Biography of George Lockwood
CCCman, Co. 3556, Camp DG-115, Green River, Utah
Sgt, 467th AAF Base Unit, 43rd ADG, HQ Sqn & 421st Service Squadron & 25th Depot Repair Squadron, 20th AF, USAAF
Hi I'm George Lockwood. I enrolled in the ccc's in Cleveland Ohio in October of 39. They sent us to Camp Perry Ohio for shots (ugh!) and physicals, and uniforms. What a feeling to be leaving home for such a long period of time. I don't remember much of the train ride, but arriving in Denver Colorado, they switched the car and we went through Colorado Springs and through the Royal Gorge. What a thrilling trip. Then our arrivial at company 3556 DG 115 in Green River Utah.
It wasn't long until our first job and blisters. After arriving in Camp and all preliminary routine things were finished we were assigned to crews.
On our first assignment when first arriving at camp, we rode to the job site in the back of a dump truck. One of the guys talked me into trying a chew of tobacco. I was very reluctant but did try it. About the time it got real juicy the truck hit a big bump and I swalled the chew. Man was I ever sick. You can believe that I never' never tried that nasty habit again. And I do mean never.
My first job was to haul rocks to put on the face of an earthen damn then to the real job. A Mr. Perkins was the foreman. He paired us up in teams of two and handed us a steel drill and a 16# sledge hammer. We then started what they called driving steel through hard rocks. Believe me, you and your buddy better stay on good terms. If not that 16# hammer could hurt if you were the one holding the steel drill. The drilling was to build trails for livestock to get to what little grass and water that was available in the desert. There was some cattle in the Green River, Utah area, but most was sheep as they could eat closer to the ground than cattle.
The holes we drilled were for dynamite. It was used to blast the trails. Under the watchful eye and supervision of the foreman (a local rancher with experience) we were shown how to pack the dynamite in the holes and put on blasting caps and run wiring to the plunger which sent current to the caps and exploded the powder. We would watch as the powder was exploded. . It was remarkable to watch the rocks blow up. The holes were drilled in such a fashion that the explosion carried most of the rocks away from the holes. It was quite an experience for a city boy like myself.
We all had blisters at the end of the first day, but after a few days our hands toughened up and we had callouses. That's when we all learned what work really was. But I can't recall anyone every complaining about it.
In our free time we would go to movie in town or to the rec hall and read or play pool. There was a dark room for photo developing that was used by several of the guys. Sometimes on the weekends we would hitch a ride to Price or Helper Utah where we would just bum around for a while. Hitching a ride was either on the highway or going to the railroad and hopping a freight. The people in town (about 400 including pets) were friendly to us. At least while I was there.
As I said we sometimes hopped a freight to Price or Helper, Utah. There were times that a passenger train would stop and take on water. The only time they would stop in Price was if there was a paying passenger, Otherwise it would go on to Helper where they took on another engine to go over Soldiers Summit. The railroad detectives were on the prowl for hobos and such. We didn't want to go there but to Price. So about 10 of us chipped in to buy a lucky guy a ticket to Price. We drew straws to see which one of us would get to buy the ticket. John Kulinski won the draw. We watched and thought he bought it then we all hid out until the train arrived. We hopped on but John didn't buy it and instead went back to town and bought a pitcher of beer. Well that ole train just kept going right through Price and on toward Helper. The railroad detectives saw us and gave chase. If they would have caught us they no doubt would have had us as overnight guests in their local jail. A few years ago while visiting in Cleveland I visited with John and we sure had a big laugh over that. I reminded that he still owed me that dime(only joking with him of course). His wife really got a great big laugh out of it. I now live in Denver and correspond with him, and when visiting Cleveland always manage to look him up.
Our housing at the main camp was barracks. Two pot bellied stoves in them for winter warmth. By the clothes hanger bar we each had, we all had a tag with our identification, name and section, on it. The camp had Rec hall, latrines and bath house. Also a blacksmith shop , laundry, mess hall, first aid, and maintenance shop for all the vehicles. We had a canteen where you could buy things. Our camp had coupon books for the canteen. The pay was $30 per month with $25 going home to parents. We had $5 for personnel items such as soap, toothpaste, cigt. &etc.
We had no full time dentist in Green River. There was one that came around on a regular schedule. The drill they used was a belt driven monster. He would usually have the medic pump the drill. Sometimes it would go slow and if the dentist said a little faster he would go really fast and it would burn your tooth really bad. We did have a camp doctor full time. He was also in attendance at all boxing matches with all the other nearby camps.
I have a photo of him and one from camp in Price,Utah while at a boxing match in Hanksville,Utah. The doc's Name Dr. Bashein. Not sure if army or civilian. The dentist was army and traveled from camp to camp on regular schedule.
As time goes on I may think of more stories, such as one of the guys (Joe McCarthy) who was from Ky. played a guitar and was in my barracks. Quite often in the evenings he would play. He would play it in the barracks and a bunch of us would gather around and sing some good old hillbilly songs. A lot of our guys were from Kentucky. We sure had fun with him. I contacted him in later years after he moved to South Dakota where he raised horses. He was planning on visiting me here in Colorado when he became ill. He then moved to Wisconsin where he finally passed away about 1980.
Another incident was we were called to help put out a grass fire on top of a mesa about 30 miles away. It was grazing land for cattle and sheep. After a few days they sent some of us back to the main camp. There was only a few of us in camp as the others stayed at the fire. We were in town visiting a family when the alarm went out that the camp was on fire. We rushed back to find the rec. hall was burning. We carried some of the things out but had to quit and man the water brigade. The town fire wagon was there but ran out of water. A lot of towns people were there helping and we all formed a water line passing buckets of water. It was too late to save the rec hall so we had to pour the water on the barracks and other adjoining buildings to save them. It turned out that we were successful in saving them. The only loss was the rec hall.
We would also go to town and talk to the old timers about the times in the past around there. They told of many outlaw stories and you can imagine how much in awe us easterners were. How many were true or just tales we didn't know nor did we really care as they were really exciting to us.
Man it was hot in the summer, 110 degrees in the shade. Winters were good. I have made several trips through there in later years. In fact, I stayed over night a couple of times and have been through there during, melon season and enjoyed those delicious cantoulpes. I talked to some old timers there and because of competition from Mexico and California, they have all quit raising melons.
I just finished talking to an old friend who was also at this camp with me. We talked about our cots. We had single cots and had to air all the bedding and cots every week before leaving for the job. In the hot desert summer those metal cots were hotter than hadees to handle after returning from the field. We usually put on gloves or some other protection to carry them back into the barracks.
After the first jobs of driving steel I was a sandwich maker for 200 plus lunches 5 days a week. The food at camp was great and there was plenty of it. You never left the mess hall hungry. If you did it was your own fault.
After doing that for a short while I was a grease monkey on bulldozer. There were 3 of us at spike camp. Two operators and myself. There was only 3 enrollees at this one particular camp. No staff. We were on our own. On Monday mornings we would fill Several barrels of fuel and oil and at times a bigger truck from the main camp would bring some out to us. We had no communications with us. A couple of times a week a supervisor from the main camp would come out for a visit. Other than that we were on our own. I don't remember exactly how far away from camp we were. But it would take about 2 or 3 hours driving time. Remember though that we were not on a highway but dirt and gravel. Speed was not always possible. But we didn't crawl along either.
Our job was to build a diversion dike about 3 miles long to divert excess water runoff to a dry lake bed. The dike was dirt about 6 to 8 feet high if memory serves me right. You might call it a wall. It wasn't a ditch as such. We lived in a tent for 5 days a week then on Friday afternoon we returned to the main camp for the weekend. The tent had a dirt floor. While there was only 3 of us at this one spike camp we had no floor covering. Remember in the desert there was very little rain.The three of us kept our place clean. At some of the other spike (or side camps as some called them) they built temporary barracks and mess halls when there were enough men to warrant it. We had cots and foot lockers for our clothing and personnel effects such as tooth brushes and tooth paste, etc. Then on Monday morning we loaded up supplies (groceries, fuel, oil etc.) for the coming week. We never saw any life while out on the job.
In my spare time I learned to operate the dozer and after a short while I was promoted to full time operator. The dozer I learned to operate was an International Harvester TD40. The controls for the blade were hydraulic. Some guys didn't like that kind. But as I learned on that style I liked it over the cable operated one. There was also a caterpillar D6, I believe, I also used one of them on occasion but preferred the International. I learned to operate it with one of the regular operators. The International tractors were red and the caterpillars were yellow. There was no CCC markings on the tractors. Some later years while a brother-in-law was buildindg a fish hatchery he had borrowed an International TD40 like the one I operated in the C's. It was fun trying my hand at it again. I hadn't lost everything after all those years. But of course I wasn't near as good but had the satisfaction that I remembered some of the basics. It may still be around somewhere here in Colorado.
At the spike camp One fellow would go out at 6AM til noon. Then I would go and service the dozer and the other operator would take over. Since all the work was done at camp (cleaning dishes and other chores) I would stay and that is when the operator would guide me. After a few weeks the bosses from town came out for a visit and saw the regular sitting in the pick up and said who is that operator? He told them who it was and they watched me for a while then came over and asked if I wanted to be a regular operator. Of course I said yes. Stayed on that project for another couple of weeks then on to the road building.
We went on to building roads through the desert. That's when I learned to read the stakes that the engineer would put up. Road building was different from contouring as it was much flatter. Going across the desert the road was built up just a little and a small ditch along the sides for water flow in case of rains to minimize wash outs. Today part of the road through the desert is where I 70 runs now. I have driven over it several times. It doesn't follow very far but just a short distance. It was quite an experience building a roar. You had to make fills and cuts and bank the curves. I was doing that for about a year when I left after my term was up. I spent 18 months there.
I was stationed there from October of 1939 through February of 1941 when I transfered to a camp in Yellow Springs Ohio. While there I operated a tractor pulling a plow conturing a field for crops so there would be no runoff. It was a way to show farmers how to plow and plant crops on a hillside. We used our own equipment. The government owned some land that we used. The farmers kept tabs on how it was working out.
After a couple of months I was discharged and went home to Cleveland where I had a job waiting. Unfortunately not as a catskinner.
That was probably the best times of my life. That is when I learned good work ethics and appreciation for life. To the C.C.C. molded my life from there on out. There are so many other memories and experiences that it take forever to relate what I remember.
I now am a member of the National Association of CCC Alumni. Our chapter 7 of the NACCA meets at the original CCC camp that was there to construct Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison,Co. The meetings there are only in the summer as there is no heat and sometimes snow is a factor in the winter. The buildings are in fine shape and the Denver mountain parks maintenance crew uses it as their headquarters. The maintenance super. lives in one of them. In fact 8 yrs. ago my daughter was married there. It was quite a picturesque setting. We used the old mess hall for the meal and the rec hac hall for activities. I have some photos of the camp as it is now.
I was in the 20th Air Force during WW2. I enlisted from Cleveland, Ohio on Oct 8th 1942. Went to Camp Perry, Ohio where was processed and assigned to the Air Corps. Because of my experience in the C.C.C.'s as a cat skinner I wanted to be assigned to the Field Engineers. They wouldn't hear of it and said I was better off in the Air Corps. I argued with them but to no avail. The Army Air Corps it was going to be.
We received our shots and uniforms. Then some basic instructions on army life and what was expected of us. We were given the weekend off and went home for two days.
From Camp Perry they several of us to Duncan Field, Texas.(It is now part of Kelly Field) I then went thru six weeks of basic training. After that I went through office and clerical training where I learned typing and other office procedures.
After finishing with school I was sent to Oxnard Field, Albuquerque,New Mexico (Oxnard Field is now Atomic Energy Facility). No one knew we were coming and there was quite a bit of confusion at the train station. We finally located some M.P.'s Who then called for transportation and we were shuttled off to Kirtland Field. What a great place that was. We were treated like royalty as Kirtland was a base for Glider and Bombadier training. After two days they found we were to be at Oxnard. What a let down that was. I was then assigned to the 467th AAF Base unit. in the 43rd ADG Hdq. Sq.
After some time doing clerical work they needed airplane mechanics and asked if I would be interested. I said yes then was on my way to Amarillo Air Base for mechanic training. It was a six month school and I learned about the B17 Bomber. It was time for me to return to my outfit in Albuquerque but a fellow in the barracks contacted Spinal Meningitis. By then my outfit was sent to England and I was assigned to the 421st. Service squadron.
Never saw a b17 but did get to work on the p38's. It didn't take me long to get familiar with them. They were such a great fighter plane and I got to where I could almost repair them with my eyes shut. We had a Captain who was a hot dog pilot and he was buzzing town one day and got caught. The Commander of the Field then grounded him for a month. After about two weeks he came to me to get him a plane ready for flight. I said aren't you grounded? His reply was the Colonel was gone and he was now in charge and he rescinded the rest of his punishment.
They decided to send me to Turbo Supercharger School. I was sent to G.E. school in Lynn, Massachussetts. There was only 16 students in class. The Army took over a public school and that is where we lived and had classes. What a time we had there. The people in the area only had sailors around so you can imagine how well we were treated.
I had a few days delay enroute so I was able to stop off in Cleveland and visit family and friends. It was there that I received a telegram not to report to Albuquerque as my outfit had moved. I was to report to Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas. I was then assigned a test pilot school. By this time I was Sgt. and crew chief. We had about 20 different types of aircraft for pilots to get aquainted with. We had some really neat pilots there and we would fly with them quite often. One of them new where my wife was working and he went and buzzed the restaurant. Every one came out to see what was going on. When I got home that evening my wife told me about that crazy pilot and I was laughing about it. She wasn't to happy that I was with him.
After being there for a while several of us were then sent to Tinker Air Base in Oklahoma City where we were to be in the 20th Air Force. Our unit was brand new and we were to work on the new B29's. My wife then joined me there and was pregnant with our first child. I was nervous as I wanted her to stay with her parents or mine. I just wasn't sure how long before being shipped overseas. My outfit was the 25th Repair squadron, 25th Air depot group. We had some crash training on B29's.
We had a great C.O. We were having a going away party and the C.O. said if anyone wanted hard liquor to give him the money and he would fly to a wet state and get it for us. On his return The sherif was waiting to confiscate all the booze. But the good old Major asked him if he had clearance to be in a restricted area. Of course he didn't so the Major had him escorted off the base. We then had our party and what a party it was. Our squadron had some money left over so we bought an ice making machine to take overseas with us.
Our daughter was born on Nov. the 1st. Three weeks later our unit was sent to Seattle for shipping out. We left Seattle on Dec.18th, 1944 and set sail for who knew where. We boarded one of Henry J. Kaisers liberty ships. The S.S. Mormac Wren. Man were we ever cramped on that little ship.
We got to Guam after a fashion and was shown a piece of jungle and said clear it up and put up six man tents. After swinging the axes and picks I said to the Captain that if there was a bulldozer I would put my C.C.C. training to use and have the area cleared in no time at all. He just happened to know where one was and had the 1st Sgt. take me to it. I had gotten it started and was just getting ready to leave(the 1st. sgt. had already gone) when a jeep drove up with a Lt. and cpl. who had their pistols drawn and run up to me and jerked my dog tags off. Man was I sweating it out. They drove me back and really gave the works. They grabbed the Lt. and gave him a good dressing down also. They said all he would have to have done was to ask.
After being there a month or so the Marines came and confiscated the ice machine. But one of the guys in our unit was pretty sharp and we got some parts and he made us a cooler for the beer and sodas.
When the war ended I was able to return back to the states on points. On Guam I was at Harmon Field. My crew and I worked on retrofitting a couple of B29's with extra fuel tanks in the bomb bay compartment to try to fly back to the Washington D.C. area non stop. The first attempt got as far as Seattle. The second attempt got as far as Wright Field In Dayton, Ohio. Weather and strong head winds kept it from making it all the way. I was sent to Saipan for the return trip home. I came back on the U.S.S. Starlight, a navy transport. It arrived at L.A. and by train to Camp Anza in California. We were issued winter clothing as it was Dec. and quite cold to where we were going to be discharged. I was discharged at Fort Knox, Ky. on Dec. 8th, 1945.
Just recently I was able to meet with my best buddy in service and also the Company Commander. The C.O. stayed in and retire from the Air Force. He has written several books. Still going great guns. Any one with info on the 25th Depot Repair Squadron I would like very much to hear from you. I have been trying to locate more of the guys so we might possibly get together.
----- George Lockwood
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