Biograpy of Ben H. Hunt
Senior Leader, Enrollee, Company 3780, Camp Big Sur, Big Sur, Pfeiffer Redwood State Park, California & Company 3780, Camp White River, Mt Ranlen, Parkland, Washington & Co. 4768 Camp Moran, Orcas Island, Washington & Company 947, Orcas Island, , Washington
Hopefully without becoming a bore will tell you how I became a CCC boy, which turned out to be the best break in my young life...... The story.. Was born and raised in a little town called Plainview, Arkansas, went thru and graduated from hi-school there - the class of 1935 - the great depression was still on - yes, we had plenty to eat - the folks had two gardens, a Jersey cow, about 75 laying chickens and one hog in the winter - hunger was no problem - we gave away food - there was no money! Two shirts, maybe two pair pants - one pair shoes - had to last a year - you get the picture. Was trying to be a muician - have a band etc and was pretty good - but no "mon-no fun" and people would not pay to dance - my muic did not make me a dime! Went to Jr. college in Fort Smith, Ark, but financial problems forced me to leave - went to Wichita, Kan. Looking for work unsuccessfully - I was not yet 19. Down hearted returned to my home in P.V. and worked at a cafe for .50 cents a day ( 10 hours ) and 2 meals with the owner griping about '' you're eating me out of profit" - well a growing boy eats.....
Some boys from P.V. went into the CCC's and liked it - decided to give it a try - upon applying was told "you're folks are not poor enough" Gad, how poor does it take.... apparently my mother told her older brother about this Officer - one afternoon a telephone call came in telling me to be in Little Rock at 8:00 am the following day, report to a Capt so & so at Camp Pike in North Little Rock. We solved the problem of getting there but had no funds to travel on - my good Grandmother Hunt came to the rescue with a $5.00 dollar bill !!!! so at 4:00 am was on the side of the road awaiting a Greyhound bus and so to Little Rock arriving about 6:00 am - sleepy and hungry. Still had a ways to go so went on a streetcar for a nickle and transfers eventully getting off at the gate of the Army base. Never had I seen so many soldiers - young boys, tents, railroad cars - inquired at the gate for Capt So & So and a young MP asked why - replied "was told to do so" he called turned to me and said you will never find the place so we will take you and they did - reported and was told to go down to those tents and wait - asked if I could get something to eat and was told was probably too late but try - they pointed to a tent, told me to go down and grab a mess kit and eat what was there - did and found that morning they served the infamous S on a S which was cold but tasted good - then asked for the Latrine - was told "you can't use it until after inspection" as I was desperate went anyway hoping the inspection would wait untill I was "off the can" - it did - then back to the tent to wait with hundreds of other boys of all sizes and shapes - some dirty, some clean, all pretty "down in the dumps" came a call to "fall in" and a long line - we were all "sworn in" at once and than issued our clothing and gear - then back to the tents - at noon we were fed again in Mess Kits and back to the tents. While in line we all received our numerous shots in both arms and my right arm was beginning to throb like mad - was told the shot for "Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever" caused the most problems and for sure it was bothering me. While sitting on a cot awaiting and hurting - suddenly a young lieutenant came rushing up and pointed and said you and you - fall in that line, grab your bag and move - pain and all - the boy and I moved - a long line we joined and marched right onto a train of 18 Pullmans, 2 kitchen cars and 1 baggage car and at 4:00 pm we were rolling for where?????
There were 36 boys to a pullman, 2 in lower berth, 1 in upper - I shared the lower with the boy who fell in line with me, no one knew where we were going but early the next morning we dropped off the first batch of boys and one Pullman in western Oklahoma - we then went up into Kansas dropping off boys and Pullmans, then turnned south into New Mexico, more drop offs and 4 days later pulled into Monterey, California at 1:00 am - trucks were awaiting our arrival.......
We were transported 35 miles south on Hi-way 1 to Big Sur, Ca, and Camp Big Sur Located in Pfeiffer Redwood State Park a beautiful Location at the foot of Mt Manuel and not far from the pacific Ocean which none of us had ever seen only a couple hours sleep and we were out policing the area" back and forth that was my first day in Camp it was April 7, 1936. That day we were assigned duties and mine was moving gravel in a wheel barrow for making concrete was not in the best of physical condition and tired easily, but held on did this for a week then we were all sent South to fight the awful Arro Seca-King City fire burning on government Land between Hiway 101 and 1 terrible Location it was out of control and hundreds of boys were brought in from other Camps as far away as Utah and New Mexico I was assigned as a Runner for the Radio Operators the heat was bad and it was dirty eventually we were pulled off and returned to Camp and others brought it under control, eventually.
Was called into the Project Supt office see by your records you have some college and can type Yes sir - His reply good, my Clerk needs a helper, do you want it Of course so I became the Asst Park Service Clerk Co 3780. An all Arkansas Company and a pretty good bunch of boys, the C.O. was a Cpt Paul A. Lamb a very fair and competent commander, well liked.
Not Long we were Transferred (all of us) to Camp White River, Mt Ranlen, Parkland, Wa it rained the first 15 days of our arrive without Let up we were 4 to a Tent with a small wood burning stove in the middle, wet wood to burn it was typical Army style enroute we traveled by Pullman again and I was asked by the Army Clerk to help him bring records current which did, upon arrival at Camp White River the C.O. asked if I would be the Asst Co Clerk YES - - - I did and pretty soon I was Company Clerk with a Sgts rating wow - $45.00 a month so much money I loved the job, studied, read the regulations and became a good Clerk Lo and behold come snow time and To. Co. 3780 was ordered disbanded those that want to go home could do so, that wanted to stay would be transferred to Camp Moran - Co. 4768 an all Minnesota Company on Orcas Island - where in H was Orcas Island? Shortly prior to transfer Looked up one day from my desk and there stood a strange Captain he introduced himself I am Capt Baily, Commanding Co. 4768 Camp Moran am Looking for the Co. Clerk I am him, sir the Capt advised he was losing his Co. Clerk and wanted to know if it could be arranged for me to be up there ahead of my Company and take over the job the C.O. would not release me so had to go with our convoy a Little Later anyway ended up as Co. Clerk Co 4768 and about 75 of the Arkansas boys transferred also. Capt Baily was a smooth operator, Left everything up to the Army Overhead, and you had better do the job the 1st Sgt was Willam M Bell. Bell was a National Guard Sgt under Baily back at Ft Snelling. Co. 4768 was the best Company I was in we passed all inspections with flying colors and we were proud of the organization.
All good things have to eventually end Co. 4768 was disbanded and the boys given a choice of staying and becoming Ninth Corps Area members (waving transportation home) or going home most chose to leave, most of the Army Overhead stayed and those that did became member of the new Company 947 Commanded by Capt Byron W. Gray who brought some of his Overhead with him. With out a doubt Capt Gray was the most egostical, conceited, overbearing, spit and polish SOB I have ever known he tried his best to make it so rough on those that remained behind that we would Leave, it was touch and go our Life was miserable under him Sgt Bell and myself decided to ride out the storm and glad we did. Eventually Sgt Bell and myself with the help of some civilians on the islands who also hated him, sent word to Ft Lewis CCC Headquarters and Capt Gray was transferred to a New York Company near Maryvill Lt Guthrice came in as Co stayed awhile and was relieved by Lt Clyde D Gasser who was tough and fair and turned the Company around. During all this I remained as Clerk but some of the others had given up and departed, some very good boys well liked.
While here on the island we dated island girls, went to dances and other happenings, fought the island boys when necessary (they resented our taking the island girls) and thoroughly fell in love with the place nice people, beautiful scenery and I stuck around till Jan 3/1940 at which time it was best to seek other means and went to work over in Bellingham eventually went to McChord Field as a civilian again working for Baily who was now a Major married a Bellingham girl in 1942 and same year went to service getting out late 1945 staying in California.
The rest is easy, returned up here in 1990 for good here I am back in paradise see Camp Moran frequently enjoy the memories only a couple building remain of the Camp but the park buildings erected by hard working CCC boys still stand and get much use by the public so do the Camp sites and trails a beautiful Park enjoyed by so many, developed by the good CCC boys at $1.00 a day I still enjoy seeing it.
Last year the State talked of tearing out the old narrow bridge East of the Park and replacing it with a wide one the public would not go along with this and the State dropped the plans. In the event it is replaced I went up and took the a picture for keep sake. The CCC boys did not build this bridge, Mr Moran did so in 1920 it is now 75 years old still in use but showing its age.
----- Ben H. Hunt
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