Life in a CCC Camp
Robert L. Robeson, NACCCA National Secretary, CCCMan, Company 1852, Camp F-24-WY, Camp Wapiti, Wyoming
While I was in camp I wrote an article about the CCCs, called "Life in a CCC Camp" written by me in December 1936 while a CCC enrollee at Camp Wapiti, Cody, Wyoming. I sent the original to the Fremont Count Vocational High School, Lander Wyoming, at which school I graduated in May 1935. It was printed in the school's paper. The article relates what our camp was like, and the poem which ended it how we felt about our work.
The CCC boy's life is not a picnic as some are wont to think. He has to do some work to earn that dollar a day. He is under the supervision of the U.S. Army. This organization see that he is properly fed, clothed, sheltered and generally cared for. The Technical Service, which in the case of this camp is under the supervision of the U.S. Forest Service, had charge of the "work program". He is under their supervision five days a week, seven hours a day. In this time they must transport him to and from the "job", and allow him one hour off for his lunch. This means that he is under the supervision of the Army for the remainder of the time, which is 133 hours each week. For this you can gather that the Army should and does have a controlling interest.
Now as to the nature of the work, which differs in each camp. Some work in the forests, others on reclamation projects, while still others are employed on soil erosion control. As for "our" particular jobs, some of us are cutting down and burning timber that has been infested with a beetle, others are making signs and tables for campgrounds, and still others are treating telephone poles which are sent to another group of men who are employed in the building of a telephone line. There is still another crew building "cribbing" at the ranger station, which, by the way, is the oldest one in the U.S.. "Cribbing" is the building of log walls along the banks of a river and then filling them with stones to keep the river from washing away the banks. Still another group of men are employed solely by the Army - called Army Overhead. This group includes the cooks and kaypees, clerks, storeroom man, infirmary orderly, officer's orderly, carpenter and Assistant Educational Advisor.
Now, perhaps, you would like to see something of the personal life of the men. They sleep in barracks (which are long and narrow one-story buildings) on Army cots, using Army blankets and comforts. The sheets are changed each week, to keep the beds as clean as possible. Forty-five men are housed in each barrack. The member's clothes are put in wall lockers beside his bed and this helps to keep the place looking tidy. The boys eat at the "mess hall". They march double file to this hall and stop each morning and evening to pay their respects to their country's flag. In the evening each member must be dressed in his "O.D.'s" (Olive Drab), which is the uniform of the CCC. He must be neat in appearance, having his hair well combed and his "meal ticket" -- a tie - properly arranged. Each morning there is an inspection of the barracks by the officers of the camp, and woe to the man who has not swept out from under his bed or has a wrinkle on his bed.
No to tell you something of the rest of the camp. The two main interest points to the members are the recreation hall and the educational building. In the recreational hall (building) there is a canteen where the CCC can buy tobacco, candy, soap, toothpaste, and the like. Then there is a pool table, a ping pong table, and several tables for playing cards and checkers. There is also a library and reading room, which is arranged like a living room of a home. There is a rug upon the floor, several couches, and a number of chairs and tables. In the corner is a writing desk and on the wall a magazine rack. The educational building also gets its share of interest. All classes are held here. Several men come from town to give lectures and sermons to the boys. Each and every week there is a company meeting and a moving picture show, which, although the latest pictures are not shown, is well worth the twelve and one-half cents a week that each member pays. The machine is the latest equipment, including sound.
We also have an infirmary, a barber shop, a newspaper, a tennis court and a base ball field. There is an orchestra, comprising of ten pieces, which helps to make this a veritable little city. We also have hot and cold running water and our own electric power plant. Mail is brought to the camp every other day and radios and newspapers keep us in touch with the outside world. As a matter of fact there is a short wave broadcasting station at this camp.
Of course there are times when the world doesn't look so bright, especially if some fellow, who believes himself superior, decides to bull you for a while. This causes much discord in camp and is stopped whenever possible. One never knows just when he will get into his bed and find his sheets folded in such a manner that he can get but half way in, or find a piece of ice in his bed to keep him cool during the hot winter nights. But such is the life in a CCC camp. You can learn a great deal if you want to try, or you can just drift along and lose that much time out of your life.
In closing I wish to express a little thought in the form of a poem - which I composed while riding back to camp from work on the mountain in the back of a Forest Service truck one cold winter evening.
When you come to the end of a perfect day
And you still have that long trek to camp,
And your legs are tired, your breath is short,
And your feet are cold and damp.
And you think back to the good old days
When you were young and free.
When you had no special task to do,
And life was one long spree.
Yet I wonder how well off we really are,
As we leave the boy for the man,
We get three meals, clothes and a bed,
All furnished by Uncle Sam.
Maybe Those mountains are hard to climb,
Those tree so hard to cut.
But the air is pure, the water fine,
And we're climbing right out of the rut.
As we come to the end of another day,
Let's all smile and be glad.
For besides helping ourselves, you see,
We are helping mother and dad.
----- R.L. Robeson
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