Biography of Jerry Bayer
CCCman, Camp Long Lake, CCC WI HQ, Sparta, Wisconsin
Surgical Technician, 7th Army, USA
I went in 1941, early summer, to run away from a bad home life. I got there by train and truck. The trip was exciting, it was my first train ride.
I was in the CCC at camp Long Lake, WI, near the Michigan Border. It was, I believe, one of the first camps in the state. It was an old camp and we had good barracks, already built, when I was there. We had footlockers for our things. My foot locker was made of a light sheet metal like steel. It had a paper type lining with a wallpaper like design and a removable shelf. It was made exactly like the GI one I had in the army.
My company did Forestry work for a State Park. The work was heavy cutting of roads through a state park and forest fire fighting.
We ate in the Mess Hall, where we were served by K.P.s. The food was very good. We ate lunch in the field, where we mostly got sandwiches.
Our Company Commander was Captain Wenger and the project superintendent was Mr. Smally. We would have periodic inspections, but otherwise discipline was pretty easy.
After one week on the road crew they decided I was too frail for that kind of work. I was then made permanent K.P. in the Mess Hall.
I asked to go to school. They needed cooks so I was sent. In July 1942, I transfered to the Wisconsin Headquarters camp at Sparta, Wisconsin to attend the cooks and bakers school. This was part of the Army 6th Service Command. I got to Sparta by train and walked to camp.
The day I arrived the school was disbanded but I was made a cook anyway. Most of the time I served the officers of the camp with regular food but in a seperate dining room.
This Camp was much less rugged than Long Lake. Nicer guys. It was good duty with a lot of time off to spend in the town of Sparta.
After cook school I went back to Long Lake and was a cook. At Long Lake, we would go into town on our off time. We went into the small town of Long Lake or a larger town of Iron River. Mostly went into bars or to movies. Long Lake was a good long walk from camp. Much closer than our work sites which were 10 miles away.
In camp we would play cards. The recreation hall had a pool table, card tables, ping pong, checker boards, magazines, newspapers, dart boards, horseshoes We also got mail, which was delivered to the camp headquarters where we could pick it up.
There were Cats and dogs that hung around camp for food. There were also Deer that stayed around camp.
Our meals were very good. We would have Roast beef and mashed potatoes, no spam but other cold cuts. SOS for breakfast. I liked it. Breakfast with eggs and French Toast. You could also get candy, and cigarrettes, at the Canteen between meals.
On Pearl Harbor Day, I asked to be discharged to enlist in the Army. I left the CCCs and went home by train. My family had saved the $25 a month that had been sent home.
I was home a week later but the Army refused me because of my eye sight. However, a year later I was drafted and went on to be a cook at Fort Custer, MI. Later I went into a field hospital and they made me a surgical technician... because I knew how to use a knife, maybe... I served in Europe with the 7th Army and was discharged in 1946.
My time in the CCCs helped me in later life. I went through the cooking school at Sparta, Wisconsin. It was all hands-on training. I wound up being the cook for the officers mess at headquarters. When discharged, I used my training to get a job at the Schroeder Hotel in Milwaukee as an apprentice cook. When I went into the army I was assigned to the Reception Center Mess at Camp Custer, Michigan as a second cook. I still do a lot of my own cooking and enjoy it.
I went back to the old CCC campsite. But the Camp is no longer there. The State Park we opened to tourists is though.
I learned a lot in the CCC and looking back it was one of the happiest times of my life. I grew up there. How wonderful it would be if the government had such a thing now to keep the kids off the street.
------- Jerry Bayer
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