do
not know why, whether he had heard something about it or not. I had not even at
that time heard of Sarasota. I had seen one time in the paper, they said there
was twenty-nine camps in the state of Florida, but they did not name them out
where and what. I had never heard of Olustee until that day they said we were
going to Olustee. But the camp broke up and they put them in and all. So, I do
not know how many wound up in Florida. It was probably a lot more than that at
that particular time, but that was in that flux at July and August when they were
putting in more camps, putting blacks in some camps that were already there
and putting some new camps.

T: I do not think any camp built a reputation where, you know, it was outstanding for
any reason at all. You had segregation. You had disciplinary problems. All that
happens. No camp escaped any of those kinds of things, because once you get
some people together, you are going to have problems. No camp built a
reputation as being this or that or the other.

0: It was more, if any, bad talk, it was the town what you had to go into, more so
than the camp itself.

H: You mentioned that your brother also went into the CCC? Did he go along with
you, or did he join you later?

T: No, he did not join me at all. He just went to a camp somewhere. He was out in
the world, so to speak. He had left home, and I did not know he was in the CCC
until a little later. Same thing about his Army service. I did not know he was in the
Army until a little later. There was a lack of communication between us, him
being a wild person in the family. Sometimes, we did not hear from him for three,
four, six months sometimes. Then somebody would tell us where he was.
Eventually, he would call or write a letter or come by, but he did not stay long. He
was just wild, I guess.

H: Did any of your friends from back home join up with you?

T: No, not my real friends. A funny thing about this, when I joined up...well, yes,
several of my friends joined up with me in the CCC camp. I am mixing up the
Army with the CCC now. Yes, quite a few of them joined up with me. We went to
the same places, and we had fun together. After we got out, we could talk about
our experience back home and things of that nature. Any friends join with you?

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0: Hm-mm. Like I said, I knew _, but I do not know if you remember him. Al
King. Them two. I know two before. One of them, I just happened to, I
went to Palatka and know him just the year before, 1934. I met him over there.

H: When you got to the camps, was there any hazing for the rookies coming in?

0: Yeah.

T: Yeah. Those old Army people had us going looking for....

0: All kinds of stuff. Little things, monkey wrenches. All kinds of things, they did do

T: I am trying to think, what was it that we had to get up at night and go down the
road, or something like that, and loop through two or three times. And it was
supposed to come to you, and you bring it back. Oh, it was kinds of things.

0: Yeah. Sometime, you would be lucky enough. Some guys would kind of tip you
off, you know, to not pay attention to everything you hear. But, most of the time,
nobody would say a word. You would just be caught.

T: Oh, I forgot about the hazing.

H: Once you got to the camp, did you begin to work right away, or was there some
sort of orientation period?

0: Yeah, fourteen days. We had to take shots, vaccinations. We stayed on the yard
for fourteen days. Then they called, and you go to the woods or wherever after
that. But you stayed, and you cleaned up around there

H: Some people have suggested, for example, in the CCC camp tied to the
turpentine mill, with the black camp being in such close proximity, that African-
Americans were exploited for that private land-owner. Would you agree with that,
or is that too harsh?

0: Not with the CCC, but it is a fact that was more black work, that kind of work. As
far as the CCC, I do not think. Because we just like whites. It was the
same type of camps, ours was, but just in Hamilton County. So, that was not no
different. But it was just the fact that white people had been there...

T: To cleaner jobs, let us say. Turpentine was not a clean job.
0: What you call and dipping turpentine and all them kind of things. Even
most of the stills, black guys running them. Most of the time, the truck driver who
hauled that stuff, he was white. It was just a black guy did it.

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H: So there was kind of a hierarchy of the labor in the camps.

0: Well, that was the thing. A white guy would have a stepson, and you did not work
for him and he would do everything. As soon as he got big enough...

T: He was boss.

0: He was the boss. You would listen at him.

T: That was the norm at that time there.

0: That was just the norm of being black or white.

H: It was all of society. It was not just the CCC camps.

0: Yeah, that was just the way society was.

H: What type of work did you prefer at the camps?

T: Prefer or assigned?

H: Either.

T: Well, you would prefer to sit around and do nothing, like on weekends or when
you can come to town or have a good time. That is what you would prefer. But, it
was an organization, and it had to be run on an Army standard, let us say. So,
you had reports to fill out, you had food and supplies to be requisitioned. Just
about everything that you needed, you know, had to have some kind of a record
and so forth of that kind of stuff. I mentioned clothing, food, and things like that,
gasoline even. Your trucks, your equipment, we had a dynamo there.

0: Oh yeah. There were two of you, and one would go down and fire it up.

T: So, you know, all those kinds of things. You had to keep a record of just about

0: They had inspection on Saturday morning, your shoes shined, your clothes
cleaned. Then, we had summer and winter uniforms. Summer, you got your
khaki. Winter, you got your wool, heavy jackets, coats. Summer, light jackets. I
enjoyed it, really.
H: Did you feel that certain campers had seniority within the camp?

T: Sure, we did.

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0: We got seniority. That was easy.

T: You got promoted, and you was okay.

0: Yeah, and then assistant leader was above a member, so yes.

H: So, when you moved up that way, how did your responsibilities change?

T: I guess it added responsibilities.

H: Just more of a supervisory role?

T: Supervisory.

H: But doing the same work.

T: Out in the field, yes. I do not think they kept any books or anything on the men
out in the field.

0: But the assistant leader or leader out there, he did not like me, as a
member. He was out there to see that it was...

T: To see that the job was done.

0: Mostly, I guess, to how many men were there. It generally had one
leader and one assistant leader. Some of them did not have one. That was the
system. That is out in the field, now. But this is a leader.

H: So, you felt pretty good when you started moving up the ladder that way.

0: Well, if you take me, I liked to drive a truck and that was it. I made what I had,
them $5 do me. See, I did not worry about the other guy getting $11, or he got
$20. My worry about that $25 went to my grandma, and that was that. So I
managed to do that. Then, I stayed three years and five months, and I missed
one day. It was permission then. It was not I just laid off. That is all I missed. In
that same time, I made that $5 do whatever I had to do.

H: How difficult was the work? Was it extremely labor-intensive? How many hours a
day did you work?

T: You was out in the field digging ditches or building bridges or something like that.
Number one, you were rolling a wheelbarrow full of dirt. You were building grades
and all that sort of stuff. It was work, but you had a bunch of young fellas who did

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not even know their own strength. So, instead of making it work as work is, they
made games of it. They sang funny songs, and they tried to show off with
wheelbarrows and stuff like that. Sometimes, they would get hurt but, you know,
they had to make it fun in order to get it done.

0: It was different in the forests, with some of the foresters. Actually, our group here
worked six hours a day. That was supposed to be the working hours, but
sometimes we got Just like O'Leno, see, Olustee was twelve miles
there. The speed limit was 30 miles an hour. That is what you drove your truck.
But anyway, that is the way it was.

T: You did not work long then because you would spend it on the road.

0: Even if you was cutting a ditch or something, you know, you had to work, but it
was not nothing that was going to kill you.

H: What did you do if there was bad weather? Did you get the day off, or did they
keep you working?

0: If it was too bad, they did not send you out there. _, if it was cold, you
know. Sometimes, you had to go out there in them cypress ponds and get them
telephone poles and things. But, then they had boots

T: Depending on the weather. They did not chain-gang you.

0: And it was not no big deal. You know what you had to do. If you done it, that was
all there was to do.

H: Were you ever called in to do any firefighting or to repair hurricane damage?

T: There was a terrible fire. Oh god, that was a terrible thing. Now, that is when you
stay out long and hard, trying to kill those fires. They did not have the modern
equipment that they have today.

0: No, that was just really handwork.

T: You just had to beat the fire out, get your shovel and throw dirt up and things like
that. It was really hard.

H: These were Florida fires? Did they ever ship you somewhere else to fight fires?

T: I think one or two times, some of them went to help another camp.

went to other camps in Florida, but I do not know for

0: Yeah, probably.

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certain, Sarasota, Sebring, Miami, the Everglades, Starke, Jacksonville, Hilliard,

H: Can you run me through a typical day at camp?

T: You want to carry him through a day out in the field?

0: I started out there before I drove the truck. We was cutting a ditch, the first thing.
The third day I was out there, old Fred Cullum was there, a forester. He was
what we called hard rock He was tough. Anyway, I am just off the
farm. I was nineteen. I was not too big. I did not weigh but 122 pounds when I
went. Anyway, I was a beginner, so he asked me in about a week or two, could I
drive a truck? Because, he said, we have this opening; take the examination
and you can drive a truck, if you want to. That is what he done, so I was not there
too long. Then, six months before I left, I decided then that I just would drive
for this doctor. So, the last six months that I was in there, I drove for the doctor.
We went to Fernandina. I would carry him to Fernandina, and I come back to
here. I enjoyed it all, in the truck, and I went to a lot of other camps that [Mr.
Thompson] probably did not because I drove to Silver Springs and
We had a camp in Mulberry. It was a private camp there. That is what we did.
Now, in the work force, it was not the same equipment that Ocean Pond had for
that forest. White Springs, they were the same we was, so that is the way you
did it. See, it is still up there out toward Jacksonville on 90, in the CCC, that was
the central repair shop. That was where they repaired CCC trucks, these private
trucks, not the National Forest, just the private. They brought the trucks from
Mulberry or Silver Springs, wherever [there was] a private camp. They brought
the trucks from all over.

H: Were there any new skills that you took from your experience at the camps that
you used later on?

0: No, not really. I learned a lot, seeing what they done, but I mostly drove trucks. At
the time, that was that much. We had a tractor, a grader to grade up
them roads we were cutting. You see them do it

T: But, you had to make them with that flat square shovel. You took
pride in making it straight and all that sort of stuff.

0: You could take a shovel and grade a road. We done that a lot of times.

H: Were the skills that you learned at the camp new skills that helped you later in

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T: Yeah. In high school, I think I had taken up a little course in the typewriting. It
was just what you call a fill-in course, you know, just take it for the hell of it. So,
when I got in the CCC camp, I went out in the field just like they did at first, just
like he was telling you. Then, they found out through the educational program
that they had that I could type a little bit. So then they made me an understudy to
the secretary. I had it easy. Like I say, it was a good move. After he left, then I
got to be the secretary.

H: Was that a full-time job, or was that in addition to the work?

T: No. When they make you an understudy, you just stay in there and work with him
and run errands. You are the gopher then, see.

H: Did you ever run out of work? Were you ever bored?

0: No.

T: No, you could not be bored. Remember now, it is an Army camp. There is always
something going on. Sometimes, you look back and you say, well, we did some
real good things. For instance, during the Depression, a lot of people was moved
from place to place. I mean, walking. Bill told you there was railroads through this
area here, and down by Olustee, there was the main track, the main east-west
track off of there. So we had a lot of visitors coming in, and the food that we had
left over and things like that, we just gave it to them. Then the word got around. If
you go through Olustee, stop at that CCC camp. See what I mean? So, we had a
problem there for awhile, but we managed to take care of it real well. So, there
was always something to do. We had the National Park right across the way. We
had some people walk over there. Where they have the Olustee battle every year
now, we had a group to walk over there and work over there.

0: Because, see, that was after Ocean Pond disbanded. They broke it up before we
did that. Then, a group from over here, it was still Olustee National Forest but still
the men were I believe old was the leader over there, but
anyway, that is the way they done it.

H: Describe your camp. What were the conditions like, and did you have barracks,
plumbing, electricity?

0: You had a washhouse and then a big old toilet out there. They had to call the
guards when you but he would burn that, you know, keep that clean
out there, the bathhouse and all of them things out there. But, it was the old
manual deal. I do not think they had no kind of sprinklers. I don't know how that
bath deal went, but I remember the old toilet.

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T: They had homemade showers, five or six of them on a row like that on both
sides. You go in there, and you wash off right quick and get on out of there.

0: how they expect me to just

H: Did you feel like the barracks and the camp conditions were equal to the white
camps that you saw? Were they fairly equal in upkeep?

T: I think they were. There was not too much difference. They had a little more
privileges as far as spreading out some of their things was concerned. For
instance, one or two times, I saw where...your footlocker is the foot of your bed,
and they had some kind of a velvet covering over their footlockers. We did not
have that. I do not know whether it was permitted or not, but anyway, we did not
have that. In other words, they dressed up their footlocker. We did not dress up
ours because we had to keep them...

0: I think that was just their own doing.

T: Yeah, their individual [doing] there.

0: I remember in White Springs, after they was there, they made something they
was running in that river up there, you know. They had flush-toilets after
whenever they broke up and they had to remove it. See, they move it
into California, White Springs. They moved them out to California, in 1937, I
believe it was. Anyway, just like the trucks and a lot of things, they did not
some of the guys Loud mufflers on their trucks and all, you

T: Individualized things, you know.

0: they did their own like that. If you want to
make a loud muffler on it. We called them at that time gut mufflers.
but you can do that if you want.

H: How was camp discipline administered?

T: Well, if you did a certain thing, you got punished. If you broke the rules, you just
got punished. The severity of the punishment depends on the severity of your
crime. You give somebody, what, two hours of scrubbing the garbage cans. You
give another person two hours raking the back area. You know, just little things to
let them know that....

0: They would be on the woodpile, cutting wood or something.

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T: Yeah. Let them know that they should not have done it, and you give them
something to do to compensate for it.

H: Was anyone ever expelled from the camps for anything they did?

T: Expelled? You remember the truck that run over somebody? No, that was at
Sandestin, I believe.

0: No, backed over a guy. They did not discharge him for that because
the guy was laying back down, you know, why? They went through, but they did
not for that. But, any wrongdoing, you know, like if you get in a fight, it just
depends. Now, I remember one time that nursery bunch, just like he said, we
used to walk over to the National Forest We would line up and walk to
that nursery every day. Back then in the 1930s, there was a lot of moonshining,
and some guy had hid some moonshine. Some of them guys found it, and some
of them did not ever get to the nursery. They got drunk and all. So, any one of
them they caught, they sent them home. Things like that, you know.

H: Did the CCC workers make moonshine on the side?

0: No, these were bootleggers. They just hid it, and these guys were walking to
work and found it.

T: Moonshine was the savior of the people. You know, as far as a little money is

0: Daddy said moonshine would sell better than groceries back then.

T: Exactly. Because, I mean, after you work all the week, you sharecrop and you
work all the week and you come home and you got nothing, you get stressful.
You want to do something, so you go get a drink of moonshine and that is it. That
is where the grocery money goes, too, see? So, it was a big thing. In fact, not too
long ago, I think they broke up the last of the big moonshiners, no more than ten
or fifteen years ago down in that area, the Sandestin area.

0: But you go into Arcadia now, you seen the people where they get a still, they did
not go on for good. They brought the big boys back, but they still...even that long
ago. The way it was, and still now.
T: Well, it is illegal in Florida, but it is legal in Georgia. You can go in any liquor store
and buy moonshine in Georgia, but in Florida, they used to take advantage of the
people because they put a lot of junk together and it caused a lot of problems

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0: This moonshine, the kind the citizens still out there, it goes as legal moonshine.
They call it moonshine, and it probably is, and these guys probably make it and
sell it to them. It is just as much against the law in Georgia of this moonshine still
that it is in Florida, the old regular still, when you were talking about the breakup.

T: So, the moonshine you buy is legal stuff.

0: Yeah, it is legal stuff. Well, you get it out the bar room, but the whiskey you buy
from honky-tonks out there...

T: Oh, it is still illegal.

0: Yeah, that is what I am talking about, illegal. In Florida, I do not know about it
being but I believe this place in Florida, you can still buy that kind of
moonshine from the bar room.

T: I never heard of any, but then you may be right.

0: But I have heard that now. I can not pinpoint, but I have heard of that moonshine
in the bar room.

H: We should do a little research trip.

T: Well, if I liked it, I probably would not know where it is.

0: It has been so long now.

H: What kind of stuff did you do for fun while you were in the camps, on your time

T: We played ball. We competed against each other at horseshoes, ball-playing.
We had tennis court, we had a baseball diamond, and things. Then, if you
developed a pretty good team, then you could go around and visit with other little
communities and whatnot, and play baseball or whatever.

0: And they had a recreation hall. There were guys who wanted to play cards,
checkers, pool. They had pool tables.

T: Ping-pong, all kinds of things.
H: Did you ever organize dances?

T: Yeah, that was the big thing. That was a big social thing in our camp, and I guess
the same thing happened in the other camps also. But, they would organize
something, maybe three times a year or something like that. Then, they would

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invite all the young ladies from the nearest towns to come to these camps, and
we would furnish transportation to and from. We would have a nice time.

H: Did you get a pretty good turnout from the ladies?

T: Oh yes, it was always a gala affair. That was what made the local boys so angry
with the CCC boys, because here all the girls were flocking to the CCC boys. We
had $5 to spend that they did not have.

H: When you went into town, what did you usually end up doing?

T: Dancing at the dance halls. Sometimes just walking the streets, just looking.

0: Go to the picture show. That was one of the big things.

T: If you want to shop, uptown shopping, and whatever things like that. The biggest
things, as far as we were concerned, there were several restaurants and you just
spent a lot of time talking and visiting around.

H: Getting away from camp.

T: Just getting away from there.

0: on the holidays trip to go to Jacksonville, so some of
them go to Jacksonville. I believe that sure did not that many want to
go to Jacksonville, but they went on holiday to the beach and

H: Did you ever read the CCC newspaper? Was it made available to you?

T: What was the name of the newspaper?

H: Happy Days.

T: Happy Days was one, yes. We had that. We had several articles in one of them.

H: That you submitted?

T: No, I did not. We had an educational advisor. What was his name? Davis. Davis
wrote several articles to the camp newspaper about our camp, you know, the
accomplishments that we had done and named several individuals and so on and
so forth.

0: That was one thing. In the beginning, there was a white educational advisor, but
as it went, then a black educator. So, he was the one that worked with the

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sergeant. So, that was one black man. In the beginning, always the assistants
were the blacks, and the whites Mr. Rich, when I first went there, he
was the educational supervisor.

H: What sort of education did they offer? They had classes you could take, [for]

T: If you remember, we said something about the fellows coming from the farms,
sharecropping and all that sort of stuff...They did not have much education, and
some of them were just as ambitious as anybody to try to improve their lot. So,
they would have little reading classes, writing classes and things like that, see,
and one man supervised the whole thing. So it was kind of a close relationship
they had, and he took time with you.

0: It had to kind of be individual, what was there. Everything at that time, both
Jacksonville and Lake City went out there. They had
could read.

H: So, it was more like literacy classes than, say, vocational-type classes.

0: Yeah, whatever you

H: Did they have religious services at the camp?

T: Yes, they did.

0: They would bring men to the church in town.

T: Ministers would come in and give religious services. We even developed two or
three little ministers in the group ourselves, among the boys. As I grew older, I
could not understand the difference between the white and the black. It seemed
to me they were all striving for the same thing, and that was the bettering of their
condition. We had people who were ambitious to be this, that, or the other, and
[who] worked on their ambitions. And we had ministers, ministers.

0: We had a quartet.

T: Yeah. We had a baseball team that was out of this world, so to speak. Beat
everybody around in this area. You would go to these various little communities
and whatnot, and you are accepted in those communities, especially like that
group that he was talking about. I mean, anywhere they go, they would draw a

CCC 12
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H: From what I understand, 500,000 CCC members actually ended up deserting.
Did you ever have any thoughts of doing that?

T: Did I have thoughts of deserting the CCC?

H: Yes.

T: Why?

H: Somehow, I tend to think the figures for the black camps would be different for
that [desertion rate].

T: Yes. The only reason the blacks would...the only reason I would desert-
obviously I do not know about anybody else-was the fact that they did not listen
to, oh, I might have been sick and they did not give me the treatment I wanted. I
needed it someplace else, and so I went home. That is the only reason I know of.

H: Did you get sick at camp?

T: Yes.

H: How were the medical facilities?

T: We had a first-aid station with one or two beds in it. If you got sick, you went to
the first-aid station. I think they called it the infirmary.

0: But the VA hospital happened to be Lake City, where the
if you are sick

T: That is right. We had a person on duty out there as a...what was Alan Green?

0: First-aid attendant.

T: Yes. He could put a band-aid on you, things like that.

0: Then, the doctor, this particular one where I would go, he stayed in Olustee, but if
he did not stay there, there would always be a doctor come there, you know,
maybe once a week or twice or whatever. But that is the way we would see the

T: I am trying to think of that doctor's name that was from Miami. We happened to
cross paths there in Olustee. He was from Miami, I was from Miami, and I had
known him down there for some reason. I guess maybe he treated some men
from around there. So we put the two stories together and got to be real good

CCC 12
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friends. Anyway, medical attention was not far away. You always had it on hand.

H: But it was inadequate for your needs.

T: Well, no, it was really adequate. I mean, they could get you to it. Like he said, the
VA hospital was there...

H: Well, when you got sick, is that where you ended up going? Did you say you
went home?

T: If you got sick enough, yes. Now, we are talking about deserting, when I say you
got sick enough and you felt like nobody was doing anything for you, you get
depressed and all that sort of stuff, more homesick than anything else. So, you
just go home.

0: Through the time, I believe the most that went, it was their first go there and [they
would] leave and go on back.

T: Homesick.

0: But, there was not no crime for that. If you went on back, ain't nobody look for
you. That is my knowing. Even before I ever went, guys in that August deal,
what went, was back.

T: Came back home.

0: going, these guys done walked out. That is my theory now, but I
guess it was not they done a crime or something. They still left, but that would
actually be the law, if you broke a law, you know.

H: Why did you end up leaving the CCC?

0: Because my time was out.

H: Three years?

0: Well, actually when I went, two years was the time, but before that time was out,
they extended it. So I stayed another eighteen months. But, it was up this time,
so I left. I left him there because he had another extension on some special thing.
I do not know. He will have to speak for that.

T: The war came. The camp was breaking up. They were sending some of us down
to Cape Sable, which is near home. So, I went down to Cape Sable with the
group. Down there, it seemed like we got a new command or something.

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Anyway, they tried to put more restrictions on us down there. Do you know where
the Everglades National Park is? Okay, in that area is where we were
bivouacked. I do not know whether he was a captain or a lieutenant, but this
officer seemed to want to put more restrictions on us. We had a truck going to
town every day, going to Miami every day, and I guess maybe I wanted to go. He
felt like I needed to be around, sitting around doing nothing, so I left from there.

0: Did you ever go to Tallahassee and then come back there, or you left before they
went to Tallahassee?

T: No, I did not go to Tallahassee.

0: Okay, you done left.

H: Was there any sort of leave policy, for emergencies, or just only weekend
liberties is all you got?

T: I know there was a leniency on sickness in your family or things of that nature
because you could go home for X number of days.

0: I think a week. You know, you could get a week or with the
weekends. You would have five days and two days, with the pay, see. But, you
stayed off without A lot of times, they would not do nothing to them,
but you still did not get paid that day. Being a member, well, $1 was that day.
For the assistant leader, that was $1 and something, I do not know.

H: What is your view on the fact that the CCC was segregated?

0: Well, everything else was.

T: That was the time.

0: Yeah, that was just standard everyday influence. I mean, you take the war, when
it started, it was just the same as uptown. It was.

T: It was just the times.

0: I know right then, they started filling out men, and He
was the Pontiac automobile dealer. And Sunny Jones, you know
Most of the big men out there now You could get what they called a
classified labor job. You could get and that is the way it was. These
black men could not even get a train out there. Now, in Jacksonville and a lot of
them bases, blacks did ride but out there, classified labor

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H: Did you feel like there were any sort of racial tensions in the camps? Now, like
you said, that was sort of the temper of the times.

T: In which camp? The black camp?

H: Any.

T: I do not know about the other camps, but I do know there was nothing to be
racial about in the black camp.

H: Sure, but you said that certainly there were some run-ins, however minor, with
the white camps across the way.

T: Downtown. Those were individuals.

H: Right, that is what I am talking about. I do not mean whole camps or anything like

T: Well, there would have been a war if something like that happened.

0: Yeah, that was not It was just, like I said...

T: Individuals. One or two people.

0: Around that courthouse there, we was over here. Ocean Pond around that side.
White Springs there. But Ocean Pond never had no problem there, but some of
them would get in arguing [and] shouting match with them White Spring [guys]. I
never been there, and it happened just But, you know, you just had a
guy talking. I never had no competition one way or the other.

H: The CCC in its own time was controversial, as I am sure you well know. Do you
ever recall people branding it as either fascist or socialist?

T: No, we were in an area where any help that anybody could get was welcome.
WPA [Works Progress Administration; New Deal program] and NRA [National
Recovery Act; New Deal program] and all that was welcome around in this area
here. So, we did not have that problem.

0: All my reasoning about it was the CCC is one of the was the least one
criticized because it helped, being, you know, the mayor of Seattle, Washington,
was a former CCC. You know, I am just naming some. Sammy, you remember
the school superintendent, Rump?

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T: Rump? Yes.

0: He was a former CCC.

T: It was welcome in this area here, I know. Well, in Florida, I believe it was

0: I've never heard much criticism of the CCC.

T: Like, you hear more praise for the CCC as one of the best projects of the New
Deal that came our way. [End of Side 2, Tape A.]

H: What did you like and/or dislike about your experience in the camps?

0: Me, myself, I can go through the place from beginning to the end. I can
remember just like it was the first night I got there. I got there at eleven. Well, the
train come in at eleven o'clock. I had never heard them dynamos roaring right
there. The light strung all around there. Got up the next morning all
that corned beef and grits and coffee and milk. That was it. It was right on. I ain't
got a

T: I do not have any dislikes about the CCC because it was a situation where if you
followed the rules, you had no problems. I do praise the CCC because I had
found out, after CCC life, that those who were in the CCC, whether they were
friends of mine or just in the CCC, I found out that they turned out to be real good
soldiers while I was in the service. See, so the training that I got in the CCC, plus
what they got also, made for a good adaptation into the armed services.

H: Why do you think that was? Just because you were more accustomed to being

T: Because you were more accustomed. That is [it] exactly.

0: They tried back then to make the CCC permanent, just like the Army, but they
never could They did make it permanent for thirty-five years. Now,
the war come, but that is in 19_, would have been them thirty-five years if
nothing had happened. But, they never did make it permanent, you know, just
like the Army or the Navy and things like that. They did, at that time, make it
permanent for thirty-five years, but it went out of business in a little under ten
years when

H: Do you feel like the reputation that the CCC has as one of the best parts of the
New Deal is deserved?

CCC 12
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T: Yes.

0: Oh, I would.

T: Very much. Yes, sir. If you talk about the CCC to anybody who has been in the
CCC, you would hear praises. You do not have criticisms. Now, that does not
mean that it was a bed of roses, you know, all the time, but you hear praises
more than you hear criticism. What they are trying to do now is revive the old
CCC boys into a, well, they do have a national organization whereby they are
trying to get Congress to even set up some kind of statute or some kind of
something up there in Washington for the CCC boys. It was a good organization
while it lasted.

H: Do you think that we would benefit from another CCC today?

0: It would not work today.

T: You could not do it.

H: Are people too spoiled today?

T: That is it. I mean, the laws have changed and all of that. All the things that have
changed, you could not do it.

0: They just could not have it under control like it was. they were in
control then. You know, there are always going to be a few, but that was not
often. You take this bunch now

T: Look at the Army today, and look at the Army back then. That gives you some
comparison as to whether you can do it now, you know, with a bunch of civilians
coming in and then going in under that same regimen. You just could not do it.
They hardly can keep the Army straight now.

H: Well, certainly, you talked about how the CCC prepared you for your military
service, but did you take things from the CCC which helped you for the rest of
your life after the war?
T: I would imagine that the fact that I do not complain too much has something to do
with it. You accept things as they are in most cases, and you work with what you
got. Through life, you know you are not going to have everything going your way,
but then do not let it get to you. You can fight it if you want to, but do not let it get
to you. That is my philosophy in life: accept what I see and move on.

H: You fought in the war?

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Page 34

T: I did not fight in the war.

H: Served?

T: I served in the war.

H: Which theater?

T: American theater. I stayed in the United States. I did not go overseas.

0: Now, I was never called up to the military.

H: Doing more typing like you were and gophering like in the CCC?

T: Yes, the same things. It helped, the experience that I got in the CCC camp got
me a lot of good things, a lot of goodies, in the Army. I was home a lot of times
when I was not supposed to be here, and all that.

H: Did your family find that you had been changed because of the CCC, do you

T: You mean from the bad boy that I was? Actually, I never have been a bad boy,
but I think they might have seen me settling in mind. As I grew older, instead of
being wild like my brother was, I was settled more.

H: Why is the CCC significant to American history today?

T: Because, number one, it changed the attitude of a lot of young men during that
period. It opened avenues for a lot of young men in later years, but the most
important thing was it helped them when they needed help the most, and that
was during the Depression. You would be surprised. You should have been-no,
you should not have been-you saw the [motion] picture "Grapes of Wrath"?
Do you remember how they would load up on that old truck and try to make it
from Oklahoma? That is the way it was, and multiply that by 100,000 people and
you got what it was like back then. See, we did not have the Dust Bowl, but we
had the famine. The cotton was not growing. The [boll] weevils had taken over
that. The corn was not growing. The weevils were taken over that. All kinds of
things were happening during that time. When the CCC came along, it was a
godsend. It was a godsend.

0: Then, it put you to thinking, now. I mean, you know ain't nobody would never do
a thing if you will never stop thinking about what, one way or the other. If you just
do what I have thought about hurting somebody. But you never
thought not to do it. So that is the thing. You got to have a direction you want to

CCC 12
Page 35

go. If you do not just said you are going to kill everybody else
because you can. You just got to move over a little bit and just keep going.

H: Do you feel like the CCC has any special significance for the African-Americans
who were enrolled?

T: Yeah. I think a lot...I mean, he [Mr. O'Neal] came out. He developed into a
successful businessman, and now he is retired and comes to my house
whenever he feels like it, whenever I call him to come. I mean, we have been
good friends for years and years and years. And there were others around. Of
course, a lot of them have expired since then. But I think maybe what I just said
is multiplied in a lot of communities around the nation. So, it had a big influence
on it.

0: And one of the things I have been and everywhere you go
CCC just look like a family, you know. You never see any but these CCC
members, you read about them. I guess that is just one of the things in my life
that I am glad I experienced.

T: Yeah, if you go to any one of the parks, any place where the CCCs have been
and left a building or something like that, and if you are an old CCC member,
when you get in there, you start looking up. Boy, a lot of things happen right there
in your vision. It is wonderful.

H: You feel connected to it.

0: I went in 1985 to Griffin Park, went in there and they got these things. You look
all around, and you keep looking around. Here is an old wall. The CCCs built
that park years ago. That is just one thing, but there are certainly other little
things. You go back home and look to the left there, that O'Leno State Park down
there. Then, before you get there, just where that tower is built out there at
Creek. They built that tower. I was still driving for the forest when we
built that tower. Now, I do not know, after I was gone, they built that at Olena or
not, but the one out here in Creek, going into Raiford down there, that
one and Union City before you get them three that I helped build.
T: So there is an influence. Any CCC person will tell you that if they get around
anything that has any connection with the old CCC, it brings back a lot of fond
memories. You may not even be anywhere near that area, but the fact that the
CCC was involved connects you, too.

0: And you can tell. You heard in Union County any of these things. Even in
Georgia, you can go out there and you can tell them old CCC roads. You can tell

CCC 12
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H: Is there anything that I should have asked you that I did not? Anything about
camp life, about life back during the Depression, that I should know about that
you want to share? Any particular memories or anecdotes from being in the

T: Well, I think we gave you just about everything in bits. Now, you probably have to
pick out what we said if you want to categorize. I think we covered just about
everything, the recreation, covered the food, which was plentiful, simple but
plentiful. We covered the clothing, the Army clothes...

0: It is just like out here. You know, you make life Unless there is
something to get in the way, you got to show us the way you want to go, and if
you are lucky, you...and if you are not, you know, it is just something that gets in
the way. You could make friends or you could...every guy who come in there did
not say. I mean, like a Some come in here and had the wrong place
to start with, and they would go on back. Then, there was some saying, now, I
did not know, you know, you worked with him out there at or you had a
buddy I did not even know until just before he died that he had ever
been in there, but he had a bad experience, I understand. So, that
what, I do not know, but I do not think

H: What did you end up doing after you left the Army?

T: Came to work at the VA.

H: Were there a lot of other CCC members there?

T: Not a lot of them, but there were several...

H: Here and there.

T: Yes, but not a lot of them. A lot of the old CCC members had left this area by
then. They went to different places, especially the blacks headed south from
here, because after the CCCs, the villain of the Army carried a lot of contractors
various places. They were going looking for the contractors with the best jobs,
and a lot of them would sign them. I saw James Davis, from Suwannee Valley,
at the funeral last week, Ms. Beatrice Johnson's funeral.

0: I do not remember. I mean, you said James. Is that one of the bishop's

T: Related to him, yes.

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0: The name sounds familiar, but I do not think I know him.

T: Yes, I saw him. He came up to that funeral. But, what I am trying to show is the
fact that a lot of people who were in this area at that time have left this area, and
some of them were doing real well. For instance, when they leave here, they go
to these contractors, and they stick with them until they finish this project. Then,
when they get the contract to that, they finish this project and he got another
project. He goes on. They wind up just about everywhere sometimes. In North
Carolina. I got a nephew by marriage who is in North Carolina. He got stuck up
there after the contractors and everything.

0: That is Randall?

T: Randall. He just stayed, so that is his home there. I assume that he is living
pretty good.

H: Have you stayed active with, sort of, the national reunions that the CCC
members still have? There is that group that meets in Gainesville. I went to one

T: There is a letter on the table there now from...

H: Is there? There is a meeting next Saturday, right?

T: Yes. I have not been to a one of them since I joined. I did join and I did keep up
my membership and all that, but there was always something in the way that I
could not attend the meetings. So, I have not been, but my membership is still
there. They send me the minutes and things, and so forth and so on.

H: I guess there was one in Inverness, too. Did you ever know about that one?

T: Yes. At one time, we had planned to go to Inverness. Is that where the national
cemetery is?

0: Bushnell.
T: Bushnell, okay. I did not know about the one in Inverness, but it seems to me like
we had planned to go down there and then go to Bushnell for some big day or
something, CCC dedication day or something that they were having down there.
But, I did not go.

H: Okay. Well, if you cannot think of any other memories you would like to share-
this is your last chance-have we covered it pretty well here?

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T: I think we did.

0: I enjoyed every minute of it. I do not regret it a bit. I happened to be going to
Olustee. I went back to the farm the rest of that year, and then the next year I
went to Tampa when some of the first concrete was poured on MacDill Field.
I was there back then. I worked construction right on up until I retired.

H: Well, gentlemen, I thank you for your time. I appreciate this, and this concludes
the interview.

[End of Interview.]

CCC 12
Sam Thompson
June 19, 2000
38 pages Open

Mr. Thompson begins the interview by describing his early education, life during the
Depression, and the public perception of President Franklin Roosevelt (page 1-2). He
then discusses farming in south Florida and the plight of sharecroppers (page 3). Mr.
Thompson and Mr. O'Neal recall how they heard about the Civilian Conservation Corps
(CCC) and compare their experience to army recruitment (page 4-5). Mr. Thompson
talks about the time limits of the program; he personally enrolled three times because
there was no other employment available (page 6-7). They both explain the different
positions within the CCC and their corresponding pay levels (page 8). Mr. O'Neal
analyzes racial segregation in the camp (page 9-10).

They review the different projects undertaken: road building, putting up fences, and
reforesting (page 11, 14). Mr. Thompson explains the relationship with white
administrators (page 12). They talk about law enforcement in the camp, physical
requirements, and the issue of choice of camps (page 13). Then, community relations
are discussed, and they point out the effect of different camps' reputations (page 15).
Mr. Thompson talks about joining the CCC with friends and the hazing of rookies (page
16). They both relate the racial hierarchy of labor in the camps as identical to society in
general (page 17). They mention the role of seniority in the organization and the added
responsibilities it carries (page 18-19).

They again mention the various types of labor, the intensity of the work, and describe a
typical day in the field (page 19-20). They talk about the skills acquired during the
experience, for example, being an understudy to a secretary (page 21). They discuss
the conditions of the camp: the toilets, sprinklers, and barracks (page 22). Discipline
and punishment are mentioned, and they then turn to a discussion of moonshine, its
legality, and its appeal to the workers (page 23-24). They recall the recreational events
of camp life: ball games, card games, dances, movies, shopping, etc. (page 25).
Education and literacy classes were also available at the camp (page 26).

They discuss desertion (page 27) as well as the medical facilities and doctors that were
available to them (page 28). They talk about homesickness and the leave policy (page
28-29). They treat racial tensions as a problem among individuals rather than a camp
issue (page 30). The CCC was not seen as controversial, as fascist or socialist, but
rather as a good program that accepted anyone who wanted work (page 31). They feel
that the CCC was deserving of its reputation as one of the New Deal's best programs,
but do not believe it would be successful today (page 32). Mr. Thompson discusses
how the program helped prepare him for military service (page 33). He talks about the
CCC as a godsend for the south during a time of famine and as a significant program
for African-Americans (page 34). They both feel a sense of pride when seeing physical
evidence of old CCC projects in the present day (page 35). Finally, they talk about life
after leaving the CCC and the fate of some of their fellow workers (page 36-37).

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