Yeah, But What About The Food?
I entered the CCCs in 1935 when I was 16, getting away from living in the house where my Father had boarded me while he was on the road working. As that comedian says, I got no respect there. Pearl Mackey had alot of people boarding in her house, working men who needed good food and her children, who rated higher than I did. So whenever there was good food, meat, cooked it would go to the adults, mainly the men. Then what was left would mostly go to her kids. Not that any of us got much, it was the depression and she was a pennypincher anyway. It was so bad that at night we would sneak a flask - a Sneaky Pete kind of bottle - of hot tea up to our rooms to fill the empty spot. And of course if we got caught I would be the one to take the heat as always. On Sundays Pearl Mackey would cook meat for the men and for us kids it would be bean or potato soup. The soup would be watered down so it lasted all week long. If you got a real piece of potato, man that was living! Pretty quick you got sick and tired of potato soup.
Well by the time I got to the CCCs I wasn't too particular about what I ate. Particularly after the razzing that took place at dinner with the guys in the CCCs. People would say anything, the grossest kind of stuff, when the food was served and you were eating to try and make you sick. Calling chipped beef on toast SOS was the mild stuff. People would spit in their coffee to keep people from drinking it, was another mild thing. You pretty quick had to build up a tolerance to bad food and bad manners. Still, what they served at my first camp near Buffalo New York, Co. 1229 Camp SCS-6 Machias NY, was enough to give even my cast iron stomach adjada (sp?).
Apparently how the system worked was that the camp commander would get money allotted to him for the camp budget. This camp commander decided that he would pocket some of it. He supposedly was taking money for himself and buying bad food, literally bad, for the guys in camp with the little that was left rather than using all of it for the good food he was supposed to be getting. Well the result was food that was horrible. The Captain's shenanigans weren't known then, but the food spoke for itself. Everyone got sick of it fast. Some wise guy started a protest. I'm sitting there minding my own business when out of nowhere everyone starts marching through camp shouting about the bad food. Well I hated the food too so I grabbed a pot and ladle and started marching beating them together for noise. We had ourselves a right proper food riot going and I was out front beating the `drum' and leading.
Well the camp commander got out in front of us and climbed up on something. `Wait boys," he said or something like it. We stopped and he started talking us down. He started talking about how much better we had it here than we had it before and how we had good clean uniforms and good barracks. He went on about how good life was for us here, how nice we were treated and paid and how we were good men and so forth. It worked really well. He had everyone calmed down, dumb and happy. He finally stopped, knowing he had won. But I was hungry I guess, cause I called out "Yeah But what about the food!".
All pandemonium broke out once more. I was public enemy number one.
Although, the Captain got his in the end I heard - they caught him and brought him up on chharges eventually - from that moment on I was on the Captain's list. I never got back in good graces at that camp after that. And I got to know all about the food, my next few weekends were spent peeling it instead of going on leave.
- A recollection of a story told by James Justin to his family
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