Biography of Fred Hemenway
CCCMan, Company 2919, Columbia National Forest, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Camp Lower Cispus, Cowlitz Valley District, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, WA & Columbia National Forest, Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Randle Ranger Station, Washington
Narrator: Fred Hemenway
Interviewer: Lisa Parker
Date: February 11, 2001
Place: His home in Castle Rock, WA
Fred Hemenway was born in Clear Water, Nebraska in 1921. His parents, who married in 1900, successfully reared seven children. In 1931, the Hemenway family moved to Wyoming to attempt cattle farming. However, after many difficulties, they left the state in 1937 and transferred to Washington State where one of his sisters resided. Mr. Hemenway spent his early years farming, but after high school graduation in 1939, he signed up for duty in the Civilian Conservation Corps because of job scarcity. The CCC was a Depression era program that was familiar to the Hemenway family because one of the older siblings, Charles, had joined in Wyoming. Mr. Hemenway spent one and a half years in the CCC between 1940 and 1941. During his first six-month hitch, he was based at Camp Lower Cispus, Company 2919, in the Cowlitz Valley District, but spent the remainder of his service at the Randle Ranger Station. During his time in the CCC, he worked at many tasks, like trail maintenance and camp building.
LP: How did you hear about the CCC?
FH: My older brother, Charles, was in the CCC's in Wyoming. At that time they were getting thirty dollars a month. But twenty-five dollars came home to the folks and Charlie got five dollars to live on in camp. You got meals and room and board, but he spent about a year down in the southern part of Wyoming in CCC's, and they built a dam and got a lot of conservation work done there. I was very familiar with the CCC's and when I graduated from high school I couldn't get a good job. I graduated in May or June and I signed up for the C's in December of that same year. I didn't go until January.
LP: I read your article and you say in there that the best job you could find paid five dollars. I was wondering what kind of job you were looking for?
FH: You know, they call me easy sometimes, because I get talked into things I don't want to do. A fellow that I knew was planting trees for Weyerhaeuser and he lived with his elderly mother, but he stayed in camp during the week and he needed someone to stay with his mother. So, during the week, I stayed up at Toutle and I took his mother to buy groceries and I did work around the farm. I milked the cow and I put in windows or whatever was broken and helped keep up the farm. Five dollars a week, room and board [laughs], which wasn't very good pay, but then, five bucks was five bucks at that time.
LP: And about how old were you then?
LP: Did you have to go through any conditioning to go into the CCC?
FH: No, I just signed up. I suppose that I sent a letter to someone. Somehow or another I found out how to get in, but I don't remember now what I did.
LP: I now want you to describe your first day in the camp itself.
FH: Naturally, I was terrified. When I went into camp, they had, I think, three barracks or maybe four, for the forestry people and they had one barracks they called the army overhead barracks. Well, the other barracks were full, so they put me in the army overhead barracks and this included the supply sergeant and people that worked directly under the army. I was terrified. We had a bunk with a footlocker at the bottom of it and we were able to lock that because thievery was really something. I mean, [chuckle] these guys would steal each other's socks and whatever they could get hold of and, well, I was scared you know. It was probably two weeks before someone moved out [of the barracks] and then [they] moved me into the forestry barracks. I was first assigned to the supply room where we gave out uniforms to the new recruits and I was able to pick out my own uniform because being real small, it wasn't easy to find. Can you imagine [caulked boots?] in a size five? I found a pair and that's what I wore and my trousers were twenty-eight waist, oh brother, good old days [laughs]. I was assigned first to the wood cutting crew and there was lots of downed logs there in the forest and we had to [use] -- they called them misery whips -- long bucking saws, two men to a saw and we'd saw these things into stove wood length, about two foot long and split them with wedges and axes. We had a real good woodpile, but it took a lot [emphasis] of wood to keep all those stoves going in camp because that's all the heat we had. They had a generator, a [Peterson generator?] for power, but at night, nine o'clock, ten o'clock, whenever they shut the generator off, and that was the end of the power until the next morning.
LP: You had to cut wood everyday then?
FH: The wood cutting crew lasted for probably six weeks before we had enough to supply the camp for several months.
LP: How did you actually get to camp? How did they take you there?
FH: We got on army trucks in Kelso, where we signed up and had our physical. You've seen pictures of them, with a bench on both sides and a canvas cover over the top and the rear end was open. They drove us up the highway into Randle. Now, the captain was behind us, so we had to stick strictly to the specified thirty-five mile an hour limit. I thought we never would get there, but I'm told that the truck drivers, when the captain wasn't following, [laughs] they could get a lot more speed out of their trucks. It was probably pretty close to sun down when we got to camp because, well this was in January and the days were real short. They fed us and gave us a bunk and then the next day we started on our temporary work. The guys had to get their hair cut and they gave us a shaving kit. I still have the box, but I don't know what happened to the stuff that was in it [laughs]. At that time, I didn't need a razor.
LP: You say that you all had to have haircuts. Were they all the exact same haircuts?
FH: No, some of the guys didn't even need a haircut. No, there wasn't any specified haircut.
LP: I want to know, what [was] your first impression of the area, the Camp Cispus area? What did you think of it when you first saw it?
FH: It was alright. I remember officer's quarters and [a] mess house and then there was a huge water tank, and water came from a creek up on the hill, and the rows of barracks. We had a good library. It was well stocked with books and Pappy Green was the librarian and education officer, and very friendly. I didn't like it when I was in the army overhead barracks, but after I moved into the other barracks, I felt comfortable. I felt at home. Everyday, we'd get up and, now this memory is kind of fuzzy. It seems to me like they had a flag raising ceremony in the morning. But we'd put on our work clothes. We'd left our [caulked boots?] off until after we got ready to go to work. We'd leave our shoes at the door and put on our [caulked boots?] and get in the trucks and go to whatever job we had.
The first job, like I say, was the wood cutting crew and the next job was trail maintenance. The guys that were in the C's before us had built trails all through the mountains, but these trails, due to wind conditions and one thing and another [had deteriorated]. There were lots of snags or had been a forest fire, but the trails would get logs across them. We went along these trails and made them accessible for the mules that they used for hauling fire equipment and that sort of thing. But this was, to me, the world's best duty because [of] climbing mountains everyday, and the scenery was beautiful. Most of this country had been fairly newly logged and the view was terrific in all directions. Mt St. Helens is not too far away and some of the other mountain peaks. Sunrise had a forest lookout on top. Several of the mountains had lookouts on top and many of the trails we were on didn't go up to a lookout. Some of them did, but the lookout trails had already been pretty well maintained. But the others, we'd get up on a mountain ridge and eat lunch and then start back down. [On] one trail that we were on, there was a ford across Yellow Jacket Creek and it was kind of a dangerous looking thing. Lee Bosworth said, "We'd better widen this trail," [because] there's a better ford up above. But there was a promontory of rocks [that] stood out there and he said, "I'll send a truck driver back for some equipment. I want you and Kelley to stay here and drill holes in this rock so we can blast it off." So, Kelley and I took a hand drill and a sledgehammer and drilled several holes in this rock so the Powder Monkey could put in dynamite and blow it away. When we were done, it made a real good trail across this thing and later on, there was a forest fire up at the end of that trail, and it was a good thing [we made the trail] because the mules would have had problems, or the people too, fording the creek. Some of these trails too, when we came to a creek that we couldn't get across when we were maintaining the trail, we'd take the equipment we had and fall a tree across the creek [laughs] and walk across the tree, which they wouldn't do now. I mean, you don't fall a tree for that reason. But back then we could do that.
LP: Did you have to go through the initiation process? I know that a lot of boys had to go through the initiation process when they got to camp.
FH: Well, there was always a few ornery guys that wanted to initiate everyone. Actually, they didn't pick on me. I come into the Kangaroo Court [and they said], "Oh, I don't think he's guilty of anything," and they let me go. But the guys behind me, I mean they held them under that cold water. Oh, that water is cold too, coming right out of a mountain creek, in January. Yeah, there was initiations. One little guy had a deal he wanted somebody to blow into. Well, you'd blow into this tube and of course, it blows soot all over your face and little things like that. But, most of the initiations, except for the cold water was not that bad. But, like I say, he didn't pick on me because [laughs] he figured I wasn't big enough to fight back, I guess.
LP: In your article, you refer to Captain Jeppesen, and then you talk about his German accent. So, I want to know, were there a lot of different ethnic groups in the CCC?
FH: Not really. Most of the kids were from Seattle, Tacoma, and quite a few from [the] local neighborhood. But unfortunately, the CCC's did not allow Blacks. I understand that there was a couple of Black camps, but that wasn't enough. I mean, they were probably poorer than the rest of us, but, well it's a different ballgame of course, but that's the way it was back then. I don't think there were any Blacks. There may have been in some of the camps, but I don't really think so. (Curator's note: there were indeed a great number of black camps, but these were generally segregated)
LP: Ok, and what about the Forest Service leader? Because Captain Jeppesen was [in the] army, right?
FH: He was a captain in the Army, yes.
LP: So what about the Forest Service guys, you had access to them?
FH: They were the foreman. They assigned the projects for different deals that we were going to do. Like Bosworth's crew was assigned the trail maintenance or the wood cutting crew. Another crew worked in the wood shop where they built picnic tables and they built portable outhouses, and there were was another crew that fell snags. There was forest fires [that had] run through there and these trees that had been burned were standing up there and they are a hazard as far as lightning is concerned. Lightning hits those trees and they catch fire and they'll start forest fires. Well, to fall these trees is to get rid of a lot of the hazards of forest fires and there was a pretty good size crew doing that. There was some on road maintenance and I really don't know what all [laughs], but they had lots of work. Some of the work was make-do of course, because keeping 200 men busy isn't that easy, but then mostly we did work. I don't recall a tree planting crew, but in lots of the camps there were. They planted millions of trees, which is a good deal, I mean, really.
LP: And which crew were you on?
FH: Well, like I say, just the wood cutting crew. Oh, we also had several days of firefighting training. They actually set a fire and we built trails around this fire. We contained this fire, just for practice and it wasn't long until this practice came in handy because the guys knew what they were doing when they got out on the fire line. It was good training, I remember that. But right off hand, I don't remember what else I did other than in the evenings of course, we had classes and I took a class in surveying of all things.
LP: Do you remember what you learned in surveying? What kinds of things did they teach you?
FH: Well, back then, we used a chain and we used a compass and a transit of course, and that sort of thing, but our instructor was, could have been better. For instance, [we] ran what they call a closed tangent. Anyhow, you start out by this direction, then you set a line by the compass and then measure it off a tape and then you set a certain angle, and the idea is to do this two or three times and come back where you started. Well we were able to do that on one occasion, I recall. But it wasn't too long after that that I was sent down to the Ranger Station.
LP: Then, how often [were] these classes?
FH: Probably once a week for each class, like psychology was once a week. Incidentally, Captain Jeppesen taught psychology one night when Mr Green was gone. It wasn't psychology, it was physiology [laughs]. It's as close as he could come.
LP: So they had to substitute sometimes?
FH: Yeah, once in a while.
LP: What role did Captain Jeppesen play in the boys' lives?
FH: Not too much. I mean most of the duties he turned over to the Foresters and I wish I could remember the name of some of the foresters there because most of them were really nice guys. They would assign the duties and they would check up on the foremen, like Bosworth. I don't recall that Captain Jeppesen had too much say over us other than he did conduct inspections every morning. You had to have your bunk made up. He would run a quick inspection every morning to make sure that everyone had their bunk made up.
LP: I heard you say most of the Forest Service guys were pretty good to you. Did you have some problems with some of them?
FH: No. I should have said all of them that I recall because they were easy to get along with.
LP: And all the army service guys were too?
FH: Well pretty much, except the supply sergeant. I didn't like him [laughs]. But I thought he could have done a better job of supplying better groceries for us because in all the literature I've read about camps, the guys talk about how good the meals were. And I hate to say this, but Cispus didn't have great meals. I mean we ate more spaghetti [laughs] than we ate anything else.
LP: Was there a refrigerator there?
FH: Oh yeah, they had refrigeration equipment and that sort of thing. They had nicknames for everyone [laughs]. If Phil were still alive, he won't appreciate this, because I'm sure he knew that his nickname was "Filthy Phil," the cook [laughs]. And, uh, well, it wasn't unusual to see him stirring a pot of beans with a big cigar in his mouth. This is one of those things that we put up with.
LP: So, you say that everybody had nicknames. What was yours?
FH: Dynamite [laughs].
LP: And how did you get that?
FH: Oh, that was Howard Kelley. He nicknamed everybody. I wouldn't say that everyone had nicknames, but yeah, all through the camp, I was known as Dynamite [laughs]. Why, well that was Kelley's way of doing things and Kelley talked constantly. Just one of those guys that talks all the time. Mostly, I'm pretty quiet.
LP: You told me a story in our pre-interview about how you were cutting a log and got through it really quick. Do you want to go ahead and tell that one?
FH: Yeah, we were making a campsite and to set the toilet away from the tent sites, there was a great huge log about five feet through in the way. They wanted us to cut just an opening through this log. Well, I was on one end of the saw and another guy on the other and we started sawing through this log and stubborn me, I wouldn't quit. I mean, I just kept pulling on that saw and we got clear to the bottom and I said, "Whew!" And I looked over that log and here was three guys on the other side. They'd been changing off, trading. Boy, did I get the horse-laugh [laughs].
LP: What was the relationship between the CCC boys like? Was it a camaraderie?
FH: Yeah, for the most part, they got along pretty well. I remember one fight. It was at night and there was nobody to stop it and well, it just happened that I knew this one fellow. But, I don't like fighting. Everybody else was watching these two guys fight and I was in the barracks doing something else. But for the most part they got along pretty well. One thing that happens when a bunch of men get together, [is that] there was so much profanity and it shouldn't have been that way. Even in the mess hall, the names they had for the different food was, you know, spaghetti's spaghetti. It's not some other horrible thing that they called it. But this, I didn't much approve of. There was one table, a young man considered himself, oh, I guess you'd say he intended to be a preacher. He had one table where things were quiet. When they served the meals, the person that took the next to the last helping from a plate had to go refill it. They said you'd cinched it, so you had to go refill the plate. Well, you'd scrape off some on a plate and go dash over to the counter to get a refill. And I remember beans and spaghetti and surely we had some good meals, but it doesn't stick in my mind. I did better when I [laughs] got down to the Ranger Station. I could do my own cooking.
LP: Was there a lot of competition between the boys?
FH: Not too much, not that I remember. I do know that some of the guys got in trouble because they just wouldn't work. They wouldn't do anything. They called them the Gold Brick Squad. They just didn't know how to work, or didn't want to work or whatever. So, they put 'em on one squad. They called it prune picking, throwing little rocks off the roadside. [The roads] mostly were just, oh sandy stuff. But then these round rocks on the road, they'd go around and throw these rocks out in the brush. They called them prune pickers [laughs].
LP: Did boys get in trouble very often?
FH: No. I don't think so. Not too much.
LP: Did you ever witness any sort of punishments?
FH: Sometimes the guys, oh, if they didn't have their bed made right or something or like that, they'd have to stay in camp on a weekend instead of going on leave.
LP: How often was leave available?
FH: Probably every two weeks, I don't recall for sure. I know I got home quite frequently when out in camp. The only way we had to get home was if one of the guys happened to have a car, we could ride with him. Otherwise, we had to hitchhike, and it wasn't unusual for us to hitchhike both ways down to the highway. And then I'd take the bus. It cost about a quarter to ride from Mary's Corner down to Castle Rock. So, that's the way we'd do it, but I don't recall that there was ever a truck run down to take the guys to Kelso or whatever. There may have been, but I don't remember.
LP: How would you describe the relationship between the CCC enrollees themselves and the army and the Forest Service and the whole group of officials?
FH: Mostly we just did our jobs, you know. There wasn't any conflict that I recall.
FH: I think people were a little bit afraid of Captain Jeppesen because he was the authority, you know, and he has the power to court marshal you. Court martial is not the right word, but then, you know, to give you a bad time or whatever. But, mostly, it was pretty good.
LP: You were in camp for six months, so during that six months, can you describe what a typical day would [be like]?
FH: We would get up in the morning. I believe that they rung the bell and everybody would get up and get dressed and there was probably a flag raising ceremony, but that may have been after breakfast. Anyhow, we'd go to breakfast, then we'd come back and we knew approximately what kind of work we were going to be doing that day. We'd get on our work clothes and go to work and put in an eight hour day, whether it was building a camp or maintaining trails or whatever. At night, we'd come in and get washed up and then we had to put on our uniforms, or the army, olive drab thing and our necktie with it poked in the second button down. I believe that they'd lowered the flag before chow, and there was a ceremony at night when they lowered the flag. We'd eat and then we were on our own in the evening. We could go to the library or take a class or whatever we wanted to do. Some of the guys played cards I suppose, although I don't recall specifically any card games. But there wasn't any supervision that I know of to prevent that. I think they probably turned the lights out at nine or maybe ten. I know the lights went out all at once because one night just before the lights went out I saw this man looking at my neighbor's locker and just the instance the lights went out, he grabbed that guys socks. We were issued a bunch of new socks [and], well, [they'd] steal anything. But that was unusual.
LP: Did you ever have any of your socks stolen?
FH: I don't recall losing anything. No it wasn't that prevalent, it's just that you had to watch things, had to keep things locked.
LP: What time did they wake you up?
FH: I don't know, it was probably about six o'clock.
LP: You talked about [how] you knew what job you were going to have when you got up in the morning. How did they assign those jobs?
FH: Well, when we had one job like the trail crew, this would go on for several weeks. So, we knew that we were going to be on that job for several weeks. Then later, whatever we were going to do would go on for quite awhile. We went down to the ranger station [and] we did a lot of work around there. We rebuilt the water line down to the ranger's house from the pond up on the hill. There was a creek up there and they'd put a little dam across it and they put a pipe in there and that was the water supply for the whole ranger station. Nobody bothered to check the water for whatever. Nobody ever got sick that I know of from the water. The same thing [was true] for the CCC camps. There was a little dam up on Yellow Jacket Creek and the water was just beautiful, crystal clear. It would run down the pipes and into this tower and that was the camp water supply. Sometimes we worked on [the water line], sometimes we had to redo the sewer line for the ranger station, for the ranger's house and that sort of thing. That's a kind of a fuzzy memory, I don't remember exactly, but I do remember digging like crazy [laughs]. We also planted some trees around the ranger station and I'm pretty sure that one of those trees that I planted is still growing up there and it's about three foot on the butt now. I don't remember specifically planting that tree, but I do know that we did plant trees around the ranger station. And of course, the ranger station now has been, not abandoned, but they have a new ranger station farther up the line a couple of miles and they still use the existing ranger station for one reason or another, but I don't know what. There's a warehouse and a machine shop and a barn for the mules.
LP: You talked about your trail maintenance and your wood chopping. Do you remember any other jobs you did while you were at the actual camp?
FH: Well like I say, we did work down at the ranger station. We [also] built campgrounds along the Cispus River. Back in those days, people always camped in a tent, I mean, there was no RV's, they hadn't been invented yet, I guess. But we put in tent spaces and we dug holes for the pit toilets. The men in the shop would build usually one-holers or two-holers that they set over [the pits]. We probably built campgrounds for maybe a couple of months. I think the river's come up since then and they've all washed away but there's still one on the north fork of the Cispus. I was up there awhile back and even the picnic tables were still there, the ones that were built while I was in camp. Well, I lose track of time, but that must have been thirty years ago since I was last up there.
LP: What kind of tools did you use to build campsites?
FH: Oh, we used bucking saws, an ax, and another tool they called a Pulaski. It had an ax on one side and a hoe on the other. It was mostly a firefighting tool, but they came in handy for cutting brush out of the way. We left [these campsites] as natural as we could. People wanted everything natural. But you had to move a few rocks and one thing and another to build a tent space and we also put in rocks. We took the truck and went up to a rockslide and hauled these huge rocks down and made fire rings out of these rocks. Whether or not they're still there, I have no idea, but the rocks were big enough so they wouldn't have washed down the river. We worked ourselves to death hauling those two, 300 pound rocks. We had to have three or four of us at a time to get hold of one and move it in. But all the time we had fun, you know, we enjoyed that sort of thing.
LP: Now I want to go back to the firefighting training. What exactly did that consist of? What did you do in firefighting training?
FH: Mostly, you built trails. You take all the brush and all the cover off the ground, dig down to bare dirt, and [make] a trail maybe a couple of feet wide. This way, if a fire's burning slowly up to this trail, it won't jump across. You can stop the fire in these, they call it a fire trail. The same system, I'm sure is used today where they can't get water to it. They also had what they called backpack pump cans. You put five gallons of water in a can and you carry it on [your] back with straps and there's a little pump on this thing [and] you pump this water out. A little bit of water will go a long ways when you're fighting fire, especially if it's moving slowly. You'd, wet the brush a little bit and have the fire trail and you take a couple hundred guys and maybe fifty of them have backpack cans, it's amazing how you can stop a fire. Now when you get into these crown fires and really hot fires it's pretty difficult, but a lot of fires aren't that furious, so it's easy to contain them with enough manpower. And the CC's had the manpower. There was one fire that broke out when we was there and they were on the scene, oh gosh, a day and a half before the Forest Service brought in their crews. They had the fire more or less contained by the time the other crews showed up.
LP: Did you help on fighting that fire?
FH: No, I was down at the ranger station at that time and I was on the radio. Why I got on the radio, I don't know. But then that is the job I had during a fire.
LP: Did you experience any fires yourself? Did you have to fight any or help?
FH: Not other than the one that they deliberately set for practice. No, I didn't go to any forest fires.
LP: How big an area did they use to set the training fire? Was it a large area?
FH: Oh, probably a full acre I would imagine. It was big and among other things, they'd include a sawdust pile and we had to trench through this sawdust on the edge of it to prevent the fire from getting into this sawdust pile. [When] sawdust catches on fire, it goes like forever. So it was good training.
LP: I want to jump to the ranger station for just a second. You actually say in your article that you helped prepare firefighting equipment. What did that entail?
FH: We had to get the backpack pump cans ready to go and make sure they all were working. It's a little pump you pump by hand and the water squirts out. We [also] had the other backpacks. I can't remember all what was in them. Each one had a flashlight and I can't remember what all, but it was a pretty good size pack for each fire fighter. I believe there was a sleeping bag too in this. I know we spent days getting these packs ready because it takes a long while to change all the batteries in probably a hundred backpacks. There was a special building that we used. It kept all this firefighting equipment. These [backpacks] were all ready to go when a fire broke out, all I had to do was throw them on the truck.
LP: So, the cans were all filled with water and everything?
FH: No, they usually filled those in the creek later. But there was plenty of water available.
LP: How was camp life structured? Was it run like an army style camp, or was it a lot looser?
FH: Probably very similar. They had some guys that stayed in camp [and] they took care maintenance. And in the forestry center, where the forestry men stayed, there were a couple of guys that took care of that and this is an aside. One day, a fire broke out in this forestry building. Ray Staudinger was cleaning in there and he smelled this smoke and he looked up in the attic and here was this fire around the chimney. Well, he yelled at somebody to ring the fire bell and he shimmied up there and put the fire out. Captain Jeppesen, when he heard the fire bell go off, I mean, he was walking on air. He was so excited and here the fire was already out [laughs]. He was yelling orders through this way and that and he didn't know what he was doing really. He was sure the thing was going to go up in smoke. Incidentally, that forestry building is still there or it was a few years back when I was up there. Jeppesen was excitable to say the least [laughs].
LP: What areas of the forest did you work on? Was it just the Cispus area or did they take you to other areas?
FH: There was a side camp up at Cat Creek. The only time I got up there was later on when I was just leaving the CCC's and I'd applied for a position as a lookout, for a job in one of the lookouts, like Sunrise or Watch Mountain Lookout and that sort of thing. I was up at Cat Creek -- there was quite a few guys up there. I believe they were planting trees up there. They had a pretty good crew up there. That was [about] twenty-five miles up the line, real close to Mount Adams.
LP: But you were out of the CCC by then?
FH: I was just getting out. We took a training course on [lookout duties]. I didn't get my job as a fire lookout, but that's probably for the best too. That's a lonesome job [because] you sit up there all alone month after month and look for fires, look for smoke. But there was quite a bit of training. But other than that, I was never up to Cat Creek.
LP: So, you just basically stayed right around the area then of Lower Cispus?
FH: Yeah. We'd go, like I say on the maintenance trails. On the weekends when we were in Cispus, we used to climb Burley Mountain and go up there and play in the snow. There was snow on the mountain, but there wasn't any down in the valley. In the morning you'd get up and it had been logged fairly recently [and] you'd see the deer running back and forth on these trails. I had some pictures of me in the snow up on Burley Mountain, but I don't know what happened to them. I probably just didn't dig deep enough.
LP: Were you involved with the completion of any major projects while you were in the CCC? Did they do anything major?
FH: Not really.
LP: So it was just camp building and trail maintenance and all of that sort of thing?
FH: No, other than like the campgrounds we built, no. The C's did build a log shelter up at La Wis Wis, which isn't all that far away. It's above Packwood probably ten miles and that building is still there and it's in good shape. They've kept it up, maintained it. It's worth driving up there just to see this building. It was all built by the CCC boys out of logs, and a [has] fireplace in it and a shelter.
LP: In your trail maintenance, I wanted to know what kind of tools you. Did you use the same ones you used for a campground?
FH: Well, yeah, pretty much. We carried a pulaski, an axe on one side and a little hoe type thing on the other. And we always carried a bucking saw to buck any big logs that fell against the trails, and some of the guys had axes. That was the main tools that we used.
LP: Did you have to take shovels?
FH: I believe we did have a shovel. Some of the guys carried shovels.
LP: Now I want to know about the camp setting itself. Did every enrollee have a job towards the betterment of the camp, towards the cleanliness?
FH: [Not] other than keeping our own space. We had to make our bunks up every morning and keep things neat. I think probably someone swept the barracks every day, but I'm not even sure of that. Too many things have escaped my memory.
LP: So you didn't have to do any kitchen duty or latrine duty or anything like that?
FH: They had a latrine maintenance man and I think the army overhead took care of the kitchen. I can't be sure.
LP: In your article, you also discuss your pay, saying that you actually got eight dollars and twenty-two was sent home to your parents. Did you ever discuss your pay with any of the other boys?
FH: No, we just knew it was coming. On payday, I can't say the man's name, but he'd go around and collect two or three dollars or four or five dollars from each guy and he'd go to the liquor store [laughs] and he'd bring home a load of liquor. I had the pleasure of meeting that guy here two or three years ago in Arizona. He has passed away since then. I would like so much to be able to talk to him, but too many people have passed away that I knew then.
LP: Did he share the liquor with you?
FH: Oh no. Well each guy would order what they wanted, like a pint of gin or a pint of scotch whiskey or whatever they wanted. He'd bring their liquor back and of course, he'd get his cut. If the whiskey cost three dollars for a pint, why he'd get fifty cents or whatever. Everybody had a racket, some way or another to pick up a few bucks. One guy, who fancied himself a barber, set up shop cutting hair, but he wasn't a barber [laughs].
LP: Were these boys who gave him the money to get liquor?
FH: Oh yeah, after payday they'd look this guy up and say, "Are you going to the liquor store?" Well he had his car hid out in the brush and so he'd go to the liquor store and he'd get his little lick off of that. Of course, it was a wild night there, but then by the next morning the liquor was gone [laughs]. And at that time, I wasn't drinking. I just didn't drink, so I lucked out. I saved my money.
LP: I've read that some of the camps had canteens or little stores. Was there anything like that?
FH: Yeah, inside of that recreation [hall] that I showed you [interviewer given photograph], there was a canteen. They had dry ice and they put these Mars Bars on dry ice and freeze them and they were real good frozen. They [also] sold tobacco, cigarettes, cigars, [and] I believe ice cream too. Cigarettes were fifteen cents a pack. But, they had a pretty good supply. Then inside the next room, they had pool tables and we played pool just for fun and that was good. What's this other game of pool that they don't have pockets on the table? I was champion on that for a while [laughs].
LP: Was the canteen run by the officials?
FH: No, one of the boys took care of it. I suppose they paid him to take care of it, maybe he made a few extra dollars. But I remember going in there to get candy bars and cigarettes. That's when I first started experimenting with tobacco. I gave it up for quite awhile. Later on, when I was down at the ranger station, I didn't have anything to do and I had four pennies and five cash tokens and I went to the store and bought a package of Bull Durham. At that time, cash tokens were five for a penny. You probably don't even remember the Washington State cash tokens. Later on, they got expensive and went three for a penny.
LP: Another thing that I've read [is] that some of the camps had army gardens. Did yours have an army garden?
FH: They may have, but I don't recall any garden.
LP: What kind of things did you actually do with your eight dollars a month? We talked about the canteen, but what other kinds of things could you do with it?
FH: Well, golly I don't know, it seemed to disappear. We had to pay for our haircuts. They did have a fairly decent barber that for, I think, thirty cents, he'd give you a pretty good haircut. Of course, I'd go home on weekends. That took a little money to get on the bus after I got to Highway 99 to get to Castle Rock. In Castle Rock, I'd go to a show once in awhile or something like that. It was just general, little things. My folks took the twenty-two dollars and on that twenty-two dollars they could pay the rent, they could pay the light bill, they could pay for part of the groceries. Twenty-two dollars. Rent was six dollars a month, so they didn't have much of a house, but then for six dollars what did you expect [laughs]. But, it got them through. Dad eventually went on WPA, which was another government project.
LP: What kind of activities were available at the camp for the boys?. . . .
FH: In the main hall they did have a dance one time and I don't recall much about the dance. I was always real shy and I don't think I even went to the dance. They also had a boxing ring in there that they'd set up. The guys could box for fun or even a couple of times there was a grudge match from guys that weren't getting along, so that didn't work. Activities usually, well, we hiked up Burley Mountain when there was snow on and I don't recall too much else that we did.
LP: Did they have sports?
FH: Some of the guys wanted to start a rifle range [but] the Captain said, "no way, your mothers won't approve of it, they'll think you're training for the army." So, they wouldn't allow that, but uh.
LP: What was your favorite thing to do on off duty hours?
FH: I probably enjoyed going to the library and reading as much as anything. We didn't take books down to the barracks, but the library wasn't that far away and they had a pretty good stock of books. Usually I was involved in some kind of a psychology class or surveying. We did have horseshoes [so] we'd play horseshoes.
LP: You talked about the dance and that was a special event. Do you remember anything else? I've also read that they actually had community sing-along nights.
FH: We didn't have sing-alongs, but I do remember they'd bring up a movie projector once in a while. I saw Loretta Young in a movie, "The Crusades." This was in 1940 so the movie was probably several years old at that time, but I've remembered that movie ever since then. That was a really outstanding movie and I always liked Loretta Young anyhow. Probably once a week we had movies. Now, you're jogging memories here that I'd forgotten about. I do remember one guy that wasn't all that brilliant. They showed a war picture about the desert down in Africa and this guy who wasn't too bright said, "my uncle was in that war" [laughs]. As far as he was concerned, there was only one war. Some of the guys, well, I wouldn't say they were retarded but there was this thing called dyslexia that they hadn't diagnosed at that time. I'm sure that it bothered a couple of guys.
LP: Did you have physicals quite often while you were in the camp?
FH: No. We had the one in Kelso before we went and that was it. They also had a first aid area. One of the guys was a corpsman, [and he] could patch up minor wounds and dispense aspirin and that sort of thing. He was just a recruit, but he had a little special training for that sort of thing.
LP: You talk about going home for home visits, but did they ever have town visits where they took the boys into town and did anything?
FH: They may have, there was quite a few guys from Tacoma. I think they did run a truck to Tacoma about once a month and I can't even be sure of that. Tacoma isn't all that far across as you cut up through Morton and on into Tacoma. There was quite a bunch of guys from Tacoma and a few from Seattle.
LP: Usually, when you went on leave, you just went to your own house? Is that right?
FH: Yeah. I'd go home for a while. I was a homeboy, a homebody.
LP: Did boys ever take other boys to their homes?
FH: Not that I recall, but they might have.
LP: Now I want to move to the Randle Ranger Station. You were the only boy correct, that got to go? Or were there others?
FH: Yeah. Ross Kindle was at the ranger station. He had been there probably a year and the fellow that was with him down there, they wanted two men down there, his time was up in the CCC's or whatever. Anyhow, he decided to do something else, so they had a vacancy. Why they picked me I don't know except that I did have a reputation of being a hard worker. So, they sent me down there. Ross Kindle was a leader. He was one of the high price guys. He got thirty-six dollars a month. He was married, he had a wife in Doty.
LP: I asked you about other boys at the Randle Ranger Station.
FH: Yeah. Well there was Ross Kindle. Now he was, I imagine, sixty years old or somewhere around that and I was only nineteen, twenty, this is 1940. Anyhow, it's amazing how well we got along because he was real easy to get along with. He did have a radio and I wasn't used to a radio [laughs]. But the Tacoma radio station came in real loud and clear so we had radio music both at noon when we went in for lunch and at night. Ross Kindle was interesting because he could tell all kinds of stories about the old days when he worked in a logging camp or at a sawmill. He mentioned [that] during, I think it was the Yacolt Burn, he got up one morning and [thought], "oh, it must be time to get up but it's still dark." There was so much soot and smoke in the sky, [that] it was ten o'clock in the morning and it was totally dark. It could have been the Tillamook Burn or the Yacolt Burn, I'm not sure which. Both [of these] fires took out thousands of acres of prime timber. Ross was full of stories like that and he was interesting to live with. We didn't have a problem, which could be unusual. I could have found fault with people, but he didn't find fault with me. We worked all the time. We did all kinds of work around the ranger station. Among other things, we painted every building in the place and that's a lot of buildings [laughs].
LP: How many buildings were there?
FH: Oh, let me see, there was the main building, the row house, the shop, the mule barn, [and] there was another building [but] I don't know what they called it. We didn't paint the little house where we lived. That was a little two-story house. We didn't paint it, but everything else we did.
LP: What color did they have you paint it?
FH: It said on the can it was gray but it was more of tan to me. Some of that paint's still visible too [laughs].
LP: So was it just you and Ross Kindle or were there other men there?
FH: No, just two of us. Now the ranger station did hire two other men. Jim Green was a muleskinner. He took care of the pack saddles, the mules, everything. He had everything ready to go if a fire broke out. Jim was a colorful character because he had only one eye and he didn't bother to cover up the hole where the other one had been and some of his teeth were missing. I mean, he looked terrible [laughs], but he was a good guy. Another fellow that worked there was Frank Kehoe. As you go up past Randle now you'll find Kehoe Road. That was named for his dad who lived in an Irishman's shanty, so help me it was a true Irishman's shanty. The windows, to see out, why he rubbed his hand up and down to see through the dirt. Frank worked at the ranger station and I don't know what all he took care of, but he was over there everyday and he was a real likable guy. I don't know what happened to Frank since then either. I do know that one time I contacted him since then, he wanted to fly. The guy that owned the grocery store in Randle used part of the ranger station for a landing strip and he had a little light airplane. That's when I had my first airplane ride too. I used to go over to [the] Kehoe's every once in a while. They served me a meal or whatever and they took me to church. We'd go to a Catholic church in Morton and I'd ride with them to go to church. When we were in camp they were supposed to give us a truck to go to church in Morton but I never did see any sign of a truck. The Captain said, "oh, we'll get you a truck," but then they never went that far [chuckles].
LP: How often did you get to see the Ranger?
FH: Oh, almost every day. He was around and he'd come down to the office, [and] sometimes I was up to his house. I told you we'd put in a water line to the ranger's house and I suppose it supplied the whole Ranger Station. He was around quite a bit, down in the warehouse, whatever. All kinds of things to check on and look after. [In] the main warehouse, there was all kinds of equipment; truck tires and I don't recall what all. It was a big warehouse. [It had] a big loading dock out in front.
LP: And who was the Ranger?
FH: Mel Lewis.
LP: Since you got to experience both the camp and the ranger station, which one do you think was the most efficiently run and the cleanest?
FH: It's hard to say, they're pretty well tied together. Foresters from Gifford Pinchot, actually it was the Columbia National Forest at that time, would come and they'd stay with us. We had an upstairs in our little house. I don't know what their official business [was], but they would get together with the Ranger. I suppose they would discuss trails and fire plans or whatever. Some of those guys were older and they were full of stories about the woods. One of them said he was camping out one night and he was sleeping beside a log and he opened his eyes for some reason and he was staring right in a cougar's face [laughs]. He jumped and the cougar jumped; all kinds of stories like that that they were able to tell. I remember this one man in particular. He said, "you got anything to eat around here" when he got up in the morning. We had some flour and stuff and he says, "I want to make some hotcakes." I don't know what he put in this dough, it wasn't batter, it was dough and he made balls a little bigger than a golf ball and he took an onion sack and he wiped off the top of the wood stove. He took these little balls of dough and put [them] on the top of the stove and they flattened out and they were hotcakes, the best hotcakes I ever did taste. I don't know what he put in them. The foresters, the rangers, were really interesting people for the most part and one of them was even from Sundance, Wyoming and we knew a lot of the same people that I knew in Wyoming. So, interesting things.
LP: You don't think that one of them was cleaner than another?
FH: Not necessarily, no. Everything was kept in pretty good shape.
LP: Can you describe to me how your life changed once you were at the ranger station? . . . .
FH: I was terrified, of course. I didn't know what was going on. I had something new. They said, "pick up your stuff and we'll take you down there." It didn't take me long to settle in and for some reason, I got elected to be cook right away. I can't remember what we had mostly to eat, [but] I know that the supply truck would come by from the camp, pick up our order, and they'd go to actually to Fort Lewis, and fill our orders. They'd just leave whatever they took a notion to. One time they left a thirty-pound box of pork sausage and we had no refrigerator [but] I was born and raised on the farm. So, I simply took the pork sausage and made little patties and fried them up. Then, [I] took the lard and put it in a glass mayonnaise jar, put in a layer of sausage, and then a layer of lard and a layer of sausage and it kept it perfectly. We had sausage for weeks. You put lard over the top of it, it's sealed in, screw on the lid and it doesn't need refrigeration. That's just one of the interesting things that happened. We could usually find something to eat around there. A lot of it was pasta and they left us tea and coffee and what have you. In order to get hot water, we had to build a fire in the little cook stove. The coils in there would heat the water in the big tank that sat beside the stove. If we wanted to take a shower, we had to build a fire in the cook stove. That's the sort of thing I was used to. We didn't have any of the modern conveniences. We did have electricity there. . .
LP: You were the unofficial cook?
FH: Well I got elected to go do the cooking.
LP: How many men did you typically have to cook for?
FH: Oh, just two of us.
LP: What about when the men visited and stayed?
FH: Usually they'd eat breakfast with us, but for the meals they'd go to Randle to a restaurant for the main lunch or dinner. But quite often they would eat breakfast and every morning there was a quart of milk sitting on the front porch. We had milk delivery seven days a week, which is good.
LP: You didn't have a refrigerator there, is that correct? [Narrator nods]. So how did you keep stuff?
FH: We didn't have anything to keep really. I was trying to remember what kind of meat we had [but] maybe we got by without meat pretty well. After the forest fire, we had a lot of hams that were left over and smoked hams will keep pretty good for a while. We had to clean them up and burn them out, but we had ham for a while. The rest of the time, I suppose they left us ham and bacon. . .
LP: What did you have to eat? You said pasta. . . in your article you mention beans. . . . What kind of things could you do with beans? You were the cook.
FH: Well, just boil them and put in ham or whatever for flavoring. I'm sure that we had some canned meat like Spam. . .
LP: When you were actually in the Randle Ranger Station did your routine change at all from when you were in the camp?
FH: We'd get up in the morning and eat breakfast and then we'd go to work, like painting or taking care of the forestry tools or whatever. Along about eleven-thirty, I'd go into our little house and make up some lunch and then we'd listen to the radio until one o'clock. Then from one o'clock until four o'clock or four-thirty we'd go work, do whatever we had to do. Then, in the evening, quite often, I would walk down to Randle which is only about a mile away and spend some time down there listening to the jukebox that somebody else had supplied the nickels [for] [laughs]. By the way, Frank Lewis and I used to, he had two bicycles, so we'd ride our bicycles two or three miles up the line, maybe four or five miles, up to the Cowlitz River and then turn around and right back.
I did quite a bit of bike riding when I was there, and later on we got hold of these army field sets and we tried to learn the Morse code. I was doing pretty well. I don't remember how Frank did. We had a wire from my bedroom to his bedroom. I think we had to go through a culvert with that wire to get across the road. That's when I had my first experience with radio. He would come in [on] an evening and go upstairs to the radio set. I-20 was the call letter and he would talk to the various lookouts. There was a half a dozen lookouts around, Watch Mountain, Sunset Peak, and I can't remember the others. Then I got interested in the radio and started doing that and when a fire broke out, low and behold, here I am manning the I-20, the radio station, and staying in contact with the guys on the fire line with their SPF sets. There was an SPF1 and an SPF5, I think, and who should be on those SPF sets except Staudinger and Kelley [laughs]. [It was] like old home week. That's how I got my beginnings as a radio operator in the Navy.
LP: You mention Staudinger and Kelley. Were you able, when you were at the ranger station, to keep in contact with some of the CC boys that you'd made friends with?
FH: Well, no, Ray came from the Toutle area and now and then, we'd get together maybe at church in Castle Rock or whatever. But I'd lost track of Kelley for years. I was a carpenter by trade [and] one day I was doing something and here was Kelley driving a cement truck. "Oh, hi Kelley, How you doing?" [laughs]. We got together any number of times since then. But it just happened that we came together.
LP: You say that you weren't really able to keep in touch with the boys, but you were still considered a CCC member, right, while you were at the camp?
FH: Oh yeah. They brought my pay down every month. Yeah, I was still a member of the CCC while I was at the ranger station.
LP: Did your pay remain the same?
FH: Yeah. No change, no raise.
LP: What kind of things did you do for fun while you were at the ranger station? You talked about bike riding. Did you get to hike and stuff like that still?
FH: Yeah. Frank and myself and one of his friends used to hike up to Watch Lake. It's about a 7 mile hike up through the woods. Of course, you can drive there now. There was trout in that lake that were Montana Blacks and you could see the stinkers down there, but do you think they'd bite? Eventually we talked a few of them into biting, but they were thick in there and that lake is deep. There was one log in the lake, standing on end, just about two feet sticking out of it. You could push on the top of that log and it would go down and it would bounce back up. We were on a raft; people had built rafts that stayed on this lake before us and we had to be careful. We poked this log down and if it was gone very long, it could come right up through the raft and at you, but we were aware of that, so we didn't do that. The lake is really deep. It sits right at the foot of [an] almost straight up and down cliff on one side of Watch Mountain. It was all virgin timber at that time. I think it's probably all been logged since then.
LP: You talk about Frank Lewis. Was he stationed there with or near you?
FH: No, he was just the Ranger's son. He was part of the Lewis family.
LP: So, he would visit when the Ranger came to work?
FH: Well, no. The Ranger's house is just across the road [Silverbrook Road], real close and Frank would come down to the station quite a bit. He liked to go around the warehouse. I don't know why, but we got to be pretty good friends there.
LP: What kind of jobs did you do at the ranger station? You talked about getting the fire fighting equipment ready and painting the houses and cooking, but what else?
FH: That was pretty much it. We had to be there during fire season in the summer time, when it was hot and dry. The Ranger asked one of us to stay there and the other one could go home for the weekends. Well Ross had a wife in Doty and so I thought, well he can go home and see his wife, I'll survive if I stay here, so I usually stayed in camp. I couldn't go as far as Randle, but I could go bike riding. One of us had to be there to get the equipment out in case a fire did break out. That was about it.
LP: While you were at the station, did you ever get to make home visits?
FH: Oh, yeah. If it rained or there wasn't any fire danger, I could go home on the weekends. We could both go every weekend if we wanted to. I didn't always go home, but I usually did. I was scared to death of girls at that time [laughs] and at twenty years old, I should have been dating, but I just wasn't.
LP: Did you ever help the Ranger with any of his jobs or did you not?
FH: No, I don't think so.
LP: Was it hard being the only young man at the ranger station? You say they were all really nice to you, but did they ever joke with you and things like that?
FH: No, not really. No I just had my job to do. One job that had slipped my mind, they had little sticks that you weigh every day to tell the moisture contents and that was one of my jobs, to weigh these little sticks. You put them out in the sun and some days they were heavy, soaked with water and [that meant] no fire danger. Sometimes they were dry as kindling and [therefore] the fire danger was way up. They used this as a gauge for moisture content in the sticks in the woods and it's really quite accurate. It'd tell the moisture content in the wood, but by weighing these every day and recording the weight, it gives them a pretty good idea of the moisture content in, the fuel in the woods.
LP: That's kind of neat. I want to go back to the camp for just a minute. Did you have a camp mascot? Because I've read a few books where the men actually had a deer and one had a bear?
FH: Not while I was there that I recall.
LP: I've just got a few final questions. You were in the CCC towards the end of its life. It ended fairly soon after you had finished your service.
FH: Let's see, I left in '41, [and] it ended in '42, about a year after.
LP: I wanted to ask you, how many hitches did you complete?
FH: We signed up for six months at a time and I put in three six-month hitches. In other words, I was there a year and a half.
LP: Now to go back to the first question. Did you ever feel like the town's enthusiasm or the boy's enthusiasm was starting to fade a little bit as you got towards the end?
FH: Oh, I think so. When we went in, it was impossible to find a job and jobs were starting to open up a little bit about the time that I quit. Several of the boys were able to find jobs. You could quit [the CCC's] anytime if you had a job, [but] you had to prove you had a job. Jobs were opening up and the camp was dwindling down, fewer men than they had before. So, I'm told. I wasn't up in the camp.
LP: In your opinion, what do you think was the very best thing about your experience in the CCC?
FH: I learned a lot. When I went in the Navy, I was way ahead of the other guys. I had been in a camp, under structured environment and I knew what to expect. So many of the guys were really upset when they first went in the Navy and they couldn't take the discipline. I'd learned a lot in the C's.
LP: When your final hitch was actually over, how did you feel?
FH: Oh, I was relieved. I was ready to do something else. I thought there was probably better things to do somewhere else. I was work oriented and I didn't know I could make a living any way except with my hands. So, of all things, I went to work on the rails of a section gang, tamping ties on a railroad. I'm sure I could have done better than that, but that's another story and one I intend to write sometime because that was interesting, staying in logging camps and riding the train to camp and that sort of thing.
LP: You started with Weyerhaeuser, but did you ever try to get a job through the Forest Service?
FH: They sent me to the Forest Service and I planted trees for several months and they just simply transferred me over from the section gang. Why, I don't know. This was when Weyerhaeuser was phasing out the railroads and we dug up a lot of old ties and burned them. This was right in the changeover from railroad logging to truck logging. I think we were probably working for the Forest Service when we actually dug up these railroad ties and burned them. [We] had huge fires going and boy those old ties were heavy too. I stayed in the forestry camp up near Wolf Point and we planted trees for several months. That was interesting too.
LP: You talk about how the CCC helped you in the Navy when you got there. How else do you think it affected your future?
FH: Well, it's kind of hard to say, but it's like any other experience in early life, it's something you always remember. A lot of the things that I learned, memories, are still with me. I don't know how it really affected my life, other than it made my Navy experience easier.
LP: Finally, is there anything that you want people to know about the CCC?
FH: Yeah. I think that the CCC's did more good for less money for the government than anybody the government had hired [laughs] because we worked and we did lots of work. All through the nation, national parks, by planting trees, by building fire breaks, falling snags, and building roads, all that sort of thing for a dollar a day and room and board. You can't get that much work done out of anybody anymore [laughs]. I'm sure a lot of these 50,000-dollar a year people do a lot less work than we did. So, yeah, that's what I mostly would like to leave. . . .
Edited by: Lisa Parker March 5, 2001
Internet version edited by: Rick McClure April 30, 2001
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