Biography of Donald E. Dietz
CCC Assistant Leader, Company 222, Camp S-93-NY, Breakabeen, New York
I was born in the little village of Central Bridge, New York on April 15, 1915. It was a beautiful place to start a life, and, while we were poor, I enjoyed a happy childhood wandering the hills and swimming and fishing in the Schoharie River and the Cobleskill Creek. My schooling started when on day a neighboring farmer's daughter offered to take me by the hand and walk me to a one room schoolhouse a half mile down the road. The school consisted of one large room with desks and seats for 35 students. There were 32 pupils registered and that represented all grades. 1 through 8. Miss Nancy Hunt, teacher, did a very credible job of teaching all grades in all subjects. The place was heated by a smelly big monster that burned soft coal and in the winters managed to barely transmit enough warmth to heat the center of the room. A local character was employed to come in and start the contraption each morning, but it was up to the older boys and the teacher to carry in coal from the woodshed and keep the thing going during the day.
I attended school here until the 7th grade when my Dad took a job with General Electric in the city of Schenectady. This adventure into the world of modern schooling was very brief. By the time I had completed my first year of high school the great depression had eliminated my Dad's job along with countless others so we moved back to the old home town, Central Bridge, New York.
In our absence, however, something quite wonderful had happened. The various school districts in our County had voted to create a Central School District and consolidate all the old one room school houses in a new elementary and High School in Schoharie, New York, just four miles from our Central Bridge home, and we were going to be transported there by a fleet of new school buses.
While in school I had produced a school newspaper, the first our school ever printed. A friend of mine worked at the paper then and he had lent us an old printing press, the type which required the type to be set by hand. He had it brought over to us with a fellow who taught us how to use it. It was quite a success.
I graduated from High School there in 1934.
I was now 19 years of age ( I hadn't started school until I was 8) and with the terrible depression in full swing the future looked pretty bleak. There were no jobs - there was no money for college and I began to feel like an extra burden on my Dad who was doing his best to keep food on the table.
Then someone told me about the Civilian Conservation Corps and while it did not seem to fufill any of my dreams of becoming a journalist I was fast becoming aware of the realities of my situation and the necessity for compromises. I hiked the four miles to the Schoharie County Court House and asked for the person who signed up CCC enrollees. He proved to be a very pleasant and understanding man and after a short interview and signing the necessary paper work he told me I was accepted and to appear at his office the next morning and he would see me on my way.
I didn't sleep much that night I was too busy imagining all the distant and interesting places I could possibly be sent to. After morning farewells I set off for Schoharie and met the gentleman who signed me up. He asked me if I was ready to go - I said yes and he said "get in the car" - I did and he drove me ten miles up the valley to Camp S-93, Company 222, Breakabeen. So much for travel and adventure! However, there was a plus side despite the disappointment - I was within 15 miles of my parents home and I could go home any weekend I didn't have duty.
Camp S-93 was located in Breakabeen, NY which was a small hamlet about 5 miles from Middleburg, NY where the nearest post office was located. Breakabeen had no post office therefore Middleburg was the mailing address for the CCC campsite during the 1930's.
Captain Parillo was Commander of CCC camp S93, Company 222 . The officers had their own quarters seperate from the enrollee's barracks. A leader was chosen by the command and put in charge of each barracks and the discipline therein. I can only speak for the company I was a part of but the arrangement seemed to work very smoothly. The officers at Company 222 were highly regarded. They helped organize and participated in our recreational activities and when they were transferred we were sorry to see them go.
I served 16 months as an enrollee in Company 222 during 1935 and 1936. The first three months I spent in the woods. The next six months I spent as an Assistant Leader as assistant to the Camp Educational Advisor, John Dole.
Our Camp had the misfortune of having a rather disinterested Educational Advisor. An EA with a lot of energy could really provide great opportunities for the Enrollees. But our EA didn't seem to give a hoot one way or the other at times. When I first started working for him, he said to me, "You want to make a little extra money? I'll pay you ten dollars if you write my reports for me."
The EA was responsible for periodic reports to the district command stating what and how many classes we were teaching, how many students were enrolled in each class and what progress was being made. These reports sometimes required the reporter to be somewhat of an innovator. He, of course,was suposed to write them himself, but being a great delegator of authority he favored me with that portion of his work load.
But ten Dollars was a lot of money, so I agreed. I wrote all of his reports for him to District. The advisor would return from district meetings where he would read these reports and tell me how favorably they were received by the brass. Since there were many camps in a District that was a pretty compliment. But I never did see the ten dollars.
What did I do as assistant to the educational advisor? Much of the routine work connected with the daily operation of the school was to be my responsibility. The formation and schedules of classes offered, keeping the school building tidy and in the winter keeping it warm, assistance in teaching the basic skills (reading and writing) many of the enrollees had poor or nonexistant reading and writing ability.
I believe that one of the more successful accomplishments of my time in this position was the organization, promotion and eventual publishing of the Advance - the first camp newspaper. After being assigned to the Education Advisor, I decided it would be good if we ran a camp newspaper. Using my school paper experience, I contacted my friend who was now the Publisher of the Scoharie Republic Newspaper. He agreed to not only help me with the project but to actually print the paper for us. Thus our paper was professionally printed and looked great. Most camps papers were produced on mimeograph and could not possibly look as good. Ours was a regular paper. The only issue I have left is the October 1934 issue, Volume I Number 5. Since it was supposed to be printed monthly, so it started around June, 1934. But we didn't always get it out on time. It was produced the rest of the time I was there, but I do not know if it continued after I left. It was a lot of work and I rather doubt anyone else would have pursued it as I had. But the founding of the Advance did arouse the interest and enthusiasm of a great number of the enrollees - many of whom worked with me to get it off the drawing board.
Linked below will be the only beat up copy I have of this paper. Please bear in mind as you read that the lead editorial was composed by a 19 year old young man who, at least up to that time, had not had his idealistic bubble busted!
I believe you may find more Camp S-93-Company 222 information from this old paper than I could have given you otherwise. You will find the names of many of the enrollees as of October 1934.-the names of officers responsible for the administration and discipline of the Camp-you will get a sense of the average enrollees attitude toward the Corps and what it means to him (see: Happy Days In The Civilian Conservation Corps.")- type of work (see"Van Der Bogart's Crew Sets Planting Record") Van Der Bogart was a New York State forester in charge of the Camp work program. What did we do with our spare time? (see"Committees To Govern Spare Time") -How were commanding military personel regarded by enrollees? (See:"Sabre Presented to Lieut. Watt At Camp Banquet") I would like to comment here on the officer-enrollee relationship. at Company 222 . We were told from the day of induction who was in charge. We were informed of the rules governing the camp and the barracks.These rules, we were informed, they expected us to respect and if we did not we would be subject to discipilnary action--some of it like cleaning out latrines or bailing out the kitchen's smelly grease traps could be downright unpleasant.
After six months of Assistant Educational Advisor, the remainder of my enlistment was spent as Assistant Leader in charge of the Camp Infirmary with Leader Bob Reed. The Company had a camp physician but he was not in residence. He was Dr. Duncan Best and he had an established practice in the village of Middleburg where he lived. He would drive five miles from Middleburg each morning. He would check on any patient we had in our seven bed ward-prescribe for them, if necessary, look over the sick call log for that morning-answer whatever questions we might have from the previous day and then go about his regular practice. From that time Bob and I were on our own until the next morning. If an emergency were to occur the doctor would come if he could be contacted. We had a cabinet of drugs most of which, in one form or another, are available today across the counter, which we were allowed to dispense under Dr. Best's supervision. Bob Reid was the leader in the infirmary- I was his assistant. We did not sleep in the barracks. We had our own small room in the infirmary.
I enjoyed camp life and I enjoyed the assignments I was given in education and care of the infirmary. These "in camp" assignments were really great. For one thing they carried a rating and for another I could go over to the mess hall at any time of day and get a piece of pie and a cup of coffee. We had an excellent mess officer and the food and its variety was consistently A-1.
I eventually found a job in a nearby community, Cobleskill, and was given an honorable discharge to enable me to accept that position.
As I look back, in nostalgic retrospect, the one thing I marvel at most about this marvelous organization was the wonderful camaraderie that existed among these young men from almost the time they arrived in camp. I witnessed the arrival of hundreds of them from many ethnic backgrounds and religions. There were country boys and big city boys. There were mild mannered young men and there were the inevitable loud mouths - but they learned very soon to get along quite well. I never witnessed a fist fight.
I did not serve in the military in World War Two. At the outbreak of World War Two, I was a married man with two children and was employed at a large defense plant in Schenectady New York, that being General Electric. I worked there for the next 35 years without a break in my employment. During the war years I never requested a deferment from military service and despite the fact that I was classified as I-A ( ready to go) I was never called up. I never asked of supervisors whether or not they considered my work so critical to the war effort that they requested I be deferred.
I am now the historian of Chapter 82 of the National Association of Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni ( NACCCA). We are working to secure local recognition of the C.C.C.s as America's pioneers in environmental conservation. Hopefully our work will ensure the CCC of its proper place in our country's history.
----- Donald E. Dietz
Company 222 Camp, Camp S-93-NY, Breakabeen, New York
CCC Flag, Photograph
NACCCA representatives, Left to Right, Carlton Morby, Don Dietz, John Steele, in front of CCC Building of Company 270, Camp S-72, Five Rivers Environmental Education Center, Delmar, New York
John Steele and Company, 1935, Blister Rust Camp, Fernwood, Idaho
NACCCA Chapter 82 Members looking at CCC memorabilia, Left to Right Louise Kulczycki, Carlton Morby, John Steele, Don Dietz, North Greenbush, NY
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