Biography of William Leggat
CCCMan, Enrollee, Company 2328, Shelocta, Pennsylvania
I was born at a very early age May 1917, so scared that I couldn't talk for two years. After the requisite growing up and schooling I graduated from Dunmore (Pa) High School June 1935 with absolutely no prospects. That summer I found out about the CCC when I was introduced to several enlistees at Promised Land State Park, this was my introduction to the CCC, had never even heard of it, but these guys were really living it up out there - read, lots of girls. So when I got home after about a week or so I started inquiries as how I could get in that outfit, never once believing that there might be another Camp somewhere. Well it wasn't a problem getting an invite to report for induction, after all my folks were having it as tough as anyone else, so the following month, July 1935, I and 31 other guys from this locality were examined and given a slip of paper reading Shelocta, PA. Where in hell is this place, someone must have made a typo they must mean Shohola, Pa., that wasn't far from Promised Land. Wrong again. Well after riding the L&WV Scranton to Wilkes Barre and the PRR from Wilkes Barre to a godforsaken place called Torrance (maybe 18 or 20 hours), we changed trains for a 30 mile ride on a branch line to Indiana PA.. This was our introduction to a ten mile ride to Shelocta in a GI truck. What a rude awakening, this camp was still in canvas, it had just been setup...
Our fame had preceded us, since we came from a coal mining area it was presumed that we were a tough bunch so they split us up, as I recall there were ten or eleven squad tents so they put three of us in each tent, so we would be manageable, big joke none of us had ever seen the inside of a coal mine, tho we did try to meet their expectations, when asked what he did in the mines one of the guys said that it was his job to take the blind mules outside to meet natures call......
Well we never got out of the canvas until December 1st and I can tell you that it was darned cold taking a bath in Crooked Creek, sometimes breaking a skim of ice. My first shower with warm water I got a nose bleed.
We had been going into the field for quite a while by this time and one day the Motor Pool honcho Jay McAnulty stopped me and asked how old I was as he had a truck driving job open, so when I blurted 18 he said quickly that I had to be 21 - that was the end.... Few days later he again asked me the very same question, this time I suddenly became 21 and a truck driver of an almost new 1935 Chevy Stake. Then I got introduced to a governor set at just under 35 MPH, that's not much when you have 25 guys in the bed and two in the cab each averaging surely 150 lbs plus a tool box that weighs maybe another 800 to 1000 lbs that figures out to at least close to 5000 lbs for a machine rated for a ton and a half, I immediately started trying to figure out how I could bust that governor but I found out that had been attempted many times and it didn't work... but I did find out how to do the trick and didn't leave a mark on the governor to show that I had been into it.... Well this was great - all that I had to do now was show up whenever my truck was going anyplace, one Saturday morning one of the guys came running (actually running) looking for me, seems the Motor Pool Honcho had driven my truck, found the ineffective governor and demanded to know what I had done to it... Nothing Jay Nothing I didn't do anything it was always like that, "I don't think that there is any governor on it", that didn't go over very well, I was threatened with the Federal Pen for destroying Government property, in the end I continued to drive and was asked many times how I did it without leaving any marks on the governor, I stuck to my story...... I didn't do it.......
Well in the winter it got darned cold just sitting in that truck, especially since they didn't have heaters of any description, so to keep from freezing to death I joined the gang in whatever they were doing so I used a cross cut saw, double bitted axe, post hole digging, anything to keep warm and I think that the Foreman appreciated another hand. During those two years I never once had to clean the grease trap nor serve KP, except for Thanksgiving 1936 when the Top Kick asked me real nicely would I have any objection to helping out in the kitchen because with so many guys going home for the holiday we were going to be shorthanded...
We had a nursery at 2328, I think it was 25 acres, located at Five Points, where we grew tree seedlings for planting in conservation areas, that was back breaking work - bending over all day, I can't truthfully say that I enjoyed working in that place... However that was summer work and I didn't have a problem keeping warm in that season.
Like every camp we had our share of LEM's (Local Experienced Men) I never saw one who was experienced in anything, although most of them were real nice guys, we had one who was a king size pain in the butt, the skipper sensed that there was ill feeling between the LEM and I so he paired us off one Saturday morning in the squared circle, I was lucky to be able to maul him pretty much, then had to do it a second time, no more problem from him after that.
The real bad thing about the C's was that periodically we would be given free cigarettes so after a while I learned to smoke the darn things and it took me until 1964 to break that habit.
I recall once several of us from the Scranton area went home for a holiday, I think Christmas '36, on the return trip when we got to Torrance to change trains we found out that the doodlebug to Indiana had departed, this during the night time, and we had 30 miles to go to Camp... Well we found a guy with a car who would drive us to Shelocta, I think that he wanted in the vicinity of 30 bucks, boy we really scraped the bottom to come up with that.
Following spring was the flood of St. Patricks Day 1937 which we were involved in cleaning up Apollo and Vandergrift....
That July I was successful in getting employment as student telegrapher Operator on the DL&W RR by who I was employed for the next 42 years. There were a great many fun times and a few sad times when fellow C's met untimely ends... Most of all I look back on it as a great time of learning, I went to Co. 2328 not knowing anything (except to professing to be a truck driver - that was a stretch) I learned most of all how to get along with 200 or so other guys some of whom probably thought as little of me as I did of them, but we all got along.....
Of the 32 guys who went to Shelocta that July day I don't think any are left, I belong to NACCCA and watch religiously for any familiar names but none ever surface, if any read this I would love to hear from you, my email is leggatk3yqd AT verizon DOT net, or if you are on the ham bands I am on PSK31 mostly on 20M just about every day...... You guys take care, not many of us left.......
----- Bill Leggat
leggatk3yqd AT verizon DOT net
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