Biography of Roy Udell Clay
Engineer, Using Service Staff, Camps at Jacksonville, Ohio, New Lexington, Ohio, Coshocton, Ohio
Colonel, CCC Camp Officer and Camp Commander, Camps at London, Ohio, Vandalia, Ohio, Elyria, Ohio, South Bend, Indiana, Mansfield, Ohio, WWII, USA
Following are PP. 19-37 from the unpublishe d autobiography of Roy U Clay, Colonel United States Army (Rtd) dated November 6, 1979. The index indicates these pages tell of service in the Soil Conservation Service and the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Place is Ohio, starting timeframe is June, 1934
Beginning now to quote from his autobiography---
These were depression years. The Agricultural Education Department (Ohio State University) was not the least encouraging with respect to a teaching job upon graduation. Virgil Overholt, the engineering instructor, gave me two leads in the developing field of soil and water conservation. A school was being established at Zanesville to train engineers and agronomists. Guy Springer and I applied and were accepted. I also applied to the Ohio Department of Forestry for a job since they were at that time operating several Civilian Conservation Corps camps in Ohio.
On the 13th of June 1934 I was commissioned a 2nd Lt. Field Artillery Reserve and assigned to the 35th FA Regiment at Akron, Ohio. All newly commissioned officers were required to go to Ft. Knox, Kentucky immediately after graduation for two weeks active duty. Of course we had to buy a supply of uniforms. Again I rode with Carl Norris. We had two enjoyable weeks and I received two weeks pay (2nd Lt.) plus travel. About the first of July I reported to the school in Zanesville. This was to be a three month school. No pay but free room and board at the YMCA.
After about three weeks in Zanesville I was invited to Chillicothe for an interview with respect to the CCC job. At the same time I was informed of a teaching job in West Lafayette the hometown of Carl Norris. I stopped by and talked to the principal. Prospects were not good. One week after going to Chillicothe I was hired and informed to report to the camp at Jackson, Ohio. I discussed the situation with Dr. Pickering of the Zanesville school. He would make no promises. I needed money to pay my $1200 college debt. I accepted the Jackson job. The pay was $90 per month minus the 5% reduction in all Federal salaries decreed by President Roosevelt. The CCC Camps were administered by the army. The work projects were under a technical service. The staff consisted of a superintendent, engineer, agronomist, sometimes a forester, and normally four foremen. The technical service staff were provided free living quarters in the technical service administration building. We ate at the officers' mess and paid for our meals.
Our work at Jackson consisted of soil erosion control (small wood dams to control run-off), tree planting, wood-lot improvement, and fire fighting. Since I was the only member of the tech service staff without a car I normally remained in camp on weekends and was the tech service duty officer. I did go home about once every three months. My work crew consisted of 25 CCC enrollees with one leader and one assistant leader. We traveled by stake and platform truck, with canvas top, wooden benches for seats, and a large tool box containing our tools. Our superintendent was Charles Thrash a former instructor in agronomy at Ohio State and a very fine man. My crew worked in the eastern portion of Jackson County. It seems to me that during the spring of the year we had a forest fire about midnight every Saturday night. As a matter of interest a CCC enrollee received $30 per month--$5 at the pay table and $25 by allotment to his parents.
I was paying off my college debt at the rate of about $25 per month and trying to save a little money to buy a car. In April or May of 1935 I went to Zanesville one Saturday and purchased a 1933 straight eight Pontiac Coupe for about $500.
In September of 1935 the camp at Jackson and most of the technical service personnel was transferred to the US Forest Service. Charles Thrash asked that I remain at Jackson but I was transferred to the U.S. Soil Conservation Camp at New Lexington. My boss was Lee Cleland a graduate of Ohio State and a few years older than me. It was the same type of work as Jackson. I was closer to home (farm near Piedmont, Ohio) by about 100 miles and was able to go home more often as money permitted. I was still paying off my college debt and I now had car payments.
At this time I returned to my home area. Because of the flooding conditions in the Muskingham Watershed a conservancy district was formed in the 1930's. Plans had been prepared for several dams. Piedmont was the site of one to be built on Stillwater between my family home and Piedmont. I believe work started in 1935. My brother George worked throughout the construction period as an oiler on a Diesel shovel. My father helped with the tunnel and concrete work. My mother took in two boarders to supplement her income. (My brother) Omar was working with the survey crew. This damn would create one of the largest man-made lakes in Ohio. The conservancy district was buying all the land to be under water and adjacent to the lake. My father's property was one to be acquired. He was very upset.
During the winter of 1935-36 we had a very severe snow storm and very cold weather. Because of the deep snow we did not work for about six weeks---played pinochle.
In the fall of 1936 Martha (Martha Fulton and Roy Clay eventually married) and I went to a football game at Ohio State. On the way home went through New Lexington to buy gasoline. I was broke as a result of paying scalper's prices for tickets to the game. As we were leaving New Lexington was struck broadside by a car driven by a CCC enrollee. We were not injured but the enrollee was slightly. My car was badly damaged. I borrowed a car from the garage owner to get Martha home to Freeport. My car was in the body shop for several weeks.
Prior to the accident and afterwards the Pontiac had been giving me trouble. The bell housing surrounding the front universal joint would break about once every two months. No one knew why. About Christmas time of 1936 three of the technical service people made a package deal with the New Lexington Ford dealer. Each of us ended up with a 60 HP V8. Mine was a black two-door and cost about $700.
At Christmas time 1936 Martha Fulton and I became engaged and I gave her a tiny little diamond for Christmas. We were married on May 5 1937 in Flushing, Ohio by Rev. A.A. Gilmore former minister in Piedmont and Freeport. We spent our wedding night in the McClure Hotel in Wheeling, W Va. The next day we drove to Charleston, W VA. Came home a day or two later. I borrowed $25 from my mother for honeymoon expenses.
Martha and I moved into an apartment near downtown New Lexington. Adjacent to our apartment was an ice cream drive-in with a juke box. Blue Hawaii and Sweet Leilani were the popular tunes of the day.
One month after moving into our apartment Lee Cleland, a foreman by the name of Thomas, and I were transferred to a new SCS CCC Camp near Coshocton. This camp was to work for the Northeastern Appalachian Soil Conservation Experimental Station. We were to build experimental devices for the control of run-off and devices to determine what happens to rainfall with respect to transpiration, percolation, and run-off. I was given a crew of 25 white junior enrollees and a set of plans for a lysimeter battery. A lysimeter battery consists of three concrete boxes. These boxes were built on the surface of the ground and then sunk into the earth for a depth of eight feet without disturbing the soil on the interior of the box. The interior surface of each box was 1/100th of an acre and was built to conform to the natural grade of the surface. After the boxes were precisely located the earth was removed from around the exterior of the boxes. Concrete walls and a floor were then poured as well as a concrete roof. The 1/100th of an acre of soil in each box was left exposed. Each box had a metal pan beneath. A metal collecting device caught all run-off from each box. Collectors were placed under each box to catch the percolation. Of course rainfall measuring devices were installed nearby. One box was located on a set of Toledo scales so sensitive that it would record the weight of a fly landing on the box surface. Crops were rotated on each box surface. The first lysimeter battery was built in Texas and I built the second. On this project I had an assistant foreman by the name of Shamhart. This was quite a project considering that we were using unskilled labor.
When Martha and I first arrived in Coshocton we lived in an apartment near the downtown. Martha's sister Doris had a friend in Coshocton by the name of Johnson, married with a high school age daughter. Her husband, Dude, was a decorator in a china factory. They also operated a hamburger stand in downtown Coshocton. She offered Martha to live in their house for a small fee. We moved in and it worked reasonably well since they were seldom home. Our food bill at this time was about $5 per week. Even so with car payments and repaying my college loan we had little money.
Three months after I went to work at Jackson my payment was increased to $120 per month. When I went to New Lexington it was increased to $140 per month. When I left New Lexington it was rumored that I was to be promoted to junior engineer at $160 per month. Even though I did considerable of the engineering work at New Lexington and was working as a construction engineer at Coshocton, I did not receive a pay increase.
For sometime the army (known as the War Department in those days) had wanted me to apply for active duty as an officer with the CCC. I was promoted to First Lieutenant in June 1937. Now that I was married I requested active duty. I also consulted the Agricultural Education Department at Ohio State University about a teaching job. I was informed that jobs were available but I would have to return to school for a short time. My orders for active duty with the CCC arrived in May of 1938 ordering me to report to Ft. Hayes in Columbus for a physical and processing on the 1st of June.
Martha (my wife) went to Freeport and I reported to Ft. Hayes. During my physical there was considerable discussion by the doctors about my right hand. (At age 7 while visiting on grandparents farm playing I was fooling around with a hand operated fodder chopper. I dropped my right hand into the gears. Several joints were crushed and my fingers were deformed). They finally decided that I saluted fairly well and I passed. I was assigned to a veteran white camp at London, Ohio. Two weeks later I was placed on detached service and ordered to the CCC Processing Center at Ft. Knox, Ky. In those days induction centers were operated in all large cities every three months. Enrollees were assigned to local camps until these companies were at capacity (200) and the excess shipped by train to Ft. Knox for processing and assignment to western camps. I reported to Ft. Knox and was assigned duty as a processing company commander. Two weeks later I received an assignment as Assistant Train Commander on a troop train going to the railhead for Bliss, Idaho. I was the supply officer and the mess officer. Our kitchen was a baggage car equipped with wood burning stoves. I had a mess sergeant and two cooks. Staples for the trip were loaded at Knox and perishables were purchased enrooted. This was a cash mess and I had the money for all purchases. It seems to me that the trip took about seven days. We stopped on a siding once each day for exercise. Once a day perishables ordered by me through the conductor would be loaded aboard. We dropped off enrollees in several locations and finally arrived at Bliss where we turned over to the local CCC Company commander the remaining enrollees, left over food, and the kitchen equipment. All of course after detailed inventory.
Captain Fuqua, the train commander, and I took a cold shower, put on clean uniforms and bought tickets on the deluxe Portland Rose for Salt Lake City. We had a 24 hour layover in Salt Lake City so we visited the Mormon Temple and the Salt Lake. We arrived in Indianapolis we picked up Capt. Fuqua's car and drove to Ft. Knox. Upon arrival I found my detached service over and new orders assigning me to a company at Vandalia, near Dayton.
When I arrived at Vandalia I discovered the company was junior Negro. It was my first experience with Negroes. The commanding officer was 1st Lt. Paul W. Albert of Columbus. The camp was a National Park Service Camp and the Superintendent was Mr. Watson. All CCC camps in Ohio were in the Ohio District and commanded by Colonel Gimperling, who also commanded an infantry regiment at Ft. Hayes. The Ohio District was divided into sectors supervised by a Reserve Officer. Our Sector Commander was Lieutenant Senior Grade Lawrence Leever, U.S. Navy Reserve. He inspected our camp once each month and audited our records. We were also inspected once each month by a Regular Army Major from Ohio District.
The buildings in a CCC Camp consisted of four barracks heated by coal burning stoves; a mess hall and kitchen; a latrine with septic tank and showers; an educational building; a post exchange and recreation building; technical service office and quarters; company supply building; company headquarters (administration) building; technical service repair shop; and the officer quarters. Including quarters allowance my pay was now $272 per month.
The work day schedule was like this: breakfast; work call & roll call at which time all members of the company other than 25 company overhead were turned over to the technical service; lunch (hauled by company truck to those working in the field); retreat, supper; and lights out at 9 PM. On Saturdays a company inspection. The enrollees were free on Saturday afternoons and Sundays. They could not leave camp without a pass. Normally we borrowed three trucks from the tech service to haul 75 enrollees to the city on Saturday night.
Medical care was provided by a civilian contract surgeon. At Vandalia our doctor was Dr. Haas of Dayton who held sick call at 11 AM and normally stayed for lunch. After sick call he would always come to the officers' quarters and smoke a cigarette before going to lunch. He always asked for a light. One day I said "I am going to buy you a lighter." He replied "Don't bother. My wife and I both smoke. We have no matches or lighters in our house and the first thing I do when buying a car is throw away the lighter. We only bum lights from friends. When I see you is when I have my first smoke of the day."
The company overhead consisted of: 1st Sgt; Mess Sgt & two cooks; Supply Sgt; Company Clerk; Dispensary attendant; truck driver; orderly for the officers quarters (he doubled as waiter in the mess); and maybe one or two others. On occasion the Camp Superintendent would loan the company a few bodies.
The mess was operated on a cash ration basis. We were paid based upon present for duty figures from the morning report. Non-perishables (staples) were requisitioned by the company and shipped from the quartermaster warehouses at Columbus General Deport. Meat and milk was ordered from the packing house or dairy having the contract. The cost of these purchases was deducted from our ration allowance by the Ohio District. Fresh fruit, vegetables, and ice cream were purchased locally and paid by the company commander from the company fund. These funds could ONLY be used for food.
The Post Exchange was owned and operated by the company and was a company commander responsibility. All items were ordered and paid for monthly. Our inventory was normally about $500. Profits from the exchange were used for recreation purposes, and movies shown in camp weekly.
Considerable record keeping was necessary for both operations. The mess Sgt kept the mess records, incoming, issues, and inventory. An officer was required to conduct a monthly inventory. Losses were allowed about 0.5%. A monthly inventory was required of the Post Exchange also with the same percentage of loss allowed.
A few CCC officers did try to finagle. They were usually and probably always caught and served time at Leavenworth for very small sums of money.
The Commanding Officer normally assigned the exchange operation, the mess operation, and company supply to his junior officer. Lt. Albert elected to retain the mess operation so I had only the exchange and supply.
CCC Companies were very self-sufficient. When a new enrollee arrived we prepared his personal file. The 1st Sgt and clerk prepared the morning report daily (present for duty, sick, absent, etc.) An extract was forwarded daily to District. Discharges were prepared by the company clerk, and after review signed by the CO, and forwarded (complete personal file) to District. A monthly payroll was prepared by the company clerk. This payroll indicated all amounts owed (laundry, PX credit books), statement of charges for lost or damaged property and net pay due at the pay table. The enrollees were paid by the company commander in person (designated agent of the Ft. Hayes Finance Officer). Each man had to sign the payroll. The company commander was required to have a witness and if he had no junior officer one of the tech service personnel would witness the payments. The money due the PX fund would then be deposited to the fund in the local bank. Excess money would then be returned with the completed payroll to the Finance officer also through the local bank. I was never short but once. This was at Vandalia. I went to the bank and cashed the payroll check. I did not count the money. I paid the troops and ended up $20 short. I could not account for it. When I went to the bank the next day I said to the cashier, who was a Mason and who I knew fairly well "Were you over when you checked out last night?" He said "Why?" I replied "I am $20 short." He reached into the cash drawer and handed me $20. I was lucky.
Lt. Albert was a very interesting individual. He was a graduate of Ohio State with a degree in chemistry, married, and lived in Columbus. Work being scarce at the time he graduated from Ohio State he had gone to work at some trivial job for Timken Roller Bearing. According to Albert he and the foreman got into an argument, Albert hit the foreman with a wrench and walked out. He then enlisted in the army and served six years in a Signal battalion in Hawaii. He maintained that he served in every enlisted position in the battalion including Sergeant Major. He also said that he was involved in breaking the Japanese codes. Near the end of his enlistment he had asked for Thompson Act duty. Under this act selected 2nd Lt's served for a year on active duty and if they passed all their examinations would be offered a Regular Army commission. Albert was stationed at Ft. Hayes. Just before his year was up he married which prevented his appointment to RA. He then asked for CCC duty and was stationed at Ohio District as assistant adjudant. He was then assigned to Vandalia after one year.
Lt. Albert and I got along great as did all of the staff at Vandalia. He was helpful and I was able to learn all of the intricacies of running a CCC Company. One officer was required to be in camp at all times. Albert and I took turns with weekends since his wife was in Columbus and mine was in Freeport.
About the first of December the decision was made by V Corps to abolish the centralized processing center at Ft. Knox and to have each District operate a processing center on a quarterly basis. The camp at Xenia became vacant at this time. Additional housing, tents, would be erected to house the enrollees being processed. Since this was in Lt. Leever's Sector he would be the Commanding Officer. I was selected to be the Supply Officer and to build the camp. This did not please Lt. Albert since he would now be confined to camp. Within a day or two I reported to Xenia. About 15 white junior enrollees from various camps arrived to assist. A Major from Ohio District came down and told me what was to be done and informed me that I was authorized to hire one carpenter to build tent frames. Work began on the tent frames. Supplies to operate the camp such as beds and bedding, tents, tent stoves, began to arrive. This supply truck usually arrived about 10 PM. Then the clothing for the new enrollees began to arrive. A supply room in a former barracks was set-up where the clothing would be issued. I had several visitors such as the Corps Commander, District Commander, the Major from District headquarters, and of course Lt. Leever. They were all helpful and we had no problems. As I recall all of the cadre members received a day or two off at Christmas time.
About the first of January the remainder of the processing staff reported in and about the 5th of January our first trains loaded with inductees arrived. The inductees were processed in three days and loaded on trains for the west. One of my jobs was to place kitchen equipment in the baggage cars to be used as kitchens and to load the kitchen cars with the prescribed food. Our processing was over by the first of February and all departed except the Supply Officer and staff who had to return all supplies and equipment to Ft. Hayes and to clear my accounts.
One day while sitting at my desk in supply I had difficulty in getting up and out of my chair because of a pain in my groin. I consulted the camp doctor. Hernia! Surgery required. After clearing my books and closing the camp I drove to Freeport and then reported into Ft. Hayes on a Monday morning. This caused some consternation since I had assumed the doctor had taken care of the paper work and that I was being properly reported on the morning report. It seems no one knew where I was for a day or two. Anyway I had surgery and was in the hospital for about three weeks. I had to appear before a board of officers. It was determined that my hernia was "line of duty." I was sent home on thirty days sick leave. Problem, my car was at Ft. Hayes, and I was not permitted to drive. My friend the Major and Executive Officer of Ohio District solved the problem by sending me to Freeport in a staff car and furnished a driver to drive my car to Freeport. Staff cars were seldom seen in Freeport so this caused a little excitement.
I was progressing nicely while on sick leave when I developed severe stomach pains. I went to see Dr. McElhattan the Freeport doctor who diagnosed probable appendicitis. He suggested I return to Ft. Hayes hospital. By this time I could drive so the next day early I returned to the hospital. The surgeon examined me and said, " Have you been in downtown Columbus drinking dago red?" I replied that I had not and he scheduled me for surgery the next morning. I was in the hospital for about two weeks and then was released for full duty. The processing center at Xenia was again in operation so I reported to Lt. Leever. Processing was about over so I was assigned duty as Adjutant. My first weekend there I was sent to Lebanon to a White Veteran Camp in order that the commanding officer, who was complaining, could have the weekend off. On my return to Xenia on Monday Lt. Leever released me and I returned to Vandalia and was greeted warmly by Lt. Albert who had been without a junior officer for about five months.
While at Xenia I had traded my 60 HP Ford for a 1939 Mercury two door sedan much to Martha's disgust since she was still paying off my college loan.
Albert had been denied an extension of active duty because he had been on duty with the CCC for three years and that was the maximum. Shortly after I returned to Vandalia Albert took leave and he and his wife went to the west coast. He was gone for two weeks. Soon after, I took a weekend off and brought Martha back to Vandalia. She found a room with a lovely family in a large white house in Tipp City. As long as Albert was on duty I was able to spend the night in Tipp City frequently. Albert was relieved from active duty and I was made commanding officer. Since he had unused leave he departed about mid-June.
During the time I was commanding officer at Vandalia I seldom had a junior officer. One would report in, remain about one month, and depart. I recall that I only had two officers during my tour at Vandalia.
The officers' quarters were adjacent to the company administration building. They consisted of a living room, three bedrooms, and a bathroom. No furniture was provided except army cots and bedding. Albert had acquired some used furniture which I purchased when he departed. Liquor was not permitted in CCC camps. I did not have a refrigerator.
The V Corps Commander was a Major General Van Vorhees. He had begun his army career as an enlisted man at age 17. About every six weeks or two months he would drop in for lunch. He loved navy beans and always had seconds. He would ask for thirds and his aide, a captain, would say "No more general." Mr. Watson, the Superintendent, always ate at my table as did Dr. Haas. We had interesting and pleasant conversations. After lunch General Van Vorhees and I would go to my quarters. We would talk for a few minutes and he would then depart.
About the time I became commanding officer Colonel Gimperling the District Commander retired. He was replaced by a Lt Col DeRohan (a descendant of one of the three Musketeers). The first time we met was unpleasant. His driver called me from a camp about 25 miles away saying that Colonel DeRohan would arrive shortly after supper and would spend the night. I ate supper and did the best I could to prepare a room for DeRohan. I waited until 9:30 in the evening and DeRohan had not arrived so I went to bed. Shortly I heard a car in my parking lot. I got up, I turned on the light, and greeted the Colonel in my robe. He was furious! Where is my drink? Why were you in bed? Where is my sandwich? Don't you know how to treat guests? He then proceeded to give me a lecture on the amenities expected by senior's from their junior's. He then stormed out saying he was going for a walk. I went back to bed. The next morning we had breakfast together with Mr. Watson who informed DeRohan that everything was going well at the camp and that we had no problems.
The layout of the camp at Vandalia had been designed by the National Park Service and most people thought it was very attractive. The area was an oval with the buildings facing the oval. Nice attractive lawn in the oval and surrounding the buildings. Plenty of attractive shrubbery. The area was well maintained. As a result of the layout the walks, which were gravel, were curving. DeRohan did not like this and said to rebuild the walks using straight lines and square corners. Obviously this was impractical and would have destroyed the beauty of the camp. I was troubled by this problem. I discussed it with Watson who said "forget it." I did.
Albert had left me with two major problems. There was a third which I did not know about at this time. The first problem had to do with the sewage system. The septic tank was causing problems. In those days engineering matters was a function of the Quartermaster. The District Quartermaster had approved a project to lay a sewer line from our latrine to the Miami River about one mile away and the sewer tile was in the camp. My company was to dig the trench and lay the tile. The fall from the latrine to the river was such that the tile had to be laid to a precise grade in order for the sewer line to work. The army told me to do the job, but did not authorize any manpower. I could not use enrollees, other than my overhead, during working hours without permission of the technical service. I talked to Mr. Watson and he agreed to do the job as a work project if I would be the supervisor. In other words he would not furnish a foreman. Since I knew how I agreed. He furnished an excellent crew of about 25 men and in short order the project was complete.
In the meantime I found that the company was in trouble with the District. Our strength figures on our morning report did not jibe with the District. According to District we were one man short. I checked with the first Sgt and checked his work carefully. I talked to the company clerk. They insisted our figures were correct. I even conducted a special roll call of the company and my work agreed with the first Sgt. District was insisting I change our figures to agree with theirs. I would make no changes until I found the error - if there was an error. I finally, late at night, made a thorough search of the office and checked all personnel files against the company roster. I found one file out of place and carefully hidden away. The next morning I asked the first Sgt about this man who was not on the roster. The first Sgt said that Lt. Albert had discharged this man several weeks before his departure. I checked the morning reports and found that the man had been dropped from our morning report. Why the discharge papers had not been prepared I did not know and I did not ask. I gave the file to the clerk and told him to prepare the discharge file for forwarding to district immediately. He grumbled but did so. I then personally typed a letter to District explaining what I had found out and that the personal file would be mailed shortly. I did not hear anything more since the problem was solved. We did have a new Sector Commander who informed me sometime later that he had been directed to investigate the situation but that I had solved the problem prior to his doing so.
The second problem had to do with flooring in all the buildings. When I first arrived at Vandalia I noticed a large stack of white oak flooring stacked near the mess hall. I asked Albert about this. He said that District had shipped the flooring in and ordered new floors installed in all buildings. He asked District for manpower to lay the floor. He would not lay the floor until District gave him the manpower. The flooring was still there when he departed. Again I talked to Watson and he agreed to give me men to do the job. Instead of laying the floor in sections as was the original plan, I laid a continuous floor over the old. This worked fine and it looked very good. A few years later while I was in Mansfield the Quartermaster grumbled about having to cut the floor in order to dismantle the buildings.
I did not anymore than get this job done when plywood began arriving. Shortly we received a directive to cover all the inside walls with plywood and then to varnish the plywood. Again there was no manpower. I talked to the 1st Sgt who thought he could do the job using company overhead and a few extra men on weekends. We started with the barracks, then the mess hall, supply room, and finally the administration building and left the officers quarters to last. It took several months but we finally got it done.
In the meantime I was informed that DeRohan wanted curtains in the mess hall, barracks, supply room, company headquarters, and the officers' quarters. I asked as to the source of material and was told that was my problem. I requested but District refused to authorize the use of company funds to purchase material. I was willing and finally decided to use personal funds for the office and my quarters. Martha agreed to buy the material and make the curtains. Unfortunately she purchased a very pretty material with a caricature of a small black person carrying an umbrella. Martha and I never gave this a thought. She made the curtains and the 1st Sgt had them installed. No comments (adverse) by anyone in my presence. On Sunday afternoon I walked into the office and found the curtains on the floor. Andrews, the company clerk, was there. I asked him why the curtains were on the floor. Very nastily he informed me that these curtains were critical of his race. I apologized and said no reflection on his race was intended. The curtains were removed and a drab curtain installed.
Within a month or two of my taking command my 1st Sgt decided not to reenlist or reenroll. I attempted to persuade him to stay, but he thought he had been around too long and would attempt to find a better job. After talking to Mr. Watson about his work leaders I decided to promote the Supply Sgt to 1st Sgt. This worked well. About this time a black man by the name of Andrews arrived and I was told that he was to be company clerk. I soon found him to be lazy and generally incompetent. I later learned that he had been Captain Bryan's clerk when Capt. Bryan who was now District Adjutant, had been the company commander. Albert, who succeeded Bryan, had tangled with Andrews and discharged him. It was contrary to regulations to reenroll anyone who had been discharged for misbehavior as Andrews was. I never asked, but assumed, that because of the morning report problem Captain Bryan decided that I needed a clerk and had used his position to reenroll Andrews and assign him to my company as clerk. At the time Mr. Watson had warned me that Andrews was a trouble maker. My 1st Sgt, Walker, also hinted that Andrews would cause the company and me problems. Walker referred to him as an agitator.
A CCC Company Commander had almost unlimited authority with respect to discharging enrollees for cause. There was no punishment in the CCC other than extra duty and denial of a pass. This type of punishment was administered by the 1st Sgt. He was the "king bee" and the company commander did not interfere. For serious offenses such as stealing, absent without leave, venereal disease, refusal to work the punishment was immediate discharge and no questions asked. Likewise any enrollee who was a troublemaker was discharged. During my three years with the black juniors I had few problems and don't recall discharging anyone except for AWOL and VD. Discharge in these two cases being mandatory. If a company commander had too many AWOLS or VD cases he was relieved of duty.
In the meantime I had my second go-round with DeRohan. One morning about 6 AM while I was taking a shower I heard a car in my parking lot. DeRohan came storming into my bathroom and gave me hell for greeting him in the nude. He then said he had stopped to have breakfast and to use the bathroom. Well and good. I went to my room to dress. Soon there was a yell for CLAY. Why wasn't there any toilet paper? That was embarrassing so I went to the supply room and returned with the toilet paper. We then went to breakfast. DeRohan inspected my plywood installation, varnishing, the floor installation and floor finishing. He complained about the slowness of the projects, but offered no help.
About this time a junior officer was assigned and after he was there a week or so I asked for leave. Martha and I with her parents drove to Niagara Falls and on to North Bay to see the Dionne quintuplets.
Each Reserve Officer on active duty with the CCC was initially ordered to active duty for 18 months. My tour would expire on Nov 30, 1939. Shortly after my return from leave, it was now early October, I was ordered to Elyria, Ohio, as commanding officer of the CCC Company---again black junior. I turned over my accounts to my junior officer and prepared to depart. I was short $9.90 worth of sheets and pillowcases from the company supply. In my opinion these sheets and pillowcases simply disappeared as a result of turmoil in the supply room while installing flooring and plywood. I prepared a Report of Survey.
Martha and I then drove to Freeport. After a weekend there I reported to Elyria. Found that the current Company Commander Lt McElroy was being transferred to Ironton to command a junior Negro company where they had had several riots. The Elyria Company was being transferred to South Bend. A 2nd Lt. Lewis reported into Elyria and would go with me and be my junior officer in South Bend. McElroy turned over his company funds to me, cleared his supply account, the train was loaded and we took off for the one day trip to South Bend. Trucks met us at the railhead and we set up housekeeping in a dirty run-down abandoned camp.
My brother George and his wife Virginia drove my car and Martha to South Bend where she found a room with a couple of lovely old ladies.
As a result of my transfer to South Bend I could assume that I was being extended for an additional 18 months duty. About this time I found out, through Mr. Watson, that he had protected my transfer from Vandalia through National Park Channels. He had talked to General Van Vorhees and had been assured that I would be retained on active duty but that Van Vorhees would not interfere with DeRohan's prerogative with respect to my assignment. It appears that DeRohan sent me to South Bend to get rid of me. The transfer turned out well for me.
The camp at South Bend was a Soil Conservation Camp. The Superintendent was "Deke" Reichel, a fine man with whom I got along great. The agronomist was Eugene Blackford from my Coshocton days who brought family to South Bend.
With a few days my Sector Commander from Ft. Wayne paid us a visit and made an inspection. No problems but helpful since I was now in the Indiana District. Shortly afterwards the Indiana District Commander, a brigadier general, paid us a visit. We made our usual inspection and the general ate lunch with Mr. Reichel and me. Prior to his departure the general discussed the fact that all CCC officer positions were being converted to civilian positions. These positions would be filled by officers now on active duty, if the officer was considered qualified. This change would be made at the time of the expiration of the officer's current tour of active duty. This brigadier general had discussed my case with his boss, Major General VanVorhees, and I was to be retained as a civilian if I so desired. I tentatively agreed to take the jog. The general asked about my pay status. It seems he knew that the Ohio District Finance Officer was holding my pay because of the $9.90 report of survey. I told the general the story. He said "I will take care of that."
Since my active duty would expire on 30 November I was ordered to Ft. Benjamin Harrison near Indianapolis for my final physical. I drove down the afternoon prior to my physical and took Martha along. We stayed in a tourist home. The next morning after breakfast I dropped Martha off in downtown Indianapolis. I very carefully selected a building with a large clock and told Martha I would meet her about one o'clock. I returned to the building with the clock around one o'clock. I thought it would be the same building but it was not. Martha was not there. I parked the car and searched. No Martha. I drove over the route we had driven in the morning, so I thought. In fact US route 31 follows one street going south through Indianapolis and a different street going north. Both streets have a similar building with a clock. I was searching the wrong street. Continued my search and finally went to the police station. They knew nothing. Continued my search until about 5 PM when I began my return to South Bend. I went to Martha's rooming house. They knew nothing about Martha. Went back to camp and departed early the next day for Indianapolis. Found Martha standing in line at the bus station about to board the bus for South Bend. Both happy. Martha had waited at the right place for quite some time. She then went to the theater to see Cab Calloway after which she returned to the clock. She then went to the police station. No information. Spent the night in a hotel, borrowed money from Traveler's Aid and bought ticket to South Bend.
A few days later I was ordered back to Ft. Benjamin Harrison for a recheck of my chest x-ray. Martha declined to go along.
I had unused leave so Martha and I went home for Thanksgiving. I had recently acquired an Irish Setter pup. I took him along. On our return trip we stopped in Coshocton for early breakfast. I left the pup in the backseat. Martha left a hat which she had redecorated lying on the front seat. When we came out of the restaurant to resume our journey the pup was in the front seat having his breakfast---chewing on the new hat ribbons. Martha was upset with me and the dog.
I was still serving without pay. This continued for sometime, at least until we were broke, until I finally gave up and sent the army a check for $9.90. I was not upset with the army system. I still think the old system was good system. I was upset with the surveying officer who I thought was being very unreasonable.
In the meantime Martha went to work in a bakery. Sometime afterward she found a very nice small apartment. Duty in South Bend was pleasant since I had a junior officer all the time I was there.
I was relieved from active duty on 30 November. I did not receive any official word as to my "civilian" job until 10 December. I worked ten days with out pay.
On Saturday nights we borrowed trucks from the technical service and let about 75 of the enrollees go to town under the supervision of a senior Negro leader. One Saturday evening I was in town with Martha. When I read the Sunday paper I found that 50 of my people were in jail. I returned to camp and interviewed the leader. He said that as they were loading to return to camp at midnight they were attacked by a group of South Bend Negroes using pickets torn from a nearby fence. The police broke up the melee and took the town group and 50 of the enrollees to jail. In the meantime I found that the hearing would be at 2 PM Sunday afternoon. I sent Lt. Lewis and the Negro leader who had been in charge with instructions to tell the truth. My men were released and returned to camp. The Judge called me on Monday and complimented the company on the outstanding leader who had appeared before him
This was the only "town" incident that I had during my three years with the Negroes. In this case the problem was that the enrollees had a little money, the local girls dropped their town boyfriends and took up with the enrollees. This made the town boys unhappy.
One of my major problems at South Bend was VD. These young men were new to South Bend and many of them had a new untested girlfriend. As a result we had a lot of VD, a very serious offense in those days. As with the Army, all men who were found to have VD were treated and discharged. After considerable correspondence on this subject from District I finally received a letter (I intended to retain a copy) which said in no uncertain terms "it is your responsibility to ensure that your enrollees do not associate with persons having VD." Although my last Sgt and I could not quite figure out how to do that we did stop the scourge of VD. All men going on pass were required to stop at the dispensary for a prophylaxis. Harsh treatment, but we had no more complaints and no more VD.
My Chaplain, a Catholic, was well acquainted at Notre Dame. He had free passes to many athletic events and I went with him to sports events quite frequently.
We did have one unfortunate event. One of the technical service foremen, a young white man, called one of his leaders an SOB on the job. Quite a group came to see me after work and I had to do a good bit of talking, my 1st Sgt was a great help, to calm the group. When I went to see Mr. Reichel he was already aware of the problem. The next day the foreman was transferred.
I had a very fine mess Sgt and two great cooks. One day I suggested that we save money by buying mutton. We tried it, but the men saw the word mutton on the menu and would not eat it. I said to the mess Sgt "Why don't we make beef stew out of mutton?" From then on we frequently had beef stew made of mutton and they loved it.
I should point out that during the early years of our marriage Martha's and my only possessions except our personal clothing was our car, dog, radio, and shotgun.
It is important to note that the United States was in the throes of a very serious depression from the time I started college in 1930 until I left the CCC in 1941. Prior to 1940-1941 the army was very, very cost conscious. The congressional appropriation for the army and the navy was very small. While at Ohio State the army trucks in use were World War I vehicles with solid tires. In 1933 or 34 our ROTC unit did receive new trucks. Our artillery unit at Ohio State University was a horse drawn unit (six horse teams) using the 1917 model of the French 75 millimeter rifle. During my seven years with the CCC there were only two telephones in the CCC Camp---one in the company orderly room and one in the technical service office. We were not permitted to use long distance except in extreme emergency. I do not recall receiving more than one or two long distance calls during my years as a company commander. I don't believe I ever made a long distance call. Correspondence was limited to essential and basically was only that required by higher headquarters. We had to weigh and record the weight of all outgoing mail daily.
As a result a CCC Company Commander had an extremely independent command. Most decisions were made at a company level based upon regulations. As a result command of a CCC Company was a pleasure and was rewarding. During my army career I was never to have as independent a command again.
In May of 1940 the entire CCC Company moved by train from South Bend to a newly constructed camp at Mansfield, Ohio. We arrived late on a Saturday afternoon. Our delay was caused by a bad wheel on our baggage car. The railroad wanted to sideline the car and deliver it later. I could not do that since the baggage car contained all of the clothing and personal belongings of the men. The RR brought up a new car and we transferred all of the property from the old car and continued our journey. It was a rainy day. There were no sidewalks and lots of mud. Much to my disgust we were met at the railroad siding by my old friend Lt. Col. DeRohan whose first comment was "Where have you been? Why are you late?" We settled into camp without too much difficulty and DeRohan left after giving me suggestions as to improvements to be made. Most of the items he called to my attention were things which the construction Quartermaster should have taken care of. The barracks and mess hall were in good shape. There were a few minor items to be done. The latrine was not complete but useable. The officers' quarters were not fully complete and were being used by the construction Quartermaster --- a Captain. I had to sleep in my office for about two weeks although I believe I was permitted to use the shower and toilet in the officers' quarters. On Monday I turned the company over to the Soil Conservation Service.
One of the technical service foremen from South bend was transferred to Mansfield at the time of our move. He did not have his car in South Bend so I arranged for him to drive my car and Martha (my wife) to Mansfield. She found a room with Clifford and Kay Oswald on Bartley Avenue a few blocks from downtown Mansfield. We still hear from the Oswalt's at Christmas.
One of my first duties was to call on the Mayor of Mansfield. He was pleasant and we established a good relationship. One of the local men who lived near the camp came to see me. The ladies of the area were disturbed by having 200 black men living in their area. We discussed the situation and I assured him that my enrollees would cause no problems since they were very well behaved. During my year at Mansfield I received no complaints from the local residents, the people of Mansfield, or the police.
Shortly after our arrival the sector Commander, a 1st Lt Williams, from Zanesville visited us. After his routine audit of my books we inspected the camp and the building program accompanied by the Quartermaster Captain. Lt. Williams pointed out several things to the Captain that he must do. I discussed with Lt. Williams my plans for sidewalks---our most important problem since we had to get out of the dirt and mud.
A few days later Major Stutz, the District Executive officer, a very tough but fair man, made his first visit. Again we inspected the camp. I told him my improvement plans and pointed out my problems. Supplies to do the work were the major problem. Painting of certain areas such as the interior of the dispensary was required but it was almost impossible to secure paint from the army. Major Stutz made notes of my supply problems and agreed to see what he could do. A few days later most, but not all, of the supplies arrived.
We were making good progress but there were problems remaining. The 1st Sgt had used enrollees to do the grading for the sidewalks. Since we had nothing better we planned to use gravel. About this time DeRohan returned. Everything was going too slow. We were not trying. Use bricks for the sidewalk. Build a white board Kentucky style fence along the highway. Where do I get the material? His attitude was that was my problem. I requisitioned the lumber citing DeRohan as the authority and to my surprise it was approved and delivered. I talked to several of the technical service people about bricks. One of them knew of a pile of highway bricks, used, belonging to the highway department. I talked to them and they gave us the bricks. Using sand as ballast the 1st Sgt and his crew laid the bricks and we had very good walks.
The Camp Superintendent was a Mr. Dole. He was a stranger to me, but rumored to be a very difficult man to work with. The Agronomist was Mr. Hecker and the Forester was John Merrill. We got along very well together although I made it a point to be careful with Mr. Dole and to not ask directly for a favor. If I needed help I would talk to one of the other men who were cooperative as long as they did not cross Dole.
I had an excellent company clerk by the name of Taylor, but known to everyone as "Slow." One evening around 8:30 or a little later I was in my office. I came across a paper that required a little typing and should, at the latest, be mailed the next day. I sent for Slow. He came in and began work. A few minutes later Mr. Dole came in. Why had I sent for Slow? Didn't I know that Slow was attending a class in the Education building? My reply to Mr. Dole was "You take care of your job and I will take care of mine." Dole departed in a huff. I asked Slow about his attending class and explained that if I had known he was in class I would have waited until class was over. A few days later one of the senior Soil Conservation officials from the Ohio main office came to see me. I had known him when working at New Lexington and Coshocton. Thinking this was a social call I invited the official to my quarters. We talked for several minutes about my days with SCS, etc. A little later he asked me about the incident in my office with Mr. Dole. I told him the story, admitted that I had not been tactful, but did think Mr. Dole had been out of line. He agreed with me and soon after departed. A few days later Dole was transferred and Mr. Hecker became Superintendent. No problems that we could not talk about and solve to our mutual satisfaction. Dole had a history, I later learned, of causing trouble with the army side of the operation. I never had single problem with Watson, Reichel, or Hecker.
Sometime during the year I was at Mansfield, Mr. Watson, who was still at Vandalia, stopped to see me. After my departure they had a succession of commanding officers none of whom had remained very long. He was of the opinion that if I had remained very few of their problems would have occurred.
Martha (my wife) and I and the Merrill's were very good friends. About once a month on a Saturday evening when I was in camp for the weekend (my junior officer being on pass) the Merrill's would bring Martha to my quarters and we would play cards, drink coffee and eat Mrs. Merrill's apple pie.
Our Educational Advisor was a young, black, college graduate by the name of Carr. I was friendly with him and let him do the educational job without interference. So far as supplies were concerned I gave him all the help possible. I knew however that he was an agitator whenever he felt the blacks were being mistreated. We never had difficulty but once.
Sometime during the summer DeRohan returned. The fence was up and the walks were in. We made an inspection and he ordered linoleum laid on the dispensary floor. I agreed with him but the problem was how to get the linoleum. When we went to the mess hall it was about three o'clock in the afternoon. We were having meat loaf for supper. DeRohan wanted a meat loaf sandwich. He complained about the crust on the bread and ordered it removed. He didn't like the way the canned goods were stored in the kitchen storeroom All the labels to the front and the cans right side up.
I requisitioned the linoleum and it was disapproved. I wrote a letter to District requesting approval to purchase the linoleum from company funds and it was disapproved. I then had only two alternatives - pay for the linoleum out of my own funds, or use ration funds - a shady and, in fact, illegal operation. Lt. Albert had taught me this trick at Vandalia. Most company commanders did this and all the inspectors knew of the operation. Their position being it was OK as long as no evidence existed.
What the Company Commander did was this. You would go to your local supplier of fresh fruits and vegetables. This bill was paid by check by the Company Commander. You would buy a bushel of turnip greens or similar produce. The grocer would bill you for the turnip greens, supplies or whatever, but deliver to you a gallon of paint or any item that you needed. The mess Sgt would pick up the turnip greens on his inventory and later issue them to the kitchen. This kept the records straight. Of course you could not do this without the knowledge of the mess Sgt.
So, I visited our green grocer and told him of my need for about fifty dollars worth of linoleum. Of course I had already selected the linoleum. He agreed to pay for the linoleum and to bill the company a few dollars at a time. We installed the linoleum. About the time the linoleum was half-paid for trouble occurred. My mess Sgt went AWOL from pass one weekend. I could not understand it. Neither did my 1st Sgt. About 10 AM on Tuesday morning Mr. Car and Lt. Lewis asked to talk to me in the officers' quarters. They informed me that the Mess Sgt had tried to buy a car through the produce company and pay for it like I was paying for the linoleum. This was not new. Most army mess Sgt's had nice cars and it was rumored they were being paid for through the ration accounts. The same appeared to be true of stable Sargents. The mess Sgt's approach to the grocer had been reported to either Carr (why Carr?) or Lewis. When it was reported, the mess Sgt got scared and went absent without leave (AWOL). Lt. Lewis I am sure knew better, but Mr. Carr's position was that I was lining my own pockets from the mess fund. I explained the entire situation and said the only mess money I had ever used for anything other than food was for the linoleum. They both left the room. I knew that Carr would attempt to cause problems over the incident. I did not know what Lt. Lewis would do. Nevertheless I told Martha the story, went to the produce grocer and paid off the remainder of the account. I never heard another word.
However about two weeks later I was asked by District if I felt Lt. Lewis could handle a company. He had been with me a long time, seven or eight months. Although he left a lot to be desired I informed District that I thought he would do a fair job. Shortly he was ordered to my old company at Vandalia. Shortly Major Stutz arrived in the middle of the afternoon. He audited my accounts paying very careful attention to the mess account. We made an inspection of the camp. He complimented me on the linoleum dispensary knowing very well that District had disapproved my requisition and my request to use company funds.
He then said he was going to eat dinner with me and spend the night at the camp. I almost asked permission to spend the night with Martha in town, but elected not to. We ate dinner and had pleasant conversation with one or two technical service people who lived in camp and ate in the mess. The tech service people had their own tables but I normally invited them to sit with me. Carr did not eat with us. So there were Major Stutz and I and two of the foremen. I think this surprised Major Stutz, but he had no comment.
Major Stutz was a very quiet man and even though I had known him for a long time we did not talk very much other than business. He always appeared to be satisfied with me. We sat and read in the officers' quarters for a short while and then he said "I believe I will go into town to the movie. You do not need to wait up. Just call me in time for breakfast." Did he go to the movie or was he trying to determine how well I had covered my tracks in purchasing the linoleum? I will never know. He was pleasant at breakfast and soon departed after thanking me for my hospitality.
Sometime prior to Thanksgiving I received a new Lieutenant by the name of Renata Buzzelli from Mount Vernon, Ohio. He was the best Lieutenant I ever had. He was with me for about two months and was reassigned. In April I again had a junior officer, a real wet sock.
The officers' quarters at Mansfield were of the traditional CCC type with one exception. I had a living room and two bedrooms with shower and toilet plus washbasin. The exception was that Mr. Carr, the educational advisor, had his own apartment in the building with his own private entrance. He never disturbed me but once. The Merrill's were visiting on a Saturday evening. Mr. Carr came through from his apartment, spoke, and went out my front door. Shy? I don't know.
On several occasions I was asked "Don't you lock your doors at night? Aren't you afraid of these blacks?" I always replied that I don't lock my doors and I am not the least afraid even though the Post Exchange money is in my room at night. Some of the blacks were former criminals and some bore the marks of the chain gang on their ankles. Immediately upon arrival in camp each man was searched by the 1st Sgt for knives and razors. We never had any serious problems. By accident I learned early that these young men were scared of their mother. All I had to say was "Behave or I will write your mother." They would immediately beg for mercy.
In May of 1941 I was alerted in writing that I would be ordered to active duty with the army at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina in early June. I was to have a complete physical examination at Ft. Hayes in route.
The Oswalt's were moving to Baltimore, Maryland. Martha decided to go along. I asked for leave, turned my accounts over to the new Lieutenant, and drove Martha and Kay Oswalt to Baltimore. I spent a day or two there and returned to Piedmont where I also spent a day or two with my parents and brothers. I drove to Mansfield to clear up a few things and get my late mail. I drove to Ft. Hayes, and signed in.
This ends the CCC stories of Roy U. Clay.
Additional Background Info:
Roy Udell Clay was Born Piedmont, Ohio, April 5, 1912. Died June 16, 1993, Carlisle, Pennsylvania. He received his education at Ohio State University, BS Agricultural Engineering June 1934, and also received a Logistics Management School Diploma. After college accepted commission in U.S. Army, progressing to Colonel, specializing in logistics, maintenance, construction and property management. He was also, Instructor at post-graduate level for three years at Army Command and General Staff School.
After retiring from Army (Summer 1967) was Director of Physical Plant, Mackinac College, Mackinac Island, Michigan with similar responsibilities: in addition was guest lecturer in systems analysis. Later was Director of Physical Plant at Adrian College, Adrian, Michigan.
Email Col. Clay's family at : mveracka AT wowway.com
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