Biography of Ralph A. "Sparky" Reeves
CCCman / Foreman, Companies 2904 & 1305, Camp Devil's Flat (LEM), Roseburg, Oregon / Camp Diamond Lake, Roseburg Oregon / Camp Rand, Grants Pass, Oregon
My Name is Ralph A. Reeves, or "Sparky". I will try to dredge up some memories of my CCC days of 65 years ago with an 88 year old rusty brain.
I joined Company 2904 on April 1934 at age 24 right off a state highway stated road job. I worked on county jobs, shoveling gravel into dump trucks for count roads. The letter saying I could join the CCC was welcome. I was signed up in Roseburg, Oregon, was directed to the armory, stripped down, given a physical, loaded on trucks and some 50 or more sent out to camp 2904, camp (Devils Flat) an LEM camp (Local experience Men). A lot of local loggers and laborers to teach us rookies.
Navy Commander - Tischner, CO. 2904 was in charge of camp when I arrived with about 50 other rookies in April. It was an all white granite parade ground. The Camp commander was very proud of his white parade ground. Three rookies were told to take shovels out by the flag pole and dig a hole to set an Army post and place a GI can on top of it. The Black brown dirt taken out of the hole, spread on the white granite parade ground did not set well with the commander. No one in a camp of 200 men knew who sent the boys out to dig the hole!!
The camp was setup as a permanent camp but it was abandoned in about 1935 for a new camp on the same Forest and ranger district. Along with Tischner was an Army lieutenent. The seargent was an enrolee, Floyd Officer, also an L.E. man.
Company 1305 was the number of the new camp on the South Umpqua river, which I and about 10 men, a cook and kP's set up a side camp to bulldoze off a large gravel bar on a bend in the river.
The only Permanent building was a large mess hall and kitchen. We had complete camp all set up so the men from 2904 could be moved in.
We had setup complete quarters in some thirty Army teepee tents, frames and all when we got the word to take them all down, doze the frames up in a pile and burn them.
The next week, truck loads of lumber started coming in along with carpenters and electricians, plumbers and more CCC helpers. In a short time we had the first of three barracks set up for camp personnel.
They were built in a U shape, the arms of the U were living quarters. The bottom of the U was showers, laundry, water heater and latreen with flush toilets.
We got our first steel cots and mattress's there. I was transferred from there to a side camp in the Umpqua Nat. Forest warehouse in Roseburg OR.
I was assigned to the welding shop, from there to equipment operator for the Forest Service at $100 per month (and a 35 year career).
After three years in company 2904 and 1305, both on the Umpqua Nat. Forest, Headqurters Roseburg. I was bulldozer operator, graderman, welder and mechanic. In April, 1937, I was dishcharged from the CCC and signed on as junior forester at Diamond Lake Camp. I was in charge of road construction.
The first crew I had at Diamond Lake was 10 Mexicans from Texas. My leaders name was Chauvis (shaw - vis). He was a very intelligent young man and a camp leader in a camp of 50% Mexicans and 50% Texans. I wonder if he is the same Chauvis who was head of the Mexican Farm workers in California.
We stayed there until the snow ran us out. The entire camp was moved down from 5000 feet to camp Rand on the Siskiyou National Forest, Grants Pass Oregon, 1200 Feet elevation, to work building roads in 80% rock formation. Snow was no problem. We went back to Diamond Lake in the summer and back to Rand in the winter.
From 1937 to 1941 I received many many transfers, some indiviuals, some with the whole 200 man camp. High country in the summer low country in the winter.
At one point we were transferred to a side camp on the Imnaha river, 50 miles of main camp, approx 50 men. I was in charge along with another foreman, a powder man. They were Eastern boys from Jersey, New York, Up State New York, Penn. etc. Twas their first trip west and my first camp of Eastern boys. My wife and small son lived in a tent house about 200 yards from the camp. A porcupine crawled under the tent house late one night. I took a flashlight and my 30-30 rifle and shot the porcupine under the tenthouse. Next morning going to work, I carried the porcupine down to the camp to show the boys, for many, this was their first sight of a porcupine. They wanted to get some quills for souveniers. I showed them how to remove the quills by tapping the back of the porcupine gently with their caps. The first cap came off with about 6 or 8 quills. After everybody made their rounds of hitting the porcupine with their cap, the poor porcupine looked like a picked chicken. The boys spent several minutes trying to get the quills from their hat, not knowing the best way was to push them on through and pull them out from the inside.
I stayed with the program until it folded in 1941. After the CCC's folded, I was picked up on the Forest Service payroll in the Siskiyou National Forest and put to work building chrome roads back in the hills to chrome mines to get out the ore for the war effort. This was an act that kept me out of the draft.
After the war, we built logging roads, timber access roads and maintained the war built chrome roads.
With the influx of surplus Army heavy equipment , I was transferred from the field to the shop to repair and maintain said equipment.
I rose up through the ranks to Fleet Manager, a GS9, with 35 years Civil Service time until retirement at age 65 with 35 years service!
After retirement in 1972, at age 62, the wife and I stayed right where work ended and retirement started. We saw the family grow up, 2 boys and a girl. Both boys are now retired, the daughter is into horse training and teaching students how to ride.
My best memories were the times I spent training the enrollees. To see new rookies lace on calk boots (cork boots now) and walk backwards to see the tracks they made. I look back and see the material come into camp and go out six months later a completely different type of person. It's too bad the 'TREE ARMY' has to fade away so fast, it was one of the great things to come out of the depression along with safe banks, rural electricity, and social security.
Would like to hear from anyone about CCC camps in Southwest Oregon. Pictures, Stories, Etc..
----- Ralph A. "Sparky" Reeves
C/0 T N PINE@aol.com
Charlie Griffin, Leader, Camp Rand, Galice, Oregon & Diamond Lake, Oregon, Siskiyou National Forest
The Dequilled Porcupine, Story from Ralph A. "Sparky" Reeves
Who Done It?, Story from Ralph A. "Sparky" Reeves (contained above in full)
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