Biography of Frank J. Schmalz
Senior Leader, Company 765, Camps near Boyes, Montana, Ekalaka, Montana and Mohall, North Dakota
In June 1938 shortly after graduating from High School in North Dakota, and with employment opportunities limited I applied for and was accepted by the Civilian Conservation Corps. I was assigned to Company 765, located at Mohall, N.D. This group or camp had previous to Mohall been located in Minnesota. The Commanding Officer was Lt. Fredeen. Mohall had us located at the edge of town. We worked in the field, improving a State Park on the Souris ( also known as Mouse ) River. I am unable to indicate what National Department we were employed under.
We remained there in Mohall until late that autumn when we were directed to move camp, personnel, equipment - everything, even the flag pole! This was accomplished by using a series of connecting railroads as transportation to Miles City, Montana. Our location destination was in Powder River County Montana. The actual location of the pre-erected buildings to serve as our "camp" was three miles slightly Northeast of Boyes, Montana, which was our mailing address. And to which we moved with transportation provided by our trucks. I believe we were assigned to work under the Department of Interior to improve range conditions in that area. Lt. Fredeen was the Commanding Officer with a Subaltern named Heitman. These officers together with Doctor Swanson, and an Educational Advisor, named Holmes, provided for our needs. In addition there was a slate of field officers to supervise the enlistees field work. I am unable to recall first names and therefore will use surnames where necessary. This group consisted of Mr. Nichols, Superintendent, Col. Locke, Civil Engineer, Mr Cauley, Equipment Maintenance, and Field Foremen Cashius Lantis, Charles Hahnkamp, James Speelman, Robert Noonan and Mr. Miller.
Assisting the Army Officers and Field Officers, some enlistees were able to attain the grade of Assistant Leader ( $36.00/month ), Leader ( $45.00 /month ) or serve just as an Enlistee who received $30.00 per month. $5.00 was retained by him and $25.00 was returned to his parents. At the time the funds sent home were well received due to the depression. Retention amounts increased in accordance with grade status. Clothing, Room and Board, Medical and Educational Services were provided and available to all enlistees alike. There was a limited number of Leader and Assistant Leader positions available.
The majority of enlistees were engaged in field work ( mostly in the construction of earthen type stockwater dams ) under the supervision of company Leaders and Field Foremen. Transportation was by trucks to and from the various field locations. Hot meals were provided and taken to the field for noon time meals. The actual work was mostly by 'back and hand', 'shovel and foot-tamp' and sometimes assisted by machinery such as light, track laying, gasoline fired tractor.
Recreation consisted of trips to Broadus the County Seat, perhaps weekly and supervised by an attending officer of either the Army or Field division. Dances, roller-skating and girl-chasing were thus accomplished. My favorite person was Cashious Landis a field forman. Mr. Landis owned a 1937 model Chevrolet 4-door in the year of 1938. He lived near by in Boyes and I had free use of his automobile to go 'girling!' I might interject here that I met, courted and won my beloved wife Nina in Broadus. We have blessedly spent over fifty-five years together in blissful marriage. Baseball, football, track, skating, hiking, boxing, basketball and other types of sports were offered. Competition was inter-mural and with other CCC personnel located in the adjacent area of the Black Hills of South Dakota and local sport teams as located nearby.
The group of two hundred enlistees were quartered in barracks of about fifty men each, headed by an Assistant Leader. Heat was provided with a pot-bellied coal and wood furnace. The same being attended by a 'night-guard' while the men slept.
Each man in the barracks had a bed and a footlocker. Foot lockers were a necessity and usually placed at the 'foot' of the bed. Served as a 'strongbox', storage etc. Usually purchased separately by enrollee as his own personal property, usually available for purchase from local canteen. Many were hand-downs from siblings, or purchased new. A place to safely keep valuables, albums, clothing etc. I retained mine, (hand me down from an elder sibling) and have it to this date. Usually in the form of a small trunk they were metal clad. Seldom was it heard of that items so stored enticed others to steal. I never did hear of anyone losing personal items out of the 'foot locker'!!
The Latrine, a separate building, provided facilities for showers and other toiletry requirements. We did our own laundry by hand. Plenty of hot water for shaving, group (open) shower bathing. Also the location for urnials and toilets. Latrine was a seperate building centrally located to all barracks and used by the population housed in the several barracks. Late in day use of Latrine was facilitated with well lighted accomodations. Night time desire for water was usually provided with a thermos bottle or trip to the latrine. We had well water for use, heated in the Latrine and attended during the night time by enrollees serving as 'night guards.'
A two-bed hospital, under the Doctor's and 'Hospital Orderly' ( an enlistee ) provided medical attention.
There also was a 'Rec Hall' wherein we attended voluntary educational classes, played Pool or made personal purchases at the 'Canteen'. We also had movies weekly. A News letter was published monthly. We had sing alongs and music by talented individuals. The educational claases were Good and attentive offer of classes by qualified personnel. Myself, I took up surveying, mathematics and modern bookkeeping.
The food was plentiful, nutritious and appetizing, prepared by a capable cooking crew. Favorite meal - Sunday breakfast of fresh baked sweet rolls, fruit and coffee. Heading the crew was a Mess Stewart who suprvised four cooks, a baker and baker's helper. Other kitchen help, referred to as 'KP' (kitchen police) duty was by selected designation on a daily basis from among the enlistees. The meals were prepared and served in the Mess Hall. The Army and Field Supervisors partook of the same menu in a dining area attached to but separate from the main Mess Hall. They were assessed for the cost of their meals.
I will report here that Army supervisors were part of the U.S. Army and subject to transfers and replacements. Lt. Fredeen was replaced by Lt. Hopper ( who gave up his life later on the Bataan Death march !) and he in turn by Lt. Sillers. Dr. Swanson was replaced by Dr. Florio and he by Dr. Fitzgibbons. The Field crew stayed pretty much intact. A subsequent replacement for Mr. Holmes was Mr. Chester Frojen. These changes occurred during my tenure, and are not mean't to be complete for the entire tenure of the Company at Boyes.
Being subject to Army regulations the Company underwent periodic 'Inspections' by officers who out-ranked those in our company Command. About once a month either a Major or Captain of the regular Army visited us on inspection ('grilled' is a more likely description). Inspections were mostly confined to physical aspects of camp. Unannounced the inspectors might appear on scene-at any time. Personnel was not involved, the inspection was slanted more toward administration, cleanliness, bookkeeping, records etc. Adherence to regulation, safety, cleanliness, proper use of physical facilities, use of man-power, food and so on, all were part of the inspection of the officers who came from Fort Lincoln in North Dakota or Fort Meade, South Dakota. Captain Kocitak and Major Bakken are in my recollection. Tough, critical and unrelenting, - they were thorough!! Kocitak was my least favorite person, due to his tough inspections or operations and conditions at Boyes. Capt. Kocitak ( pronounced 'kow see tack) was a proficient, no nonsense but fair inspector. Commented on your accomplishments whether good or bad. Admonished to improve status, bragged on good work. Unrelenting, thorough and impartial.
Communication was by Morse-Code radio, operated by an enlistee, to and from the two Forts.
We gathered on the grounds daily, in the early AM for calisthenics and flag raising. We wore field dress uniforms and were led by 'leaders' in calisthenics at 'color raising'. This was prior to breakfast. No special clothing issued or used. We met again in late afternoon to lower colors. We had mail call daily.
We had opportunity to participate in many sports, baseball, basketball,boxing, football, hockey, track, ping-pong, pool, etc. In town sometimes we were jibed at and reminded that we were on the dole with Government assistence, i.e. clothing, food, shelter, education. This was emphasized at times by locals when we outclassed their athletic teams.
There were opportunities to earn 'extra money' and I was fortunate enough to be selected as a 'Dog Robber' ( a more refined title was 'Orderly') to the Foreman group. A second similar position served the Army command group. These two groups were housed in separate buildings and were separated by group. My duties consisted of regular house-keeping duties such as making beds, sweeping, mopping, dusting. The Foremen willingly paid the Orderly a dollar extra per month for good services provided. Part of the Robber's duties entailed being 'waiters' at the dining table at meal time. I further was fortunate to pick up some extra cash by providing 'ironing services' in conjunction. Later, after I became a Leader, the opportunity to earn extra cash was greatly enhanced!! Many an enlistee ran out of money before the monthly payday arrived. They would approach me for a 'loan', usually $1.00 or $2.00. And at payday repay the loan, at a usury interest fee of 25% !! ($1.25 per $1.00 loan). I never lost a dime in those transactions!!
I have been told Leaders and Assistant Leaders had stripes for rank in other companies at some time in the CCCs. We did not receive issue of them nor wear them in my company when I was there.
A position of Supply Steward existed and required the occupant to account for all valuable property of the Company, such as beds and furniture, bedding and tools, linen and special clothing. This was a Leader-designated position and included ordering and issuing clothing replacements to the enlistees on a quarterly basis. I was found capable and worthy and received appointment to this position when the incumbent was 'discharged'. In the 'Inspections' each area or position was a part-of-the-whole. The final 'rating' was an accumulation of the many, reflecting the total. Superior, Very Good, Good and Satisfactory were ratings given accordingly. I managed to attain and successfully receive a Superior rating in my position and storeroom display as Supply Steward! Each and every time without exception!!
In our company it was a practice to issue from Supply certain items gratis to the newly enlisted person. This consisted mainly of a 'tolitery' kit, containing, razor, shaving cream, tooth brush, tooth paste, comb, hand soap, towels (bath and hand) etc. in 'KIT' form. This was a one-time-only issue, replacements of items contained therein were the responsibility and at the cost to the enlistee.
Lt. Hopper was in Command, in the second year of my tenure, when we received and followed orders to move the equipment and men to the Ekalaka, Montana area. We spent the summer there so occupied. And I was fortunate enough to favorably impress Lt. Hopper who then appointed me to the position of Senior Leader. This position was that of the 'right-hand' administrator to the Commander, carrying out his commands and directives. It also involved, among various other administrative duties, that of preparing a daily log ( diary or account ) of the activity of the company in camp and field, duties, and illness, food and services - the whole shebang!! This was the highest ranking position attainable by an enlistee.
We returned to Boyes that fall and I retained and worked in the position, (more commonly referred to as 'Top Kick') for the remainder of my tenure which ended in June 1941. Although enlistment was limited to two years, at the discretion of the Commanding Officer, an 'essential enlistee' was sometimes allowed a longer tenure. I was.
Leaving the Corps was once more, like leaving home. But it was not tramatic when I left the CCCs as I found good paying employment in Wisconsin.
At present the former camp site at Boyes has been made into a home, using the water and sewer system. The Ekalaka site is pretty much a place where events take place, such as 4H, ag meetings, youth camps etc. We had wooden barracks at Mohall and in Montana. They were taken away after the CCC ended.
We were of a generation who were appreciative of 'little things'! The event of World War Two was the termination of the Corps. However, we respected authority (still do) and were delighted to have the opportunity to 'learn and earn'. I have often heard the comment about the Corps being a 'Character Builder', - and that indeed it was. We were of a different era and a different generation. If a similar offering of opportunity were offered to the youth of today, it would be ridiculed with disdain!! Modern youth is of different viewpoint when it comes to respecting authority and its necessity. We experienced few if any bad influences that seem so prevalent today!!
----- Frank J. Schmalz
Miles City, Montana
BACK TO JAMES F. JUSTIN CCC MUSEUM, BIOGRAPHIES
BACK TO JUSTIN ORAL HISTORY ARMY BIOGRAPHIES HISTORY PAGE
Please Share your Stories! E-mail the Curator to share or discuss or with any questions!