Biography of Joseph J. Vinopal, Sr.
CCC Man, Company 2619, Camp Boot Lake, Townsend, Wisconsin
I was just one of many Barron County "boys" who served in the CCC. I entered the corps on July 17, 1934 at the age of 20 and remained until the end of July 1937. The corps gave us a lot of character that would be useful in later life.
I left for the CCC with a group of about 75 other men from Barron County, traveling by train to Ft. Sheridan, Illinois for military-like training. The contingent from Barron County was combined with another group from Rock County in Wisconsin to form the 2619th Company of the CCC. The company trained at Ft. Sheridan from July 18, 1934 until Sept. 5, 1934 when we left for our permanent camp at Townsend, Wis., in Oconto County in an area that is now part of the Nicolet National Forest. Camp Boot Lake became home.
When we arrived at the "Camp", there was actually no camp in existence. Work immediately began moving equipment and pitching tents. We lived in tents for about a month until we completed construction of their barracks.
The Army was responsible for feeding, clothing and disciplining the men and that the Forestry Service supervised the actual work. The discipline was a new thing to many of the boys. Troublemakers were discharged after two incidents but if your family was counting on that $25 you shaped up in a hurry.
In addition to discipline there was also education. Some of the available courses four our education were Auto Mechanics, Cartooning, Algebra, English, Band, Public Speaking and Trigonometry.
I was canteen steward at the camp Canteen, where the men could buy items with their small pay. We had our own camp paper called the Boot Lake Echo. Rudy Hoff and I used to write a few articles, which sometimes got into our Happy Days paper, which was a national paper. One of my articles reprinted in Happy Days was about our clergyman, Leo J Bartosz, who really did an excellent job providing services to the men. I would serve as an acolyte for the services.
I also served in the Army Air Force for almost five years. But that is a different story.
Its been 65 years since joining the CCC and you do forget many of the details but at my age of 85 years some of the things feel like it only happened yesterday. I do hear from a few of the guys now and then especially at Christmas time but sad to say there are so many that have gone to their reward.
We had good times and bad times in the CCC, lots of sad stories told by the boys we were with. Also many funny stories. Rudy Hoff and I renewed our friendship at a reunion at Eagle River and I visited him in Denver and he visited me a few times in Almena. His wife still visits me when she comes to visit her mother who lives in Wisconsin.
I would like to see the CCC started up again. I am sure we would have less prisons and I am sure the cost would also be less and the work would live for many years for people to enjoy as the work we did. Go to any state and you will see some of the things we did are still there for people to enjoy.
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