Biography of Armond C. Allbritton

Enrollee, CCC Company, Warrenton, Oregon

A FARM BOY'S ODYSSEY

BY

ARMOND C. "BRITT" ALLBRITTON

     Odyssey is described as an ancient poem about the wanderings of Odysseus during the ten years after the fall of Troy. My odyssey is not written as a poem, nor did it last that long, but it sure seemed as far. It began in May, 1938 not too long after I had applied to join the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, as it was known. When I received my acceptance, things began moving! I reported to the designated location in Cullman, AL in the early AM, then I went on to Birmingham where I boarded a train that was the beginning of a troop train. We had not been told what our final destination would be, but we were off to Chicago by way of Nashville and Louisville. Fortunately my neighbor and buddy, Warren Denny was also going, so we were really excited about this upcoming trip, no matter where it was scheduled to go.

     In Chicago a full-blown troop train was assembled, with nineteen Pullman cars, a kitchen car and a big steam engine. We really enjoyed watching all the activity, since it was so different to our environment around the Fairview community where we lived. There were three persons of authority aboard the train. An Army Lt. a Buck Sgt and an Army cook. The cooking or kitchen car was jury-rigged from an old baggage car. The Army had built with brick and mortar, a large stove that burned coke. It would support the 20 gal. Cooking pots on the cooking surface of the stove. The pots had wood lids that were undersize for the top, which allowed them to go into the pot and float on the surface of the liquid being cooked. For the most part the liquid would not slosh out, even on this rough ride it was taking. This rigging needed to be watched if you were near the fire or the pots. Several of the boys (all either 15 or 16 years old) were assigned to assist the cook for each meal.

     THE ODYSSEY BEGAN! That train loaded to capacity with young men from Alabama and SW Georgia headed north to Madison and Eau Claire, in Wisconsin; to Minneapolis, St Cloud, and Moorhead, in Minnesota; Fargo, Jamestown, Bismarck, and Dickinson, in North Dakota! The further we got from Alabama, the faster the train seemed to go. Although I was enjoying the scenery, I began feeling very lonely. I had nothing to compare with this trip, that moving day and night at fantastic speed, always going away from the people I knew, and away from home. I also reasoned that it would take as long to come back as it did to go away! How many days have I been going west? AND before that, north to Chicago? Occasionally I would see a boy that was hurting more than me. I would notice tears roll down his cheeks as he looked out the window.

     We passed the days looking out the windows at the fantastic scenery, the likes of which we had never seen, or at least I hadn't. I really hated to see night come, for the train kept rolling and I knew I had to be missing a lot more of the beautiful view. If things began to be boring, there was always someone ready to lead us in group singing of western ballads and popular music of the day. I finally got sick and tired of singing "You are my sunshine"! And of course, there were always some of the guy's playing cards.

     After the train got into North Dakota and Montana, we began to see real live working cowboys! That was a real treat for us ole' Southern boys! It took longer to cross Montana than any of the other states. Our route was through Glendive, Miles City, Billings, Bozeman, Butte, and Missoula. At Billings the engines on our troop train had been switched from 4-wheel drive, to 6-wheel drive, that was monsters and we were wondering where we were headed to have a need for engines of that size! But it wasn't long before we found out, when we started up this very high mountain. Even with those big engines huffing and puffing they just could not get enough momentum to get over the top, so the engineer backed slowly down the mountain to the valley and about 5 miles further back when we were off the incline. By the time he started up the incline again he had enough speed that there was no longer a problem of getting over the top of that one or any others that we came to. We crossed the continental divide at Pipestone Pass as we neared Butte, Montana. I viewed the mountain scenes and thought back on why I was here. A Rascoe boy, (my Aunt Lucille's brother) had been in CCC several years earlier. He served in Idaho, as I said before, and told interesting stories of their group building electric transmission lines to electrify Idaho with power from dams in the Pacific Northwest.

     My brother Alton was stationed at Hood River, Oregon and worked on Mt.Hood. The pictures he sent home really hooked me. Now I am here! The homesickness subsided. From Missoula, we continued west to Kellogg and Coeur d' Alene, Idaho and Spokane, Washington. At Spokane the troop-train was disassembled. We were ordered to stay in our assigned car until this was completed. I ended up in a two-car unit that was taken to another part of the staging yard. Soon we were connected to the rear of a passenger train, and were again on our way. We came to Pasco, then Kennewick, Washington. We then followed the north bank of the Columbia River to Vancouver and Longview where we crossed the Columbia into Oregon and continued to follow the river to Astoria. There our two cars were sidetracked and we were told to gather our belongings and board the back of trucks (with benches to sit on) for our journey to Warrenton, Oregon, our destination. As we were crossing a high bridge approaching Warrenton, we saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time. What a thrill! We would see much more of the blue Pacific in the months ahead, since most of our time would be spent working on the beach planting Holland Grass to stop the beach erosion. During the summer months we would occasionally have to drop what we were doing and go fight forest fires. This was one of the most interesting and exciting times of my life. Now I can go to Fort Stevens State Park or Fort Clatsop National Monument and look at the results of work done by we CCC boys more than 60 years ago! Feels Good!

----- Britt Allbritton

         brittmin@gulftel.com

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