Biography of Robert Bulchis
CCCMan, Company 937, Camp Easton, Wenatchee National Forest, Lake Cle Elum, Washington & Camp Louella, Sequim, Washington
The Following is a portion of the entire Biography of Mr. Bulchis. If you only wish to see the CCC Portion Click Here or if you only wish to see the Navy Portion Click Here. These will take you to the begining of those stories
CHAPTER 4--ON THE ROAD: DEPRESSION YEARS BEGIN
I know it didn't rain so it must have been a beautiful June morning when I left Minersville bound for the Poconos. I remember nothing of my hitchhiking trip, but once in Stroudsburg I was faced with the impracticality of getting myself a caddy job. I knew nothing about the area and hadn't the slightest idea where to go looking for such a job. So I decided then that instead of going back home I would head for Philadelphia to see my sister Betty before departing for parts unknown. I didn't linger in Stroudsburg but started hitchhiking south even though it was already quite late in the afternoon. All I remember about the trip is that I slept that night on a swing on somebody's front porch somewhere between Stroudsburg and Easton.
When I arrived in Philadelphia I was warmly welcomed not only by Betty but by the Justice family as well. Joe and Eleanor Justice, the parents, had two sons, Joseph and Edward, both not yet teenagers, the latter destined to be a seven footer. I was persuaded to stay with Betty on the premise that I might get a job in some restaurant. Betty tried hard to get me a job as a busboy without success. After several weeks I got tired of sponging on her and decided to take off and go West.
While Betty was at work one day I picked the lock on a little cedar box in which she kept her valuables, took out a tenspot, went to a store to change it for two fives, took one and put the other back in the box. Then I raided the Justice larder and grabbed a pound package of bacon for emergency rations. I left a note for Betty apologizing for my misdeeds and explaining my departure. Much later when I next heard from her she gave me the devil for taking so little.
On the highway toward Media one of the first rides I got was from a very pleasant guy who somehow drifted onto the subject of homosexuality. Before I realized what was happening I was being propositioned. My negative reply was accepted without rancor and he did drive me a considerable distance afterwards. Coincidentally, I had another similar experience later that summer out of Boise, Idaho, the only times I was ever so approached. The second guy drove a long ways out in the sagebrush hills before making his pitch. When he discovered he was unsuccessful he immediately said that was as far as he was going, that he had to turn off there --an obvious wagon trail into the sagebrush going nowhere. I walked ahead a bit down the highway and turned around just in time to see him back out to the highway and head back to Boise. His sole purpose for being out on the highway was to seek likely victims.
That first day out of Philadelphia I ran across two guys who were also hitchhiking, young fellows like myself. We stayed together long enough to build a fire and roast the bacon strips on thin branches for our lunch. It didn't take the whole pound long to disappear.
Most of the rest of my hitchhike through Pennsylvania along U. S. Highway 30, the Lincoln Highway, one of the main East-West highways in those days, apparently was not very eventful. I can't even remember where I slept or what I ate along the way. One evening, while still on the road at twilight in the Allegheny Mts. near Bedford, I heard the distinct call of a whippoorwill repeatedly coming from the brush near where I stood waiting for a ride. This is the only time in my life that I ever heard that bird's call.
Several days after leaving Philadelphia I arrived in Akron, Ohio where I was warmly greeted by my mother's Aunt Petronele Kubilus and her family. Akron was a major tire manufacturing center which had provided jobs for the two oldest boys, Bill and Connie. Bill had recently invested in a semi-trailer and as an independent operator was delivering tires to various cities in the East and South. And so it was that after being with the Kubilus family a short time, Pete, the middle son who was my age, and I accompanied Bill on a delivery to New York City, my first trip to that city.
The trip to New York City was relatively uneventful. We delivered and unloaded the tires somewhere in the Broadway theatre district, then went into a small restaurant for lunch. While we were there a number of chorus girls came in for lunch still in their scanty costumes. Unaccustomed to such sights, the eyes of us two teenagers almost popped.
After lunch we went to a plant near the docks where we helped load the trailer with large cubes of crude rubber, very awkward and heavy to handle. We had no problem as we traveled back toward Akron until we hit the Allegheny Mts. near Kittanning where we were forced to make a detour. We were unable to make it up a steep hill on this detour and the motor of the truck started to act up. Bill had to call for help. After a long wait another semi appeared and we transferred a good part of our load before we were again able to proceed on our way to Akron. Though Bill made other trips while I stayed with the Kubilus family, one that I particularly remember through the Great Smoky Mts. in the South, he didn't take either Pete or me along. I guess Pete and I did too much horsing around on the New York trip. I remember fantasizing afterwards that I too would become a truck driver like Bill with a rig of my own. In my fantasy, however, I was not satisfied with just one trailer back of my semi, but I visualized myself barreling down Third Street in Minersville pulling three trailers like a freight train never giving thought to how I might make the turn down that slope onto Sunbury Street.
I must have stayed with the Kukbilus' about a month. Aunt Petronele never gave any indication of concern about my lengthy stay--she was much too kind--but by this time I felt I had sponged on the family long enough so I continued my trip westward.
Hitchhiking once more, I finally reached Chicago where I was dismayed to find that my Uncle Andy was not home. I learned that he was visiting friends on a farm outside the city so I decided to see him there. I found the farm only to discover that our paths had crossed as my uncle had returned to Chicago. His friends gave me quite a dinner and put me up for the night. I remember what a beautiful sunshiny morning it was the next day when I got up and it felt so good to hear all the pleasant barnyard sounds coming in through the open bedroom window. After a hearty breakfast I headed back to Chicago and this time found my uncle home. I visited with him a few days before taking off again. Betty recently showed me an old penny post card I had sent her in which I told her Uncle Andy tried to dissuade me from continuing my trip west, but when I left he gave me ten dollars. I recall that while I was with Uncle Andy somehow I had managed to get to the Worlds Fair then in progress and got to see Sally Rand and her famous bubble dance.
It was sometime in August when I left Chicago. When I reached the Iowa-Illinois border I saw the last of the paved highway. From then on it was all dusty gravel roads except for some streets in the larger cities. I don't remember anything about the rides I got, where I slept, what I ate, or what I saw until after I left Denver, Colorado. Leaving Golden, just west of Denver, the highway switchbacked up the mountain, the first switchback of a number that I was to encounter in the western states on this trip. Getting tired of waiting for a ride, I took a shortcut walking up a trail through a ravine which paralleled the switchbacks. Somewhere on the top of this mountain is where Buffalo Bill, then my favorite western character, is buried. But I didn't get to see his grave when I got to the top nor have I ever come close to it since then.
Hitchhiking westward through the mountains I came across a ranger station of the U. S. Forest Service and tried to get a job without any luck. Approaching Idaho Springs I remember how impressed I was with my first look at the type of rocky terrain which gave the Rocky Mts. their name--a deep canyon with sheer rock cliff formations all around down which the highway somehow made its way. Then it was up and over Berthoud Pass, over 11,000 feet high, the crest of the Rockies and a new record height for me. On the far side I enjoyed the ride down through a beautiful coniferous forest such as I had never seen before. In Granby I spent a night in some kind of dorm or bunkhouse with a number of other persons. Gathered together as we were, I found it to be a uniquely interesting story telling evening. I remember laughing so hard and long that the back of my head hurt. Then the next day it was over 9,000 foot Rabbit Ears Pass and eventually into Utah.
The roads in the Utah deserts were very dusty with rattlesnakes frequently sunning themselves in the thick dust. In fact, the roadway was littered with dead rattlesnakes run over by passing cars. As we approached Salt Lake City we dropped down to the valley at twilight through a widening canyon until the city lights were glittering off in the distance below us. It was a spectacular sight for me. I don't recall where I slept that night but the next day I had a look at the Morman Temple--only from the outside, of course. Somehow about this time I got acquainted with another fellow, a bit older and more experienced than me, who suggested that we get a job herding sheep describing the life in enthusiastic terms. It sounded interesting but I hadn't the slightest notion of how we would have gone about getting such work and nothing along those lines materialized. We parted and I headed northwestward through Idaho.
I previously mentioned my experience with a homo out of Boise. Continuing my hitchhiking past Payette, I stumbled upon a recreational cabin one day as night approached. I broke into it and spent the night sleeping on a mattress on one of the cots inside. Feeling remorseful at my misdeed, before I departed the next morning I scribbled an apology on the medicine chest mirror with a piece of soap I found there. When I reached McCall I stopped at the ranger station and again asked about work but there was nothing there for me. Continuing north I was awed by more than eleven miles of switchbacks as we approached Grangeville. I understand that these have now been bypassed by a new highway coursing northward through Idaho.
I don't remember anything about my trip beyond that point but one day, possibly about the first of September, I found myself in Wenatchee, Washington. Early one day soon after my arrival I got acquainted with three young fellows traveling together who were also looking for work. That afternoon I ran across them again in town. They told me they had found one job picking apples but declined it because they wanted three jobs working together. After getting from them detailed information on how to find the orchard, I quickly scooted out there and, lo and behold, I had a job picking apples.
It was a small orchard in the Sunnyside area, a few miles to the north of Wenatchee shortly after US Highway 2 branches off from 97 going west toward Cashmere. The orchard was in the bottomland bordering the Wenatchee River a few miles before it empties into the Columbia River. There were only two of us picking apples for the owner who lived in a house nearby. The other picker, an older fellow, had worked there before and was living in a large tent which had a wooden floor and more than the usual amenities found in a tent. I was to live there with him. We slept together in the one big double bed and cooked our meals together. One night he must have thought I was going nuts. I got a bad cramp in the calf of one of my legs and suddenly stood up pressing hard on the bed as I tried to get rid of the cramp.
We were paid five cents a box for picking the apples. As I became more proficient I was able to pick more than 100 boxes on some days. The more than five dollars I earned on these days must have looked like a fortune to me then. I remember getting careless one day when I picked a bunch of apples with the stems pulled out. My partner had to sort through those boxes to take out those without stems and I was docked for that amount of apples.
It was a rather leisurely existence. We had no one pushing us and the only drive came from within ourselves to pick as much as we could each day. We did give ourselves time for some recreational pursuits. I took advantage of this on some days to wander up the grassy slopes of the hills into the Ponderosa pine forests at the middle elevations. My partner had a rifle which I borrowed. One day fooling around I took aim at a bird in a treetop and downed it. Then I felt very bad having killed such a beautiful bird.
One night my partner wanted to have a tryst in the tent with his girl friend so he gave me room rent to spend a night in town in one of its flophouses. He offered to set me up with the woman's younger sister but I declined. I remember splurging with my first pay by going into Wenatchee to the J. C. Penny store and buying a brand new pair of navy blue corduroy knickers, an acquisition that made me feel good at that time. Having to rely on myself, I managed to make do with the meager supply of clothes that I had by frequently doing a rough mending or darning job. As my vagabonding continued, in subsequent years I became rather proficient with needle and thread.
While picking apples in Wenatchee I received a letter from Congressman Brumm, a Minersville resident whose home was about four blocks from ours, offering me the possibility of being an alternate for appointment to the U. S. Naval Academy in Annapolis. I replied that I was interested and described my working circumstances. When I heard from him again he told me that there would be plenty of time for me to finish my job and get back to Minersville to receive the consideration he offered.
And so the time came when apple picking ended during the latter part of October. When my boss paid me off he gave me forty silver dollars which were so heavy my corduroy knickers almost fell off when I put the coins in my pocket. With the prospects of possibly getting an appointment to the Naval Academy, I decided that it was time for me to head for home, this time riding the rods on the Great Northern Railroad. Before leaving I traded in my silver dollars for paper bills so it would not be so obvious that I had that money.
This was to be my first professional experience, one might say, at riding the rods. I was strictly an amateur when I ran away from home two years earlier. During the next six months, as it turned out, I was to learn much from experienced travelers about the hobo way of life. On this first trip I learned how friendly the railroad workers were in the North. They facilitated our travel repeatedly by advising us when freight trains were due bound for specific locations, where the trains might best be boarded, etc. I remember even sleeping one night in a roundhouse on a bed of sand being heated for braking use by the locomotives. This was so different from what I was to discover within a matter of months in the Southwest.
I was a bit scared of taking this trip so late in the year with possible early winter storms throughout the mountain area to be traversed. As it turned out, I was fortunate in having fine weather throughout the trip and it was reasonably comfortable traveling in the box cars despite rather cold temperatures at night. I remember enjoying the beautiful mountain scenery as we skirted the southern boundary of Glacier National Park.
I recall just one sorry event on this trip. I had become quite friendly with an older man who sort of took me under his wing before we hit the Glacier Park area. The train stopped for a brief period just short of the Park, probably at West Glacier. The man decided to go into town for something and asked me to look after his bag and bedroll. Unfortunately the train left before he could return and I had uneasy visions of him stranded that cold night without his bedroll. At the train's next stop, I believe it was at Browning, I went to the police station and dropped off the man's belongings hoping that he might come by on the next freight train.
The rest of the train ride to Minneapolis was relatively uneventful. I switched to hitchhiking there, stopped briefly in Chicago to visit my Uncle Andy, then headed for home. I remember sleeping one night in a town jail either in Indiana or Ohio. In Indiana I got a ride from a couple who had just bought a piglet which they planned to roast whole for some special event. I also stopped briefly again at the Kubilus house in Akron and then, finally, I was back in Minersville.
Back in Minersville I stayed with my brother Ed in his hotel room rather in the house on North St. I believe Ed was working on a railroad track gang at this time, six days a week, making three dollars a day.
Congressman Brumm arranged for me to have a physical exam at the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard. I hitchhiked to the city and stayed briefly with Betty while there. I was sorely disappointed when I learned that I did not meet the physical requirements for appointment to Annapolis. The requirements were much more stringent then than now--there was an overabundance of candidates--and I did not meet the requirement for having four sets of opposite molars in good condition. My sole visits to a dentist prior to that time had been for the purpose of having teeth pulled--hence the missing molars. However, I did learn that I was not completely eliminated; I had a chance for further consideration if my wisdom teeth, not yet grown out, were in good shape. So, returning to Minersville I saw Dr. Palousky, a fellow Lithuanian and father of my classmate Alvin Palousky, who x-rayed my wisdom teeth. He then told me that they were in crooked and that some day I would have to get them pulled. As it turned out, they were pulled in l940. While in the doctor's office he filled all my cavities, all on credit, probably figuring he would never be paid considering my circumstances. Ed told me the Doc was very much surprised and pleased when several years later he received full payment from me while I was still out West.
With the Naval Academy now out of the picture, I was faced with the problem of what to do next. I lingered with Ed for about three months, past my seventeenth birthday, but I can't recall anything of what I did during that period. Certainly I saw my mother and sisters from time to time, but the nature and frequency of any contact with my stepfather remains a complete blank. Somehow during that time I got together with Cherry Sobolesky, one of my classmates, and we decided to take off together. Cherry was one of our star athletes, starring in baseball, pole vaulting, and especially in football where he had been a first string end.
I can't forget the day we left Minersville. It was the middle of February, l932. There was a high cloud cover, no snow, but a bitterly raw wind was blowing from the north making it extremely uncomfortable as we waited repeatedly alongside the road hitchhiking. For some reason we had Miami, Florida as our destination. Perhaps the knowledge that we were heading South made the cold somewhat more bearable. And it did get warmer as we gradually made our way southward. We were fortunate in being able to spend our first night with Betty in Philadelphia and even more fortunate immediately afterwards in having enough money to enable us to sleep indoors somewhere the first few nights.
In North Carolina one of our benefactors took us home for a meal after giving us a ride for a considerable distance. I must have seemed a bit wolfish gobbling down the tasty home canned fruit his wife served us while disdaining the collards served with the main course. From somewhere in South Carolina I sent Betty a postcard telling her we had had some bad luck, that we had been stranded the previous night and that our bad luck had continued that day. But we were glad to report to her that it had finally warmed up so as to be like summer with trees in leaf, flowers in bloom, and birds singing everywhere.
We were in Charleston, South Carolina, one day when it poured all day long. We were in a department store there when we decided to take a drink from a fountain. After satisfying our thirst we looked up to see a couple of colored boys staring at us with grins on their faces. Then it was that we saw the sign over the fountain which read "Colored Only". Somewhere along the way we passed a hitchhiker who wore a sign on his back reading "Don't pick me up. I voted for Hoover." reflecting a common belief at that time that President Hoover was the cause of much of the misery associated with the depression. We finally reached Florida and detoured to Daytona Beach to see the Atlantic Ocean. This was my first view of that Ocean and, as it turned out, I was also due to see the Pacific Ocean for the first time on this trip. It was a fortunate detour. Relaxing on a sand dune we had a grandstand seat as we watched Sir Malcolm Campbell break the world speed record for automobile vehicles on the tightly packed sands of Daytona Beach.
We didn't know it at the time, but a doctor in Minersville, a sports fan familiar with Cherry's athletic prowess, had arranged for us to get jobs as busboys once we reached Miami, our original destination. For some reason, while we were in Daytona Beach we decided to go out West. So we reversed our course and hitchhiked first north, then west to Tallahassee. It was at Tallahasee that we decided to change from hitchhiking to riding the rods.
I use the term riding the rods in the general sense of riding freight trains. The term, initially at least, often literally referred to the use of supporting rods under older railroad cars as a precarious perch while a train was in transit. I have never seen anyone actually ride there, but have seen such rides depicted a number of times in movies. Actually, an empty box car was the preferred place to ride, but often the tops of box cars and empty flat cars were used, especially during nice weather. One other place with dangerous potential, which I used occasionally, was the reefer. Reefers are compartments at either end of refrigerator cars reached via trap doors on the top through which ice was placed to refrigerate products enroute. Of course, we used the reefers only when the cars were empty.
This trip, as it progressed, was to be our primary education in riding the rods. We learned where to ride, where to catch trains, all about the hobo jungles which were present in every freight yard, techniques for getting food, the availability of bed and board in store front missions, etc. This was the Depression Era and, unlike other times when unsavory characters predominated on the trains, a great many of the travelers in the l930's were people like us searching for a location where one might earn a living. Among them often were once successful businessmen and professional people, many of whom were college graduates. The unsavory characters were there, not in such great numbers, but their presence often became known during conversations depicting unusual incidents and escapades. I never met an acknowledged homo on my freight riding trips, but a lot of the conversations I overheard were about the homos who were referred to as fairies, particularly about the situation and incidents in the Los Angeles area involving persons in the motion picture industry. I heard many stories about things that took place in Elysian Park, then a popular fairy hangout, and how the story tellers would prey on fairies in and around Hollywood. I suppose that I was fortunate that I never encountered any violence among those traveling with me at the same time, though that sometimes was the topic of conversation. Perhaps I can consider myself all the more fortunate that throughout all this I remained unscathed since young guys like me were particularly vulnerable to some of the characters encountered.
I remember Pensacola, Florida, our first stop on the freight train after leaving Tallahassee. There the railroad crossed the bay over a long bridge. I remember wading out into that bay where I had learned an oyster bed was located. Picking up some of the oysters I broke the shells on the cement support of the bridge, rinsed the broken shells off in the bay water, and then gobbled down the oysters raw. This was my first taste ever of oysters. Of course I had no idea whether the water in the bay might have been polluted, but I did not suffer any illness afterwards.
The freight train we were on stopped briefly on the outskirts of Mobile, Alabama. There I remember knocking on the back door of a house where I asked the lady for a handout. What I got was a cold mashed potato sandwich. I wasn't hungry enough--yet--to eat it. We reached the New Orleans area in early March, about the time the Lindberg baby was kidnapped. Apparently the train stopped well short of the city. Hitchhiking toward the city we were picked up by someone I remember as the chief of police, but it might have been another police official. He gave us a job for several hours doing some manual work at his recreation home on Lake Ponchartrain. Then he drove us to the edge of the city where we hopped onto a street car. We went to an empty area in the back and sat down. Almost immediately the conductor came back and told us to move forward--we were seated in the area which was reserved for colored people only. For some reason, while in the city I bought some eggs. I remember sitting on the levee watching the mighty Mississippi River flowing by while I picked holes in the ends of the eggs and sucked out the raw contents. One other food I remember buying from time to time along the way was milk which was selling then for ten cents a quart.
Back to the rods, the city I next remember is Beaumont, Texas. We had gotten acquainted with a couple of young fellows like ourselves from Illinois and were walking along a street just about dawn looking for a bakery where we might bum some day old bread. A policeman turned the corner just ahead of us and came in our direction. For some reason the boys from Illinois decided they didn't want to meet the policeman and walked to the other side of the street. He stopped us, called the Illinois boys back over, and off to the hoosegow we all went.
We stayed there all morning with a number of other inmates. In a cell adjoining ours but out of sight were a number of women, mainly prostitutes picked up during the night. There were a number of verbal exchanges continuing throughout the morning, mostly unsuitable for polite ears, between the women and some of the characters in the cell with us. We were released without any charges or admonitions just before lunch--didn't even get a meal throughout our confinement there.
Continuing westward on the Southern Pacific Railroad to San Antonio, Texas, we lingered in one of the missions open to the homeless where I felt deathly sick with some bug I had picked up. During the day I so wanted to lie down but they got me up almost as soon as I did--they wouldn't permit any such comfort there during the daylight hours. Somehow I got over my illness and it was back on the road once more. In Del Rio we encountered the first snow that area had seen in many years. Near El Paso our train stopped out in the middle of nowhere while a swarm of Border Patrolmen searched through all the boxcars looking for Mexican aliens.
In El Paso we had the good fortune to find a storefront mission with its promise of food and a bed for the night. First, however, we had to sit through a religious service in the course of which we were exhorted to come forth and be saved. Something impelled me, perhaps the desire not to endanger the attainment of meal and bed, but I was one of the small number who came forth to the obvious delight of the person conducting the service.
Tucson, Arizona, was a dusty little town in those days unlike the big attractive city it is today. And it is in a dusty setting that I remember it. Our train had stopped briefly just out of town near a corral in which were a number of horses. There a rider raised the dust as he pursued and roped the horses for what purpose I didn't know. Westward from Tucson the railroad passed through some of the hottest and most arid areas of the United States, past Gila Bend and on to Yuma. This was the route, mostly along present day Highway I-8, that Helen and I were to take a number of times much later in life when we wintered trailering in the Southwest.
After a brief stay in the hobo jungle of Yuma, it was time to take off again,. Cherry and a number of guys managed to get into an empty box car. By the time my turn came to clamber aboard the train was going too fast so I ended up grabbing the ladder at the back end of the car and started climbing toward the top. Halfway up I discovered a brakeman on top of the car with a club in his hands who made me jump off. Fortunately I wasn't hurt as the train was not yet going very fast, but if I had tumbled a few more feet when I hit the ground I might have rolled off the end of a bridge and into the Colorado River. I located this spot in later life during my trailer trips and found it to be almost in the shadow of the old Yuma Territorial Prison, now a historical site. It also was not very far from and within sight of the Indian Mission Church where we attended mass during our stays at the Laguna Dam Campground.
So--I hopped the next freight train. There had been talk of Indio in the Imperial Valley of California as the next stopping point but it was night and apparently I was sound asleep as we passed Indio so I missed that possibility of getting together with Cherry again. It was on this train that I remember riding in a reefer for the first time. It was well into the next day when I was startled by a flash of light as the reefer trap door was opened. It was a brakeman again. And so back out of the reefer I had to climb, down the ladder at the end of the boxcar, and again take a tumbling leap with the train traveling at cruising speed this time. I must have been in pretty good shape then as, save for a few bruises, I suffered no ill effects again.
This happened near Redlands, California. Getting up I found that the railroad was passing through an area full of citrus orchards. On one side were what appeared to me to be the biggest oranges I had ever seen. So I just had to sample one. I peeled it quickly and took a bite. The surprise was almost like a shock. Here I was expecting the sweet taste of an orange but instead I got my first taste of a somewhat bitter grapefruit.
Sometimes it meant a long wait, but invariably another freight train came along and soon I was traveling again. I got acquainted with a couple of other young fellows while riding this train. When we reached the outskirts of Los Angeles the train stopped. My companions went on ahead toward the front of the train while I debated what I should do next. Suddenly, looking up I discovered the other guys walking toward me about two hundred feet away in custody of what I regarded as a railroad policeman. I quickly ran across the roadway paralleling the railroad and up another street intersecting at that point. Out of sight of the cop I found a loose board in a fence of an adjoining lot and quickly crawled into the big lot there and waited--and waited--and waited.
Finally I figured that the coast must be clear so I stepped out again. As I debated what to do, I heard the screech of brakes. I looked up to see a car heading down the street toward me with the cop and the two other guys in it. I instinctively scooted across the street in front of the car, hopped over a low railing, and then ran as fast as I could up a grassy hill. As I approached the crest I heard a couple of shots. Almost at the same time I looked down over the top to see a very steep embankment about thirty feet high at the bottom of which stood a gas station. So I turned around and stuck my hands up in the air.
The cop came up to me visibly excited and poked the gun in my ribs. "You little fool", he said, "I wish this damned thing would go off." And I stood there shaking in my shoes hoping it wouldn't. Then he got control of himself and proceeded to give me hell telling me that all he wanted to do was give me a place to to stay for the night. So off to jail we all went. Our clothes made the usual trip through the delouser, a routine I was thoroughly familiar with by that time, and we each got a nice clean comfortable bed for the night. Next morning we got breakfast and then it was off to court. The charges--evading railroad fare. The penalty--thirty days suspended sentence on condition we get out of town. That I did, probably as fast as I could, but at this moment I can't remember how, probably the same way I arrived. In this, my first visit to Los Angeles, I wasn't there long enough to get any lasting impression of what the city was like.
Soon afterwards I found myself in Santa Barbara where I remember boiling my clothes and cleaning up again in the hobo jungle. Here it was that I saw the Pacific Ocean for the first time and had a chance to walk on the beautiful beach there. When it came time to leave, I tried a new way of travel--via a passenger train.
When a passenger train stopped at Santa Barbara after dark I hopped aboard between two cars, one foot on a sleeper, the other on a diner, straddling the space in between. At San Luis Obispo, where my sister Betty's niece, Tina Bailey, now lives, a chemistry professor at the California Polytechnic Institute, I stretched myself tight against the dark end of one of the cars to avoid detection by the conductor who paced on the platform several feet away checking his watch. And so it was that, for nine solid hours through the entire night, I rode through California's Coast Range straddling that space between the two cars. A few times I caught myself dozing off and instinctively grabbed the ladder rails more tightly. We went through a number of tunnels in which the smoke was dense and occasionally showers of water descended on me making the night air seem much colder when we emerged. It was early morning when we reached Palo Alto. Hopping from my precarious position I quickly jumped onto the tender of a commuter train and it was thus that I reached the main passenger station of San Francisco. By this time that cleanup job at Santa Barbara was for naught--I was black again from the many hours of exposure to the soot of the train engines.
I must have been a sight wandering through the passenger station in that condition, but I can't recall where I might have cleaned up or how I got through the city and then on to Sacramento. I managed to find the home of the Visintainer family there. They were close friends of Cherry and had moved from Minersville to Sacramento several years earlier. This is where we hoped to meet again if we got separated along the way. So I waited there several days for Cherry to arrive but finally gave up and took off for the Northwest. Much later when I was again in touch with Cherry I learned that he had arrived the day after I departed.
Realizing I was headed for some mountain country, I bought myself a used blanket at an Army-Navy store. I remember how glad I was having it while sleeping in an empty box car in Dunsmuir near Mt. Shasta in California. A short distance further, while still in the Siskiyou Mts., in Yreka I knocked on a back door and asked for a handout. The lady gave me a task to do in her yard and went back inside her house. She came out soon afterwards with some food which I ate. Included was a bunch of raisins still on the stem, the first time I ever had any that way. I left when I finished eating. After I departed I had second thoughts about having departed so soon. The lady was being kind and brought me the food before I finished my job realizing I was hungry.
I remember nothing more about this trip until I finally reached Seattle, sometime in April of l932. And it was in the Skid Road area where I found the soup kitchen what was to provide me with room and board in a variety of ways for some time to come. I should be more generous to the Volunteers of America in my charitable giving than I have been in the past in memory of what they did for me in that period of my life. I did not know it then, but Seattle was to be my headquarters for the next eight years of my life as I ranged in and out of the city in a variety of activities.
What I have written up to this point about my travels in the South in 1932 is limited by my memory. Apparently I kept my sister Betty informed as I traveled by sending her penny post cards from a number of the cities we traveled through. Betty kept these cards during the ensuing years and during my trip to the East in 1989 gave them to me. I believe it would be interesting to include here a summary of how I described that trip at that time.
From Jacksonville, Florida, on February 25 I informed her that our recent bad luck, whatever it was, was over, but that Florida was no good unless one had plenty of money. Enroute to Pensacola I told her of continued good luck and temperatures so warm at night that we were sleeping out. From New Orleans, on March 2 I told of our work for the Chief of Police, each of us getting $1.50. At that time I said it was tough work, the hardest I ever did, but that I was satisfied even though I felt that we really earned more than we got. From Beaumont, Texas I told her we just got out of jail, being confined from 5:30 AM to 1 PM, but that it was nothing serious. I emphasized how cheaply we were living, citing the cost of milk as only a nickel a quart.
From each of the other points in Texas I kept emphasizing the continuing unexpectedly cold weather. From San Antonio, on March 9 I told of how cold it was riding the freight train, stating that it took me hours to get the chill out of me. Perhaps that was why I was sick there. I also told Betty how cheap a person can eat at the Mexican places there with good meals costing only fifteen cents. The next day, from Del Rio I told of their first snow storm in two years and expressed the need to get a blanket somewhere. Anticipating possible problems, I indicated we would soon be passing through 400 miles of arid countryside. Getting through to El Paso, on March 12 I wrote about the blizzard we encountered in the mountains and complained about the continuing cold weather.
When we got to Yuma, Arizona on March 12 I was telling her how hot it was, that we were roasting after having been freezing only three days earlier. It was then that I told her of being separated from Cherry and of our expectation of being united again at a small town further west. I referred in this card to the many fellows I was meeting along the way emphasizing that very few were "regular bums". From Sacramento, on March 23rd I told her about my inability to find Cherry. I don't know what the problem was, but in this card I told her I had been unable to find where the Visintainers lived, that even though I was almost broke one could practically live without any money in that area. I also told her of having to get some repair work done but didn't tell her what, and then reassured her that with the blanket I then had I would be pretty comfortable sleeping out.
Finally, from Eugene, Oregon on March 29 I told Betty that I would thereafter be hitchhiking. At this time I also wrote of efforts to get into the Forest Service at Mt. Shasta City, but that it was much too early with snow still twenty feet deep in places. I also told her I was almost broke, had but twenty cents to my name, but was managing to work for my eats. At this time I mentioned for the first time that my destination would be Seattle.
When I found the Volunteers of America soup kitchen in the Skid Road section of Seattle I didn't know that it would play a significant role in my life during the next three years. I have distinct memories of activities involved through my association with the soup kitchen, but it's funny how little I remember about the soup kitchen itself.
I have faint memories of a big room in which we slept on metal double bunks, but I can't picture what our eating facilities were like. Yet here is where I slept and where I ate regularly for long periods of time. I remember the big room adjoining the V of A staff offices in which the homeless like myself were processed and where we wiled away much of our time doing what I don't remember. There was one man, said to be a shell shocked veteran of WW I, who pounced on the cockroaches he found in the room's wainscoting and was observed stuffing them between slices of bread for a sandwich. I had an abundance of time wherein I wandered about the Skid Road area and to a lesser extent in the main part of the city on First Avenue and Pike and Pine Streets. Some of the guys panhandled on the city streets but whether it was because I was scared to or didn't care for that type of activity, I never resorted to panhandling to get money. And so I was broke most of the time. The tallest building in Seattle, the Smith Tower, was close by but I don't remember ever entering it. Now it is a pygmy compared to the many skyscrapers which have since been built.
Somehow I came under the guidance of an older man, a very pleasant mild individual, who apparently performed some functions for the V of A management staff. I regret very much that I cannot remember his name. But it was arrangements made through him that led to much good for me during the next few years. Knowing of my interest in forestry, he arranged through the soup kitchen director who had a friend attending the U of W School of Forestry as an upper classman, for me to visit the School. So it was that during the Spring Quarter of l932 I went to the Tau Phi Delta fraternity house where I met the director's friend, not realizing that within six years I too would be a member of that fraternity which was composed only of forestry students. I had lunch with the fraternity members, then walked with several the length of the campus to Anderson Hall where I was shown about the school. I have often wondered since then whether I ever met him again without knowing it during my relatively brief forestry experiences.
After I had been at the soup kitchen a while my sister, Betty, sent me a ten spot. Having my meals and board adequately taken care of at the soup kitchen, I decided to bank the money for a rainy day. I was amazed at the time a bank employee spent with me before he saw fit to open an account for me. Well, the rainy day didn't take long to arrive. One of my friends at the soup kitchen named Mark, a few years older than I and a native of the area, suggested that we use the money to buy a saw, axe, sledge, and wedges and earn some money cutting cordwood. This appealed to me and that's what we did.
The guy who hired us drove us to a second growth stand of Douglas Fir south of Seattle and dropped us off after giving us some instructions. And it was there that we spent a few days with a meagre food supply sleeping in the woods at night with little bedding. We did manage to cut a cord of wood but somehow we got hold of and included in that cord a small amount of white pine which the guy weeded out of our cord. We decided then that the job was too much for us under the living conditions we were exposed to so we gave up cutting cordwood. I don't recall whether what we got for cutting the wood together with what we got when we disposed of our equipment was enough to recover our (my ten dollar) investment. Anyway, it was back to the soup kitchen for us.
I believe it was shortly after this fiasco that I went out to some farm near Seattle to pick peas. The work was not too hard as the pea plants were climbers rather than bush peas so there was a minimum of bending involved. I guess I was on this job about a week sleeping in the farm's barn at night. I don't recall what I was paid. Whatever it was, I was glad to get it and they did feed me well while I was there.
It was late in the spring when I heard that one of my classmates in high school, Vince Gruzdas, a fellow Lithuanian, was a member of the Portland Beavers pro baseball team. Vince was a star football and baseball player despite the loss of a couple of finger tips on his right hand caused by the explosion of a blasting cap he was playing with when he was a kid. So I decided to pay him a visit. I hopped a freight train in Seattle and readily found Vince when I reached Portland. My visit was very opportune because when I arrived I learned that both Vince and his roommate had been released by the team that day. We had a rather brief visit while they gathered their belongings getting ready to depart from Portland. That was the last time I was to see Vince as our paths have not crossed since then. Vince remained with the sport of baseball playing for a number of semi-pro teams and eventually owning such a team in the state of North Carolina. Before they departed they suggested that I remain in their hotel room for the night as it was paid for. Each of them also slipped me a half dollar. The next morning a friend or colleague of theirs came into the room to retrieve a radio which apparently belonged to him. That day I rode a freight train out of Portland which stopped briefly near Vancouver. I took advantage of the stop to step off the tracks to relieve myself. After the train started off again I was dismayed to find that in the process of relieving myself I had somehow lost one of the half dollars. It was a real heartbreaker for me considering my circumstances.
Early in the summer of l932 my benefactor at the soup kitchen arranged for me to be included as a member of a crew who would be cutting cordwood on the right-of-way for a new state highway being built between Black Diamond and Enumclaw. The part of the right-of-way we would be working on was just past the Green River on the Enumclaw side. It is shown on present day Washington highway maps as Highway l69. The trees had already been felled and all we had to do was cut and split them to cordwood size. The cordwood we cut was given to some charity organization. We just got board and keep for our labor.
Our camp was located in a logged off area near a small stream within easy walking distance of the right-of-way. We slept on camp cots in army tents. Here I really learned how to use a crosscut saw, swing an axe, and split cordwood. I remember watching a young fellow in his twenties, stripped to the waist, and marveled at the sight of the muscles rippling across his back as he smoothly swung an axe or a splitting maul.
Part of the time I was given chores to do around the camp. I was doing something for the cook one day and somehow riled him. He got mad enough to throw a pancake turner at me. The corner cut through my shirt into my arm. So I got another scar but still didn't have the ten scars I once thought I needed to become a man. On another occasion we had some new men report to camp and I was given the job of rounding up mattresses for their cots. I found that some men were using two mattresses on their cots. I had not yet sufficiently learned the value of tact and diplomacy in my relations with others and thoughtlessly yanked one out from the cot of one man whose bed was neat and whose belongings were meticulously arranged about his cot and thus I made a mess of things. When the man discovered the mess I had made he looked me up, grabbed me by my shirt front, but restrained his anger as he was about to punch my face. He was an older man who, despite his current hard luck, still kept his pride in living neatly--and I in effect had invaded his castle. I apologized and we did become good friends during the balance of our stay in this camp.
I did quite a bit of walking on trails in the area. My benefactor at the soup kitchen also had something to do with the camp and had a little dog with him when there. Sometimes I took the pup with me on my hikes. I remember running across an old dilapidated log cabin in the foothills north of Enumclaw. The entire inside of the cabin had been wallpapered with newspapers all of which were dated during World War I. It was interesting to read the various newspaper reports of battles and issues of importance during those trying days. The war seemed so long ago to me then, but it had ended less than fourteen years earlier. That really was a short period of time when compared to the many years during which so much has happened since then.
September came along, a month noted for much nice weather in the Northwest, and we were still busy cutting cordwood. We had day after day of beautiful blue skies as we worked hard to finish our job before the fall rains came. I remember lying on my cot one day looking up through the small opening in the peak of the tent at the beautiful blue sky. It was the time of year when the fireweed, which grows so lush in logged off areas, was in seed. The milky white tuffs floating across the blue sky overhead in such profusion looked like a snowstorm in progress.
Our job cutting cordwood came to an end early in the fall and so it was back to the V of A soup kitchen and the uncertain routine of life in the Skid Road section of Seattle again.
It was about mid-fall, probably October, when I was selected as one of a number of soup kitchen residents to help clear a new state park in the Snoqualmie Pass area. The piece of land involved was purchased by a women's club and donated to the state for a park. I don't recall the specific arrangements for handling necessary food, supplies, living facilities, etc. There were a number of organizations involved, including the U. S. Forest Service which had some management responsibilities. And so it was that we had periodic visits from F. S. officials such as John Brukhart, then the Snoqualmie National Forest Supervisor, whose son also was a forestry student at the U of W about the time I was there, the Assistant Supervisor, Henry Conover, who I was to see from time to time during my forestry school days, and Bill Bryant, a professional staff official who later transferred to the Quilcene District of the Olympic National Forest during my service there.
We were quartered in an old logging camp in a narrow valley in which the timber had been cutover a few years earlier. We were only a short walking distance from the edge of the forest where the park site was located. Six men occupied each of the cabins which were well constructed and comfortable. Each had a wooden stove and with our setup we always had an abundant supply of firewood to keep the cabins cozy even during the coldest winter weather that beset us. Every night one of the men would shave a number of cedar sticks in such a way that they would quickly ignite a new fire each morning. A good number of the men had previously worked in the logging industry and they formed the core of our crew. Comparatively I was a novice. One of the men in my cabin was named Ed Butcher and I heard many stories of his interesting life experiences during the long winter nights. I celebrated my eighteenth birthday while in this camp.
It was a very interesting experience for me. We were well fed but received no monetary pay. However we were issued such clothing as was needed to enable us to survive the weather working outdoors. As each day came and went, I found it fascinating to watch the snow level rise and fall with each passing storm. The evergreens were always so beautiful with their fresh mantle of snow. The Milwaukee Railroad line on the mountainside across the narrow valley provided a positive gauge to determine the comparative snow level from day to day. From time to time during the late fall the snow would reach our camp temporarily but then the day came when we were finally snowbound for the balance of the winter.
It was not more than a ten minute walk to the park site even during the winter when we walked through snow enroute. There were large numbers of windfalls on the park site which had to be cut up and burned; also a large number of old snags which had to be felled and then also cut and burned. Falling the snags was a tricky business because periodically in falling one snag it would hit another which would fall in a different direction. The danger was in the domino effect and the occasions when one of the snags would end up falling in your direction. Then there was the constant danger of widowmakers, large limbs broken off of living trees which would swish downward butt first at great speed.
My job was to use a crosscut saw to buck the logs into sizes which could be conveniently split and burned. Many of the logs were as much as six feet in diameter and it was nothing unusual to spend a full morning or an afternoon on a single cut, so different from nowadays when power saws require only minutes to do the same thing. When the snow was heavy underfoot--in western Washington very often its a wet snow--we would wrap burlap sacks around our feet to keep them warm during the long time we stood in one place making a single cut. The snow got up to six feet deep in the valley so often the fire we started in the morning on top of the snow would be at ground level six feet below us by the time we headed back to camp at dusk in late afternoon.
I had enough free time so, especially before the snow got too deep, I would hike some of the Forest Service trails in the area, one in particular which headed for the higher elevations. Deep snow kept me from getting to the pass on Pratt Mt. but I did manage to get there about two years later.
I looked for this park several years ago while passing through the valley but couldn't find it. I later learned that present day interstate highway I-90 cuts through the former park site and that the women's club was given another plot elsewhere in the state as a substitute for the park they had donated.
Before the end of winter we began hearing about the Civilian Conservation Corps which Congress had just authorized. I don't recall precisely when we finished our work on the park so I'm not sure where I was when I applied and was selected as an enrollee. But I believe we had wound up our work and were back in the soup kitchen again when I got word of my acceptance for service in the CCC's in April of l933.
CCC enrollees were paid $30 a month of which $25 normally went to the enrollee's family as part of their welfare and each enrollee received just $5 for his personal use. Because I was not then considered to be a resident of Washington I was accepted only if I agreed to have my $25 go to someone on the state's welfare rolls. My $25 thus went to a couple of elderly sisters on welfare who I did manage to see once during a visit to Seattle. This continued for several months of my enrollment period before I was able to get it changed so that my mother, also on welfare in Pennsylvania, finally received that $25.
I was enrolled in Company 937 of the Civilian Conservation Corps. According to the Certificate of Discharge which my sister, Betty, saved for me all these years, my enrollment date was May 23, l933. Initially I was assigned to Camp Easton close to the shores of Lake Cle Elum, not far from the town of Cle Elum. However, the villages of Ronald and Roslyn were located closer to the camp than Cle Elum. I was not aware of it at the time, but later while working for the Forest Service in the Olympics I learned that a substantial number of Lithuanians, unusual for the Northwest, lived in these villages drawn there because of coal mines in the area. Our camp was located within the Wenatchee National Forest.
We slept in a number of Army tents in a logged off ponderosa pine forest. l don't recall whether we had four or six men to a tent. Our cots lined the perimeter of each tent and in the center of each on a bed of bricks was a conical stove with the stove pipe emerging through an opening in the center of the tent. There was an abundance of wood in the area but the guys liked to cut up the many pine stumps found throughout the area. They usually were almost solid pitch. When fed into the little stoves they burned fiercely and hot consuming the oxygen faster than it could be fed to the fire. That little stove amused us immensely as it danced away on its little bed of bricks becoming red hot in the process. Although the stove pipe too became progressively red hot, sometimes almost to the top, fortunately, on all such occasions nothing adverse ever happened in our tent. One of the other tents was not as lucky because when the pipe became red hot at the top it set the tent on fire. Anyway, our tents were usually cozy and warm.
Our job in this area was to build dirt roads through the forest for the Forest Service. The one I worked on was over a ridge from Lake Cle Elum toward the town of Easton through which I-90 now passes. I was on a crew clearing the right-of-way by cutting the brush and trees growing on it which we burned with a big bonfire every day. One of the hazards of the job were the innumerable yellow jacket nests we encountered in the ground and being stung was not an uncommon event. One day I stumbled on something while carrying a double bitted axe. One bit of the axe sank into a small tree stump as I lurched forward and my right knee followed into the other bit and was gashed. It healed quickly enough but I had another scar to add to my collection. I always remember the perennial jokes about our lunches on this job. We always had cheese, baloney, and apple butter sandwiches for lunch.
About a month after we set up camp at Lake Cle Elum I decided to take a weekend trip hitchhiking to Seattle, staying overnight at the soup kitchen of course. After a day in the city during which I visited the ladies getting my monthly $25, that evening I hopped a freight train on the Northern Pacific RR to return to camp. The line runs up what then was an almost roadless Green River Valley. It became dark before we had gone very far from Seattle. I was riding on the locomotive's tender and enjoying what was a beautiful moonlit night as the train twisted and turned the entire length of the valley with the mountains silhouetted against the moonlit sky all around. Then we hit the smoke filled tunnel under the crest of the Cascade Mts. Then it was not so pleasant. But it wasn't too far from Cle Elum when we emerged from the tunnel to end what was one of my more enjoyable train rides.
Toward the end of summer I was one of a small group sent to a side camp further into the mountains at a place called Salmon La Sac where there was a ranger station. I don't recall the specific job assignment I had there, but I seem to have a number of pleasant memories of life at this site. Blueberries were abundantly ripe on the mountainside nearby at that time. Some of us would go blueberry picking and the ranger's wife would bake blueberry pies for us. Of course we always picked enough so she had plenty for her family use. About the end of the blueberry season we had the season's first snowfall. The snow remained on the ground overnight, but by the time I walked up the mountain a good bit of it had melted. When I tasted the berries so exposed they had an awful taste. Those I dug out of the snow were still frozen and were quite tasty just as they are when taken out of our present day freezers. There was a footbridge over a pool in one of the streams nearby, and we guys enjoyed diving from the bridge into the pool below. As we dove our bodies encountered the swift current from the rapids at the head of the pool which quickly twisted our bodies and brought our heads to the surface. It didn't take long for us to swim to the stream's edge and out of that ice cold water.
The Salmon La Sac area was a great area for hiking and I made good use of my free time. One popular area was toward the crest of the Cascade Mts., to a small lake in particular named Cooper Lake. I was intrigued by the area around Mt. Stuart, 9470 feet high, of which we often got a bird's eye view, but I never did get a chance to get close enough to explore it. The far side of Mt. Stuart is the side facing the present tourist mecca of Leavensworth and its delightful Bavarian setting. One day I was up in the high country rather late in the day when I decided I had better make a bee line for camp. As I loped off of a mountain meadow down the trail through an area of blueberry bushes, lo and behold, there was a bear some twenty feet ahead of me feasting on the berries. Never before or since have I turned around so fast as I did then and I ran back toward the meadow without a backward glance. When I reached the meadow I did hazard a look to the rear and didn't see any sign of the bear so I stopped and stayed in the meadow area for what I thought was a long time. It finally got quite late and I knew I had to get going if I wanted to get back to camp before it became pitch dark. So I cautiously stole down the trail with my heart pounding away expecting to see the bear again most any moment, but I was lucky. It was nowhere in sight. I guess the bear was just as scared as I was and headed for the brush when he heard my noisy descent down the trail.
One day a sheepherder came by with his flock of sheep heading them down from the high country meadows before the winter snows set in. They swarmed all over the wooded area we were in and I seem to recall that some of the boys waylaid one of the sheep and hid it until the flock was gone. I guess they had a mutton dinner later. But speaking of snow, one morning in late September or early October we woke up to find an inch of snow covering our tents.
With fall well along and winter not too far ahead, for quite some time we had been wondering what we had in store for us for the coming winter. It obviously was not possible for us to continue as we were into the winter. Finally the word came. We were headed for the Olympic Peninsula near a town named Sequim. I didn't know it then, but this new move would lead to contacts and activities which would change the course of my life.
The discharge Betty saved for me shows that my tour of service at Camp Louella near Sequim began on November 8 of l933. The camp was located near an old Forest Guard station overlooking a shallow valley between two low mountains which was drained by a small creek called Jimmy-Come-Lately Creek. At the head of the valley there was a considerable drop down to the Dungeness River with which we became very familiar as time went by.
The camp was substantially completed when we arrived although much work still remained to be done. We had a number of large wooden barracks for sleeping quarters with separate mess and laundry buildings, also shops of various types to support the work we were to do. The camp was on a gentle slope facing east across the farmland in the valley toward the larger of the ridges which was covered with a heavy stand of young second growth evergreens. The soil was a thick gumbo mud when the fall and winter rains arrived so that wooden walkways were constructed connecting all of the buildings. Despite these walkways we still had a constant battle throughout the winter fighting that mud.
Inside the barracks wooden bunks had been built on either side of a center aisle in tiers of three. The height of the third bunk scared some of the guys, so much so that one fellow tied himself to his bunk every night for fear he might fall out while sleeping. There were woodburning stoves at each end and in the center of each barrack which kept us pretty warm.
Our primary projects in this area again were concerned with building forest roads. I was assigned to the Gold Creek crew. I remember that the name of the crew's boss was Walt Peterson, apparently once a logger. A logging accident had left him with an obviously stiff elbow. I enjoyed working with him.
Building roads in the Olympics was a more complex job than in the Cle Elum area because of the heavier rainfall and heavier brush and timber. We had much larger trees to fall, often old growth trees six feet or more in diameter. I had to cut down a six footer one day and it took me and my partner half a day to get it down. Since we were concerned only with clearing the right-of-way we enjoyed watching those big trees go crashing down the mountainside. We had to put in quite a few culverts. These we fashioned out of the many western red cedar trees we felled. Some of the guys were assigned to work with mechanical equipment such as bulldozers and tractors, but I was never given that opportunity. Perhaps it was obvious that I was not so gifted. Similarly a few of the more reliable were given jobs as powder monkeys with the job of blasting out the tree stumps left in the right-of-way after we got through our clearing work. Lunch was always on the job. We always perked a big pot of coffee every day and somebody said that the coffee wasn't good until it was so strong you could float an iron wedge in it. The coffee was always loaded with cinders from the open fire and needles falling from the evergreen tree foliage overhead.
While on the Gold Creek crew I developed a severe pain in my side one day. So I was sent to the dispensary at the Army's Fort Townsend. After I had been there a day or two a hospital corpsman came to me and told me that our camp's young Army doctor was gung ho about operating on me for appendicitis. He said that that would have been a mistake because my white corpuscle count was dangerously low. I wasn't in on the final decision but apparently they persuaded the doc not to operate and in a few days the pain disappeared and I returned to camp. This period at the dispensary was not without its sorrowful event, however. An older man from the camp, sort of a straw boss and a native of the area, was also at the dispensary. One day he got up, apparently fed up waiting for some service, and was found heading for the bathroom to get some drinking water in a urinal he was carrying. I don't know what his ailment was, but he died a few days later.
Toward the end of spring I left the Gold Creek crew when I was picked to do some fire patrol work for Monte Mapes, the Quilcene District Ranger, in whose district our camp was located. This was a fortunate assignment as it was to lead to my first employment with the Forest Service the following year.
In addition to our work assignments, efforts were made to get us, the enrollees, into some simple education projects. I undertook a class in the study of the composition of trees, particularly the cross sections of tree trunks. The fellow conducting the course was another enrollee whose name I recall to be Al Olson. In addition to the course work he expounded from time to time about his college experiences wherein he went to college one quarter, worked the next quarter, returned to college again and continued to alternate that way. He made it sound so simple and easy that for the first time I developed the hope that some day I could do likewise. Little did I know then that my opportunity would come about a year and a half later.
I made a number of close friends while at Camp Louella, but unfortunately I lost track of them after my CCC days were over. We did a considerable amount of hiking over the Forest Service trails in the area. One popular route was up the Dungeness River to the trail leading up to Deer Park on Blue Mt. From there we got a magnificent view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island to the North and across a multiple array of islands and salt water bodies toward Mt. Baker to the northeast. It was here that in l970 my son Bill came across a movie crew filming scenes of animals in the wild using tamed animals. As a result he became disillusioned with the authenticity of such shows he had been seeing on TV. On one hike to Deer Park we had a dog with us. We rarely saw the dog, but the dog never lost track of us. Periodically we would see him crossing the trail ahead of us and as he meandered back and forth he must have covered three or more times the distance we did. On another occasion, in February of l934 I and a friend named Andy climbed to the top of 6784 foot Mt. Baldy. We were surprised that we were able to make it so high in the middle of winter. We had to slog through some snow on the way up but imagine our surprise when we reached the top to find it and much of the south side bare of snow. It had been such a mild winter with only light precipitation. One thing I remember was the awful silence on top of the mountain. This being winter, there weren't even the sounds of birds or animals one normally can hear in other seasons. Shortly after that a storm dumped a foot of wet snow on our camp but the mild weather that followed quickly melted it.
Less than a mile from camp just before the drop off to the Dungeness River was a meadow in which we were almost sure to see some deer as we passed by. It was the property of an old man named Schmith. Present day maps show Schmith Knob overlooking the site. Schmith's log cabin was located at the end of the meadow nearest to our camp. The story as I heard it was that Schmith was the captain of a sailing ship that anchored in Discovery Bay into which Jimmy-Come-Lately Creek flowed several miles away. He is supposed to have deserted his ship there and homesteaded the site I speak of. Supposedly each winter as the cold weather arrived he had stacked a pile of books and other reading material alongside his bed and hibernated in bed during the entire winter getting up only long enough from time to time to take care of life's necessities. We must have spoiled his routine that winter because we came by often and he seemed always glad to see and converse with us.
We all did our share of horsing around in camp. On one occasion a group of us went into Seattle, stopping briefly at the home of one of the guys, an Italian, where we indulged in some Dago red wine. We also picked up a bunch of garlic at his home and ate it after our return to camp. We reeked so much of garlic that they wouldn't let us into the mess hall for one meal; the other guys also threatened to kick us out of our barracks. Most of the guys went into Sequim periodically during their free time. I don't recall specifically what shenanigans they got into but there didn't seem to be much to do in that town. Our company organized a baseball team of which I was a member and we traveled to other camps to play. Once we went all the way to Seattle for a game. I became an expert ball shagger in the outfield, receiving quite a bit of recognition for that capability, but I never did become very expert with the bat as a hitter.
Fifteen months was the enrollment period and my discharge certificate shows that my enrollment came to an end on July 10, l934. Actually I served less than fifteen months as I was enrolled about a month and a half later than other members of my group because of the delay occasioned by my non-Washington residence. Nearly forty years later I met a man who for many years I thought was a member of the group which replaced us, Rodney Waldron, the Director of the Library at Oregon State University. Much later he corrected me telling me it was not he but his brother who served at Camp Louella. The day I was discharged I gave most of my belongings to Ralph Reite, a close friend, to take with him to his home at Port Orchard since I planned to see him there later. Next I went into the cook shack to get a supply of food. I had decided that I would strike out alone and hike across the Olympic Mts.
I owned a packboard which I had made earlier in camp from Alaska yellow cedar. To this I tied my bedroll, extra clothes, and supplies and off I went. First I hiked up the Dungeness River trail to Three Forks where the Greywolf, Grand, and Cameron Rivers meet. There I spent my first night sleeping in the Greywolf leanto shelter, one of many such log leantos then in existence in the Olympics. I understand that most of these have since been destroyed because they became too filthy after so many years of use. From here on the rest of my hike was in what is now the Olympic National Park. At that time it was the Olympic National Monument and the Forest Service had the responsibility for providing it with fire protection. On my second day I hiked up the Greywolf River still in the high country in the shadow of Mt. Deception, at over 7000 feet rivaling Mt. Olympus in height; then over a pass to the Dosewallips River still in the high country meadows, distinctive enough there to be labeled the Dose Meadows; then it was up the Dosewallips River valley over Hayden Pass alongside Sentinel Peak to the Hayes Creek drainage.
I'll never forget those nine miles from the pass on the side of the ridge paralleling Hayes Creek as I hiked, down-down-down, my legs seemingly pounding the trail with each step, until my leg and back muscles just ached. It was dusk when I reached the Elwha River, too tired to do much cooking for supper, mostly just bedded down for the night in the Hayes Creek shelter. Next morning I fashioned a crude fishing line with a branch, string, and hook and caught myself a few trout for breakfast in the Elwha River. I don't know what the fishing regulations were in those days, probably didn't even give a thought to whether or not I needed a fishing license. Then began a leisurely hike up the Elwha River valley and eventually over the Low Divide to the North Fork of the Quinault River.
It was nearly five days after I left Camp Louella that I found myself in a campground with the usual leanto on the Quinault River. I believe it was what was called the Wolf Creek Shelter near the end of the forest road up the Quinault River valley. I had been fortunate in having nice weather for my entire hike until that last morning when I woke to find it raining. I delayed my departure that day hoping the rain would stop. During my entire hike of five days I did not meet a soul on the trail, but that morning while I waited for the rain to stop a group of Seattle mountaineers came by and I was able to quickly make them some hot drinks with water I had boiling. They told me about their recent climb to the top of Mt. Olyjmpus which at that time was considered to be the highest mountain in the Olympics. Seems that since then one of the mountains on the Mt. Constance--Mt. Deception ridge was found to be a bit higher.
They told me how they were above the clouds in bright sunny weather atop the peak of Mt. Olympus. Looking down they could see this beautiful circular rainbow with the mountaintop in its center. Such a sight was rarely seen in those days, but it is a relatively common sight nowadays with aircraft flying at or above 30,000 feet. One of the mountaineers offered me a ride to Port Orchard when they were picked up later that day. And so it was that I retrieved my belongings at the Reite homestead, all set for the next stage of my life.
My old CCC camp in the Olympics of Washington was recently converted into a park wherein a tree has been planted in memory of my wife who passed away three years ago. An old Forest Guard station on it's site has been converted into a rental for outdoor interested people and a number of my photos have been enlarged and posted on its walls as decorations. After my CCC days there I worked for the Forest Service.
I am part of the history of the Olympic National Forest as portrayed in a book published two years ago titled "Frontier Legacy", a history of the Forest before 1960.
CHAPTER 6--ON THE BRINY SEA
The Reites were a poor Finnish family living in a small house on the southern edge of Port Orchard reached by a winding unpaved lane around some fields. Besides Ralph, there were three or four other children, at least one boy and two girls, all younger than Ralph. Despite their poverty and the size of the family I was welcomed by Ralph's parents. Where Ralph and I slept during the brief period that I was with them I can't recall. They certainly fed me well while I was there.
I had talked with Ralph while we were still at Camp Louella about my intention to take a trip back East to visit Minersville again. Several days after my arrival at the Reite home we got wind of a ship in Port Gamble near the northern tip of the Kitsap Peninsula, about twenty miles away, which was heading East and needed help. So Ralph and I piled into his dad's Model T Ford and off we went. Along the way Ralph decided to let me try driving the Model T. I couldn't get the hang of all those pedals on the floor so I quickly gave up my efforts after almost running off the road.
Upon our arrival at Port Gamble we found that the ship really needed help and I got a job as an ordinary seaman. I don't remember whether we discovered it before or after our arrival at Port Gamble, but there was a longshoreman's strike during the summer of l934, and that apparently had adversely affected the ship's ability to adequately staff its crew. There was little evidence of the strike at Port Gamble which was relatively isolated. The ship was part of the Moore-McCormick fleet of ships. The one I was on was a lumber ship with a cargo, both in its holds and on deck, of lumber bound for East Coast ports.
We sailed early one morning and as we rounded the peninsula near Port Townsend into the Strait of Juan de Fuca it was a thrill for me to observe all those peaks to the south with which I had become familiar. Apparently nothing unusual happened as we sailed out onto the Pacific Ocean, my first time on salt water other than on Puget Sound. We paralleled the coast sailing south, much of the time within sight of land, until we docked at Long Beach, Calif., Los Angeles' port, for a day or two for what reason I never knew. But here we saw evidence of the longshoremen's strike with pickets all over the docks. Under these circumstances I felt it would be wise to remain on the ship and not take a trip into town.
Once at sea again it wasn't so very long before we were off the Baja California coast and sailing southeastward toward and then paralleling the Central American Coast. I guess I did the range of ordinary seaman duties, but if someone were to ask me what they were I would be unable to give a detailed answer. I do remember a few of them, especially swabbing decks regularly and chipping rust and loose paint. Normally the latter didn't bother me, but when I had to stick my head inside the vents on the outside deck and chip away at the rust I found the noise deafening and oppressive. I even felt a bit seasick on those occasions, although I was relatively free of that misery throughout the voyage.
We were on a four hours on duty, four hours off rotation. The assignment I really enjoyed was the four hour watch duty during the night at the prow of the ship. Nothing unusual ever happened security wise, but I was fascinated by the porpoises swimming just in front of the ship's prow. They swam in perfect unison like a squad of marching soldiers; as one zipped out above the water, so did the rest. It was amazing how fluorescent the sea water got when disturbed at night; the fluorescence made the location of the porpoises always clearly evident. As the ship sailed along through the night, especially in the early hours of the night, we invariably were treated to a display of lightning flashing to the northeast over the Latin American countries.
One day off the Central American coast the skipper gave me a turn at the wheel, or helm in nautical terms, steering the ship. I had a certain compass reading to steer by, but I had a heck of a time keeping the ship right on course. It would swing first to port, then to starboard, back and forth, but rarely right on course. Looking back to the wake of the ship, it looked like a serpent with its many curves trailing the ship. It didn't take the skipper very long to yank me off the wheel and give the assignment to another member of the crew. I was costing him both time and money.
I've never forgotten how much I enjoyed that portion of our voyage on the Pacific off the Central American coast. The water was smooth as glass but topped with giant swells. Periodically we would see some big fish break the water's surface, or a whole school of flying fish would emerge sometimes flying great distances before plunging back into the water. Once we saw a large number of giant turtles floating atop the water; on another occasion the sea seemed to be filled with small sea serpents curled up on the surface.
The water was a beautiful pale blue color. Late in the day we would find the sun setting off the stern of the ship. Each day there was a spectacular array of colors in the ever present clouds to the Northwest. This array of colors always seemed to be reflected by the smooth ocean surface and the blue of the water changed the sunset colors enough so that we would be looking at two different patterns of color.
I didn't keep track of time very well, but I believe it was about three days before we reached the Panama Canal. Before a ship enters the Canal a pilot must come aboard to guide the ship as it traverses the many twists and turns in the canal system and the two sets of locks. This, being my first trip through the Canal, I was intrigued by the lock operations, especially the little locomotives called mules which pulled us through. The Canal was only 21 years old when I passed through in l934. I didn't realize it then, but it would be another fifty years before I would again be able to make a trans-Canal trip, the second time going in the opposite direction. When we came to the locks on the Atlantic side, a native came aboard selling tropical fruit. I bought a mango, never having tasted one before. In fact, before then I never knew they existed. It tasted pleasant but a bit insipid. What bothered me though was the tendency of so much of the flesh to stick to the huge pit.
As we left the Canal and entered the Caribbean Sea we were greeted by huge waves which sometimes splashed onto the deck at the prow of the ship. That was one night that no one was assigned to watch duty there. We gradually got through the turbulent seas and on the next day the water was much quieter as we passed the western tip of Cuba off our starboard side. Later that same day off the port side we could faintly see some of the Florida keys near the horizon.
For whatever reason--I don't remember any cargo being unloaded--we made a brief stop in Charleston, S. C. I made no effort to get off the ship, but one of the other seamen did, determined to find himself a gal. He said he didn't care whether she was white or black. About a day later we reached Baltimore, Md. having sailed nearly the entire length of Chesapeake Bay. Here I decided to give up my life as a seaman. After getting whatsover my pay was from the captain, I left the ship and hitchhiked, first for a brief visit with Betty and the Justices in Philadelphia, then on to Minersville.
I stayed with my brother rather than in the North Street house during my two to three weeks in Minersvillle. It was good to see my mother and sisters, Eleanor and Agnes, neither of them yet a teenager, even though I did not stay with them. I have no recollection of my stepfather on this occasion, but this was the last time I was to see him as he died the following year, l935, of stomach cancer. In addition to getting reacquainted with many of my old friends, I was able to see Cherry Sobolesky for the first time since our separation in Yuma, Ariz. in l932. Cherry was about to embark on his second year of a football scholarship at Lebanon College in Pennsylvania. Otherwise, there appears to have been but one noteworthy event occurring during this visit to Minersville.
The coal bootlegging era was in full swing during my visit, and my cousin Winfield Nichael was engaged in that activity. One night he persuaded me to go with him as, suitably equipped with flashlights, we hiked up to the mountain north of town and entered a coal company mine tunnel through an opening in the side of the mountain. This was to be my first and my last trip into a coal mine. Anyway, Winfield's purpose was to pilfer a supply of dynamite to use in his own coal hole.
We walked deep into the mine until we reached the end of the tunnel where there was all kinds of evidence of work currently being done there, both in shoring up the tunnel sides and roof and in digging the coal. Predictably we found a supply of dynamite and helped ourselves. Walking back out of the tunnel which sloped downward, I slipped in a muddy area where water was dripping from the roof. Down I went, the dynamite tightly clutched to my side. It would have been too late to have any thoughts about it had the dynamite exploded, but as I hit the ground I was scared stiff, afraid that it would. We got out of there as fast as we could, and I was relieved when we finally reached town again and stored the dynamite in a safe place.
After a few weeks I decided that it was time to head West again. I hitchhiked until I reached the Harrisburg area, about seventy miles away, where I hopped in through the open door of a box car on one of the Pennsylvania RR lines early that evening. As it turned out, I made an unfortunate choice of a box car. It had a flat wheel. All that night as we headed toward Pittsburgh, nearly two hundred miles away, I felt that thump, a-thump, a-thump, etc. When I lay down to sleep, I couldn't lie on my back very long, and when I lay on my sides, first one side got sore, then the other one got sore, reminding me of the same soreness that beset me on the football field when I tried to block Telly Putsavage. The constant jar was too much for my legs after only a brief period of standing up. And so it was throughout the entire sleepless night until we reached Pittsburgh about dawn, my first visit to that city. Those were the days when it still had its bad reputation as a smoky city. I was sure glad to get out of that boxcar.
I don't recall whether I detoured for a brief visit with my cousins in Akron, Ohio, but I did stop in Chicago again to see my Uncle Andy. Then on again northward on the Burlington Line until I reached Red Wing, Minn. One of my good friends at Camp Louella had asked me to stop in to see his parents as I passed through Red Wing. It was after dark when I reached their door presenting a bedraggled appearance after my train ride, but they welcomed me warmly despite my appearance after I had suitably identified myself. I got cleaned up and received an excellent dinner from them while I told them about their son and our life together in the CCC's. It was nice to sleep in a comfortable bed that night instead of on the floor of a boxcar.
The next day I continued on to Minneapolis where I caught a freight train headed West on the Chicago, Milwaukee, and St. Paul RR line, the same line that I used to look at day after day that winter I was in that camp in Snoqualmie Pass. I had my Alaska yellow cedar packboard with me which kindled the curiosity of a number of my fellow riders, one of whom at first thought it was some kind of chair. Nothing else of note apparently happened along the way and I finally reached Seattle about the end of August. I didn't know it then, but I had just completed my last trip riding the rods. Since the day I first stepped outside of Schuylkill County at the age of fourteen, I had been in or gone through thirty of the original forty-eight states, twelve of them two or three times. I had yet to be a fare paying passenger on any of my travels.
Before sailing off on the ship I had arranged with Ralph Reite to revisit him upon my return. So I headed for Port Orchard as soon as I hit Seattle. Not long after my arrival Ralph and I went to the Bremerton Naval Shipyard. where we tore down a small wooden shack Ralph had bought from a contractor doing a job there. We hauled it back to the Reite homestead and put it together again. This is where Ralph and I slept during the remainder of my stay with the Reite family. I no longer needed to feel that I was infringing on their sleeping accommodations.
Ralph and I were very congenial friends, but I recall only a few of the things we did while I was there. There was a small stream nearby in which the salmon were running in water just inches deep, so thick you could almost walk across on their backs. We waded into the stream and, despite their frantic splashing to get away, we caught ourselves a couple of salmon to take back to the homestead. On another occasion Ralph let me try out a motorcycle he had. Everything was fine as long as I was going straight, but when I came to a right angle turn in the lane as I turned the handlebars I also turned up the gas and ended up in the brush. That is the only time I ever tried to operate a motorcycle.
Ralph's mother was such a pleasant person. I particularly enjoyed the Scandinavian cookies she baked which had raisins in the center. After about a month, however, pleasant as it was with the Reite family, I felt that it was unfair for me to continue imposing on their kindness. So expressing my deep thanks for their being so good to me, I departed for Seattle. For a number of years afterwards I kept in touch with Ralph, but somehow in later years we lost track of each other. Efforts to locate him during visits to that area in recent years have been fruitless.
Upon my return to Seattle late in September I went back to the soup kitchen. It was a fortunate return as just about that time a Boys Club for homeless boys like myself had been organized and was operating in a big house on Jefferson St. overlooking the Skid Road section of Seattle. I believe when I-5 was constructed through Seattle it cut through the Club site. I was sent up to the Boys Club rather than required to stay at the soup kitchen.
The Boys Club was managed by Gerald (Jerry) Bird, then 25 years of age, who within the past year had married Marion Bell, his high school sweetheart. They lived in one room of the Club and had their meals with us. Marion was expecting her first child at the time I came to the club. Mary Lynn was born in January of l935, just a few days before my twentieth birthday. This was the start of a lifelong friendship for me with the Bird family. After we were both through with the Club we always kept in touch, even during my many years in the New York-New Jersey area. I was Mary Lynn's first baby sitter. In later years Marion was prone to say I was the only boy at the Club they would trust.
There were as many as fifteen young fellows like myself at the Club. Our cook, who had a basement bedroom in the house, was the same guy who cooked for us at the cordwood cutting camp near Enumclaw during the summer of l933. Two of the fellows I particularly remember. One was Steve Stefurak who hailed from Torrington, Conn. We were great friends. Steve remained in the Seattle area and like myself kept in touch with the Birds for many years. By the time I returned to the Northwest that contact apparently had ceased. Despite efforts to contact him a number of times, it was not until early June of l989 that we finally got together again. In the interim Steve had married and had a family of eight children, some of whom live in Seattle and through whom I traced Steve's whereabouts.
The other fellow I remember was an avowed Communist. He was a complete misfit in our group, the focal point of considerable conflict and controversy. An argument always seemed to develop when he was around.
Jerry did a fine job in trying to keep us occupied. I, for one, enrolled in a post graduate course at Broadway High School at night. I took a full load of college preparatory courses, Betty saved my report card all these years which shows that I earned A's in Chemistry and Botany, and B's in Composition and Physics. This was a fortunate undertaking which I'm sure had much to do with my excellent performance later as a freshman in the College of Forestry. Periodically Jerry was able to get tickets to different shows in town. It was thus that I was able to see my first opera, Mignon.
Jerry was also able to arrange for us to use the YMCA facilities in Seattle. We organized a basketball team playing other similar teams at the Y. We apparently did well because I have a snapshot of our team proudly displaying a basketball on which was printed the word "CHAMPS".
While using the Y facilities I met a young fellow by the name of Richard Hughes. A close friendship developed between us which proved very beneficial to me during the next five years. Dick was then living with a widowed aunt, Helen Allen, who was sharing a home in the Capitol Hill section of Seattle with another widow, Nellie McLaughlin who had a teen aged son, Harvey, Mrs. Allen's husband had operated some coal mines in the Cascade foothills; Mrs. McLaughlin's husband had owned a machine tools business in Seattle which she still owned during most of the time I was in Seattle. It was then being run by her late husband's key employee, apparently much more for his personal gain than hers. But since she knew nothing about the business and received an adequate income from it for a reasonably comfortable living, she refrained from rocking the boat and allowed the arrangement to continue.
The two widows took a fancy to me and I became a frequent visitor in their home, both in company with Dick, and at times alone. It was they who taught me the fundamentals of bridge; then it was auction bridge. This would prove to be one of the primary relaxations for me later when I attended the University. Dick's aunt had bought him a Ford sedan, the cost then being about $600, and on a number of occasions I was able to take trips with them, once to Sunrise Park on Mt. Rainier, another time around the Olympic Loop on Rte l0l when I remember having dinner with them at the Lake Quinault Lodge . During our friendship days together somehow I got Dick interested in forestry.
As usual with a group such as ours at the Club, a certain amount of tomfoolerly takes place. In the basement washroom we shared, we were competing one day to see who could jump the highest while at the same time placing his feet on the wall and then land with his feet on the floor without falling over. When my turn came, my feet touched the side wall pretty high up but I had forgotten about the low ceiling. My head hit the ceiling with a terrific jolt and I fell to the floor flat on my back. I got a bit of a concussion out of that escapade but fortunately the effects wore off after a few days.
When spring of l935 arrived, I got itchy feet and in April I persuaded Steve Stefurak to go on a hike with me. So we hitchhiked to the Snoqualmie Pass area near the logging camp I had stayed in and found the trail leading past Mt. Pratt. This was to be Steve's first trip into the Northwest mountains. It was easy hiking up a good trail most of the way but as we approached the pass we found ourselves slogging through hip deep snow. Somehow, despite this, we managed to stay on the trail, helped by tree blazes here and there, even though the snow was deeper on the opposite, the north side of the pass. As we started down the mountain we came to a small snow covered lake at the far end of which was an old log cabin which we entered. And there it was that we spent the night. Actually I was a bit foolish taking Steve out on such a hike because we were only skimpily equipped to cope with the possible hazards of outdoor life in the mountains of the Northwest at that time of year. When I saw Steve in l989 some aspects of this hike occupied a prominent place in his memory of our short time together.
We had brought some grub with us and were delighted to find a little stove in the center of the cabin. As we lilted the lid to build a fire out come a whole family of mice. I hated to spoil their hibernation but we needed the stove to do our cooking and to keep us warm.
After a reasonably comfortable night, the next morning we fixed ourselves some breakfast. This depleted what had been a meager food supply to start with, but we managed to make a few extra pancakes which we took along with us as our lunch for the day. We had no trouble going down the trail that morning. The snow quickly vanished as we descended and it was still morning when we came out to the end of a forest road which ran along the Middle Snoqualmie River. Hiking along this road we eventually came to a highway and were able to hitchhike back to Seattle and the Boys Club.
One of the relics Betty had saved these many years was the Certificate of Service I had received showing that I was in the Washington National Guard, Battery E, l46th Field Artillery, from January 21, l935 to January 20, l938. I seem to remember joining while I was at the Club, one of the attractions being the opportunity to get a few dollars for attending drills periodically. I remember hitchhiking to Camp Murray near Fort Lewis to fulfill that obligation. Apparently I was placed on inactive service about the time I started working at Quilcene, but I can't understand the early date, April 3, l935 as the starting date for such inactivity since my work did not begin until early June.
During the late winter I had gotten in touch with Monte Mapes, the Forest Ranger at Quilcene, reminding him that I was available for work that summer, the summer of l935. So--imagine my delight when late in the spring I received a letter from him offering me a job as a Forest Guard, specifically, the job of lookout on 6270 foot Mt. Townsend near the Olympic National Monument boundary. The pay of $90 per month seemed fabulous to me then. So I quickly replied thanking him and accepting the job. Thus would come the end of my welfare related activities. I was about to make my own way in life, difficult as it would be at times.
CHAPTER 7:--FOREST RANGER
It was early in June, 1935, when I left Seattle headed for Quilcene and my first job with the U. S. Forest Service. The ferry leaving Seattle transported me to Port Ludlow, then a thriving sawmill town pretty much owned and operated by the firm Pope and Talbot. Neither this ferry route nor the sawmill are currently in existence. Pope and Talbot's holdings in the area have since been converted to a plush resort living community. My memory is not clear on this point, but I presume that, carrying my meager belongings, I hitchhiked from Port Ludlow to Quilcene. This was to be my route of travel to Quilcene each of the next three summers, retracing in reverse the trip at the end of each summer.
It would appear that such a momentous occasion would impress itself forever on my mind, but I have no recollection of anything that happened when I reported to the ranger station in Quilcene. The ranger station was a two story unimposing building painted the standard forest green which characterized most Forest Service buildings in those days. It was located a half block from highway 101 in the middle of town. A bit further up the street on the other side was another two story forest green building, the bunkhouse which would be my home for four summers during periodic stays in Quilcene. I remember this bunkhouse well because it is the first building I remember whose inner walls were covered with Douglas fir plywood.
I will not endeavor to tell in precise sequence what happened during each of the summers I worked in the Quilcene District except in those cases where timing is pertinent to what took place. But I believe it would be advisable to begin by telling something about the men I worked with.
Most of our contacts with the ranger station were through Bill Graham. Bill was a history teacher who spent each summer as the Forest Dispatcher in the Quilcene District. His wife Edna was always with him during their summers in Quilcene. The friendship which developed between us was lasting. I once visited them when Bill was teaching in a Yakima high school. Bill later became Personnel Director for the Highline Community College in Seattle, took leave in the late 1960's to work in the oil industry in Libya, and passed away in the summer of 1967 when he suffered a stroke shortly after his return to Seattle. We were fortunate to see him briefly during our trailer trip West that year.
My fellow Forest Guards initially included Bob Hart whose parents operated the Quilcene grocery store which we patronized. During my last year at Quilcene Bob's brother Frank joined our group, later entered the U of W College of Forestry, and became one of my fraternity brothers. Harts Pass on the crest of the Cascade Mts. at the head of Kathy's favorite Methow Valley was named after their great uncle prospector in the area; the first building in Port Townsend, recognized by a suitable civic placard on the side of the building currently there, was built by their great grandfather on their mother's side. After many years away from the Northwest I regained contact with Frank Hart in 197l and for the past 17 years have enjoyed a close friendship with Frank and Betty, his wife, who live in the Bremerton area.
Chuck Simpson and Jim Bethel were ahead of me in forestry by two years. Chuck has since careered as a consulting forester in the Ukiah area of California. Jim later taught forestry at North Carolina State University in Raleigh where we visited him in 1955, and then became a very respected Dean of the School of Forestry at the University of Washington.
Harry Martinson was sort of a jack of all trades who was not assigned to any particular station but performed the range of maintenance and fire related duties in the ranger district. With him was the guy I only remember as "Whiskers". Whiskers was a local native who did a lot of mountain lion hunting when not working for the Forest Service. Each summer we were regaled by many stories of his hunts each emphasizing with great pride the excellent performance of his dogs in tracking and treeing mountain lions.
The man who was universally liked in the District was Rollin Shaw. Rolly was a local man with a small farm near Sequim who seemed to have acquired squatters rights to the Mt. Zion lookout. Rolly was small but tough and wiry. Early each summer the entire family which included his wife, Daisy, and three small sons. would ply their way up the trail to the top of the mountain. Daisy was as tough as Rolly and with little effort seemed to easily outdistance Rolly up the trail. With them each year came their goat. With an abundance of forage on the mountain, the goat was the source of a reliable milk supply for the three boys. I kept in touch with the family for a time after I went East, but recent efforts to regain contact with Rolly were unsuccessful. Daisy passed away during the 1960's and I heard that all three of the sons grew up to become physicians.
We neophytes in the District were placed under the wing of Howard Johnson, an older individual who had worked in the Olympics a number of years. Howard was a tall lanky, married, individual who had attended the U of W School of Forestry but had been unable to complete the course. Each year he received a temporary appointment until the latter part of my service in Quilcene when he benefited from an Executive Order which permitted his conversion from temporary to career status. Howard did well in the Forest Service eventually retiring in the late 1970's as Regional Forester for the state of Alaska.
Monte Mapes, the District Ranger, was a tall, mature, serious looking individual, capable and practical , with a dry sense of humor. He always treated us well and over the years I developed a great respect for him; he was almost like a father figure to me in my insecure status of life. With his wife and young daughter, they lived in another forest green house near the bunkhouse across the street from the ranger station. I understand the daughter is married to a member of the composing staff of the Portland Oregonian.
Officially we were Forest Guards as we performed our respective duties each summer with the Forest Service. However, we were the ones with whom the visiting public had most frequent contact. Thus it seemed only natural that to many of them we personified the Forest Rangers who ran the National Forests.
Each year upon reporting for duty and receiving whatever new instructions were then warranted, we settled into a few weeks of maintenance duties, much of the work being done under Howard Johnson's supervision. This was followed by three days of intensive training at Guard School located at my old CCC Camp Louella. Two very important maintenance jobs early each year involved repair and improvement of forest trails and maintenance work on the forest telephone lines which usually paralleled the trails.
One year five of us, myself, Bill Graham, Jim Bethel, and two CCC boys from Camp Quilcene spent several days at the Corrigenda Guard Station on the Dosewallips River doing such maintenance work in that area. I remember running across a small tributary of the Dose River in which the salmon were then running. Their migration ended in a little pool at the bottom of a waterfall. For the second time in my experience I could say they were so thick one could almost walk across the pool on their backs. One of the trails we maintained was a very steep trail up the cliffs leading to Constance Lake in a hollow on the slopes of Mt. Constance. It was almost like mountain climbing, hardly a trail, but we were delighted with the sight of that pretty mountain lake at the end of the trail, still partially covered with ice, and snow banks all around on its shores.
While enjoying the facilities at the Corrigenda Guard Station, in our spare time we often went to Hood Canal a few miles away where we capitalized on oodles of oysters found on the shores of the Canal. In addition to having our fill of oysters at the station, the day on which we departed we took with us several quarts of shelled oysters and, without thinking, left the remainder in the air cooler at the station; no refrigerators in those days. Several weeks later after Guard School and after all of us were at our assigned stations, the Guard at Corriegenda told us about that gooey mess he found in his cooler when he reported for duty there.
It was a beautiful sunshiny morning when we left Corrigenda. I have a snapshot in my album showing us loaded with packs, tools, and coils of telephone wire around our shoulders. Working on the trail and the telephone line as we went, we hiked up the trail leading over the ridge which sloped easterly from the crags of Mt. Constance. Halfway up the ridge the first clouds began to thicken the sky; three quarters of the way up it began to rain; and just before we reached the top of the ridge it turned to snow. We continued our hike and our work through the steadily falling snow until we reached the Tunnel Creek leanto shelter.
As the snow kept falling we bedded down for the night with a nice fire in front of our shelter over which we cooked our supper, the piece de resistance being the oysters we brought with us. It was an enjoyable meal under adverse circumstances. Next morning when we rose the snowfall had stopped though an inch or two covered the ground. It petered out as we resumed our hike down the trail after breakfast doing such maintenance work as was required along the way.
To repair the telephone line at one point I had to climb a small tree to which the line wire was fastened using lineman's climbing equipment. Two thirds of the way up the buckle on my belt gave way and I tumbled off backwards. I was extremely fortunate as I landed in a bed of moss, typical of the Olympic rain forest, between log windfalls on either side. I probably would have broken my back had I landed on either windfall. Anyway, we completed our maintenance trip a few days later, just in time to head for Camp Louella and Guard School.
I don't remember any CCC occupancy of Camp Louella any year we were there for Guard School. However, Rodney Waldron, retired Director of the OSU Library, who came to Camp Louella as an enrollee shortly after my departure in July, 1934, told me that he was still there as an enrollee in June of 1935. He said that it was not until November of 1935 that Camp Louella actually folded up, almost exactly two years after we first arrived there to open up the camp. This seems to conflict with his recent story that it was his brother, not him, who was an enrollee there.
Camp Louella was the site each year of Guard School for the summer employees of every ranger district in the Olympic National Forest. It emphasized basic training in fire prevention and suppression activities such as the scope of a lookout's firefinding responsibilities, communications, lines of authority and responsibility, tools and techniques of fighting forest fires, new developments, etc. Instructors usually were full time old timers working in the four ranger districts headquartered at Quilcene, Hoodsport, Snider and Quinalt, as well as key employees from the Supervisor's office in Olympia.
One year an instructor was giving us a formula for use in determining how many men would be required to fight a fire under specific conditions. In the course of the discussion I pointed out a fallacy or error in his presentation. He looked puzzled for a moment until the Assistant Forest Supervisor, Les Colvilll, standing in the doorway nodded affirming my position and clarified it with an additional explanation. After leaving the National Forest I did not meet Les again until about 45 years later when I attended one of the Forest Service's retired 30 year club member dinners in Portland.
After Guard School each of us headed for the duty station to which he had been assigned. This was usually in the latter part of June--by the Fourth of July we were firmly settled in our stations. Usually there was no significant rainfall after that date until about the middle of August. My first summer, in 1935, I was the lookout on Mt. Townsend, 6270 feet above sea level. I and two CCC boys from Camp Quilcene who assisted me were dropped off at the end of the Little Quilcene River road by a Forest Service truck. There we loaded all of my supplies and equipment on the backs of two burros. I'm sure there are those experts in the fine art of tying the famous diamond hitch used by professional packers who might well have criticized our packing job, but we made the entire hike of about ten miles to the top of the mountain without anything being lost or loose.
Arriving on Mt. Townsend, the CCC boys assisted me in opening up the lookout building, putting up the shutters, stowing away my gear, and cleaning up the place. I found no sign that any wild animals had taken over the place during the long winter. Then back hiked the boys to the low country leaving me alone with my two burros, my faithful companions for the summer. I did not know it then, but visitors would not be many, as much as 17 days passing by during the summer without my seeing a soul. The lookout building on Mt. Townsend is no longer in use its functions having been superseded by aerial surveillance for forest fires. A book I have on lookouts in the Northwest has a picture of my old lookout building, abandoned and in a sorry state of deterioration.
Mt. Townsend is located on the northeasterly fringes of the rugged Olympic Mountains. To the south and west are numerous jagged peaks leading up to the range which contains a significant number of the highest peaks in the Olympics--among them Mt. Constance at 7743 feet, Mt. Deception at 7788 feet, and Mt. Mystery at 7631 feet above sea level. While these heights may seem low compared to many other western mountain ranges which have many peaks at ten to twelve thousand feet above sea level, the Olympics are more spectacular because they rise directly from sea level whereas many of the other peaks rise from valleys already six or more thousand feet above sea level. From Mt. Townsend looking north and east are a series of forested ridges rapidly decreasing in height until the lowlands adjoining the waters of Puget Sound and the Strait of Juan de Fuca are reached. On clear days I had spectacular views of Vancouver Island across the Strait to the north, and of the Cascade Mts. to the east highlighted as they are by snow capped Mt. Rainier, Glacier Peak, and Mt. Baker. At night the lights of Victoria, Bellingham, Everett, and Seattle, as well as of smaller towns and villages, twinkled in the distance lighting up the surrounding sky in sharp contrast to the depth of the darkness over nearby wilderness areas to the south and west.
Mt. Townsend is not a sharp peak but a high ridge above timberline extending westward from a small pass across which it is is joined to a string of mountains, including Iron and Buckhorn Mts., which eventually lead to Mt. Constance. The lookout building was located almost at the end of the ridge overlooking portions of a series of valleys bearing such streams as Silver Creek, Gold Creek, Copper Creek, Little Quilcene River, portions of the Dungeness River, and off in the distance the Three Forks area where the Graywolf River and Cameron and Grand Creeks meet. Nearby, slightly below the level of the lookout, was an open leanto which was the home of my burros. The only other structure was an open air outhouse nearby where one might sit and meditate as he enjoyed the grandeur of the panorama he faced.
The lookout building was both a home and a worksite. In other lookout situations, often a small cabin for living quarters is located below a tower or a lookout building on a craggy site. One unusual lookout site pictured in my book on lookouts shows a cubicle perched on top of a tree stub. To reach it one had to climb a series of spikes nailed into the tree trunk which spiraled to the top. Mort Lauridsen told me he once had to climb up to this lookout; he was scared stiff every step of the way--especially on the way down.
In the center of the lookout was the usual Osborne firefinder which was developed by an old timer named Will Osborne who I was to meet later that first summer. Using it one determined the azimuth and vertical angle which he quickly reported to the Forest Dispatcher, Bill Graham, in the ranger station, when he sighted a fire. The lookout building had glass windows all around to make that task possible. With such readings from two or more lookouts Bill was able to accurately pinpoint the location of each smoke on detailed maps in the ranger station.
My ability to pinpoint fire locations was improved during the summer of l935 when panoramic photos were taken from the roof of the lookout building. Vertical angles and azimuths plotted on the photos made it easier to locate fires. Will Osborne showed up at my lookout in midsummer to take these pictures. After completing his picture taking he left and as soon as he was gone I discovered he had left something behind. Will thought I would break my fool neck as he watched me shortcutting the trail by making a mad dash down the rocky mountainside. His son, Will Osborne Jr, also is a forester who I met in Portland in the 1970's at forestry meetings. The panoramic photos from Mt. Townsend now grace the lobby as an exhibit in the new ranger station in Quilcene.
In my day, the lookout's job for practical purposes was a 24 hour a day job. During daylight hours, seven days a week, I was constantly surveying the countryside, even keeping an eye peeled while taking care of living necessities. This was so unlike Kathy's experience in the North Cascades during the 1970's when she worked as a lookout on an eight hour per day basis getting overtime pay when required to work longer.
The summer of 1935 was a quiet year for forest fires. Weather conditions were unusually favorable and no major fires developed. The few lightning storms which developed did not set off any fires of note. Lightning storms were a lookout's nightmare, not only because of their tendency to ignite the forests, but also because of their effect on the lookout and its immediate surroundings. When such a storm was brewing nearby, the air was full of static electricity which caused varying phenomena to develop. The static electricity would cause a person's hair to stand on end--to the extent he had any; the telephone would often be ringing continuously because of electricity induced into the line at points often many miles away. On such occasions one made sure to stay away from the phone. Sometimes one might see a small blue streak of static electricity jump from the stove to another metal object in the lookout. Outside one sometimes observed balls of St. Elmos fire dancing erratically about on the ground. These phenomina occurred even though the lookout building was equipped with lightning rods and adequately grounded. During these storms the safest spot was lying quietly atop the bed mattress without touching any metal object.
I enjoyed watching the ever changing cloud formations. Most of them were benign unlike the thunderstorms which occasionally appeared. Some days I would watch the coastal fog relentlessly creeping in from the Pacific along the Strait like a gigantic river enveloping the lowlands and the salt water bays as it moved. As it approached the nearby peaks and ridges they would gradually become islands in a vast sea of white. Relentlessly the fog would move, like water moving up hill, up and over the ridges to fill the valleys beyond. On such occasions Bill Graham would tell us how miserably chilly it was at the ranger station in Quilcene. The tops of the fog banks usually were brilliantly white as they reflected the sun's rays overhead. On occasion, however, a high layer of clouds would move in overhead and the brilliance of the clouds below would be dulled inducing a shivering chill in the air about the lookout.
Some mornings I would wake to find the sky brilliantly clear, but toward mid-morning wisps of fog would form below in some of the mountain's hollows. These would enlarge and gradually move upward until suddenly the lookout would be enveloped. As the bottom of the cloud layer so generated moved above the lookout I sometimes would be bombarded with showers of sleet or snow. Thus I can truthfully say that I've seen it snow every month of the year.
When periods of fog and clouds appeared I would be free to pursue some of my personal interests. I particularly liked to explore some of the nearby surroundings, often visiting the Silver Lakes at the end of Silver Creek where I managed to catch a few trout. Over the ridge at the base of Buckhorn Mt., the headwaters of Copper Creek was the site of an old manganese mine, the Tubal Cain Mine, the remnants of mine buildings still marking the site. The ore mined had once been packed out on muleback over the trail skirting Mt. Townsend. According to the current Forest Service map of the Olympic National Forest this spot is still privately owned as a mining claim, an island within the Forest. On one occasion I climbed to the tops of Iron and Buckhorn Mts. and was surprised to find a hole on the top of Iron Mt. dug by some prospector many years before.
Starting with my CCC days, I had developed an interest in the flora of the Olympics. During the late spring and early summer the high country, especially above timberline, is often one vast floral garden. Thus it was an ideal place to pursue such an interest and through all my travels both on and off the trails I would observe new and interesting plants. I still have the thin reference book, Elementary Flora of the Northwest by Frye and Rigg, wherein I would enter the date and place where I first observed each specific plant. I've forgotten much of what I learned then, but flowers like avalanche lily, heather, penstemon, larkspur, bellflower, shooting star, anemone, and lily of the valley still readily come to mind. Along these lines, hiking among the peaks and their meadows I noted that white bark pine, a member of the white pine group which normally have five needles in a bunch or fascicle, had various numbers ranging from four to eight. I wrote a brief article for the U of W Forest Club Quarterly concerning my observation speculating on the possibility of some future dendrological work on this occurrence but that never materialized.
The main use of my burros was to carry water for my needs from Windy Lakes which were located down some switchbacks along the Townsend Creek trail. The rest of the time they were free without any type of restraint to graze at will on the mountainside. I suppose it was the daily ration of grain that kept them from straying. Much of the time, especially on those brilliantly clear days we often had, they could be found standing side by side on one of the pinnacles overlooking the valleys below. One can but wonder what about that magnificent scene could bring about the reaction that invariably ensued. If one approached at this point their only movement would be to turn their heads with what appeared to be sly grins on their customarily wise old faces.
I don't remember seeing many large wild animals while on the mountain. Occasionally I would run into a deer. But the mountainside was full of whistling marmots, one on a point less than fifty feet from the lookout. These relatives of the groundhogs and prairie dogs were always interesting to watch and the silence of the mountain air was constantly broken each day by their characteristic piercing whistles. There also were chipmunks galore but for some reason I can't recall any specific bird friends on Mt. Townsend.
One morning about midway through the summer I got a call from Monte Mapes. My brother Ed was there having arrived after a long trip riding freight trains across the country. Monte said Ed insisted on coming up to see me that day even though he already appeared to be very tired. Monte said they would show him where the Townsend Creek trail began and suggested I come down to meet him. So I started out taking a lantern with me since I knew it would be dark before we returned to the lookout. I hiked about 13 miles all the way out to the road not far from CCC Camp Quilcene without seeing Ed. Concerned, I went into the Superintendent's office and started calling around checking whether anyone might have seen him. All of a sudden Ed appeared in the open doorway. It seems he got started out on the trail all right but soon came to where the Port Townsend water pipeline crossed the trail. The pipeline was topped by a relatively level pathway and Ed reasoned that it must be the trail to my lookout rather than the rugged trail he had been following and which obviously switchbacked up the mountainside from that point on. So he turned right and followed the pipeline until it dropped abruptly down to the level of the Little Quilcene River bed and just as abruptly rose on the other side. Realizing then his mistake, he soon found the Little Quilcene road and returned to the CCC camp.
Ed though obviously tired still insisted on going up to the lookout. So, already late in the afternoon we climbed those switchbacks over the Quilcene Range and on the other side I picked up the lantern I had cached. Then, generally paralleling Townsend Creek, we followed the trail toward Mt. Townsend. It got dark before long and as we plodded on Ed's weariness began to show. There were many ups and downs along the way, and just about every time we came to a short rise Ed asked whether this was another mountain we were climbing. We finally came to Windy Lakes and timberline, then up the switchbacks toward the top of Mt. Townsend with a beautiful moonlit sky overhead. Halfway up we suddenly came upon my burros grazing through the night. Ed was badly startled at first, thinking we had run across some wild animals. It was at this point that I formally introduced Ed to my buddies.
Well, we made it to the lookout about 2 AM. Ed was so tired he hardly stepped out of the lookout for a few days. Despite his weariness he enjoyed his new experience on top of the mountain. One of my staple foods on the lookout was sourdough hotcakes. I kept a batch of batter constantly fermenting tossing in some more flour each time I tapped the batch. Ed's visit coincidentally occurred when I was experimenting and had flavored my batter with chocolate. So while he was with me I treated him to some chocolate pancakes. When Ed departed after about a week he was well rested and found the Townsend Creek trail on the way out not so tiring going downhill, but still I was told his ankles were swollen when he arrived at the CCC camp. He returned to Seattle, then riding freight trains again he first headed for California. Later he headed east to Nevada where he spent some time in a camp near Reno. Eventually, still riding freight trains, he was back home in Minersville by the end of summer.
It was a very quiet summer as far as forest fires were concerned. By Labor Day in September there no longer was much danger of forest fires and no further need for me on Mt. Townsend. After closing up the lookout building to protect it from the assaults of the coming winter I loaded up my burros and hiked back to the Little Quilcene road. Thus ended my first summer with the Forest Service and I was soon back in Seattle where I was to attain my goal of attending the University of Washington.
I was assigned to the Mt. Walker lookout for the summers of 1936 and 1937. Mt. Walker, 2804 feet high, is the most northeasterly peak in the Olympic Mts. Well below timberline, it was completely forested and its eastern side dropped abruptly to the waters of Quilcene Bay. Because of these steep slopes U. S. Highway 101 did not follow along the shores of the Bay as it headed south from Quilcene. Instead it was routed through a low pass to the west of Mt. Walker. From this pass an excellent dirt road led up the mountain circling it until it reached the top where it forked, one side leading to the lookout, the other to South Point. Thus Mt. Walker was readily accessible both for Forest Service personnel and for frequent visitors.
Each year a Forest Service truck brought me and my belongings to the mountain top. The lookout building faced the north at the top of a clearing formed by removing all of the trees in three directions except the south. The clearing was heavily covered with rhododendrons which were a beautiful sight in full bloom when I arrived each summer.
My first season there, the surroundings were rough. But that first summer and over months thereafter, the CCC boys made a number of major improvements around the lookout. The ground to the north and west of the lookout was leveled off and a railing built to separate it from the slopes below. Two rough cedar plank benches were constructed to facilitate leisurely contemplation of the scenic beauty in three directions. In the center of this area next to the railing was built a circular disk on which were plotted the mountain peaks and other points of interest with an arrow radiating from the center toward each. Facetiously, I drew another arrow toward an unnamed outcrop of the Iron Mt. complex and named it Mt. Bethel after my fellow Guard Jim Bethel. However, it didn't take--the name was no longer on the disk when I visited Mt. Walker in 1967.
To accommodate the increasing number of visitors, the CCC boys constructed a number of picnic tables among the trees to the south of the lookout. New toilets were also constructed among the trees below the picnic area. Thus my second summer was served amid a host of improvements which drew a greater number of visitors than the year before.
Facing the west from Mt. Walker, one had an excellent view of the Big Quilcene River valley and those of its tributaries, Tunnel Creek and Townsend Creek, all of which headwatered in that complex of peaks which ranged eastward from Mt. Townsend. Screened by these mountains, the high range which contained Mts. Greywolf, Mystery, and Deception, and which formed such a spectacular panorama as viewed from Mt. Townsend was not visible from Mt. Walker. But from Mt. Walker the low ridges dropping off to the coastal lowlands were much closer and more details were visible. However, much more of the Strait of Juan de Fuca was visible from the higher elevation of Mt. Townsend. Looking almost straight down to the north from Mt. Walker one had an excellent view of Quilcene. The cars streaming by on Rte. l0l were like little ants creeping at a snails pace below.
A number of times each day I was required to walk to the South Point of Mt. Walker, about a quarter of a mile, from where the south and east slopes of Mt. Walker and the surrounding area were visible. While duty required my presence there, I couldn't help but enjoy the magnificent distant views from South Point. Looking across Hood Canal not far away was the Kitsap Peninsula, then beyond that was Puget Sound and the big cities on its shores. This scene was especially great in the late afternoon when the increasingly horizontal rays of the sun were reflected back in my direction and specific landmarks showed up much more clearly. As a distant background framing this scene was the Cascade Range with all its snowcapped peaks. Since Mt. Walker was further east than Mt. Townsend and had an unobstructed view to the south and east, in addition to Mt. Baker, Glacier Peak, and Mt. Rainier, when the weather was clear one had a pretty good view of Mt. St. Helen and Mt. Adams also. Even some of the mountains in British Columbia were visible on especially clear days.
The fire hazard was low each of my years on Mt. Walker with no major fires anywhere of concern to us. Thus I had little opportunity to put into practice much of what was taught us about fires in Guard School.
During my second year on Mt. Walker we were issued short wave radios, identified with an SP code number, as the Forest Service began experimenting with radio as a supplement to our telephone communication system. I don't recall any practical use of it that year other than an occasional test call to the ranger station. But I did find it interesting to listen to it at night when apparently atmospheric conditions permitted us to hear transmissions from far away. Thus I was entertained many nights listening to developments on fire lines as far away as Idaho.
In 1937 I had an old Atwater Kent radio which I picked up used in Seattle the previous winter. The superintendent of the Quilcene CCC camp generously loaned me a car battery for power and recharged it throughout the summer as necessary. For an antenna, I reasoned that the miles of telephone line would make an excellent antenna so I connected the telephone line to the radio. It really worked--at first. Then when I reconnected it a second time I must have switched the wires because I burned out all my tubes. Generously, the CCC superintendent got me another set of tubes and I wisely refrained from using the telephone line as an antenna again.
That year I had a brief visit from Cherry Sobolesky, then on leave from the Marines in California. Also the nephew of Harry Hopkins, Roosevelt's right hand man, paid me a visit. A few years later I visited him in turn when he was the lookout on Hurricane Ridge.
One weekend Monte Mapes and Blake, the District's timber salesman, came up with their families for a picnic and invited me to join them. At the time I had a pot on the stove with a barley concoction that didn't look very appetizing. I was only too happy to put it aside and join them at the picnic table.
One of my pleasures in the mountains was to lope along the forest trails dodging obstacles and sometimes soaring over small windfalls. One day in 1936 I was headed down the trail leading from the lookout down to the pass below. The trail, which predated the road, dropped steeply from the mountain top. I made a very fast descent loping along and shortcutting around the many switchbacks. When I reached the bottom I found that the nail on my right foot's big toe, repeatedly hitting the shoe front, had become black and blue. I lost the toe nail a bit later and it took a full year to grow out again. One would think I had learned my lesson in 1936, but in 1937 I descended the mountain the same way with the same result.
My most frequent visitors on Mt. Walker were my feathered friends, the Canada Jays, also known by other names such as Gray Jay, Whiskey Jack, and Camp Robber. Anyone who has camped in western mountains has come to know well their sudden appearance out of nowhere and their fearless theft of food in the vicinity of campfires. Mt. Walker's camp robbers came to regard me as a favorite friend and fearlessly alighted on my extended forefingers. From time to time I would bake some gingerbread. Enticed by a piece of gingerbread in my mouth, they would courageously come sit on my chin while they leisurely pecked away.
Among visitors to Mt. Walker was a young girl with a group of girl scouts who later became the wife of Bill Larson, a friend and member of my freshman class at the U of W who became head of the Forest Taxation Bureau of the state of Washington. I don't remember anything about her then, but in a telephone conversation in the late 1970's she related the story of her visit and how much she had been impressed by me as a forest ranger. Though I've seen Bill a number of times in Seattle, I never did have the pleasure of meeting his wife.
During these three years as a lookout I owned an old box camera. Many times I would have it tucked inside my shirt as I traveled about. With it I recorded many aspects of my experiences in the Olympics and now I have found the pictures handy as reminders of things to write about. At that time I was patronizing a mail order firm which gave you a tinted enlargement with each roll of film developed. Many of these now grace some of my old photo albums.
As at Mt. Townsend, I enjoyed very much the day to day changes in the cloud formations while on Mt. Walker. They were not quite as spectacular as on Mt. Townsend, but because of the lower elevation, the fog banks which flowed in from the Strait sometimes completely enveloped Mt. Walker. Just as Bill Graham once said, for me then it too would feel like November outside my lookout.
As the summer of 1937 ended, so did my role as a regularly assigned lookout. In the summer of 1938 I became sort of a jack of all trades without a specific duty station. In 1937 I had become aware that the Forest Service paid mileage when a Guard was requested to use his car on Forest Service business. This intrigued me, so during the early spring of 1938 for $50 I bought a used 1931 Model A Ford coupe with a rumble seat. So in 1938 I had my first car, my own transportation for the first time as I left the ferry at Port Ludlow bound for Quilcene.
The summer of 1938 turned out to be much different than my three previous summers at Quilcene. Spring was dry in the Northwest and the fire danger was high when June arrived. When I got to Quilcene the Green Mt. fire had already been burning several days. It was logical therefore that that would be my first assignment that summer. I don't recall the precise history of the fire, but it burned primarily the northeast face of Green Mt., 4406 feet at its highest elevation, which was the highest portion of what was known as the Quilcene Range. Much of this area had been previously burned over so there was very little valuable timber in flames. However, a considerable amount of young seedlings burned up and the fire lingered throughout the burn in old snags and windfalls.
Much of the fire had already been contained when I arrived. Initially I was assigned to help on that part that was still advancing using Pulaski tools on the fireline and axes and band saws to fell snags and cut through windfalls. Paul Logan from the supervisor's office in Olympia was the fire chief. Also on the fire were Bill Graham and Tony Bogachus. I quickly learned that Tony was a Lithuanian like myself who grew up in that complex of Lithuanian coal miners in the Roslyn-Ronald area near Cle Elum in Washington. So we took advantage of the opportunity and practiced our Lithuanian on each other up and down the fire line. Tony still lives in Quilcene and I've briefly visited with him a few times in recent years as I passed through Quilcene.
Our fire camp at this time was in a logged off area at the foot of the mountain. It was a comfortable camp, so close to the ranger station that we even had metal cots and mattresses to sleep on. Facetiously, I put my cot up on a big tree stump on the site and there I slept through the night hazarding quite a drop were I to fall out of bed during the night. This is one of the events I recorded with my box camera. Somebody had a radio and I marveled how clearly and how loud the station from Salt Lake City, Utah came through. The announcer commented one night on what a marvelous display of northern lights they were viewing there. This prompted us to look around and, sure enough, to the north we had the pleasure of viewing our own display.
It didn't take us long to contain the fire remaining in that section and a decision was made to move to the top of the mountain where there still were a substantial number of hot spots. A group of us back packed up to the top approaching from the Townsend Creek side of the mountain without benefit of a trail. About this time the fire weather had improved and one of those low cloud banks had moved in. After we set up camp on top of the mountain, I sat a short distance away enveloped in the fog for a couple of days with a short wave radio trying to direct a plane to drop supplies to us through the fog. But the fog remained too thick and after about three days a trail was finished to the top of the mountain from Townsend Creek. With that, supplies were brought to us by pack mule. In recognition of our futile efforts to be supplied by air our camp was named Airplane Camp.
It didn't take long to contain the rest of the fire under these weather conditions and so our work shifted to putting out countless numbers of smoldering fires in the burned out area, the so-called mopping up operations. This was dirty work wherein we stirred up much ashes and soot getting ourselves thoroughly covered in the process. At times we had to pass through thickets which had become covered with some of the fog's moisture. In so doing we got ourselves soaked and at times badly chilled. Once on the verge of hypothermia I headed back to camp to get warmed up instead of sticking with my crew as a straw boss should. No one chastised me for it but it was a learning process for me.
After leaving Airplane Camp I was headquartered in the bunkhouse at the ranger station in Quilcene but stilll active on the Green Mt. fire. With my car I patrolled along the Little Quilcene River road from where I could see much of the burned over area. From time to time I would spot a residual smoke and would slog my way up to extinguish it, always a dirty boring job. Apparently Cherry Sobolesky visited me a second time while I was on this assignment as I have a picture of him sitting on a stump looking up toward the burned over mountain. This picture is how I remember Green Mountain, yet now it is completely green covered as it is covered with a young forest and it doesn't look at all familiar to me when I visit the area.
I did a miscellaneous assortment of jobs during much of the summer. At one time Harry Martinson and I were instructed to pare the hoofs of the burros in the Forest Service barn. Busily so engaged we felt a stir of excitement among the burros surrounding us. Looking up we became aware of one jack paying special attention to the only jenny in the barn. As the jenny foiled the amorous expectations of the jack all hell seemed to break loose in the barn. All the jacks began stampeding about the barn, hee-hawing it seemed in unison almost loud enough to raise the roof. Harry and I headed for the nearest ladders to the hayloft. It took a little while for things to quiet down so we could finish our job on these normally docile animals.
On another occasion I was asked to take one of the FS pickups to the Guard Station at Camp Louella. This was the first time I drove such a vehicle, much peppier than my old Model A. So traveling along Rte 101 and feeling my oats, I guess I traveled faster then I should have. All went well along paved 101 but when I reached the dirt road leading to Camp Louella, I almost met my Waterloo. Though traveling much slower than on 101 but still a bit fast for the nature of the road, I skidded on a gravelly spot as the road ess curved. I was not yet familiar with the effect of not having any weight in the back of a pickup and I guess I overcorrected with the steering wheel. Before I knew it I was headed for the bank on the right, fortunately not to the left where there was quite a drop. And so the pickup turned over on its side when it hit the bank. Fortunately I was not hurt.
I then walked, not over a mile, to the Guard Station and the guard (I just can't remember who it was) drove us back to the pickup. No one else had come along, but we two managed to push it back on its wheels--pickups were much lighter in those days. Apparently all the oil had spilled out when it was on its side, so we put in a quart and I drove it to the Guard Station where I completed my mission, whatever it was. Returning to Quilcene you can be sure I drove at a much slower pace.
There wasn't much, but there was some damage to the pickup. I had visions of it costing an arm and a leg to get it fixed at the expense of my meager earnings. Monte Mapes let me stew with these thoughts for a few days before he assured me that the Forest Service would repair it with no cost to me.
One might think that this would tame my instinct for horsing around with a car, but I still had a few oats left to sow. Later I was asked to do some patrolling of forest roads with my Model A since the fire danger continued high. Among the roads to be patrolled was the Gold Creek road, the road I helped build as a CCC enrollee. This road was blocked at both ends by gates and I was supposed to be the only one on the road. So at times I would come barreling at about 35 miles an hour into a right angle turn, step on the brakes and turn the steering wheel. As the rear end skidded around and the front end pointed in the right direction I stepped on the gas and off I went again. Fortunately nothing adverse happened but this maneuvering was not good for my tires. As it was, my tires were already badly worn and nearly every day when using the Model A I had to stop somewhere to fix a flat--my daily dozen I called it.
The fire danger continued high as the summer advanced. As an added precaution I was asked to go up to the top of the Quilcene Range as an emergency lookout. The pack trail we had built earlier was a godsend in getting up there. With a tent for shelter and an adequate supply of food I lived comfortably there for over a week during which I constantly patrolled the ridge top looking for possible fires in the surrounding area, especially those sections which were not visible very well from the established lookouts. I used one of the new short-wave radios for communicating with the ranger station. Nothing happened while I was up there so it turned out to be just another nice camping trip.
The fire danger was high throughout the Northwest that summer. A major fire was in progress near Agness on the Rogue River in Oregon. Bill Davies, who had just graduated from the College of Forestry and who eventually retired as Chairman of the Forest Engineering Department at Oregon State University, and I were asked to go down there to act as scouts on the fire. Bill had an old Chevy, about as old as my Model A. He insisted on doing all the driving and as nightfall approached we headed west along the highway from the Roseburg area. In full darkness that night we headed south on the road that branched off toward Agness. In later years Bill used to kid me that when he drove that road he was fast asleep half the time. Anyway, we arrived safely in Agnes as day broke. As we entered the village we were greeted by a dog emerging from inches of road dust and giving us a dirty look for disturbing his repose. Reporting to the ranger station we were directed to the trail leading to the fire camp.
Some distance up the trail we came upon an unleashed horse which I thought may have escaped from the fire camp. So I clambered aboard figuring I'd ride it back to the camp. Almost immediately, however, we ran across a nest of yellow jackets and the horse began to buck. Somehow I scrambled off and decided it would be best to lead the horse to camp which I learned had been named Soldier Camp. The fire was called the Old Diggins Fire. I don't recall the acreage of the fire but it wasn't easy to come up with meaningful information for the fire chief scouting as we were in totally unfamiliar terrain. Eventually the fire was controlled and we returned to the Olympics. Kermit Lindstet was the District Ranger at Agness at that time.
But all was not completely quiet upon our return to Quilcene. Shortly after I got back a minor lightning storm triggered a small fire on the steep slopes of Mt. Constance facing the Dosewallips River. A couple of us, I and Harry Martinson, were sent to put it out. It was not very far from that steep trail to Lake Constance which I previously mentioned, but the terrain was such that the trail was of minor use in reaching the fire. We had to pick our way up toward the fire, often over loose rocky debris which provided insecure footing. As we proceeded up such a slope between two cliffs on each side, I heard a load noise overhead. Looking up, I froze in my tracks instinctively hugging the steep slope I was on. There was a huge boulder, about one and a half feet in diameter, apparently loosened by the fire above, which was now bearing down on us. In that brief moment that it took to reach us, half my life seemed to skip through my mind. But we were lucky, the rock bounced before reaching us and passed overhead within an arms reach to my right.
We finally reached the fire which was not spreading very fast but was burning in a rocky area with just enough wooden debris and scattered forest growth to keep it smouldering. It took a while before we were able to put it out. Then we had to hang around a bit, uncomfortably on that steep rocky slope, to make sure it didn't come to life again. It was almost as difficult clambering down as it had been on the way up.
Not all the activities during the summer of 1938 were associated with fires. I had one pleasant hike up to Mt. Zion where I enjoyed the company of the Rollin Shaw family. I believe this was in conjunction with a brief stay for some reason at the Snow Creek Guard Station, normally unmanned at that time, which was located on a forest road not far from where the Mt. Zion trail began. The area had been logged over, did not yet have a significant new growth of trees, and the open spaces were full of berries which I enjoyed, especially the black raspberries. I particularly remember this guard station because this was where I learned first hand about the peculiar behavior of packrats. Since the station was normally unoccupied it had been taken over by a family of packrats. During my brief stay there, it was nothing unusual to waken in the morning to find my socks missing from my boots. Instead I would find such things as straw, sticks, bark, or if food was not adequately secured a quantity of rice or macaroni. Other things were similarly out of place, often up in the attic where the packrats nested.
On another occasion, Hubert Lamereaux, a classmate of Frank Hart's, whose forestry career eventually led to the corporate office of Boise Cascade in Boise, Idaho, and I went out with a bicycle wheel to measure and mark some of the trails in the Quilcene District. Heading up the Big Quilcene River trail we traveled light, without bedding, keeping ourselves warm overnight curled up near our campfire. In one spot, frequently used as a campground, we found an old 50 gallon iron barrel converted into a stove whose long lasting fire and radiant heat was particularly enjoyable through the night. As we went over the ridge from the Big Quil River at Marmot Pass we had a magnificent view of the headwaters of the Dungeness River as it drained the slopes of Mt. Constance and Mt. Mystery. Continuing our trail measurements we came close to Mt. Constance itself. I have a picture showing Hubert standing on the very top of Little Constance, one of the satellite peaks along the slopes of Mt. Constance.
Beyond Marmot Pass the trail passed through that part of the Dungeness headwaters which was in the Olympic National Monument, since upgraded to tke Olympic National Park. At that time the Forest Service provided fire protection to the National Monument. The rest of the trail lay within the boundaries of the Monument and as we completed our trail measurements we reached the end of the road along the Dosewallips River.
I don't recall when I first learned that 1938 would be my last summer in the Quilcene District. In the summer of 1939 my status as a college graduate precluded in some way my eligibility for another summer appointment in Quilcene. But whatever the logic of that, I was able to get such a job in the Snider Ranger District about forty miles west of Port Angeles. As in 1938, this again was without a specific duty station but performing a variety of duties throughout the summer.
Having the Model A Ford was a blessing considering the distance I had to travel to reach Snider after getting off the ferry at Port Ludlow. It was a pleasant ride along Rte 101, especially the ten miles along Lake Crescent, a beautiful lake deep blue in color, surrounded by high mountains, especially Storm King Mountain whose slopes dropped right into the lake. All of this is now in the Olympic National Park.
The District Ranger was Sandy Floe, a very pleasant man with whom I got along well. His family occupied one of the h omes on the site, on a small hill overlooking the ranger station. The other, located near the bunkhouse, was occupied by the family of George Gifford, the Dispatcher in the District. Most of the time that I was at Snider I lived in the bunkhouse.
When I arrived at Snider my spirits were kind of low. Early that spring I had the unfortunate experience of breaking up with a girl, Jane Storhow, of whom I had become fond during the previous two years at college. I suppose I was kind of moody for a while, but that gradually wore away. Day to day contacts with Betty Gifford, George's teen age sister spending the summer with him helped a lot. l enjoyed her company though nothing serious developed between us.
It was relatively quiet most of the summer of 1939. I can't recall for sure whether I attended Guard School, but that was an annual affair so I must have had a few more days at Camp Louella and thus some more time with my old friends from Quilcene. I spent a lot of time on jobs like reproduction surveys. I have some pictures of us on one of those push-pull railroad carts which we apparently used for transportation at times on a railroad line going through the area. The surveys were done on logged over land where we could see considerable distances. Occasionally we would see a bear foraging ahead along our survey route. Then we would patiently bide our time until it drifted some distance to one side before we proceeded again. It wasn't always pleasant--Snider being closer to the coast than Quilcene had many more rainy days during the summer and it was not unusual for us to get soaked before the day was over.
A number of times I had to drive one of the Forest Service trucks. Once I drove up a steep, switchbacking forest road from the Elwha River valley to the top of Hurricane Ridge. This road still exists, but a leisurely well paved highway now traveled by thousands of summer visitors to the Park Service's Hurricane Ridge Lodge approaches more directly from Port Angeles to the north. I don't recall the reason for this trip, but I do remember having some dynamite aboard so I didn't feel very comfortable along some of those switchbacks. This was the occasion when I visited with the nephew of Harry Hopkins who was the lookout on Hurricane Ridge that summer. Hurricane Ridge is one of a relatively few higher elevations in the Olympics which can conveniently be reached for a spectacular view of the mountains. Looking southwest from Hurricane Ridge toward Mt. Olympus, at 7965 feet above sea level the Olympic's highest peak, one sees in the foreground across the Elwha valley the magnificent Bailey Range.
Coincidentally, during that summer Franklin Delano Roosevelt made a special trip to the Olympic Peninsula to celebrate the conversion of the Olympic National Monument to a national park. I didn't get to see him, but soon afterwards management responsibilities for the park area were taken over from the Forest Service by a new Park Service headquarters office in Port Angeles.
The Snider Ranger Station is located at the base of a long ridge to the north named Kloshe Naniche, 3340 feet above sea level at its highest point. The ridge drops steeply to the north providing an expansive view of the Strait of Juan de Fuca and Vancouver Island beyond. A forest road winds from the ranger station to the top of Kloshe Naniche. I remember one trip to the top when I had to return through a pea soup fog driving a truck when I could barely see the edge of the road. I had to inch my way along guided by the steep bank to my right.
One of the readily accessible attractions in the area, now also in the National Park but then under our jurisdiction, is Soleduc Hot Springs. On one of my free days I had the pleasure of basking in the steamy pool fed by the area's hot springs.
About the middle of the summer one of the local men working for the district, who I didn't know very well, got married. Some of my coworkers who did know him well organized a "shivaree" and asked me to come along. After the wedding the couple returned to his home for their honeymoon. Well into the evening when it was pitch dark we gathered outside the home. A-whoopin and a-hollerin, and banging on all kind of metal gadgets, we made enough noise to waken the dead. It wasn't long before the newlyweds appeared at an upstairs window, sheepish grins on their faces, waved and made a few innocuous comments. With that, enthusiasm for further shenanigans was gone and we departed.
Every area develops its own pattern of stories based upon both legend and fact. The Olympic Peninsula is no exception to that. One story of the Olympics I always remember concerns the legendary "Iron Man of the Hoh" whose last name was Huelsdonk. Most of the rugged western Olympic Mts. are within the boundaries of the National Park. The rivers whose headwaters begin among these peaks flow westerly through long stretches of low ridges and swampy lowland rain forests, the type of terrain that forms much of the national forest which adjoins the national park to the west and north. Thus to get deep into the forests along these streams required lengthy tiresome hikes. The Hoh River is one of these streams. The Iron Man built his home along the upper stretches of the Hoh River and I understand his descendants still live there. His house is now sort of a historical landmark--it is shown on the current Forest Service map of the Olympic Mts. and can now be reached by road. As the story goes, one day a hiker heading down the trail westward met the Iron Man who had on his back a heavy iron kitchen stove. The hiker remarked about the obvious difficulty of carrying such a heavy cumbersome load. The Iron Man is said to have replied that the stove didn't bother him, but it was that hundred pound sack of flour in the oven which was wearing him down.
What had been a rather quiet summer suddenly became extremely hectic in mid August when the Deep Creek fire in the Snider District blew up. As the name indicates, it was in the Deep Creek drainage north of Kloshe Nanische. While only about five miles as the crow flies from the ranger station, since it was north of the mountain, several times that distance had to be traveled to get to the fire site. It eventually developed into a 7000 acre fire and required more than the full resources of the Snider Ranger District to combat it.
Initially, among other things, I hauled supplies and equipment to the fire site and also spent some time on the fireline, occasionally helping a man manning an Edwards pumper pumping water from Deep Creek to the fireline. By the time the fire was largely contained a camp had been built within a burned out portion of the area to make it easier to reach the remaining hot spots. One picture I have shows the camp in a smoke filled atmosphere; another from the camp taken at night shows an active ring of fire on a hill above the camp.
Before the fire was completely out in early September the time came for me to leave. I had to prepare for and travel to New Haven, Conn. for a graduate year at the Yale School of Forestry.
Unexpectedly, I was to see the Snider Ranger Station again in 1942. But the brief time that I apparently saw Monte Mapes early in the summer of 1939 regretfully was the last I would ever see of him. I heard that he later transferred to the Spirit Lake Ranger Station in the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. In fact I recently ran across an old address book dating back to the mid 1940's which contains such an address for Monte. In February 197l while still in New Jersey planning to move West again I picked up the Sunday Portland Oregonian. At that time I rarely looked at obituaries but I just happened to look at them in that Sunday paper and to my amazement there was an obituary for Monte Mapes. I believe he was 9l then. Later that summer while in the Northwest arranging for our move I paid my respects to Monte's widow in Camas, Wash. Monte was buried in the Willamette National Cemetary in Portland, Oregon.
CHAPTER 8:--FORESTRY STUDENT
I stayed briefly with Dick Hughes at his Aunt Helen's home on Capitol Hill when I returned to Seattle in September of 1935 after my first summer of work in the Olympics with the Forest Service. My enthusiasm for embarking on a forestry career influenced Dick into enrolling with me when I enrolled in the freshman class in the School of Forestry at the University of Washington. The publicity and emphasis in the early 1930's on forestry related programs such as the Tennessee Valley Authority, Soil Conservation Service, Shelterbelt Program in the Plains states, and the Civilian Conservation Corps generated so much enthusiasm for forestry that our entering class of about 250 freshmen was the largest such class ever to enroll in the School of Forestry. Future classes showed diminishing enrollments and my 1935 class may still hold the record for size.
I remember having a serious discussion in the middle of my freshman year with Bill Hagenstein, then a sophomore, who later became a key figure in the Northwest lumber industry as Executive Director of the Industrial Forestry Association. Our concern then was just how many of that big freshman class would drop out during the first year and, of those who stuck it out, how many would embark on careers other than in forestry. Little did I dream then that I would be one of the latter, those who I later categorized as forestry dropouts.
The sum of $45 is fixed in my mind as the tuition total for the entire school year of three quarters. Thus the $15 tuition for the Fall quarter was easily paid out of the $90 I had saved from my summer's work with the Forest Service for which I was paid $90 a month. Out of that, of course, had to come the cost of books, lab fees, and other costs related to my courses. What I had left was far from enough not only for the fall quarter, but also for the winter and spring quarters later on.
How I got by that first quarter is now a bit cloudy. I remember tending furnace in a rooming house but I can't remember what I got for that service. During most of the school year I had a room in a private rooming house next to the Alpha Phi sorority. I don't recall whether the work I did in the rooming house at dinner time paid for my meals or for my room rent there. But the landlady for whom I worked was so pleased with how well I cleaned her kitchen stove after each dinner that she recommended me to her friend, Sadie the cook, next door when a houseboy vacancy occurred at the sorority. I got the job on the strength of her recommendation, but continued to live in her rooming house. I got all my meals at the sorority plus some additional compensation on which I relied for other living expenses. With this new job at Alpha Phi and a roof over my head next door, my living conditions were stabilized for the rest of my freshman year.
I worked with two other students, brothers who came from somewhere in the Yakima area. I got the impression that the work of the two was not completely to Sadie's liking, but I doubt that as the junior member of the team my influence on them was quite as great as she visualized based on the strength of my landlady's recommendation.
As houseboys our work consisted of waiting on tables and washing dishes at meals and periodically cleaning common areas of the sorority building. One dinner while washing dishes a drinking glass came apart while I was cleaning the inside and cut a big gash in one of the knuckles of my right hand. This was suitably bandaged but it was Friday night and the foresters were having their annual dance with the student nurses at Harborview Hospital. During the dance my injury began to bleed again profusely so one of the student nurses took me into one of the labs and rebandaged it for me.
One night we had ice cream for dessert. For some reason I took a piece of dry ice with me to my room after work. Fooling around, I put a very small piece of the dry ice into a vial of neetsfoot oil I used on my boots and screwed on the cap. I must have put it on a dresser or table--otherwise my hand would have been cut badly. As it was, almost instantly the pressure of the vaporizing dry ice became so great that the vial exploded. I got a little cut on my forehead, but the room was a mess with oil all over the walls, ceiling, etc. In addition to a good cleaning, the room had to be rekalsomined--at my expense, an expense I could ill afford.
It must have been a popular name in those days, but the girl's name Marjorie remains strong in my mind. There were a number of girls in the sorority with that name. I took a fancy to one of the Marjorie's--Marjorie Shields--but while she was always pleasant during brief contacts, I was strictly on the outside looking in.
I don't remember very many of my classmates as freshmen. Dick Hughes dropped out after only a short time as did the youngest son of William Greeley, then the Chief Forester in Washington, D. C. I guess the reason I remember Carl Hupman so well is because we both had much in common. Carl also came from the East and all his relatives were still back in Ohio. He was the oldest child of a large family and seemed a bit bitter that his parents had had so many children. He regarded that as the reason why he had to do some scrounging around to make ends meet. Carl had a baby face, looked younger than his years, so much so that he looked like he should be just entering high school rather than college. Carl had a room with an elderly couple part of that year who seriously wanted to adopt him. They enjoyed classical music and I wondered how Carl could study with that classical stuff booming throughout the house. Carl, I would say, was my closest friend throughout my undergraduate years and we still keep in touch with each other.
The School of Forestry was located in Anderson Hall at the extreme south end of the campus. There, and in the Wood Products Laboratory to its rear, is where we received our forestry instruction. Since I lived north of the campus, at least twice a day we got our exercise walking both ways the length of the campus.
Initially during our freshman year we took only a few basic forestry courses, Introduction to Forestry from Dean Winkenwerder, Dendrology from Scotty Harrar, and Forest Protection from Gene Zumwalt. However, most of my freshman year was devoted to non-forestry requisites--Physics, Biology, Mathematics, and English Composition; Chemistry was taken during the first quarter of my sophomore year. I was really thankful that I had taken post-graduate courses in Physics and Chemistry during the winter I stayed at the Boys Club. I believe that was a significant factor in my earning A's in both subjects and to this I believe can be attributed the honors I received that first year. Not only was 1st on the Dean's List each quarter, but my name was engraved on a plaque in Anderson Hall listing freshmen who in past years attained the highest grade point average during their freshman years. This honor was a bit tainted for me though as I seem to have gained it by default. Another freshman, Harold Deery, supposedly had a slightly higher average but was declared ineligible for some reason I don't recall, but I believe some of his grades were earned during prior college attendance.. In 1967 when we visited Anderson Hall during our trailer vacation Kathy and Bill were surprised when they ran across my name so listed on that plaque. Jim Bethel, later Dean of the College of Forestry, told me the plaque was misplaced during a recent renovation of Anderson Hall and no longer graces its hallway. I received my poorest grades in military science and physical education, mostly B's and a C. These were enough to pull my freshman grade point average down to 3.84 out of a possible 4.00.
The School had two new forestry professors who I remained in touch with for many years after graduation, Fred Wangaard and Gene Zumwalt, both young enough to be still classed as members of my generation. Fred apparently came to the University alone at first. He lived by himself in a room of a boarding house pretty much as we students did. I remember a few of us guys going to check on him one time when he was laid up sick in bed. Some time after my graduation Fred and Gene both went on to the Yale School of Forestry as professors where Gene took advantage of the opportunity to gain his doctorate. After Yale Fred became Dean of the Forestry Department at Colorado State University from which he eventually retired. Following Yale, Gene served as Alaska's Director of the Bureau of Land Management and eventually retired as one of the Bureau's Assistant Commissioners in Washington, D.C.
One reason I remember both of them so well is because from time to time I joined them in outside activities such as handball in the University gym. Gene enjoyed reading western novels and was prone to cavort on the handball court. Fred on the other hand remained serious in a friendly way regardless of what was taking place at any moment. Both Gene and Fred became honorary members of the forestry fraternity, Tau Phi Delta, and participated with their wives in many of the fraternity gatherings.
The subject I enjoyed most early in my forestry studies was Dendrology, the taxonomy of trees. It was taught by Scotty Harrar who had written a book on the subject, a copy of which I still possess. I liked Scotty a lot, did well in his course, and I was very sorry to see him leave to take a more responsible job in the graduate School of Forestry at Duke University. I almost joined him there as a graduate student in the fall of l939.
Professor Alexander taught us our silviculture courses during our sophomore year. He was a nice Canadian gentleman but graded strictly according to a mathematical curve and was prone to partiality. These faults were sufficiently strong that they antagonized many of his students, a situation that came to the attention of Dean Winkenwerder. Since I was one of the better students, I was one of those the Dean checked with in evaluating the situation. While not severely adverse to Professor Alexander, I reluctantly gave the Dean an honest appraisal. I was not particularly happy to see it take place, but the professor was let go at the end of my sophomore year.
When my sophomore year began in Sept, 1936, I had a few more dollars saved than the previous year out of my summer's earnings since we had had a raise in pay. Part of that raise, however, was designed to offset the rental cost of our living quarters, a new concept initiated by the Forest Service that summer. To supplement my savings I remember first doing some work for a fraternity. Apparently I wasn't there very long as I went to work for another sorority, Alpha Zi Delta, as a houseboy. I can't remember why I didn't return to the job I had as a freshman at the Alpha Phi sorority. The mother of Lynn Ace, our late daughter-in-law, later became a member of this chapter of Alpha Zi Delta. I and another houseboy had a room in the basement, far removed from the living quarters of the sorority members. Facetiously, in relating my experiences I guess I can say that I once lived in a sorority house.
One night we were wakened by a noise outside our window and as we looked up we saw a female figure nonchalantly stepping through the window onto my roommate's bed. Without so much as a hello or excuse me she calmly stepped off the bed and strode out the door. We recognized her as one of the more socially active members who was using that means of entrance to circumvent the curfew restrictions of the sorority.
While working in this sorority I went to a social affair for which a tuxedo was required. I don't recall the specific occasion, but it is the only time in my life that I wore a tuxedo. I recorded the event by taking a snapshot of myself so dressed while sitting in my room at the sorority.
Sometime during my freshman or sophomore year the National Youth Administration program came into existence. I was one of the students who got a part-time job under that program and continued in it with varied assignments until I graduated. I remember having one assignment working with a microscope. But there were two other assignments which particularly stand out in my memory.
Some of our work was done for Floyd Schmoe who had a loose connection with the College of Forestry. He did some teaching but seemed to be particularly involved in historical types of programs. I remember working on an old sailing ship anchored near the Ballard Locks in the channel leading to Lake Union. It was an interesting assignment which gave us ample opportunity to examine the layout and structural features of the ship. On another occasion a small group of us was sent to Lake Samamish to pick up a large historical Indian war canoe carved from a single cedar log. This we paddled down the small stream draining Lake Samamish. When we reached Lake Washington we skirted the northwestern shoreline until we reached the University.
There were a number of school affairs in which it was possible for me to take part. I previously mentioned my mishap at the forester-nurse dance at Harborview Hospital. Each year the Forest Club ran what we called Garb Day. There were a number of contests--tests of skill in the use of axes and bucking saws, for example. Also there was a log rolling contest in Frosh Pond, then just a circular pool of water in the middle of a long vista on the campus near Anderson Hall. Now it has a fountain in the middle of it. Actually, when one stood between Physics and Botany Halls looking down this vista he was apt to be rewarded with a splendid view of Mt. Rainier in the distance, often looking as if it were suspended from the sky above. I took part in the log rolling contest one year. The only problem was that the forester responsible for getting the logs furnished us with peeler cores from logs peeled in a plywood plant. Only about twelve inches in diameter and with a very smooth surface, they spun so fast it was almost impossible to stay on them long enough to be timed. I have a picture of myself falling off.
Garb Day always ended up with the Loggers Hop in the Forest Club room in Anderson Hall. I remember dating one girl for this whose parents had some kind of salmon cannery in Alaska. Another year I apparently dated Joan, a secretary in the Dean's office. I was embarrassed in 197l when Joan, then the wife of Bill Davies, Chairman of OSU's Forest Engineering Department, reminded me of this date during dinner at their home and I couldn't remember it.
Every Friday night there was a dance for all university students in the Women's Gym. I attended a number of these during my first two years at the university. I was one of a number of wallflowers who consistently hung back in the rear of the gym watching the dancers. From time to time we would steal a glance at girls standing around similarly afflicted with shyness, or whatever it was, sizing them up and trying to get up the courage to ask one of them to dance. Usually it was almost the end of the dance before our inhibitions left us, but the brief period during which we danced was too limited to really let us get acquainted with any of the girls.
The athletic events I was most interested in were the football games. In 1936 Washington won what was then I believe the PAC 8 football crown. I decided I would go to Pasedena to see them play in the Rose Bowl. So I got my ticket and started hitchhiking. As a help I made a sign reading "Rose Bowl or Bust" which I unrolled on my arm each time I thumbed a ride. There was no I-5 interstate highway then, so progress was on the slow side. I got as far as Woodland, Wash. the first day where I stopped to see Marvin Boys, a classmate. There I found four others of my classmates similarly bound who invited me to come along in their car. This I was delighted to do. We had a leisurely trip along the Oregon and California coasts, had a tour of San Francisco, and eventually reached Los Angeles where we camped in the apartment of some relatives of one of our group. In that apartment I saw for the first time one of those beds that folds into the wall during the day. At Cherry Sobolesky's request--he was still in the Marines-- I had purchased a student ticket for him also. Even though he was not in uniform, there must have been something about him which gave him away. The ticket collectors would not let him in with a student ticket. Thus we were not able to share the game together. Anyway, Washington lost to Pittsburgh 21-0, and we headed for home, this time via the Siskiyous and Mt. Shasta. Fortunately the weather was clear and we had a spectacular view of snow covered Mt. Shasta.
Most of my fellow classmates were Washington residents. Thus their homes and their families were nearby or at least close enough that they could come home from time to time, especially on major holidays. Others, like myself and Carl Hupman, were far away from home and family and, with our limited financial resources, could not enjoy the same break in the stressful routine of our studies.
I had become pretty well acquainted with the widows Helen Allen and Nellie McLaughlin, thanks to my friend Dick Hughes, and had been accepted by them almost as if I were one of the family. As I indicated earlier, Dick did not remain long as a forestry student but continued to stay with his Aunt Helen for a few years before going elsewhere. During this period she bought him a new Ford sedan which cost $600--imagine getting a new car for that price now. I went along with them on a few trips. Once we drove around the Olympic Peninsula on Rte. 101 stopping in the lodge at Lake Quinault for dinner. On another occasion we drove to Sunrise Park on Mt. Rainier. But it was the Saturday night bridge games that I came to rely on for diversion. They taught me to play auction bridge. The fourth player varied, frequently being Mr. McGregor next door when he was sober, but from time to time one of their lady friends from Bainbridge Island made her appearance. It was quite a walk for me the length of the campus, across Montlake Bridge and up through a steep wooded park area to where they lived on Capital Hill. Often this was done on foggy frosty nights during the winter, the chill being especially penetrating on the return hike back to where I lived.
On one such occasion I had a very bad sore throat. My widow friends gave me the components and on my return to the Tau Phi Delta fraternity where I then lived I concocted a hot butter and rum drink and topped it off with a couple of cloves of garlic. Then I hopped into my bed on the sleeping porch. About 3:30 Am I woke and found my throat quite a bit better though still a little sore. So I got up, put together another concoction, topped it off again with a couple more cloves of garlic and went back to bed. I felt surprisingly good when I got up that morning, but nobody wanted to come near me all day long.
I was kind of self conscious about my receding hairline as time went by because of greater participation in social activities. I reasoned that since after a man shaves his beard comes back real thick, the same thing might happen to my bald spots. So I very carefully shaved the receding portions of my scalp for several weeks but, alas, no luck. Since then I've let nature take its course, grateful now that I don't have to comb my hair any more.
I also kept in touch with Jerry and Marion Bird while attending school. I don't know just when Jerry left the Boys Club, but he got a job with the Bureau of Public Roads to do engineering work near Glacier National Park. It was a rough but interesting life for the family of three living in a tent as they did. I remember well the picture they sent me of little Mary Lynn sitting in a five gallon gasoline tin which was her bathtub. Upon their return to Seattle Jerry went to work for Boeing Corp. as an aeronautical engineer and continued working for the company until he retired in the 1970's. All that time Jerry worked on only one part of the planes, the wings. They first lived in an apartment in South Seattle, but it wasn't long before Jerry built himself a house on South 136th St. where Marion still lives. I frequently visited with the family in both places and remember helping Jerry nail some wooden shingles on the roof of his new home. Bonnie, their second daughter, was born in 1937. I watched the two little girls grow during my remaining years at the university and from time to time I was their babysitter.
When I eventually left Seattle to work in New York I left with the Birds for storage my tin raingear, caulked boots and other outdoor gear. Many years later when Jerry shipped them to me in New Jersey I found that the tin pants no longer fit and my boots were dried out. After being suitably oiled the boots are still serviceable. Now nearly 55 years old, they are no longer caulked but simply halfsoled.
When spring of l937 arrived it was time for us to head for Pack Forest and our sophomore field trip. Pack Forest is located near La Grande, Wash. along the highway to Mt. Rainier. Here is where we did our field work in Surveying, Silviculture, and Mensuration. Gene Zumwalt was one of our professors there. We were housed in cabins conveniently located near the one building in which much of our indoor work was performed. But much of our course work was performed outdoors climbing up and around Hugo Peak named after our dean. There was an old sawmill on the forest but it was not in operation much while we were there. Little did we know it then, but Carl Hupman, then also a student at Pack, would eventually become the Director of Pack Forest, a position he would hold until his retirement.
During the latter part of the quarter we went on a two weeks tour to see forestry in operation in various sections of the Pacific Northwest. With Gene Zumwalt in charge and camping enroute much of the time, we visited Peavy Arboretum here in Corvallis, the Oregon Coast, the redwood forests of California, Crater Lake, and caterpillar logging of the ponderosa pine forests in the Pringle Butte area south of Bend. While there we had a chance to see the Lava Caves and other lava formations in that area.
When the 1937-8 school year came along the stress of making my way through college apparently began to tell on me. I remember feeling low--the contrast in my situation and those of some of the local fellow students strong in my mind. If some significant adversity had befallen me then I might well have left the university. But somehow I persisted.
No longer working in the sororities, though still with an NYA job, I borrowed some money from the Peoples National Bank to make ends meet. I also tried my luck as a salesman. During my junior year I began selling ties around the forestry school, ties that had a ready made knot. Some of the gaudiest ties were bought by my classmate Marty Hendrickson. Marty was colorblind so he was oblivious to any color in the ties he bought. The boys enjoyed playing tricks on him while he was busy on a detailed drawing, telling him a critical series of lines were in the wrong color. Invariably Marty would frantically grab his ink bottles and draw lines on scrap paper to compare with the lines on his drawing. Fortunately Marty was a congenial soul and just laughed it off. I can't say I made much money off this enterprise and it lasted only a couple of quarters.
Despite the additional expense, I decided during my junior year to join Tau Phi Delta, the forestry fraternity, one of three such fraternities in the country. Many of the members, like myself, were earning their way through school. Living with and studying with other students taking the same courses a greater portion of the time then before, I seem to remember my fellow students more clearly beginning with my junior year. I believe it was at the fraternity where I first met Mort Lauridsen who eventually became my roommate at the Yale School of Forestry.
Those of us living in the fraternity house slept in double bunks on a big sleeping porch at one end of the house, but we shared rooms, two to four to a room, in which we had study desks, closets and dressers. Bob Kennedy, an underclassman, was one of my roommates. Bob ended up owning a logging company near Klamath Falls, Oregon and was once president of the Pacific Logging Congress. Others who I got to know well were Jesse Colwell, Gordy Foster, Frank Hart, Van and Bob Demick, Ike Kuntz, Bill Hutton, Cliff Bryden, Bob Kleiner, Milt Turay, Gordy Grey, Larry Thorpe and Chuck Wilson.
Bill Hutton and Ike Kuntz were the proverbial men about town. During the school year they seemed to specialize in carousing around. Both were quite smart, so when exam time came around, they could always be found burning the midnight oil, boning up to make up for their past inattention, and usually came up with decent grades. Each year a number of forestry related conferences were scheduled in western Washington which we as forestry students would attend, both for any professional knowledge we might acquire and to get acquainted with the prominent figures in the forestry field who might possibly be in a position to offer us a job after graduation.
Ike had a girl friend named Missy from Alaska who later became his wife. Missy had an Oldsmobile, one which Ike readily borrowed. There was a Pacific Logging Congress conference in Tacoma during our senior year. I was one of a small group of fraternity brothers who traveled with Ike and Bill to the conference in Missy's car. It was the custom then for companies selling equipment, etc. to logging companies to rent rooms in the hotel for the primary purpose of wining and dining conference participants. On this occasion, as was their custom, Ike and Bill imbibed freely.
On the way back to Seattle--no I-5 then, only a two lane highway--Bill kept egging Ike to go faster, go faster. Thus ere long Ike was hitting a speed of over 80 miles an hour when suddenly a car loomed up ahead in our lane traveling much more slowly, comparatively seeming to stand still. And at the same moment a car was approaching from the opposite direction. There are many roads in the Northwest that still exist without a shoulder. We were fortunate that this was not one of them. Ike, plastered as he was, just cooly swerved to the right onto the shoulder, passed the car, and then was back in his lane before we had a chance to really get scared. Did that phase Bill? It did not--he kept egging Ike to keep speeding. But despite his condition Ike still had a little sense left and lowered his speed. We were happy to finally arrive at the fraternity intact.
As a member of the fraternity I gradually participated in more and more fraternity social affairs. These included dances with members of the sorority to which Missy and Gordy Foster's girl, Marjorie, belonged. Through them I got acquainted with a girl named Jane Storhow who was a senior in education while I was still a junior. I became quite fond of Jane and eventually gave her my fraternity pin. Jane lived with her parents in a home on what is known as First Hill overlooking the business section of Seattle. Her father worked for the Marine Hospital across the valley from Harborview Hospital. For one of our dates Dick Hughes loaned me his Ford. The affair was in one of the hotels downtown. I was very much embarrassed when after the affair I couldn't get the car started. In the excitement of the occasion I had left the lights on and the battery was dead. But somebody gave us a jump start and we managed to get home somewhat belatedly.
I visited Jane in her home a few times. Her folks apparently liked me. She also had an aunt living with them who was a podiatrist. Our relationship at the time was so close that at one time I had considered trying to have her aunt stop in to see my mother during one of her trips to the East. As things turned out it was just as well that that did not take place. Jane, graduating a year before me, went off to teach school in Naches, Washington. Thus I saw her only occasionally during my senior year.
The combination of such factors as a low feeling early in my junior year, fraternity activities, and a girl friend for the first time resulted in a drop in my academic achievements. While I was on the Dean's List on every quarter during my freshman and sophomore years, I was only able to attain that level during the Winter quarter of my junior year, though still with a B plus average in the other quarters. I recovered enough to make the Dean's list again in the first two quarters of my senior year. My overall record was sufficient for me to be elected to membership in Xi Sigma Pi, the forestry honorary fraternity, but not high enough for Sigma Phi, the science honorary.
During my senior year Dean Winkenwerder went to Washington, D. C. to attend the annual conference of the Society of American Foresters. He asked me to take over his lecture sessions to the freshmen enrolled in his Introduction to Forestry course. This I did but I was so nervous I don't think I did too good a job. I really was not a very good speaker before a group. One time I had to make a presentation during Professor Pierce's Forest Geography class. I got an A in the course, but Profesor Pierce was a bit critical of my presentation feeling that it lacked a degree of originality.
Each winter I watched the skiing enthusiasts take off for Mt. Rainier, skis prominently displayed atop their cars. I kept telling myself that when I got through school and started working I too would take up the sport. But that was not to be. Working in New York City, as I eventually did, it became impractical for me to do so. By the time I returned to the Northwest I was too old and no longer in condition to go skiing. My enjoyment of the sport will continue to be vicariously--through my children, each of whom has been a skier--and possibly through my grandchildren.
During the summer of 937 I had become aware of some advantages to having a car while working for the Forest Service. So late in the spring of 1938 I bought the 1931 Model A Ford coupe which I used thereafter during my summers in the Olympics. It also came in handy during my senior year at the University. Like in my sophomore year, the spring quarter of my senior year consisted entirely of a field trip where we put into practice what we had learned about forest management. This time, instead of it being at Pack Forest it was in the ponderosa pine forests at Glenwood Springs near Klickitat in the shadow of Mt. Adams. My model A Ford conveniently was my avenue of transportation. Coincidentally, as I write, my daughter Kathy is about to transfer as a wildlife biologist with the Forest Service with responsibility under the new Columbia River Scenic Gorge program for wildlife in the watershed where our camp was located.
Since it was along my route of travel, I decided to stop at Naches to see Jane. I arrived there while dinner was in progress for the residents of the house where Jane lived. I was invited to join them. My social graces were not the best in those days and I declined with thanks. So there I sat in the living room waiting while those at the table finished their dinner under what was probably a strained atmosphere knowing I was there waiting. It must have been especially embarassing for Jane. Had I not been so thoughtless I might have helped to enliven the atmosphere during what was probably a routine dinner.
After dinner and introductions Jane and I decided to take a ride in my car. Actually there wasn't too much conversation between us initially. I don't know whether it came about because of the embarrasment I had caused her or whether it was the culmination of a gradual change in her feelings towards me, but after a bit of riding Jane told me she wanted to terminate our relationship and returned my fraternity pin. This made me feel bad and, to make matters worse, at that particular moment a little suitcase I had on the ledge in back of the seat fell and hit Jane on the head. Anyway, we didn't say much more as I drove Jane back to the house where she lived. We said our good byes briefly as I brought her to the door and I took off for our camp an hour or so drive away.
We had to start from scratch in developing the campsite as there were no facilities in existence there in a grove of old growth ponderosa pines. We lived in army tents with wooden floors and ate outdoors or in a makeshift cook shack. Getting ourselves settled we worked as if we were jacks of all trades. I have a picture of me sawing away at some boards; another of Mort Lauridsen on KP duty peeling potatoes.
Once we got camp organized our school field work began. We were under the guidance and tutelage of Doctor Walter H. Meyer, our forest management professor, assisted by Walt Austin a graduate student who finished a few years earlier. Dr. Meyer had had extensive experience with the Forest Service and had authored a number of forestry publications with which we as students had become familiar. He had become a faculty member the year I enrolled and I had had a number of courses under him. Doc married the sister of Joan, the secretary I had dated for the Loggers Hop on Garb Day so when Bill Davies, my fire fighting buddy on the Rogue River, married Joan he became Doc's brother-in-law.
Our field work at camp involved a variety of tasks developing forest management data and plans, putting into practice what we had learned during the forestry courses we had taken the previous four years. Some of the results of our work were to be used by the Klickitat Lumber Co. which owned the land on which our work was done. As I recall, we worked together in small work parties and most of our grades were based on the field work we did together. I got a B in the l6 credit course as did the others in my party. I felt kind of bad about it--not so much because of getting a B myself, but because I kind of felt I had let my party members down. As the guy in the party who usually received mostly A's in forestry courses and was on the Dean's list 8 of l2 quarters, it would appear that my performance in that spring quarter of our senior year instead of being mediocre should have been enough to pull up the grades of the other guys. As I look back now, it seems to me that I probably was more of an office man than a field man.
We did a bit of hiking in the area when we occasionally had some free time. In mid-May we hiked a considerable distance up the slopes of Mt. Adams, though not to its 12,276 foot top. Much of the mountain was still snow covered and on our way up we met a couple of fellows hiking down carrying their skis on their shoulders.
About midway through our spring quarter nearly all of us journeyed the 90 miles to Vancouver to take the Federal Junior Forester examination. I eventually was notified that I had passed while still in camp.
Earlier in 1939 I had applied for scholarships to do graduate work at the Yale School of Forestry and the Graduate School of Forestry at Duke University. I heard from Duke first while in camp at Glenwood Springs. I was delighted to be offered a scholarship and immediately wrote back accepting it. Two days later I got a similar offer, a $300 tuition scholarship, from Yale.
By this time, despite my professional aspirations, I had become weary of the many years of study with only meager resources. The prospect of being able to get my graduate degree at Yale with only one year of further study contrasting with the two years at Duke was just too appealing. So I quickly wrote to Yale accepting its offer and sent another letter to Duke withdrawing my acceptance. The latter was especially hard to do because the offer from Duke was probably favorably influenced by recommendations of both Scotty Harrar and Jim Bethel, both then at Duke, and I felt like I might be letting them down.
About that time we also learned that that spring quarter would be Dr. Meyer's last quarter on the staff of the U of W College of Forestry. The following year he would be teaching at the Yale School of Forestry. When our spring quarter ended we gave a farewell party in camp for Dr. Meyer. My feelings were a bit mixed as I was to benefit from his instruction again at Yale within four months. Two others of my professors were destined to also teach at Yale within a few years, Fred Wangaard and Gene Zumwalt. A number of my classmates were also due to follow me there in later years, Carl Hupman, Cliff Bryden, John Klinkham, and Kirk Cooper.
After winding up at Glenwood Springs I spent the summer at Snider Ranger Station in the Olympics, a period I've already covered in Chapter 7. Upon returning to Seattle in September I made preparations for my trip East and school at Yale. I paid off my loan to the Pacific National Bank with my summer's earnings. At the same time I took out a new, larger loan to cover what I thought I would need at Yale.
While making these financial arrangements the bank official I was dealing with informed me that the son of a friend of his from New York City had left his car behind in Great Falls, Mont. and if I wished I could use that for transportation as far as New York City. I was delighted at the chance to save on my traveling expenses and accepted his offer.
I was staying briefly at the home of my widow friends on Capitol Hill. Dick Hughes had left for greener pastures, I believe to the Vancouver area. Harvey McLaughlin had grown up in the four years since I first got acquainted with his mother and I made arrangements with him to sell my Model A Ford while I was at Yale. It didn't take him long to sell it; he got $40 for it, only ten less than I paid for it. This probably was the beginning of his early career as a used car salesman. He gave that up and now for a good number of years has been a supervisor in the Post Office Department's maintenance activities in Seattle.
I took the Greyhound bus to Great Falls. Knowing I would be in Great Falls, Gordy Foster's future wife, Marjorie, arranged for me to stop briefly to visit with her parents who were residents of that city. This I did, then went to pick up the car. I discovered then that the young owner of the car had arranged for a friend of his to drive the car back to New York. I got there just in time as the friend, Hans Huessey, was all set to take off. So the trip turned out to be a two driver affair, a much faster trip than if I had driven alone. The car was an 8 cylinder Ford convertible, much more modern and powerful than my ancient Model A. We drove continuously after leaving Great Falls, stopping only to get gas and eat. Driving through our first night, taking turns sleeping while the other drove, we were just about out of gas when we pulled into a closed gas station about 3 AM. So we went to sleep in the car until the station opened. There were many long straight level stretches of road through the Great Plains so we traveled fast. Once Hans Huessy woke to find me going about 80 miles an hour and was a bit unhappy about it. As it was, we reached Minneapolis less than 48 hours after leaving Great Falls, a distance of about 1700 miles.
We quickly reached Chicago and briefly stopped in to see my Uncle Andy who had remarried since I had last seen him and I met his stepchildren for the first time. I know nothing about them now. We reached Minersville three and a half days after leaving Great Falls. Hans and I parted in Minersville not to see each other again. After a brief visit with my mother, my brother and two young sisters, Eleanor and Agnes, I took the bus to New Haven.
I believe it was before I left Seattle that I made arrangements to room with Joe Bogdan, a classmate at U of W who also received a Yale scholarship. Joe had already located a reasonably priced room convenient to the University. It was a large second floor room with twin beds and was well equipped with desks and lighting to facilitate studying. We had only been living together a very short time, about a week, when Joe developed eye trouble which forced him to leave school.
It was then that I got together with Mort Lauridsen who was also attending Yale. He had a room by himself elsewhere but agreed to take over the spot vacated by Joe. While in New Haven we ate nearly all of our meals in nearby restaurants. Mort and I got along pretty well as roommates, but I remember that one time I thoughtlessly dropped an empty ink bottle in an empty metal waste basket. Mort was engrossed in his studies and almost jumped out of his chair at the loud bang. I really didn't blame him for getting annoyed at me. Our stay in this room wasn't very long. Yale operates its academic year on a semester basis. During the first semester we took course work in New Haven; during the second semester we were out in the field at Urania, Louisiana.
Two programs were offered by the Yale School of Forestry leading to the Master of Forestry degree. One was for those with Forestry undergraduate degrees and required only one year of study; the other was for those with degrees in other fields and required two years of study. There also were a number of students who were pursuing their doctorate degrees. Among them that year was O. Harry Schrader who had been a young professor at the U of W during my attendance there. Harry was brilliant, eventually attained a high level executive position with Champion Corp, but he became an alcoholic and was found dead in the bathtub of a hotel room several years ago.
Professor George A. Garrat was starting his first year as Dean of the School during my attendance replacing Prof. Bryant who had retired. Dean Garrat was a very friendly individual, well liked by all. In addition to Dr. Meyer's Management course, my studies that first semester included Silviculture under "Pop" Hawley, Soils under Prof. Lutz, and other courses under Prof. Chapman.
"Pop" Hawley and Prof. Chapman, or "Chappie" as everybody referred to him, were real old timers in the field of forestry having graduated from the Yale School of Forestry during its infancy. Gifford Pinchot was one of the key figures in forestry during that first decade of the l900's. Pop's silviculture course frequently took us out in the woods in the New Haven area. During one of these field trips we were walking single file along a trail when the fellow ahead of me pushed aside a branch which swung back as I approached and a twig entered my left ear piercing my ear drum. There was a momentary sharp pain but nothing unbearable. After a visit to the infirmary I found no treatment was necessary and it healed OK. There was no lasting damage as that is the ear with which I now hear best. I hear nothing in my right ear. Pop retired not too long afterwards, then moved to the original Sun City, Ariz. where he was quite active in its affairs until he died. While living in New Jersey I once took a trip to New Haven and took part in a eulogy service for him arranged for by his daughter.
Prof. Chapman gave me some data on the growth of certain southern pines which I worked up for my thesis. I remember visiting my mother in Minersville for Christmas in 1939, my first Christmas with my family in eight years. While there I worked on my thesis in the dining room with my feet feeling like icicles on that cold floor. Prof. Chapman later used the results of my work in an article published in the Society of American Foresters' Journal of Forestry. He didn't have to do it, but very generously he gave me recognition by including my name with his as coauthor of the article. Coincidentally, I was driving through New Haven on our way home from a vacation in New Hampshire the July day when Prof. Chapman passed away.
There were about forty men in attendance in the School of Forestry that year. I say men because, unlike today, there were no women in the class. As I look at pictures in recent publications, each class now seems to be composed of at least half women. While the New England states were heavily represented, students came from many parts of the country as well as from foreign countries. Besides myself and Mort Lauridsen from Washington, Harry Schrader was with us working on his doctorate; Jesse Ralston who would be my roommate in New York city a year later came from Penn State; Steve Spurr, the son of a prominent geologist, was a Univ. of Alabama graduate whose forestry career eventually led to Dean of the School of Natural Resources at Michigan, Presidency of the Society of American Foresters and then to President of the University of Texas where he still remains as professor though badly inflicted with Parkinson's Disease; James [Bud} Johnson, son of a Virginian Methodist minister, served his entire forestry career as Chief Forester for the Chesapeake Corp. until he died a few years ago; Bob Snelling came from Georgia; Dick Rose, the son of two Columbia professors, while working as a consulting forester, acquired and managed a sizable forest property near Rutland, Vermont; Bob Perkins became a forestry dropout like myself in order to run a family owned mercantile business in Barre, Mass.
Others I remember were Leland Hooker; Paul Bruns, a Bronxite who spent his forestry career teaching at Dartmouth and is now our class secretary, retired and living in Florida; Hank Chamberlain who became Dean of Forestry at the Univ. of Louisiana; Charles Cheston who headed the forestry department at the University of the South; Hank Kiernan, whose global forestry interests sseemed to take him on a merry go round chase to far away places. Two of those in attendance were from foreign countries, one from Venezuela, the other from Australia. Both eventually held high level forestry positions in their countries. I remember that Manuel, from Venezuela, seemed more interested in the social offerings of the university than his studies.
We participated in a limited amount of social activities during our brief stay in New Haven. We did get together with Harry Schrader a few times in the home he and his wife rented. There were also a number of Professional gatherings including the annual two day alumni reunion, some of which I also attended in later years. There was a club room in Sage Hall where we found it possible to relax in off hours. Bud Johnson and Dick Rose particularly seemed to party a lot more than the other guys.
While I continued to be aware of the activities of many of my classmates after graduation through receipt of periodic School alumni publications, I kept up periodic contact in later years with only a limited number, mainly Mort Lauridsen, Bud Johnson, Steve Spurr, and Dick Rose.
Not long after reaching New Haven I received a letter of inquiry as a result of my Junior Forester eligibility concerning a job in the Civilian Conservation Corps. This I declined in view of my attendance at Yale. As a result my address on the list of eligibles was changed from Washington to the East. I could not possibly have anticipated then how this simple action would eventually determine my working career and, thereby, the entire course of my future life.
It was in February, l940, that our semester ended and we were due to head for our Forest Management field work at Urania, Louisiana. I ended up with Bud Johnson and Steve Spurr as my traveling companions riding in Steve's car. After a very early start one morning we detoured slightly on our way stopping in Minersville to drop off my excess belongings. It turned out to be more of a detour than I thought. I remembered the route the bus took and steered Steve the same way not realizing there was a shorter route. Going through Mauch Chunk, Pa., now named Jim Thorpe after the famous Indian football star, we got stuck and had to push the car up a short steep slope.
While in Minersville my mother fixed up a lunch for us. While waiting for lunch Steve did a little horsing around on the dining room floor. My nephew, Bob Rushanan, who currently lives there, can now brag that the President of the University of Texas once cavorted there.
Late that evening we reached Bud Johnson's home in central Virginia. Bud's father had a fellow Methodist minister visiting at that time. In the course of our conversations they asked me what religious faith I belonged to. I told them my family was Catholic but that I was not a church goer. Facetiously they said "Oh, a heathen! Let's get him". And just as facetiously, out the door I went.
After a night at Bud's home we headed West to Harrisonburg, VA. where Bud had a very good friend, the widow Ann Lincoln. Enroute Bud lavishly praised Ann's chipped beef and gravy on toast. Naturally we had to try it upon our arrival--it really was good.
The next morning we left Harrisonburg heading south, much of the time winding along the ridges on the Blue Ridge Highway. It was quite cold and persistent snow flurries kept pelting us but fortunately we had no ice problems. That night we spent in a hotel in Knoxville, Tenn. The next day we apparently wandered about eastern Tennessee a bit as I've got some pictures of some of the Tennessee Valley Authority dams and operations in that area. We managed to get to Tuscaloosa, Alabama that night where we relaxed in comfort in Steve's fraternity at the University of Alabama. I believe we traveled due west from that point without anything unusual happening until we reached Urania.
We lived in tents not far from a stream in the woods nearby. Our washroom was that stream. Professor Chapman was in charge of the camp and its educational field work having made that trip for many previous years. We heard the story of Chappie's misfortune a few years before when one day while taking his weekly bath in that stream he was bitten by a water moccasin which totally incapacitated him for a brief period. We were always on the alert for these poisonous snakes.
One day some of the boys decided to play a trick on others of our group. They got hold of a dead water moccasin and carefully arranged it with the tail half under the tent floor and the head half exposed just in front of the opening to one of the tents. As we watched, grinning in anticipation, Bob Snelling appeared in the tent opening. Right foot raised, about to put it down on the ground, he suddenly saw the snake. With a wild yell and a tremendous push with his left leg, he landed about six feet in front of the tent--to the guffaws of his classmates gathered there in the camp area.
Our field work was performed on the property of the Urania Lumber Co. We had an opportunity to meet with Mr. Hartman, the company's president, but most of our contacts with the company were through Lloyd Blackwell, recently deceased, a Yale forestry graduate who had previously gone through the same experience we were then undergoing. Our work was done both in the southern pine forests and in the hardwood stands of the swampy lowlands. From time to time we had heavy rains, typical of the spring months in that area. We never did see a tornado but Chappie once showed us an area which did, the site still marked by a piece of metal roofing penetrating clear through the trunk of a tree. Often these lowlands were flooded with several feet of water and I've got a couple of snapshots of Bud and Steve, completely stripped, making measurements on a tree trunk emerging through the water. The stream near our camp wandered about the woods on such occasions and a few of the boys enjoyed holding on to something which floated and drifted in the current for a considerable distance below the camp. I would have no part of this--on such occasions one was apt to find water moccasins in the most unusual places.
In addition to what we did on Urania property, we had a number of field trips looking over other forestry and lumbering operations in both Louisiana and southern Arkansas. I remember the Shovlin and Hixon operation; also that of Pomeroy and Mcgowan by whom Jesse Ralston was eventually employed. A considerable amount of time was spent each year on the property of the Crosset Lumber Company in Crosset, Arkansas. A number of Yale graduates seemed to cycle through the employment ranks of that company. My Washington classmate, Carl Hupman, who later also attended Yale, was one of them.
Completing our work at Urania, we headed for home. While I remember much about our trip going south, somehow I haven't the slightest recollection with whom I traveled or how I got to Minersville. I don't know when I finally got my grades for the full year or my diploma but, as at Washington, I graduated from Yale Cum Laude.
I had received no offer of a steady job after completing my Yale studies. Because of hiring procedures then in effect, apparently it was not possible for me to return to the Olympic National Forest for the summer of l940. Fortunately I had kept in touch with Hank Conover, the Assistant Supervisor of the Snoqualmie National Forest, who I had known since my winter in the relief camp in Snoqualmie Pass, and he arranged for me to have a lookout job on one of the peaks in that Forest.
With funds running a bit low, I had my mother cash in a small insurance policy which she had taken out on me when I was a kid. I took a bus to Akron, Ohio and while there I bought another Model A Ford, this time a sedan. I lingered in Akron long enough to enjoy the festivities of the wedding of my cousin Connie Kubilis and Vicky Beniky. My brother Ed was there too, though I can't remember when or how he got there. Ed was in charge of bartending for the wedding celebration. Relishing the job, he proceeded to slip "mickeys" to those guests who he thought were imbibing too freely. My mother and sister Agnes also came for this wedding, arriving by bus. This was my mother's first trip to Akron and she commented about how much that part of Ohio looked like her native Lithuania. Many, many years later I was to personally find that to be true.
After the wedding I took off for Seattle stopping enroute in Chicago to again briefly visit my Uncle Andy. Much about the remainder of that ride remains a blank, but I do recall pulling off the highway for the night into the sagebrush hills where I slept unconcerned about the possibility of bedding down with some rattlesnakes. I got to Pendleton, Ore. the next night, a beautiful moonlit night. I found the sight of all those rolling hills so enchanting in the moonlight that I just kept on driving until I got close to Yakima shortly after midnight. Then I pulled off the road into an apple orchard where I slept until early morning.
Arriving in Seattle, I found a wire waiting for me at the home of my widow friends from the Second U. S. Civil Service Region in New York City offering me a steady job as a Rating Examiner, CAF-4, at $35 per week. Later I learned that my name was one of a number of names selected from the Jr. Forester list of eligibles which showed addresses in the East. Exactly how they reached me in Seattle I never did learn. At this time I'm not sure whether that wire was a concrete offer of appointment or only an inquiry as to my availability. I could have goofed badly if it had been the latter, but whatever it was they were glad to see me when I showed up at the Regional office in New York. Years later I had to handle a somewhat similar case where an eligible responding to an inquiry as to his availability came clear across the country from San Francisco assuming it was a definite offer of appointment. He wasn't as lucky as I--he didn't get the job. He raised cain about it but it didn't do him any good.
Anyway, this being the only full time continuing position I had prospects for, I immediately wired back an acceptance indicating an approximate date of arrival. I then got in touch with the Snoqualmie National Forest office advising them I would not be available for the lookout job. So it came to be that I left another Model A Ford to be sold by Harvey McLaughlin, borrowed $40 on its sale price from the widows, and took off for the Big Apple in a Greyhound bus. This time I traveled directly to the city without stopping to do any visiting along the way. One memory I have of this trip is the bus stopping in the middle of the badlands of North Dakota so we could step outside and get a good look.
CHAPTER 11:--NAVY DAYS--WORLD WAR II
After leaving New York City in August of 1942 I stopped for a few days in Minersville where I dropped off some things I did not want with me while in the Navy. Then it was on to Philadelphia for my sister Betty's wedding to Jim Kentrus on September 2, 1942. I don't recall what form of transportation I used when I left Philadelphia, but I stopped briefly in Akron, Ohio to visit with my Kubilus cousins. From there, on September 8 I headed for Columbus, Ohio for a visit with Carl Hupman then briefly at home with his folks. I kept Helen informed of my whereabouts as I traveled by sending her postcards along the way many of which we still have. One of these mentions my bowling with Carl where I hit my usual average of 165. Then I apparently hopped a train on September 10th bound for Chicago.
Since my uncle Andy was no longer living, Chicago was not a visiting stopover as in past trips, but just a place to change trains. I became a passenger on one of the new streamliner trains which had only recently been placed in operation. I rode on the one named "The City of Portland", and it was via Portland that I traveled on to Seattle. I remember enjoying that smooth ride sightseeing as we traveled through the Columbia River Gorge. As I write this, my daughter Kathy has just transferred within the Forest Service as wildlife biologist in the newly created Columbia River Scenic Gorge program.
Once in Seattle I made my headquarters at the home of the widows Allen and McLaughlin. Having been away from Seattle more than two years, I did some visiting to renew various friendships. First among these were Jerry and Marion Bird and their little redheads, Mary Lynn and Bonnie. But I also visited the Storhow family. Jane was home at the time and in the early evening that day we took a short ride in her car. While in New York I had written her a few letters telling her about people and life in the big city. This seemed to have impressed her and I now found this had renewed in her some interest in me. It was during this ride that I told her about Helen and she asked me if I had a picture of Helen. I showed her one which I had in my wallet. Somehow things got quiet thereafter and before long, as if we both were of the same mind, we said our good byes as Jane dropped me off at the widows' home. I was not aware of it then, but that was the last I was to see or hear of Jane to this day.
Soon after my arrival in Seattle I went to the Navy recruiting office to enlist expecting to go in as a seaman. At that time I became concerned about the poor hearing in my left ear. It would have been a revolting development had I failed the physical after traveling all the way across the country to enlist. So when asked to cover my left ear while the hearing in the right was being checked, I cupped my hand in such a way that the left ear would continue to hear; and so I passed the physical. In view of my education and experience they insisted on giving me a test, the results of which would not be known for several weeks. This gave me some time for whatever personal activities I wanted to get involved with.
At this time there was some kind of affair going on at the University of Washington which I attended. That night I joined a group of my classmates who l had met earlier that day for a bit of carousing at a tavern somewhere north of the University. Among them was Larry Thorpe who had just completed a tour of duty on the Mexican border as a Border Patrolman. Not long before this the prohibition era had ended but Washington had placed some peculiar restrictions on the ability of taverns to serve hard liquor. As a result the taverns served the mixes and glassware at a price, but the customers brought their own liquor. This my friends did; their liquor flowed freely and before long I reached the point where I was pretty well inebriated. I don't even remember saying good bye to my friends when I left them--walking. In fact, I was not to see Larry again until after I moved to Oregon in 1971. By that time Larry had retired from the Forest Service in Roseburg, Ore. and is now living in Redmond.
It was a long walk, first up a rather steep street to the University level. I remember walking up a wide sidewalk with a groove up the middle. As I hiked at what seemed to me to be a quick pace staggering from one side of that groove to the other, a cadence kept running through my mind with the words "A drunken sailor--A drunken sailor--etc." On I walked through the campus and eventually reached Capitol Hill where I was glad to hit the hay. The next morning I somehow got up early and managed to get to the Bird home in South Seattle. There I met Jerry's father who took me out to some golf course. Though I still had a bit of a headache and doing poorly at golf, I remember enjoying that clear frosty morning in the valley framed on one side with a view of the Cascades and on the other the Olympic Mountains.
Having a few weeks to kill until I would hear about the Navy test results, I decided to do some visiting out of town. One of the first things I did was to go to Portland where I visited my Yale roommate and classmate, Mort Lauridsen, and met his bride Evelyn for the first time. I remember their taking me to some old estate in Lake Oswego. Looking eastward down a long formal garden we could see Mt. Hood off in the distance as if it were suspended in the sky. While on this trip I also stopped in to see Dick Hughes in Vancouver. Dick was working at the Kaiser shipyard. I regret that that was the last time I saw him and I have no idea now what became of him.
Shortly afterwards, reverting to my old means of travel, hitchhiking, I traveled to Hoquiam to visit my friend and classmate, Gordy Foster. After a few days I decided to continue on to the Snider Ranger station. Gordy's dad was the postmaster of Hoquiam at the time and he arranged for me to travel to Forks with the man operating what I understand was the longest RFD route in the country. It was a beautiful ride along Route l0l through long stretches of old growth forests with the typical rain forest undergrowth, occasional detours up some of the side roads, and along some stretches of the Washington coast. Once in Forks I hitchhiked the rest of the way to Snider.
Arriving at Snider I discovered they were fighting a forest fire in the same Deep Creek area where a fire was raging when I left Snider three years earlier. I offered my services which Sandy Floe, the District Ranger, was delighted to accept. They tried to pay me for my time but discovered that since I was still on the rolls of the Civil Service Commission in a paid leave status until October 14, 1942, my services had to be without pay. Instead of being assigned to work at the site of the fire I stayed in the ranger station mapping and doing other work related to the fire fighting activities. While there I again stayed in the old bunkhouse which had been my home three years ago.
Since I did get my board and room out of it, I guess my services were not completely without pay. When the time came for me to leave I got a ride to the Port Ludlow ferry with Carl Neal, then the Supervisor of the Olympic National Forest, who was returning to Olympia. I don't recall why I made no effort to visit Quilcene, but I believe that during my absence my old Ranger, Monte Mapes, had been transferred to the Spirit Lake District of the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. A few days after returning to Seattle I reported to the Navy recruiting office. Based on the test results they enlisted me on October 2, l942 as a Radar Technicain 2nd Class. I didn't know a thing about radar then but I was soon to learn.
I was sent to the Naval Shipyard in Bremerton where I received my basic boot camp training. I gathered that what I received was rather rudimentary compared to the intensive training given to large numbers of recruits at camps established specifically for boot training. While at Bremerton I had my eyes examined and was prescribed glasses. The doc goofed on my prescription; all vertical lines that I looked at through the glasses were slanted in such a way that rectangles had the appearance of trapezoids. It didn't take long to get them changed. Our schedule was so rigid that I didn't have a chance to visit my friends the Reites in Port Orchard across the bay. One of my fellow recruits was either a ballet dancer or just had a keen interest in the art. I remember that during our brief period together he got me interested enough in the art that I read his copy of a book on the noted ballet dancer Anna Pavlova. Somehow I developed no lasting interest in ballet.
It was the night before Chiristmas Eve when we departed from Bremerton. In Seattle we boarded a troop train which was to take us to Stillwater, Oklahoma where we were to receive basic training in electronics on the campus of Oklahoma State University. We headed south along the shores of Puget Sound with all shades drawn and only dim lights inside each car making it barely possible to see. They were still taking precautions against the possibility of the Japanese staging an air raid on our West Coast.
It was still night as we passed through the Portland area and much of the Columbia River Gorge. Uneventfully we rode through Oregon throughout the day before Christmas, past Boise and along the Snake River in Idaho until we reached Pocatello on Christmas Eve where we stopped briefly. A heavy snowfall was pounding the city so that even if we had been able to get off the train it would not have been much fun. The snow did not slow up the train, however, and on Christmas Day we were in Cheyenne, Wyoming and then on to Denver that night. I don't recall that the Navy gave any special recognition to the fact that it was Christmas. We had our usual Navy mess. The next day we reached our destination in Oklahoma.
I seem to remember doing a lot of drilling and marching about the campus in addition to our classroom studies. One thing impressed itself on my mind while there; the abrupt and extreme changes of weather which are typical of the plains states. One day the temperature would be in the teens or even at or below zero, and then suddenly a warm spell would drift up from the south so by the next day the temperature would be in the 70's or higher. Before we had a chance to get used to that we often got a blast of cold air from Canada sweeping down the plains and within a day or two it would again be zero or below. With these temperature changes would often come varying doses of rain, sleet or snow.
I only remember two fellows who were in training with me in Stillwater. One was Hubert Massman, a native of Boseman, Montana, who I would see much of in Corpus Christi, Texas and maintain contact with through much of my later life. The other was Vern Logan, a native of Long Island, who met and married a Wave who was also receiving training at Stillwater. Though both Helen and I saw them a good bit in Texas, we lost track of them completely afterwards.
After leaving New York I kept in close touch with Helen. Traveling west, every day or two I would send her a postcard. I did the same while heading for Stillwater. Helen held on to these cards all these years. Now they have helped to remind me of some of the things that I did. It seems strange to look at these cards now with their one cent stamps compared to the fourteen cents it now costs to send a post card.
While I was in Seattle I bought an engagement ring and a wedding ring which I sent to Helen, thus formalizing our engagement. I'm not sure of the propriety of giving a gal the wedding ring during the engagement period but I figured she was in a better position to hang on to it than I would be. Actually the rings weren't very elaborate or expensive and often in later years I wished that I might have splurged a bit more. However, our New York friends told me afterwards what a wonderful happy smile Helen had on her face one night when she showed up for a party in Van Overmeer's apartment in the Bronx happily displaying that delicate little engagement ring. While in Stillwater we kept in constant touch and the subject of marriage was a major subject of discussion. Well before our training there was over we decided that we would be married between the time I completed the course at Stillwater and the time I was to report to my next post of duty which turned out to be Corpus Christi, Texas. We eventually set March 22, 1943 as our wedding date.
Helen naturally desired a Catholic church wedding. I came from a family of Catholics on my mother's side though I never knew whether my father ever had any religious inclinations or affiliations. Thus I saw no reason why I should not rectify at that time the omission of baptism at my birth. I went to the Catholic church in Stillwater, St. Francis Xavier, and the pastor, Father Victor J. Reed, was happy to give me the necessary instructions. Father Reed was a very pleasant, relatively young priest who was quite patient with me in administering what was a cram course in the fundamentals of Catholicism. Years later while in Hawthorne we had a young priest at St. Anthonys Church bearing the same name as Father Reed. During a discussion of the name coincidence the young priest told me that Father Reed was then the Bishop of Oklahoma. When Father Reed finished instructing and baptizing me on March 17, 1943 he invited me to celebrate the event by having dinner with him in the rectory. I can never forget that dinner. He honored me by serving dinner on a table neatly covered with a white tablecloth. And then, clumsy as I was, I tipped over the gravy bowl spilling gravy over a big section of that nice white table cloth. Embarrassed as I was, it almost seemed an appropriate occasion for an act of penance by a newly baptized Catholic.
Came the time for me to leave Stillwater and I remember that ride through New York State on the New York Central Railroad just before the first day of spring. It was a bit crisp but a beautiful day with the sky artistically decorated with a variety of cirrus clouds. This weather persisted even after I reached Woodhaven perhaps as a favorable sign predicting what would eventually prove to be a very happy marriage. When I got to Woodhaven I learned first hand about the wedding preparations, the burden of which under the circumstances was entirely in the hands of Helen and her family.
We were to be married in St. Thomas' Church in Woodhaven at 7:00 PM on the date we had set, March 22. The young priest through whom arrangements were being made apparently was not the most cooperative, seemingly reluctant at times to proceed, almost as if he felt we were only getting married because we had to get married. Among the requirements of the Church was the need to have the bans of marriage announced three times, normally on separate dates, in the participants' parish churches prior to the marriage ceremony. Newly baptized, I was not really a member of any church, but my mother was a parishioner of the Lithuanian Church, St. Casimer's, in Minersville. So the pastor there very obligingly went out of his way to announce the bans at three separate masses on the same Sunday.
Circumstances were such that we could not be married with a wedding mass and Helen thus was deprived of the joy of wearing a white bridal gown at her wedding. Thus, when the evening of March 22 arrived we stood before the priest to exchange our marriage vows and receive the blessings of the Church, I in my Navy uniform and Helen in a blue suit outfit she had just bought for the occasion. LaLa was Helen's maid of honor; Frank Cahill was my best man. LaLa seemed to be the most nervous of any of us four during the ceremony. Present during the ceremony were members of Helen's family, my mother and my sister Betty, and a group of our Commission friends. Newly married, we went back to Helen's home for a bit of feasting and celebrating. It was at that time I believe, that I met for the first and only time Helen's Aunt Lily who passed away not long afterwards. After partaking of the festivities a while, we said our good byes and took off for our honeymoon, a quiet two days at the Hotel St. George in Brooklyn.
In December, 1942, while still in Bremerton, I got word that my brother Ed had been badly wounded in the battle of Buna in New Guinea. He had lost his left arm, had received serious chest wounds, and was beset with a bad case of malaria. Evacuated via Lae in New Guinea to Australia, he spent his initial recuperative period there and was later shipped back to the United States and remained at Letterman Hospital in the Presidio of San Francisco until he had substantially recovered. He had received a leave of absence and returned to Minersville, as I understood it, in anticipation of my wedding. However, he was still not completely well and was reluctant to come for the wedding, afraid that his condition might detract from the happiness of the occasion. So, after our two days at the Hotel St. George we decided to spend the rest of our brief honeymoon in Minersville.
While in Minersville we stayed in my old home on North St. We found Ed in pretty bad shape both mentally and physically. He seemed delighted to see us and was happy for our brief reunion. I had time to show Helen about town. We visited my mother's Uncle John's tavern on North St., three blocks away, which was then apparently owned and operated by Red Nichael, Winfield's brother. I don't remember seeing Winfield who probably was also in the service at the time. The end of our honeymoon arrived all too soon and it was time to leave Minersville, first back to Woodhaven where we reluctantly parted. I had to head for the Naval Air Technical Training Center at Corpus Christi, Texas for further training in special aviation radio equipment and Helen was due to return to Syracuse N. Y. where she was then assigned. Before parting we pooled our financial assets and placed them in Helen's hands during my absence. I don't recall what Helen had but at the time I didn't have much over $200 to my name.
At this time I don't have a clear picture in my mind of the timing of Helen's work activities after I left New York City in 1942. As the men departed for military service the girls in the Region gradually took over their recruiting responsibilities and the servicing of the Federal agencies. Thus Helen was so assigned and was sent upstate New York as a CAF-9 Special Representative, well above the CAF-1 level she was given when she first came to work with the Civil Service Commission only about three years earlier.
At first Helen had been assigned to the Albany area and roomed in the home of Kitty Brogan's brother. Three military installations were the primary recipients of her services, the Schenectady General Depot, Scotia Naval Supply Depot, and Watervliet Arsenal. She operated out of office space at the Arsenal. While there she dared the wrath of the Commanding General when she granted approval to one of his employees to change jobs, one of the authorities vested in her at the time. She felt that the woman was entitled to that approval under the War Manpower Commission guidelines then in effect. The head of the Manpower Commission office in that area apparently supported her position but the action enraged the General who confronted Helen and practically ordered her off "his" arsenal. He placed restrictions on her movements in the Arsenal until our boss, Jebb Rossell, pulled the rug out from under Helen and, catering to his peer, the General, overruled Helen's decision. While in Albany, Helen also helped break in John R. Johnston, an older newly appointed Representative who became my boss as Chief of the Region's Examining Division after the War.
Some time later Helen was assigned to serve Federal agencies in the Syracuse area, the job she was in when we were married. This required periodic trips to Pine Camp, near Watertown, at the northwestern corner of the Adirondack Mts., which was a major training camp for the Army. It was a rather harsh assignment considering the severe weather prevalent in that area. Even in Syracuse the winter weather was not too pleasant. Helen lived with a family named Schaffrath near Syracuse University. She told of walking to work one very cold morning to find upon her arrival that her cheeks and the tip of her nose were frostbitten. She remedied that by going outside again and gently massaging the affected parts with soft snow. Her final assignment during my absence in the Navy was as a Suitability Examiner in the Investigation Division in New York City under Dora Flaim.
When I arrived at Corpus Christi I found myself in a five month program of training in the repair and maintenance of radar gear. Radar was in its infancy in those days, the equipment being much more massive and simpler than what we currently have. The original gear we started working on was actually developed in Great Britain. Now, forty five years later, I don't remember much about the technical stuff I learned then.
The weather at Corpus Christi was much milder than what we experienced in Stillwater. However, during those early spring months when we first arrived we seemed to have a constant wind blowing in from the Gulf of Mexico. With these winds came low scudding clouds which seemed to exhaust all our energy as they passed over us. I did not feel very peppy then but somehow that feeling disappeared as summer approached and the skies became brilliantly blue. I enjoyed the magnificent high thunderclouds which often appeared during the summer.
I don't recall much in the way of recreation while at Corpus Christi. We did not have the means to explore the area. I did have hopes of getting to Laredo on the Mexican border but never made it. We frequently were at liberty to go to Corpus Christi which had some attractions. We found Corpus Christi Bay interesting with its wall of cement steps which provided a place for easy relaxation while viewing the bay activities. While we did get a chance to swim in the bay, it's 80 degree temperature was not very exhilarating.
Helen had considered joining me during my stay at Corpus Christi, was even willing to give up her job in order to be with me. However, when she broached the subject to Jebb Rossell he very emphatically informed her that it would be much better for my career with the Commission if she remained working. So--she settled on a vacation to join me in the middle of the summer for about ten days. She was still working at Syracuse at the time. The train ride down to Texas was not very pleasant. The weather was very hot when she left Syracuse so, comfortably dressed for that weather, she packed all her warmer clothing in her suitcases which were checked for the trip. As it turned out, the train's air conditioning system was turned up very high and the passengers had no control over it so Helen shivered in discomfort nearly all the way.
While Helen was with me we rented living space in an old motel of that era. It was as good as anything available to us but it was not unusual to see a row of cockroaches parading about on the floor. Though I still had to attend classes during the day, Helen did have Lynn Massman for company, also the Wave who married Vern Logan. Lynn was expecting their first born, Joe, at the time. The Logans and the Massmans are the only ones I now remember of all those who were in training with me then and the Massmans are the only ones we kept in touch with after the War. Despite our class work, Helen and I did manage much time together each day and, of course, the evenings. The night before she left we decided to splurge and have dinner in one of the better restaurants. Thinking to enjoy some good western beef, we ordered steaks. Helen's was much too rare so we sent it back. When served again it obviously was someone else's dish as it had ketchup and other items which Helen did not have on her plate. The restaurant staff was very much annoyed at our insistence that the matter be rectified. Eventually they made appropriate changes but it was not the most satisfying meal for our last meal together. When Helen left the next day that was the last I was to see of her for more than a year.
The certificate I received upon finishing the course at Corpus Christi on August 21st of 1943 indicated that I finished number 6 in a class of 179. Somewhere along the way we were given an opportunity to choose whether we wanted our Naval service to be on the ships or in the air arm. I chose the latter, Hubert Massman selected the ships, and so we were separated not to see each other again until well after the War ended. I found myself on a train heading east knowing only that we were bound for Norfolk, Virginia. Initially heading north we had a brief stopover one night in Kansas City where we were permitted to partake of the recreational and refreshment offerings of the USO Club. Now I can claim to have been in every state of the union except one, Rhode Island, but my claim to having been in Kentucky is based only on the fact that our train passed through the state during the night and I never did see an inch of its soil. We didn't stay very long in Norfolk; after only a few days we were loaded onto a troopship with our destination French Morocco.
Our ship was one of a number in a convoy headed east across the Atlantic. I mostly remember good weather on this trip, but being prone to seasickness I spent most of my daylight hours on deck. Usually I found a sunny corner spot protected from the wind from which I had an unobstructed view of the horizon. There I minimized the seasick inducing tendencies of the ship's pitching and rolling by looking up at the horizon from time to time while enjoying my solitaire cribbage game. The trans-Atlantic voyage was uneventful. We eventually reached the Straits of Gibraltar and the Mediterranean Sea in daylight and thus I had a good look at the Rock of Gibraltar as we passed. We also had our first look at Africa with a view of Spanish Morocco to the south. We didn't seem to be in the Mediterranean long before we approached the harbor of Oran in Algeria.
As we slowly steamed into the harbor of Oran we found before us a city whose brilliant white buildings, lining the bluffs along the Mediterranean, seemed like a mirage suspended from a hazy blue sky. When we docked we quickly disembarked and soon were transported by truck up through the city's narrow steep streets to the top of the bluff where we found the railroad terminus. We were then loaded with all of our belongings into a string of empty box cars for the last leg of our trip to our destination, Port Lyautey, French Morocco.
Those of us old enough to remember the veterans of World War remember some of their tales of riding the "Forty and Eight" box cars in Europe. What we had to ride in were exactly the same, though possibly with some improvements, but the cars were like skeletons compared to the boxcars we were accustomed to in the U. S. The box cars I rode in as a hobo during my youth were luxuries compared to the cars we now rode in. As the trains rattled along the railroad going west among the hills paralleling the Mediterranean we often wondered whether the train could stop if it had to, or even whether it would stay on the tracks. We had our first sight of the countryside and life in rural North Africa. While the Sahara Desert lay much to the south beyond the Atlas Mts., of which we had an occasional glimpse, there were few forests, mostly bare hills and fields none of which showed the lush green growth which we were soon to learn prevailed during the area's winter rainy season.
We crossed the border between Algeria and French Morocco. Among the hills of Morocco we caught a glimpse of the old Roman ruins of Volubulis. Before long we were passing the twin cities of Fez and Meknes of which we were to see more during our Moroccan tour. It was here that I remember the railroad's steepest descent; the engine's wild shrill whistle as we barreled along made many of us wonder how long it would stay on the tracks. Our fears proved groundless, however, and we reached Port Lyautey--safely. It was September of 1943.
I believe it was early in 1943 that North Africa was invaded by the Allies and Axis forces were driven progressively eastward until North Africa was substantially under Allied control. My friend and New York roommate, Jim Powers, was involved in this operation and soon found himself among the first paratroopers dropped in the invasion of Sicily. There he was captured by the Germans and remained a prisoner of war for the balance of WW II. Port Lyautey was the scene of some of the initial invasion activities. Port Lyautey is separated by a hill from the ocean to the west. The Bou (River) Sebou winds around that hill and swings in a wide arc past the city of Port Lyautey. Our base, with living quarters on the hill and airstrips and shops at the river level, overlooks the river and the city. One of our family friends in Hawthorne, N. J., George Stanley, was a Navy man at the time of the invasion. He told us of being aboard a destroyer during the invasion which rode full speed up the Bou Sebou firing all its guns as it moved upstream. The effects of the invasion were still visible when I arrived. A ship, the St. Hugues, lay imbedded deep in the mud on one side of the river. Our mission in Port Lyautey was a form of backup support for those still actively engaged in battle far to the east in Africa and in southern Europe.
Our primary responsibility was to patrol the adjacent areas of the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea, with special emphasis on the Straits of Gibraltar--specifically, to locate and immobilize any enemy surface or subsurface vessels in these waters. For this purpose we had a number of heavy duty B-24 four engine bombers, and some PV-2 two engine bombers which were far shorter in range but faster in service. We also had a number of amphibious PBY's for general service, and in the latter part of my stay in Port Lyautey we had a squadron of blimps, the first time blimps were ever stationed overseas.
Officially we were Hedron Squadron l5. The base and the facilities were originally developed by the French since the country was then one of its colonial possessions. Upon our arrival we were housed in Army tents, the wooden floors of which could be considered luxuries considering the circumstances. There were six men to a tent--we slept on army cots. I was assigned to a tent not with electronic technicians like myself but with a group of men who drove trucks for various supply and transportation activities. Thus, ranging as they did about the countryside, especially as far south as the smaller naval base at Agadir, south of Casablanca, I was to hear much about what they saw and what they did.
From my tent mates I learned how little some of them respected the lives of the native people. I heard stories of the many times they played "chicken" during their highway travels. There always were natives walking or riding on their donkeys alongside of what often were very narrow highways. It seemed nothing unusual for our Navy truck drivers to see how close they could come to the natives without hitting them as they passed by. Sometimes they didn't miss.
It was pleasant enough living in these tents the first few weeks after we arrived, but then the rains came starting about mid October. The entire countryside sprang to life as November arrived. The barren brown hills suddenly were green and brilliantly colored with masses of flowers. The blue and yellow lupines I particularly remember. The tilled fields also came to life with extensive areas of wheat. An oddity here was the frequency in which clumps of bright red poppies could be seen growing right in the middle of the wheat fields. Come March, as the rains waned, the open countryside gradually became brown again until in midsummer the fields were so devoid of vegetation that it appeared as if nothing ever grew there. As I write this in March of 1988, I see in the papers that North African nations are banding together to try to stop a plague of locusts now ravaging the fields. About March in 1944 we witnessed the same thing as hordes of locusts swarmed through our area eating all kinds of crops and speeding up the process whereby the land would again assume its brown summery appearance.
There were numerous vineyards in the Port Lyautey area. These were sprayed with a green copper sulfate compound and the natives doing the spraying became an awful sickly green color as the spray enveloped them as well as the vines they were spraying. Wandering about the base one time I ran across a grove of fig trees under which was a thicket of grape vines. Being a naturally born gleaner, in season I took advantage of both the figs and the grapes. At the same time I was scared of the possibility of snakes in the thick brush there since I had seen a few nasty looking reptiles earlier in more open parts of the base.
When the fall rains came it was not so pleasant in our tents. It never gets to freezing in the Port Lyautey area, but during the rainy season the air becomes very damp and its chill very penetrating. Inside our tents our bedclothes would absorb their share of the air's moisture. As we crawled into our dank cots we would don extra clothes, sweaters and even peacoats, in what seemed to be futile efforts to sleep warm. To top it off, there were occasions when our bowels would act up during the night. So the middle of the night would often find us making a mad dash through driving rainstorms to the outdoor latrines a few hundred feet distant. There, under a tent canopy, still exposed to the damp winds though not to the rain itself, we extended our butts over a wooden rail and took care of life's necessities, all the time giving vent to uncontrollable shivers approaching hypothermia. Then there was the mad dash back to the tent a bit damper and somewhat colder than when first going to bed. Thus we lived that first winter, the winter of 1943-4. But we did have a chance to warm up during the day since we worked in relatively warm buildings. We were more fortunate the following winter because during the spring of 1944 they built nice brick barracks for us which were quite comfortable.
After I had been at Port Lyautey a while I was assigned one night to guard duty patrolling the perimeter of the base. It was a dark stormy night and I'm afraid I was not really effective as a guard. Not only was the weather against me, but Helen had just sent me a package with a small number of those little liquor bottles commonly found in the states. She told me she was scared stiff after sending them, afraid she had done something wrong and that the authorities would come after her. I had sampled one of the bottles before going on guard duty that night in defense against the weather. Lucky I wasn't caught.
Despite the fact that the rain made life uncomfortable I often enjoyed watching it during the day. Usually the rain was not continuous throughout the day but came in the form of frequent showers. I found it interesting to look across the valley and watch the varying sheets of water descending from the skies. Sometimes they resembled tornados but I never heard of any there. The heavy showers often carried lots of hail. This was particularly noticeable when we were eating our meals. Our mess hall was a huge metal Quonset hut. When one of these showers hit the roar was so deafening one might think it was really a tornado. The din was so loud one could hardly hear himself think.
I can't say work was particularly difficult. Only occasionally were we under pressure to get something done quickly. Sometimes I found it a bit frustrating. The gear we worked on operated on very high radio frequencies at which some of the normal electrical properties did not apply. Sometimes even a small piece of metal, slightly bent, would have a significant effect on the performance of a piece of equipment. The problem often was difficult to resolve and it seemed like I would spend many frustrating hours on a piece of equipment before I got it to operate properly. Our IFF (Identification, Friend or Foe) sets especially caused us such trouble.
Sometimes we had to go aloft in one of the planes to work on the gear. Once I was flown to Casablanca to inspect the radar gear on a PBY plane which was being salvaged. That was the only time I was in Casablanca, but I didn't get a chance to see anything while there. By flying at least a certain number of hours each month our pay was increased fifty percent. This was known as flight pay. Our duties normally didn't require us to fly enough to qualify us for flight pay but we nearly always managed to get in the air enough to make sure we got that extra pay.
A number of our planes became involved in fatal crashes as time went on so by January 1945 I got scared and decided I would not fly again just to get flight pay. I particularly wanted to avoid flying in the PV-2's since they especially seemed to be accident prone. As luck would have it, on January 29th, the day before my birthday, an exercise was scheduled to determine how effectively our aircraft radar gear could locate persons adrift at sea who had certain reflectors which had been designed to serve as locator devices. We radar technicians were assigned to operate the radar gear for this exercise. One fellow was assigned to a B-24, another to a blimp, and--you guessed it--I drew the PV-2. Not only that, but we took off in one plane only to find the radar gear malfunctioning and had to return to the base and take off in a second PV-2. What made this even more scary at the time was an event the day before wherein one of the PV-2's had developed engine trouble while aloft and to keep from crashing had to jettison both its gas and its bomb load. We got back safely after the exercise but, to add insult to injury, there wasn't enough time left in that month to enable me to earn my flight pay.
Even during work hours we were not fully occupied so we found different means of entertaining ourselves. Somehow I acquired a female mutt of uncertain heritage whom we called Snooty. Snooty became the pet of our radar shop staff. Lo and behold Snooty became pregnant and soon we had three more pets. We called the female pup Sis, like her mother not especially attractive. The male pups were Blackie and Rusty, both with distinctive personalities, who were lots of fun to have around. Eventually Sis fell into a hot tar pit and died and one of our B-24 bomber crews took Blackie along when they were transferred to England. We were all particularly fond of Rusty. I considered taking him back home with me but didn't dare try it. Our shop Chief said he would take Rusty along when it came time for him to leave but I never did learn whether he was able to. Nor did I ever find out what became of Snooty.
While at work in the radar shop we were periodically interrupted by our hospital corpsmen who would come in with spray cans thoroughly dousing every corner with DDT to kill any mosquitoes present as a precaution against malaria. Such spray cans had only recently been developed and unfortunately the harmful effects of DDT were not known then. What, if any, harm any of us suffered was not apparent.
In addition to Chief Louden, we had a Navy officer in charge whose name I no longer remember. The officer got me to submit an application for commission status early in 1945 but the war ended and I never did hear anything about it. Considering that there were 17 men in the Radar Shop, including the Chief and the officer, it is surprising that I remember so few of them. I just ran across an old address book dating back to the immediate post war years in which appear the names and addresses of a large number of men who I can no longer place anywhere in my life. I'm sure a number of them are men who served with me in Africa. Only four bring back any memories, Jim Keesling from Indiana, Harold Sulzer from Philadelphia who met my sister Betty after the War, George Saturensky from California, and LeRoy Campbell who lived in Midland Park which bordered my postwar home town of Hawthorne, N. J. George bunked next to me in the new barracks and often proudly displayed the six toes he had on each of his feet. Though I met LeRoy after the war a few times, even though we had been close friends in Africa for some reason our friendship didn't develop further despite our relative nearness.
Our base probably was as good as any one might have found as a haven during the war. It was relatively secure, was well supplied, and we had an abundance of time for sightseeing and recreation. Every few days one of those big amphibian Mars Clipper planes would land with all kinds of supplies for the base. Its usual route was south from the U. S. to Brazil, then across the Atlantic to Dakar in Africa, and then north to Port Lyautey. Mail service was so good that we got mail from New York faster then the people in California did. Our outgoing mail was censored but we did find some means to let our relatives know where we were. Incoming mail apparently was not censored, but Helen constantly worried that she would say something or do something which would get her into trouble. One time she sent me an oboe to entertain myself. Considering my lack of musical talent I ended up driving the guys in the barracks nuts with my discordant notes until I was effectively persuaded to cease and desist.
We were able to get many things in the PX at little expense to supplement what really was more than adequate sustenance provided by the Navy. With little money so being spent, I was able to send a substantial portion of my pay to Helen every month which she put aside toward the day when we could begin our life together. Some of the guys were quite actively selling things to the natives of the area. Living necessities and luxuries were scarce for most of the natives. Once when I got placed on the garbage detail I was amazed to see the large number of Moroccans greeting our truck and digging through our garbage for usables. We drank plenty of beer at the base and threw the bottles into the trash bins. These were especially prized by the natives who cut off the tops and thus had glasses to drink out of. One of the things, for example, which we got at the PX was cheese spread in little white tumblers. These tumblers were in big demand as luxuries by the natives. While living in the tent, I regularly bought my ration of cigarettes, at one dollar a carton, ten cents a pack. Since I did not smoke I thought I would do my tent mates a good turn. So I gave all my cigarettes to them until I learned that during their driving tours they were peddling the cigarettes at fancy prices. These guys were real wheelers and dealers. I don't know where he got it, but I bought a thick scientific encyclopedia from one of my tent mates for a dollar. I was the only one in the tent with a college education, the only one who might have had use for it.
We had lots of liberty time and made frequent trips outside the base. Port Lyautey, being nearby, naturally saw a great deal of us. We visited a number of the French bars in town and drank their wine but it was awful tasting stuff--maybe they saved the better wines for the officers-- certainly it was not nearly as good as my present day home made wine. I had gotten acquainted with a young Arab fellow named Said who acted as my guide. Through him I got acquainted with the town's attractions, its pretty parks and the French and native sections of the town. Many of the French homes were conspicuously adorned with storks nests atop their chimneys. Helen's sister, Dottie, had a movie camera but because of the War was no longer able to get any film for it. So she sent the camera to me. I had no trouble getting film and thus was able to record much of what I saw in Port Lyautey.
The camera especially came in handy during my frequent visits to Rabat, the capital of French Morocco. I don't recall why we were able to go on liberty so readily on Fridays, the Moslem Sabbath. Each week on this day the Sultan regularly went to the mosque about a football field length away from his palace. With the movie camera and a still camera I had I was able to record this event as well as many other interesting things in and around Rabat.
On Fridays the extensive area outside the palace walls was a beehive of activity as preparations were being made for the Sultan's visit to his mosque. Not only were there large numbers of sightseers, natives and foreigners like myself, but there was a steady flow of people toward the palace--a group of musicians in green outfits, elderly dignitaries shuffling along and, of course, the Sultan's guard. The Sultan's guard consisted of hundreds of foot and mounted soldiers in crimson uniforms, turbaned and pantalooned, who briskly marched to their appointed stations. Adding color to the affair were a number of native officers mounted on beautiful black and white horses. Even more striking was the French officer, apparently in overall charge, who dashed hither and yon on his spirited black horse.
When the Sultan emerged through a gate in the palace walls he was seated in a carriage drawn by a pair of jet black horses. Marching ahead and behind his carriage were a combination of servants and dignitaries, all dressed in white robes as was the sultan, some afoot, others on horseback. Lining the road on either side were the foot soldiers, bayoneted rifles shouldered, marching stiffly apace alongside the carriage. About fifty feet on either side of the road was an array of mounted guards at attention facing away from the road, each member holding a flag tipped lance held vertically in the right hand. During the passage of the carriage no outsider was permitted between the mounted guard and the road. While the Sultan was in the mosque both the foot and mounted guard waited patiently alongside the mosque for his reappearance.
After the Sultan entered the mosque the carriage retraced its route back to the palace gate from which it had emerged. Then I was permitted to be near the road and had a good look at it. While from a distance it had had a luxurious look, when it passed me on the way back I could see that it had seen better days. I was so surprised to see the outside paint faded and peeling and the upholstery inside torn in a number of places.
The Sultan took a different route back to the palace returning through another gate. Returning, he rode on a beautiful black horse under a big red umbrella carried by a servant walking beside the horse. The guards lined the return route as they had his earlier carriage ride. After the Sultan entered the palace gate all the guards followed emerging again through the original gate. Then they marched back to their quarters, first the foot soldiers, then those on horseback, and finally came the French officer on his black horse. This was a scene which I was privileged to see many times during my twenty months in French Morocco.
Before I received the movie camera I was able to watch a native festival on the grounds surrounding the palace. While I didn't get any movies of it, I did get a number of snapshots with an old box camera I had. There were thousands of natives there for all kinds of festivities, many from the hinterlands. Included were a large number of mounted tribesmen who participated in various tests of skill and games characteristic of their native life. There were a number of musicians, games of skill, fascinating snake charmers, and peddlers selling drinking water in a common glass filled from goatskin bags. The Sultan made his appearance at a huge tent especially erected for him, his route of approach lined by his soldiers. His son, Hassan, the present day Sultan, was with him and I was privileged to see him as a young boy.
The Sultan's palace was not the only site of interest in Rabat. There was Hassan's Tower, a big square tower with a sloping ramp inside spiraling to the top. From the top one had a bird's eye view of the remains of numerous vertical columns covering an area the length of a football field which together with the tower once had been a gigantic mosque. From the top of the tower one also had a pretty good view of the city of Rabat. Like most Moroccan cities Rabat had an extensive French residential area, the homes nearly always surrounded with walls for security reasons inside of which often could be found luxurious gardens of flowers in season. One flower found extensively here was bougainvillea. And like other Moroccan cities, Rabat also had its old native village called the medina. I visited the medinas of a number of cities but I remember the one in Rabat best.
In ancient times the medina in Rabat was the site of the Sultan's palace, a huge walled area within the walls of the medina. That area is now famed as an attractive garden known as the Garden of the Ouijdas. The medina is the site of the original fortified city built on a point of land extending westward overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the Bou (River) Regreg. Most anytime one looked down to the river bed one would find a number of women there busily washing clothes. On the far side of the river lay the native town of Sala. Between the two cities was a constant stream of small boats ferrying people in both directions.
There were no streets within the medina as we know them, only a series of narrow passageways between buildings and walls. I had a young Arab man as a guide and as we wandered through these alleys we met a procession of sorts which barely squeezed by us as it passed. At the southwest corner of the medina was a huge tower built by the Portuguese. It was part of the medina's protective features guarding against invasion from the sea. Inside the tower were a number of dungeons and as we walked about inside it we noted the chains which in ancient times bound prisoners to the wall. Although I did not get a sightseeing trip to Casablanca, I did get such a trip to Fez and Meknes which also have colorful histories. Centuries ago Fez was the home of the Sultan and a colorful garden marks the site of the old palace grounds there also.
I took advantage of all these recreation trips to observe and photograph many aspects of Moroccan life, so different from what we experience here. There were so many primitive native villages surrounded by walls built with branches. The huts inside were also built of a combination of branches and thatch. In the native marketplaces the open meat markets without refrigeration sold meat exposed to flies and other vermin. I noted farmers plowing their fields with crude wooden plows pulled by a combination of a donkey and a camel, or a camel and an ox;; donkeys going round and round turning a water wheel providing water for irrigation; donkeys constantly passing by laden with goods or with men or women on their backs; sometimes it was the women who were loaded with goods deftly balanced on their heads. Small horse drawn buses which passed by were invariably overloaded with passengers on top or clinging to the sides. Engine propelled buses traveling between towns were also overloaded, the passengers often carrying goats, chickens, etc. There was a funeral procession with a horse drawn hearse, the grieving natives wailing and weeping as they passed by. Wherever one went there was the ever present native sprawled out alongside a wall fast asleep. Young toddlers were being taught in an open air classroom with my presence a clear distraction. And right on the sidewalk of one of the main streets in Port Lyautey was that open air rest room in which the occupant casually continued a conversation over a four foot barrier while taking care of nature's call.
Always present were the women, suitably veiled, only their eyes and their hands showing. Movies I took invariably show them turning their faces away as the picture is shot. In later years whenever these shots appeared on the screen Helen's mother never failed to facetiously comment "There goes Bob's girl friend again". Inside each town, conspicuously located in a sidewalk area or small park there usually was a fountain, sometimes elaborately tiled, which was the source of water for many of the urban natives. In the native villages the water source was usually much more primitive. One time I observed a young girl lower a can into a narrow hole leading to a water source in the ground. When she pulled it up and poured the water into another container it was obviously milky white and very unpalatable.
We were continually being pressed by fez headed peddlers on the streets to buy their wool mats and rugs. We became quite friendly with some of them, even borrowed their fez' to get our pictures taken. I did buy one of their small rugs which I sent home to Helen. Much of the drinking we did was on the base. We had a PX and recreational lounge, the enlisted men's club. Periodically we would have a big beer binge where I would exercise my discordant voice with others as one of the men would pound away on the piano.
After we were well established at Port Lyautey I began receiving instructions from our Catholic chaplain for confirmation in the faith. When the day arrived we traveled to Rabat where I was confirmed in the cathedral by the bishop of Morocco. Another Navy man was my sponsor. His name probably is in that little address book of mine but I'm ashamed to admit that at this time I haven't the slightest idea who he was.
It was in late summer of 1944 when I was selected with a few others to return to the United States to take a course in maintenance of Sonar gear. This newly developed gear was designed to be dropped into the ocean in areas where enemy submarines were believed to be prowling. The sounds generated by the submarines were picked up by Sonar and transmitted to our bombers flying overhead. Thus pinpointing the sub's location, the planes then dropped their bombs.
We took off from our base in Port Lyautey in a big DC 10, a four propeller engined plane, a model used for both passenger and freight transportation. We didn't have the comfortable seats now associated with air travel but everyone was seated in one of the bucket seats lining the wall. Our first stop was one of the islands in the Azores where we got a glimpse of the island complex. We also had a pretty good look at some of the Portuguese residents in what seemed to be rather drab clothing and watched their primitive means of transportation, carts and donkeys. The next flight was to Gander in Newfoundland which at that time, before jet engines took over, was a regular stopover for trans-Atlantic flights. This was my first look at the far north's glacier covered mountains dropping down to numerous bays and inlets. Traveling south from there we flew over the entire length of Nova Scotia and finally landed at the Naval Air Station at Patuxent River, Maryland.
After checking in I got a leave of absence and headed for Woodhaven. I remember one sunny day walking toward the Federal Building on Christopher Street and meeting Helen and some of her friends on their way home from work. Helen looked so very pretty that day decked out in a summer outfit with a short wavy hairdo for her dark hair and with that wonderful smile on her face. I don't recall just how long my leave was but it did give us enough time for an enjoyable week of vacation at Echo Lake Farms north of Stroudsburg in the Pocono Mts. of Pennsylvania. Much of our time was shared with a young Air Force couple similarly on vacation. We did a lot of swimming, a bit of horseback riding, and hiked to Winona Five Falls.
My departure from Woodhaven was set for that day in late August of 1944 when one of those Atlantic hurricanes was skimming up the coast from the South. With some trepidations our plane took off but we encountered no difficulties, only varying cloud formations, until we landed in Washington, D. C. after the storm had passed there. Apparently we had skirted the storm. However, I later learned that when it did hit the New York City area a few of the maple trees shading Helen's street in Woodhaven had blown down. Somehow because of the storm I had to take a train from Washington to Norfolk instead of flying as originally planned. I was late in arriving at my destination but all was forgiven because of the storm.
After completing the training course a few weeks later we took off again for Africa in another DC-10. I don't know why but this time it was a non-stop trans-Atlantic flight. The time had not yet arrived when planes were capable of flying high enough to be above the cloud formations. And so it was that over the mid-Atlantic we suddenly entered a noisy squall. A Navy Chief flying with us had been sound asleep in one corner of the plane. Wakened by the noise of the downpour on the aluminum sides of the plane, he came dashing up to us with the mistaken impression that we were ditching the plane. But we arrived at Port Lyautey without any problems. As it turned out, my trip to Norfolk served no useful purpose. I never did get a chance to use the knowledge I had acquired.
I believe it was in the fall of 1944 when the first blimp showed up over the hill to the west and soon there was a whole squadron in the sky. This was a first--the first time the U. S. had ever stationed blimps overseas. They soon became routinely involved in our operations and we got used to seeing them in the air around the base. I believe it was the arrival of the blimps that led to the transfer of one of our B-24 squadrons to Great Britain and the departure of my pup, Blackie.
In 1944 we were joined at Port Lyautey by a number of French servicemen whose mission I don't recall. One stormy day one of the Frenchmen was driving a jeep past the area where the blimps were moored. Somehow the jeep caught a rope leading to one of the blimps, a ripcord, and lo and behold the blimp lost its helium and the fabric gradually sank to the ground. The bewildered Frenchman stepped out of the jeep profusely mouthing his "pardons". Sometime later he returned, still apologizing profusely, and offered $200 he had collected from his colleagues in hopeful compensation for the damage he had done.
As 1945 arrived the war in Europe was reaching a climax and the scope of our mission was seriously diminished. Then in April we got word of Roosevelt's death and Harry Truman's elevation to President. That month I got word that I was one of a number of Navy men who would be returned to the U. S. And so it was that we headed back to Oran, this time traveling not in forty and eight boxcars but in a small passenger plane. We got a bird's eye view of North Africa paralleling the Mediterranean coast.
Arriving in Oran, we immediately went aboard a troopship loaded with other servicemen, mostly Army men. I believe it was the former luxury liner, the United States, which had been taken over as a troopship. We did not set sail immediately for the Straits of Gilbraltar, but headed north in the Mediterranean. Mention of the Mediterranean usually brings forth visions of sunlit blue waters, but on this occasion there was a faint mistiness several feet deep just above the water's surface. As we passed the Isle of Capri it had an ethereal appearance, half hidden as it was in that mist.
It was V-E day, May 8, l945, as our ship sat in Naples harbor and we picked up more servicemen for our return trip home. We didn't get any shore leave while there, but did get a distant view of the city and its surroundings. Conspicuously, Mt. Vesuvius stood out overlooking the city, a small plume of smoke continuously belching forth from its top.
I don't remember much about the voyage back to the U. S. We did, of course get our final look at the Rock of Gibraltar. The only thing about the trip that sticks in my mind is that about two days before we were due to land all servicemen were required to report to one of the heads for shortarm inspection. The inspection was being conducted by a young army doctor who obviously was badly seasick. It seemed to be an exercise in futility when we marched past him while he leaned against the bulkhead on the verge of heaving. It was questionable whether in his condition he was capable of recognizing any infection. One can but wonder what kind of nightmare he had that night as he tossed about in his sleep, seasick.
Upon reporting to the Naval Air Station in Norfolk, Va., I was given some leave and headed for Woodhaven. During that leave Helen and I took a trip to Minersville to see my mother, sisters, and friends. I believe at that time Ed was working as a guard at some Naval installation in California. While in Minersville we took a number of walks in the countryside and I got a very nice snapshot of Helen seated on a grassy slope wearing a yellow blouse.
After returning to Norfolk I went to work in the Electronics shop. Cleaning up one day in the shop I was on a ladder when I removed a wire going from the frame of a fluorescent light fixture thinking it was unnecessary. My bare chest was touching the frame when the wire came loose and I got a terrific jolt of electricity and was thrown from the ladder. It was then I realized that someone had put the wire there as a ground. Fortunately I received no injury or lasting effect.
One day while bowling on the base I was on the last frame of a game with two strikes. As I threw the third ball in that frame I felt a sharp pain in my lower back and momentarily I couldn't straighten up nor put my backward raised foot down. After a while I painfully went to sick bay but don't recall much being done for me at the time. This was the first time I experienced any back problem, a problem which has been somewhat chronic since the early 1960's. At night it was an ordeal to get into my top bunk. Fortunately at that time I soon got over it. Years later when I checked on my Navy medical history there was no record of this visit for medical attention.
There was much speculation on how long we would stay at Norfolk with the thought in mind that we might soon be headed for the Pacific theatre of operations. By early August there still was nothing in the wind. Then came August 15 and the first atom bomb dropped on Japan. Events moved fast after that and suddenly we knew that we no longer need have any fear of going to the Pacific. At that point I arranged for Helen to take a long vacation to join me at Norfolk. Some time earlier she had come back from her assignment in upstate New York and was then working in the Suitability Section of the Investigations Division under Dora Flaim and so it was easier for her to get off.
We were able to get space in quarters for married personnel. Then began our first real bit of life together for about a month. We ate together in the area normally reserved for noncommissioned officers. The food was excellent, much of it not too plentiful in civilian life at the time. Helen especially relished the oodles of jello loaded with fruit which was frequently served to us.
Work did not tie me down much and we had lots of time together. NAS was part of a big naval complex at Norfolk which also included a Naval Shipyard and a Naval Base. Each component had its own post exchange. So during the approximate month that Helen was with me we had lots of fun together going to all the exchanges looking for goods which we would need when we started housekeeping together. Among the many things we were able to get were blankets, sheets, towels and similar goodies, many of which were in short supply in the civilian markets. While Helen was with me we had a chance to get together for dinner at Williamsburg with James Johnson, my Yale classmate, and his wife, Florence, who were then living in West Point, Va. nearby.
When we arranged for Helen to join me we didn't realize how soon we would be together for good. That time arrived while Helen was still at Norfolk. I was separated from the Navy on September 26, 945 just a few days short of having three years of Naval service. One of the fringe benefits of having enlisted in Seattle was that I was entitled to transportation money to Seattle rather than to our real destination of New York City. We were both delighted to leave the Navy and were soon in Woodhaven ready to begin our lives together as civilians.
I worked in New York City from 1940 to 1970 and lived in Hawthorne, New Jersey from 1947 until 1971.
Earlier in this life history I dwelt on the poverty which characterized my childhood life. Contrasting my childhood life then with the superior state of life of many of my childhood buddies I remember having the feeling that I would not live beyond the age of forty. Yet here I am, along with my fellow Lithuanians Vete Dobles and Cherry Sobolesky-my hoboing buddy-still going strong. Most of my other buddies have long since passed away, some even much earlier than my anticipated life span-Ben Kiss, Johnny Freiler, Frank Cullather, Earl Tropp, Pete Ulmer, and Nuffy Hahn among them. When Helen was seriously ill in l953 I thought for a while that neither of us would survive the ordeal. As it turned out, the good Lord has already given me more than twice the number of years I once expected.
During these early years of poverty I could not visualize achieving a more substantial life than that I was then experiencing. The Depression years which followed, marked by my hoboing days and time spent in soup kitchens and camps, did little to dispel that feeling. Thus, as I reached maturity I possessed neither the expectations nor the pressures that invade the minds of so many to constantly strive for higher levels of achievements and acquisitions. Not constantly beset by pressures to compete with and outdo others I have been able throughout my life to experience a high degree of amity with those with whom I lived and worked.
I must have been blessed with excellent genes inherited from my ancestors. Throughout my life I have repeatedly been the happy beneficiary of accomplishments and rewards beyond the limited expectations engendered by my earliest years. In grade school I was promoted in the middle of a school year. In high school I was looked upon by classmates as the math whiz and graduated with honors at the age of sixteen. Similarly, I graduated with honors from the University of Washington College of Forestry where I had earned the highest grade point average in a freshman class of over 250 students still, I believe, the largest freshman class in the college's history, an achievement noted on a plaque which was posted for many years in a hallway outside the Dean's office in Anderson Hall. As an upper classman, while the Dean was away at a Society of American Foresters convention I was selected by him to substitute for him in lecturing twice to the entire freshman class. In l939 I received scholarships to the Forestry schools at Duke University and Yale University. Accepting the latter, I eventually received my Master's degree from Yale with honors.
During my civil service career I was quickly given increasingly more responsible supervisory positions and promotions than I had anticipated possible. I believe my advancement might have been even greater had I elected to transfer to the Commission's Central Office in Washington, D. C., but I felt it best for the welfare of my family that I remain in New Jersey. Only after the children were grown and their educational futures were relatively secure did I elect to pull up stakes and move westward.
While I was at Yale I felt honored to share authorship with H. H. Chapman, one of the old timers in forestry, of an article which appeared in the Society of American Foresters' national publication, the Journal of Forestry. While employed by the Civil Service Commission I authored an article which appeared in the national publication "Public Personnel Review". In 1992 I was featured in a front page article in the Corvallis daily newspaper, The Gazette-Times, concerning the political and economic situation in Lithuania. This was followed by radio and TV appearances. Again, in May of 1996 I was featured on the front page of a special "HEROES" section of a Sunday edition of the Gazette-Times emphasizing my association with Helen and the Heart of the Valley Center.
Contrary to my expectations in early life, throughout my life I have had the privilege to know well and associate with a number of individuals prominent nationwide in the field of forestry, with a classmate and friend who eventually became president of the University of Texas, and with our state senator and state representative. In my early days it would never have been considered even remotely possible that some day, as is now the case, I would have as my bridge partner a Bishop of the Catholic Church.
When I look back to what might be considered an inauspicious start during my early life I can only feel a high degree of satisfaction and gratefulness for having been blessed with a healthy, productive, and interesting life in later years. But whatever my ultimate accomplishment and associations may have been, what I am most grateful and happy for are the little things in my life that led me to Helen and blessed us with a relatively happy family of children and grandchildren. With more than fifty years of life together now behind us, I am grateful that, barring catastrophe, I have the means and the opportunity to look after the needs and comfort of Helen during her 'Altzheimers' affliction. I am particularly happy that during my daily visits with her at the Heart of the Valley Center I can convey to her some of the togetherness we shared during our many years together at home.
Perhaps I am being fatalistic, but as I now progress through my remaining senior years I accept without trepidation the realization that my future years may be limited. I leave it to others who may be so inclined to relate what may take place in my life in the years ahead but, as I write now, this ends the story of "My Life-As I Remember It".
----- Robert Bulchis April-1997
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