Biography of Alex James
Enrollee, Company 1530 Camp Mohican in Loudonville, Ohio & Company 544, Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone Park, Wyoming & Company 558 Devil's Elbow, Idaho
The Twig Army. That's the term we used in all the camps I was in. One was Co. 544 Mammoth Hot Springs Yellowstone Park Wyo. Our temporary quarters were in a huge former army building on the second floor. Identical to the "Shot Tower" building located here in Columbus OH at Fort Hayes, a former army post. I assume ours was the same. Our mess hall was on the first floor on the right hand corner as you stood facing the building. We simply had to walk downstairs during meal times then return to our quarters on the second floor.
I served a double hitch there. When on leave, we would pile in army trucks and drive to Gardiner, Montana, 5 miles down the road. I think they called that entrance the Gardiner Gateway. There was a huge arch over the entrance similar to the the one in Paris. Inscribed arcross the top was: FOR THE BENEFIT AND ENJOYMENT OF THE PEOPLE. Many's the time we would hike into town just to break the routine. I recall a lot of my experiences there.
But my first hitch in the C's was right after FDR put out the call. I was in the 2nd bunch to leave Columbus, lying about my age, and took a train to Ft. Knox, KY were we under went boot training. I think our unit was designated as J-4. The army hated our guts. We got paid more and had to serve less time. A Marine boot camp had nothing on us. They ran us through the ringer. We were issued world war 1 uniforms but could where civvies in town. From there I was sent to CCC Co. 1530 Camp Mohican in Loudonville OH. Our camp was in the Mohican State Forest where our job was to plant pine seedlings day in and day out. Plus building roads, pulling "ribies" and spreading a substance to control blister rust. From there I had an opportunity to transfer to a contingent of CCC guys assigned to Ft. Hayes and work at the Columbus General Depot. Strangely, our living quarters were in the Shot Tower that resembled our quarters in Yellowstone Park.
My 3rd tour of CCC duty was at Co. 558 Devil's Elbow, Idaho. It was some distance away from Pritchard, Idaho where army trucks awaited our arrival as we got off the train. We built dams, camp sites, cut trees, built roads and whatever else they had in store for us. Our camp was deep in the wilderness, surrounded by high mountains. The sun rose at 9 and set at 3. I never felt so isolated before in my life. I could tell you tales you wouldn't believe. We all hated that camp. We called it Devil's asshole.
The local natives called it "God's country," Our rejoinder was, "Who the hell else would want it?"
I remember in the evening after supper we'd play cards or checkers, then later gather around the barracks heater and we would all accompany the guitar player singing songs such as, "Corrina, Corrina,"---"Down In The Valley,"--"Look Down, Look Down That Lonesome Road,"---Red River Valley," ---"You Are My Sunshine,"---"Home On The Range," ---"Brother, Can You Spare A Dime.".
While stationed at Co. 544 in Mammoth Hot Springs in Yellowstone Park Wyoming, my best buddy Tom LLoyd and I hiked 5 miles to Gardiner Montana to a movie that was playing "Top Hat" starring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. I was entranced with their dancing and singing. After the show while hiking back to camp I drove Tom nuts as I kept singing 'Dancing Cheek to Cheek."
Tom was an adventurous soul. After his six month tour he tried to persuade me to join the army with him. I refused, citing the fact I was needed back home to help support our family. Tom signed up and was sent directly to the Phillipines. He was captured by the Japs, survived the Bataan Death March and came home to marry the first girl I introduced him to. A great guy and a true pal.
----- Alex James
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