"Our camp in Delaware was Co. 1295, Camp MC-54, Magnolia DE. Some of the guys would get out of camp and go into town from time to time. There was a barber shop there we could go to and so on. But some would go drinking. There was a guy in town who would sell you moonshine. I didn't get to go into town much myself as all of my money went home to my Dad and he didn't send money back for me to go out on the town. So one particular night when some of the guys went into town and tied one on, I was in camp getting a good nights sleep.
"The next morning it was work as usual, bright and early and on a hot summer day. A Really Hot day, I mean man it was hot. Our work in this camp at the time was digging drainage ditches to drain a swampland. The marsh terrain was this thick marsh grass with root thick wet dirt underneath. We had to dig narrow ditches through this to drain off the marsh for mosquito control to prevent mosquito transmitted diseases. The way this was done was in two man teams. One fellow would have a wide flat cutting shovel with a short handle with a T shaped grip on top. The other would just have a Hook. Once the ditch was started one fellow would stand in the ditch facing the way you want the ditch to go. The other member of the team, the cutter, would stand ontop of where the ditch is going to go facing the other fellow. The cutter would drop his heavy shovel into the marshground about a half foot or so from the fresh edge of the dug ditch and push it in straight down. This would cut the roots and dirt the width of the shovel blade and as deep as the ditch is going to be, only a bit more than a foot or so. The hook man would then hook the roots and begin to flip the whole mess out of the ditch. The cutter then lean back on his shovel handle, flipping the cube of dirt and breaking its contact at the edges with the dirt. Then the hook would lift it up and flip it, or hook it, to one side of the top of the ditch. In this way a fairly sizeable chunk of dirt which otherwise would be hard to dig is cut out and thrown out of the ditch lickety split. You could with two quick movements each dig out over about a foot of ditch. Not that this was easy work, it wasn't. It was a hard back breaking job. And on a blistering hot muggy day like this particular day, it was a real b***buster.
"Well my team mate this fine morning was one of the fellows who had had a wee bit ( add Irish accent here ) the night before. A real toot. And he was feeling every bit of his hangover when we went out to work. Anyone whose had a hangover knows a nice hot muggy day doesn't help one bit, and this was one of the hottest. Well this fella says to me as we are getting ready to start digging that he wants me to take it slow, real slow, so he won't feel bad. The problem with this is that the CCCs were run under pretty strict rules and you were supposed to work hard. If you didn't you would get in trouble. I wasn't about to get into trouble by slacking off for this guy who went out and had a good time last night. If he wanted to work slow, fine, I'd wait for him. But I wasn't going to be the one leaning on my shovel while he was waiting for me.
"I was the cutter this day and I cut the dirt when work starts without putzing around. The hung over hooker flips the bottom right away and without pause I flip the shovel and break the dirt. Well my friend quickly realizes that I am not playing ball with him and, as he flips the dirt out of the ditch, starts cussing me out under his breath. Well I explain to him - as I step back and cut the next part of ditch - that I'm not getting into trouble for him. Now he knows exactly what I am talking about and he doesn't want to get into trouble either. He doesn't want to be seen leaning on his handle while I wait for him either. So he hooks the dirt and I flip and he flips and we start doing our next cut without slowing down. But he is mad, steaming mad. He wants me to slow down so he can. He cusses me out some more and says he's going to clobber me.
"Oh Yeah?! I say to myself. I'll show the S.O.B., cause I am getting mad now too. I cut the next block of dirt hard and fast. I'll show him. Not only am I not going to slow down, I am going to go faster.
"Oh Yeah?! he must have said to himself too, cause he not only didn't rest like he wanted to, he dug faster too.
"Foot by foot we cut dirt the rest of the steaming miserable day, cussing each other like longshoremen and working like bunnies. We almost came to blows. but we went like gangbusters. A team's quota for the day was 100 feet. But by the end of this day my buddy and I had cut over 200 feet of ditch, more than any other team that day! He wanted to kill me. Laugh"
- A recollection of a story told by James Justin to his family
(feet figures are uncertain I recall larger figure as 600 feet but that seems too high, but you get the idea. When I first put this story together I thought the guy in the ditch also had a shovel. My Mom thinks there was a hook used. Well upon finding out that one of the names of the Camp newsletter was With Hook and Spade, I decided she must be right - Curator)
BACK TO JAMES F. JUSTIN CCC BIOGRAPHY
BACK TO JAMES F. JUSTIN CCC MUSEUM, ANECDOTES EXHIBIT
BACK TO JUSTIN ORAL HISTORY MUSEUM, CCC STORIES
Please Share your Stories! E-mail the Curator to share or discuss or with any questions!
This Page and Its Contents Are the Property of John Justin @ Copyright 1998 All Rights Reserved