Biography of Frederick T. Feil
CCCMan, Company 1645, French Creek Camp, Pierce, Idaho & California
My father is writing notes from memory of his CCC days in Pierce, Idaho and California. His name is Frederick T. Feil. He joined CCC camp #1645 in French Creek Camp, North of Pierce, Idaho. He was 19 years old. He was born in 1914.
He has photos of camp, building roads, the mess hall, bath house, building roads, fighting fires, etc. He was in the CCC in 1930 era. Please advise me of what you may be interested in or if at all. Dad was from Chicago and led 25 men spot fire fighting among other duties. He tells of being in quarantine for three times, after each man became ill.
Later, he was not in the service during World War Two, as they put him to work making ammunition at the Arsenal in Joliet, Illinois during the war.
Here is his story in his own words.
Civilian Conservation Corps
Frederick T. Feil 10.14.2001
In my opinion this was one of the finest things to be introduced by a president. It should not have been terminated, ever. My work life began when I was six years old.
I joined the C C C when I was nineteen. My ability and experience caused my rating in boot camp in Sheridan. After boot camp we entrained to join camp #1645 in French Creek Camp North of Pierce, Idaho.
Our group was made up of half Chicago teens primarily from Stock yards families, that were poor, tough, and wild. The other half were similar lads located in other towns in Illinois, South of Chicago. Other replacements from other areas helped fill the (troop) team, for a three-day trip to North Idaho.
En route, a person came down with Spinal Meningitis, and died on the train. When we de trained, our group was isolated, and placed under quarantine. When we arrived at camp, we were a group apart under 30 day quarantine.
The Feds were waiting for us with separate large water bags, food and medicines and incubator ovens. The morning chore was a bacteria sample taken from our throat backs with a long thin stick put in through the nose. I was the only rated member of the group, so most of the directives and control came through me. We were separated from the rest of the company and worked everyday in a separate part of the mountains. After 29 days, another of our group came down sick. Bang, another 30-day quarantine. This person died later in the hospital. More isolation of our group. On Monday the last week of quarantine, I had the lads, 3 miles up a ravine and started to set up for work. One lad said," I don't feel good." I told him to sit and rest, then come up the mountain between our string lines. When we stopped our work at noon meal, I said you guys quit and come down. I am going down now. When I arrived at our beginning point this lad was lying there out like a light. As the lads all came down, I kept them isolated and ran down the three-mile trail to company headquarters. Medics and ambulance were called, and our camp doc and I went up trail with a stretcher. He and I packed him down and the group followed us. At company camp he was chucked into the ambulance and rushed to the hospital. We saved his life, but he was crippled in his arms and legs for quite awhile. Wham, another 30 day quarantine. Wow! 90 days! We were allowed to join the whole company and live a normal life. That meant climb mountains and "blister rust, repair roads, fight forest fires, and mix a little with local folks.
It was a pleasure mixing with the rest of the company after that 3rd session and I will dwell a little bit on odds and ends.
I remember taking the uninitiated out in our campground at night, hunting snipes. We all had clubs and ran around in the dark, beating the ground and trying to catch us a snipe. Eventually, the uniniated became educated. (ha, ha)
Another thing I remember was thievery among the new comers and our cure for that was a "Kangaroo" court session, judged by the peers and sentenced passed on the guilty. Another session we had was the "so and so" bath. We hated dirty people. After warning an individual, ten guys would grab him and give him a bath with scrub brushes, layer, by layer to nudity. Never had to worry about more than one bath per guy.
Certain things had to be learned as the men mixed, to create happiness and cooperation among fellow workers. The three CCCs' in my mind were responsible for changing young kids into men. One of the many things done for amusement in our spare time was to work out on a set of parallel bars and horizontal bars that I built. We had some fun on the bars.
Idaho was a truly amazing place. The rivers were so fast, the foam was snow white, the forest and mountains teamed with deer, elk, bear and other critters. Going over a hill often times herds were seen running and leaping away.
One of the interesting hazards were spot fires, noted by lookouts. We had a 25 man crew and they would pick us up and deliver us as it was getting dark out in the mountains. We all carried fire fighter packs. They gave us a map, compass, and two flashlights and said, "follow these directions, use your compass until you see the fire, then put it out." When our job was done, we would return to the road where we were left off and go back to camp. I remember the travel through the mountains by the words spoken by the man in the front with the flashlight. He would say, "log, rock, hole, stump and the man behind each man in line would repeat for protection. After many of the spot fires, we were put on a fire of large proportions, that burned until snow fell.
As time passed we entrained our winter camp in Southern California. The native Idaho people all named their own homemade whiskey. Leaving with the entire company turned out to be a chore. We finally had them all a board and I gave the engineer orders to leave. Most of the responsibility for the transfer fell on me. In California our camp was called Cobal Cannyon, a lovely place. Six miles North was Mount Baldy, where they skied. All around us was Orange Grove and Walnut forests. A movie was shown in the local town. When cold weather came around, alerts were sounded in all the theaters. People left and started fire pots in the groves. When the sun came up, one could go half way up the mountains and look from ridge to ridge and see nothing below, but a black sea, which was formed by the smudge pots.
When Spring came, I was handed a blue print and given 25 men. We entrained for Idaho again and I had 30 days to build Reeds Ranch Camp for our company in summer. Success. One of our joys was weekend trips to town and dance, etc. 25 men to a truck.
One time going back to camp, we used our ordinary method of resolving problems. We all got in the back of our trucks, stripped to the waist and left the chain across the center hang loose and we put the two people who disagreed with each other in the middle. As the truck proceeded back to camp, they would settle their differences. No troubles for anybody.
----- Frederick T. Feil
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