Biography of Gerald Wayne Morrison

CCCman, Salmon, Idaho

   Place Cinncinnati, Ohio. Time 1934. These were hard times for the people these were the days of the great depression. Franklin D. Roosevelt the President at that time had what some called the alphabet administration, having programs of the N.R.A., T.V.A., F.H.A., P.W.A, W.P.A., and the C.C.C.s.

     I was only seventeen, I had quit school during the eleventh grade but still kept busy with a morning paper route and helping at my father's restaurant, washing dishes waiting tables and so forth. The day came when I asked permission from my parents to enlist in the C.C.C.s having seen a friend of mine in uniform and hearing some of his experiences, I was eager to join up.

     The time came, I enlisted with a bunch of other youngsters. I had a hope of being sent West, having seen so much of Buck Jones, Tom Mix, Hoot Gibson in the movies. I guess I had a yearning for adventure since I had never been west of Indiana. I knew too that some had the misfortune of not leaving their home state.

     The awaited time came and I was informed that I was to be sent to Salmon, Idaho. I would see the west, I was overjoyed.

     Saying goodbye to my parents was difficult. I told them that they would receive twenty five dollars a month, I was to get five a month. They told me to keep it all. Saying goodbye was a tearful one.

     I had never been on a train before and I well knew this first ride would be a long one.

     Before long we were crossing the Mississippi River and that was a sight to me. Then after four more hours we were entering the state of Wyoming.

     There we stopped at a small town and its train station. In front of the station I noticed a horse hitched out front and a local citizen approaching the waiting steed. At the horses side he grabbed he saddle horn and made an effort to alight in the saddle. All to my interest this became a bitter struggle. It took that valiant man so many minutes to mount that horse, time and again he made an attempt with failure, finally victory. I was disappointed, nothing like what I had seen in the movies.

     Leaving Wyoming th train made its way up into Idaho and into the ton of Pocatello. From Pocatello the train made its way to Dillon, Montana.

     There at Dillon we had to change trains to go to Salmon, Idaho.

     The train there at Dillon was called "The Gallopping Goose". ON the side of the engine the letters read "Pittsburg and Gilmore".

      The Galloping Goose left Dillon and made its way crossing the Continental Divide and entering the Bitterroot Mountains. The country was rough and beautiful. Some of the mountain peaks in this range reached an elevation of ten thousand feet and the train struggled most of the way at speeds around fifteen and twenty miles per hour. The slow speed however was an advantage int aking in all the wonderful country. I had never seen such beauty, almost beyond the imagination. At times the train traveled so slow I atemped to pet a duck swimming in a pond by extending my arm through the car window.

     The train arrived at Salmon. Army trucks were waiting to take us to camp. It was nearly twenty miles to the camp and in the middle of night when we arrived there.

     The camp was one the U.S. Army had deserted long ago. We lit our kerosene lamps and with a little caution entered a door. What a mess we found. The army cots were set up with bed bugs, the roof leaked in many, many places causing everyone of us to run around like crazylooking for safe and dry spots for our bunks. After all this the only thing on all our minds was sleep.

     In the morning I did a little investigating. I found that just by stepping out the back door, I could step right into the Salmon River. I had heard of this river, they named it the "River of No Return". I stood there and could see the reason for that name. The rapids were hard to describe. They looked fast, dangerous, full of noise and furious. Their noise seemed to scream out a challenge to anyone near. I had heard that Louis and Clark on their expedition came to the river but refused to accept the challenge but turned to another route.

     The camp consisted of two barracks a mess hall an infirmary and the office were the Army and the U.S. Forestry worked hand in hand managing the camp. Organizing ad to start, rosters had to be made up, work details had to be assigned.

     Our work was to improve and widen the river road. It was hard work and dangerous too with the blasting and the rock slides. I was assigned to the wood pile, that is sawing and chopping up lumber to be used for fire wood at the camp. I was a city boy and two ma saws, sledge hammers and peaveys were all strange to me but I was to learn.

     Trees were cut down farther up the river then floated down to us at the wood pile. The logs were taken from the river by means of ropes and chains and peaveys. About this tool called a peavey, named after the man who invented it. It was a long pole with a very sharp pointed end. Near the end of the pole was a circular metal hinged hook, all used to stab and control the log.

     I was to get acquainted with the two man saw. I was instructed that I should use only the backward stroke on the saw, never pushing forward on it. My first partner on the saw was a man from the forestry. He was fresh from getting a shot in the arm at the infirmary. While we were sawing I knew his arm was hurting and I hd the feeling that I was no help. I was so glad when he called it quits.

     We had a pet at the wood pile, a small white terrier dog. He loved everyone and everyone loved him. He had the problem of getting hurt at one time and now limps on his right leg. My wood pile buddy named the dog arithmetic, when I asked why he answered, because he puts down three and carried one.

     At one time a raft came down the river navigated by two men loaded with supplies. One the road along side the river a truck followed it with more supplies. We discovered later it was the National Geographic Society on an expedition.

     After work and after mess, evenings at the barracks was spent reading and writing letters back home. Playing with little Arithmetic by tossing things around the barracks and have him fetch, were times of fun.

     Some nights the trucks would take us into Salmon. The town was a distance of twenty miles away and consisted of a saloon, a movie house, and a general store. At the saloon old timers sat around a large table playing poker. They gave us no notice, giving us the impression thatthey regardedus as either outsiders, no good youths, or maybe aliens from a distant planet.

     The movie house was something else. The films almost were dated near to silent movies. Most of the time we stayed and seen the movie twice just to take up time until the truck leaving time.

     One thing was funny though, that was watching the young ladies leave their cars and trucks to enter the movie house. They were all dressed like for a Saturday night outing, dresses so beautiful and strutting like Debs to their first social. They all looked funny what with all that finery, they all wore boots.

     My story is finished. All boys were discharged that is all except one, he remained in Idaho and married a girl in Pocatello.

     A little over a year and Camp Salmon was made to ashes. My buddy George visited me at my home in Cincinnati, met my sister, dated my sister, and then a nice wedding. George throughout the years was a devoted husband and father.

I still always say the three CCCs was a wonderful thing for the youths. They need it today. They accomplished a lot of good work fighting forest fires, improving and making roads, building some rest areas that are still with us today. Long live the memories.

----- Gerald Wayne Morrison


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