Biography of Leo V. Williams
CCC Subaltern, Mess Steward, Company Clerk, First Aid Orderly, CCCman, Company 1795, Camp SP-2, Camp Doren, North Dakota, & Company 1793, Camp Pine Creek, SP-1, Mt. Rushmore & Company 1793, Camp Lodge, SP-4, Mount Rushmore & Company 2754, Camp Wind Cave, NP-1 Wind Cave National Park, Hot Springs, South Dakota & Company 2754, Badlands National Monument, Wall, South Dakota
USS Merchant Marine
I graduated from High School in 1932 in a small town in central South Dakota. My dad farmed two sections of land and he gave me an opportunity that I couldn't refuse. If I worked with him to put in all the crop in 1933, he would let me have 160 acres all my own. That Spring I saw my wheat, all lush and green, and I was dreaming of all the money I would have and the kind of car I would buy. Then the days grew hotter, there was no rain and I watched my beautiful wheat dry up and blow away. This was the center of the Dust Bowl of the 30s. No farming for this boy.
My Uncle had a Meat Market in town so I went to work for him to room and board and a dollar a day. No one had any money so the time came when he had to let me go. After some WPA jobs on the county roads, one day I heard they were taking applications for the CCCs at the County Seat.
Two weeks later in July 1934 I was with a group of boys on our way by bus westward to the Black Hills. We arrived at our new home Camp Doren Company 1795 SP-2, a State Park Camp. The main project was already under way, the construction of a dam which created Stockade Lake. Stockade Lake would be a beautiful recreation site still enjoyed by many to this day.
I went to work on a crew building a Big Game fence to contain the elk and deer in Custer State Park. This lasted until a mumps epidemic hit the camp and someone who had already had the mumps was needed to help care for the sick. I took the job and sometime later I became the assistant permanent First Aid orderly with a promotion to Assistant Leader.
After about six months the company clerk was discharged and a typist was needed so agin I changed jobs. This one I really loved. My Company Commander was an Army Reserve Captain and a real PLAY BOY. He had a girlfriend in every town throughout the Black Hills and beyond, and was gone most of the time. He relied on me to cover for him. I got so I signed his name as well as he did - the daily reports, weekly report, monthly report, discharges, requisitions, et cetera. The Senior Leader and I were running the Company.
As company clerk I handled the advertising for the local theaters and dance halls and as a result I had permanent passes. Sometime during my second year I had made a visit back home and bought a 1928 Chevy for $75.00. Enrollees were not supposed to own a car so I kept mine out of camp at a nearby woodsman's place. I worked hard at my job but I had loads of fun too. I can look back on the CCC as being the most fun-filled years of my life. I was lucky in poker and craps and having a car I always had money since I could always get a load to go to town at a dollar each. You could have a fun week-end on $5.00, complete with a hotel room on a Saturday Night, a bottle of booze, a movie and a dance. I guess I had admired my company commander's way of life and used him as my role model. As time went on after the '28 Chevy came a '33 Chev, a 38 Chev and finally a '39 Ford V-8. That was a HOT car.
In October 1935 our company moved to Camp Pine Creek, Company 1793, SP-1 located near Mt. Rushmore. The faces were being carved out at this time and our company built trails, guard rails, picnic shelters, et cetera.
In March 1936, our company moved again to Camp Lodge, SP-4. In August 1936 President Roosevelt made a visit to Mt. Rushmore and dedicated the face of Jefferson. A huge American Flag was draped over the face mounted on ropes and Pullies and on signla was pulled to one side revealing the face. I was honored to be one of three CCC enrollees to place the microphones in front of F.D.R. and then step back ten paces and stand at attention while the speech was made. We then stepped forward to retrieve the mikes at which time he shook our hands and remarked how nice we appeared and said "a job well done".
In March 1938, I transferred to Camp Wind Cave, Company 2754, NP-1 at Wind Cave National Park near Hot Springs, South Dakota, which also had a side camp at Jewel Cave near Custer, South Dakota.
In August someone wised up that I had been in the CCC four years and would either have to take a discharge or move into an exempt job. The result was that I took the position of Mess Steward.
In November 1939 we relocated our Company in the Badlands near Wall, South Dakota. The Badlands had been designated a National Monument and our Company was instrumental in building the National Park Headquarters.
By this time most of the Army Reserves had been called up to active duty and their positions were being filled by civilians called Subalterns. In February '41 I went to Subaltern School at Ft. Lincoln at Bismarck, North Dakota, with the intent to take command of a CCC company. However, on arriving back at camp I had a response from one of the many civil service exams I had taken and was offered a job at the Government Printing Office in Washington, D.C.. By then it was obvious the CCC was about to fold, so after 6 years and 8 months as a dedicated CCCer, I wheeled my 1939 Ford eastward to Washington, D.C.
In 1943 I entered Maritime Service at Sheepshead Bay, N.Y.. I had retained my civil service and after a disability discharge from the Maritime in 1944 I took a civil service job with the Department of Defense in Seattle, Washington. After 30 years of Civil Service I retired in 1970.
----- Leo V. Williams
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