Biography of Thomas Earl Faircloth
CCCman, Company 1449 P-77, Camp Langly (Camp Tate), near Tate, Georgia
From The Wheeler County Eagle November 11, 1998
For Old Time's Sake, looking back with Thom Faircloth
Last week I began a talk with my father, Thomas Earl Faircloth, about the Wheeler County boys he knew in the 1930s when he was in the CCCs. In 1933 the country was in the depths of the Great Depression. With Roosevelt's election in 1932 the country began to look up again. Hope was returning. The country's first priority was to get people back to work.
Roosevelt was elected in 1932, but didn't take office until March 4, 1933. On Feb. 6, 1933 the Twentieth Amendment was adopted. It abolished the so-called lame-duck session of Congress and changed the presidential inauguration date from Mar. 4 to Jan. 20.
Before inauguration day the low point was reached. There was a bank panic on. On Mar. 1, bank holidays were declared in six states, effectively preventing runs on bank assets by worried depositors.
On Mar. 4, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was inaugurated president of the United States. In his inaugural address, President Roosevelt included the memorable sentence: "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." Later that same day, he appointed Frances Perkins, the first woman to hold a Cabinet post, as secretary of labor.
Banks began reopening across the country on Mar. 13. Before the end of the month over 75 percent of all banks were operating again.
On Mar. 31, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was initiated by the Reforestation Unemployment Act to create jobs through a national reforestation program.
The story continues with the voice of my father in quotes.
"The CCC paid $30 a month, which was a lot more than I could make working 60 hours a week in the mill in Eastman for ten cents an hour. The corps sent $25 dollars of our pay home each month. That left us $5 to spend. Of course up in the North Georgia Mountains that five dollars went a long way. We had a canteen for refreshments. Candy bars were a nickle and so were Cokes. We would have a dance once a month after payday that cost 50 cents cause we had to pay the band. We would go into town to meet the girls at the church. Old Colonel Tate taught Sunday school and since the camp was located on his estate, he wouldn't let them pass the offering plate to us. So it was easy to make the money last.
"On the first day of June 1933, we all went from Eastman to Tifton on an open troop truck. In Tifton we met up with boys from Wheeler, Dodge, Crisp, Wilcox, Dooley and Lake Counties. They gave us a light physical and put us on a train to Ft. Benning, where we got a complete military type physical. A few got weeded out there.
"Next we were given bed sacks and sent to the hay stack to fill the bed sacks. We were assigned to a tent where six men slept on the ground. Then they gave us our clothing. We got work clothes and boots, or brogans, along with an army "OD" uniform with out any emblems on it. They were wool uniforms that were also "OD" or olive drab color. We also got three changes of socks, and underwear. I think we got three of everything except the shoes.
"We were the second group to go, and they didn't have everything ready at our camp, so we waited at Fort Benning for three weeks. The Army Corps of Engineers and the Forestry Service were preparing the camps all over the country. The program had started in May so they hadn't had time to get our camp ready.
"We didn't have any work to do at Benning, but we did do exercise every day. The soldiers hated us because we made $9 more a month than they did. Now those who had been assigned to be cooks did go right to work, because they had to feed us.
"They took us on tours of the base. We got to see the tanks and the base in general. They fed us some 15 year-old hardtack that was left over from WWI rations. It was unspoiled after so long, but it didn't taste too good. I remember they took us to see a baseball game on the base at a beautiful ballpark that had an outfield wall covered in Ivy. I think it was the first real stadium I had ever been to. It was there on the base next to the famous "million dollar barracks".
"One of the boys named Langly got sick and they put him in the base hospital. He stayed there for several days and died. So when we got to our camp we unofficially named it Camp Langly although the official government name was Camp Tate.
"Well they finally loaded us on a train heated for Tate Mountain Estates, several miles out of Tate, GA into the mountains. The camp was at one of Colonel Tate's Dude Ranches. Colonel Tate had made his millions quarrying marble at Marble Hill. He was also into politics. He had something to do with the Highway Department. He had plenty of influence in the capital because he was an ultra-rich person.
"The ranch had a ready made old farm house and an old barn. They had also recently built a dining hall, and a combination kitchen and barracks for the cooks.
"In settings like this the cooks were the kings, just like on a wagon train, or cattle drive. So they had a barracks, while the rest of us had tents.
"There were two rows of tents stretching between the old barn and the old house. The house served as our headquarters. We had 200 men in our group, and they broke us into 3 groups or platoons. One group lived in the loft of the old barn. The other two groups each stayed in a row of the tents. The showers were on the ground floor of the barn.
"The government sent a field kitchen as well as all the equipment for a regular kitchen. There were several of those robust 18-25-year-olds that got to work and unloaded the equipment from the train onto trucks to transport it out to the camp. I was a 120-pound weakling, so I didn't get called on for that duty.
"I did get assigned to build a tent for the clinic, and another one for the barbershop. Henry Jordan (pronounced Jerdan) was our medic. He was from Wilcox County, and his daddy was a Baptist minister. Rev. Jordan later founded an organization near Americus, which grew into Habitat For Humanity. He built a group of houses and if people would come to Americus to work, they could have a free house to live in. A lot of people took advantage of that, because they needed a place to live.
"We had to put up our tents right away. We had 6 men to a tent, but here we got sleep on canvas slung army-folding cots. The first few weeks were spent boarding the tents up on the sides to about four feet high, adding a floor, doors and a stove for heat.
"Once we got the camp set up, we had to go to work. We built roads up the mountains. We had a Caterpillar bulldozer to cut the roads, but we built the roads with short handled shovels. We went all the way to the top of the mountain to where the Appalachian Trail is now. At the monument that marked the end of the trail we turned south and continued across the top of Oglethorpe Mountain for about a mile and a half. It was rough going up there, and we had to dynamite our way through.
"When the road was finished, we spent our time digging fire breaks and clearing bridal paths.
"When we originally signed up it was for six months, but soon they extended it to one year, but our group actually got 13 months because of that three week lay around at Ft. Benning.
"For recreation we had built a gymnasium that housed the basketball court. We also had dances there about once a month. We had bands from around the area come to play. Of course the girls from all around came too. We had a truck we would send into Tate or Marble Hill and bring the girls out to the camp for the dance. Sometimes the girls would be from a church group, sometimes not. Word would get around when we were having a dance and the girls would show up. Back then people wanted to help the boys out. They knew we were young and far from home, and they would do whatever they could to help entertain us. It was sort of like the USO when the war broke out.
"They had a pretty good basketball team of South Georgia boys. One of the boys from Vienna was on the famous House of David Basketball Team, so we had a good starter.
"After my year was up, I got discharged and went home for a short time, but then I heard about work in Miami, so I went and stayed there for the next 43 years. I never saw any of those Wheeler County boys from the camp again. I sure would like to hear from them."
It took World War Two to finally put an end to the depression, and by then all those boys from CCC days were ready to join up and do their part. Roosevelt would serve three terms before dying at the beginning of his fourth term.
"He brought dramatic change to our country, and saved the lives of millions of families. He put us to work. That's what it took."
One of these days I'll talk to my daddy about the war. Just for old time's sake.
The above is an article "For Old Times Sake" in The Wheeler County Eagle (GA). It is are the result of interviews with my father Thomas Earl Faircloth about his camp days at Camp Tate GA Company 1449 P-77.
----- Thomas W. Faircloth
@Copyright 1998 Thomas W. Faircloth all rights reserved.
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