Biography of Raymond Mingus
Leader, CCCMan, Company Clerk, Company 562, Camp Devils Elbow, Prichard Idaho, Fort George Wright District
Marine, Brown Field, Quantico VA, USMC, WWII
My name is Raymond Mingus of Chillicothe Ohio who graduated high school in 1937 in time of the depression, when there were few jobs to be found. Being discouraged and needing to establish something toward the future, I needled my mother who was very much opposed to me going to the C's as it was her understanding too many of the boys would be a bad influence on me. However, she agreed and I enlisted after the Christmas of 1938. I also emphasized the fact I wanted to go as far west as would take us. I remember well, she said you will be going into the Bitter Root mountain range in Northern Idaho - 40 miles from the Canadian border. I was very much enthused and it was the best experience I ever had in my life being young and adventurous.
We boarded a troop train that originated on the East Coast, in Ohio, picking up boys all the way to the West Coast in Oregon where the first of the boys were at a camp near Eugene, Oregon. From there we went to Kellog, Idaho. Was taken by truck 40 plus miles to Camp Devils Elbow. It was a wonderful experience.
The work was at a maximum 18 to 20 miles from Camp. The camp was in the Bitter Root Mountains, 40 miles from the village of Pritchard and 35 miles from Kellog, Idaho, where we got our mail once a week.
I was fortunate, I had the privilege of doing several important jobs. The first was in hazard reduction which consisted of going up on the mountain cutting all fire burned trees. We would use the old cross cut saw, one man on each end of the saw, dragging it back and forth until the tree fell. Most time they would slide on the snow for several hundred feet and it was fun.
We would eat in the field. The lunch bag for woodsmen out of camp was bologna, spam and peanut butter sandwich. We had very plain meals at camp, were still healthy. We wore dress uniforms to evening meal to a military cadence. We did flag raising daily. There was camp restrictions and discipline for some infractions. I never had any trouble and was never awol.
After a few days Superintendent Morris, who was in charge of over wood and carpentry training, asked if I would like to work in the carpenter shop making signs for various camps of the area. I learned to use the router and various tools I had never had in our manual training class in high school and found it very interesting. I worked at making and routing road signs and signs for camping locations.
Myself and other boys, Idaho 1938, looking across Courda'lene
As the days passed, perhaps two months, later the superintendent told me Captain Hufford would like to talk to me, and I was in fear something was seriously wrong at home. However, he assured me there wasn't. I was a little scared since he was the Commanding Officer of our little camp, Devils Elbow, Camp 562, Prichard Idaho.
When I approached him I saluted and told him my name and telling him Superintendent Morris said he wanted to see me. Of course the follow up at ease. At this time he said I was highly recomended and he needed a company clerk to replace Lee Batsel, who was going to be discharged. I remember telling him I had gone into the C's to learn everything I could that would benefit my future. He was pleased. I was given the personal quarters for the company clerk - boys cleaned and kept the fires going and I was never expecting this, however. My duty was to keep and type records of sick details and all the different work crews in the field, putting the flag up in the morning and taking it down in the evening. I really enjoyed all of it.
After possibly two months, Stanley Odweyer, the Educational Advisor, asked if I would be his assistant in the educational quarters if Major Hufford would release me. I told him as I did the Commander, I would like to learn anything benefitting my future. After two or three weeks I had the job. The first thing was learning the Morse Code, which I did from a dictograph machine. Every Friday I would call using the Code Dictograph to Fort George Wright Headquarters in Washington State, as our camp was part of the Fort George Wright District. This was interesting as this call was for our Camp Supplies! This was only the beginning of a good experience as I went on a galloping goose three car train to Catcolet, Utah, to learn the standard advanced and instructional levels of First Aid. That galloping goose 2 coaches and the engine on a scary ride through the mountains into Utah was a sight to remember. We did this training for two solid weeks and I fortunately passed with Instructional Grade as I taught First aid and illiteracy classes the rest of my 12 month enlistment.
As to why I was selected for these different jobs, well I always worked hard listened and did the best I knew how. First of all Superintendent Morris Reccomended to Captain Hufford for the Company Clerk job, and possibly all came about because I did put a lot of effort into everything I did. I still do today.
But there was time off in camp too. For recreation at camp we went to Kellog on weekends, met a few people and some girls included. Going to Kellog on Saturday night was fun, I went with Carl Jones from Indiana. We would go to a 25¢, mostly westerns. At camp we played cards, pool, checkers, ping pong and horseshoes. We did have some movies shown in the rec hall and that was the extent of the movies. There was no social events in camp, no dances or anything. It was just too wild out there. We had a Canteen. The stuff in Canteen was rings, knives and trinkets. We had some dogs as pets that the boys brought into camp. And there were classes to take as mentioned above. Stanley Odwyer was the Educational Advisor. Some of the classes were very interesting. We had gas welding torches and some carpenter tools, radio, carpentry, shop training, also the illiteracy classes and first aid classes which I taught.
Taken in Idaho in 1938 when in the CCC Camps before enlisting in Marine Corps soon after
When I left camp, it was much like leaving your family as we became good friends. I've always remembered the leaders and the many of the boys for what they taught me. I'm 87 now and I still remember their names, including Carl Jones, Lee Batsell and Vincent Barngraff. I kept in touch with some until we were into WWII and have lost touch.
Myself and other boys looking across Courda'lene, Idaho 1938, detailed image
I went home by train and bus. The wooden locker we each got, was brought home by me. The money mostly was saved for me to go to a trade school in Nashville, Tennessee when I returned. I trained as a machinist and was given a job at Martin’s Airplane in Baltimore, Md when I finished school. I worked and learned more for two years before I went home, joining the Marine Corps.
My past experience took me into Shop Machinist through the war ending up at Brown Field Quantico VA my enlistment. Leaving the Corps I followed the trade with Mead Paper, Alcoa Aluminum, and a took and die shop in Columbus, Ohio, retiring from Martin Marrietta in 1984.
I went back to Camp Devils Elbow in 1986 and how the cedar trees had grown. The entrance rock and no. 562 is the same, however the barracks are gone. The camp location is the same and was made into a State Park as its back side is on the Courdalene River and its good trout fishing.
In closing I would like to say this was a very important part of an educational experience that helped me throughout my enlistment in the marine corps in WWII and also my work years raising and caring for my family as I became a first class machinist in the corps repairing planes as they returned from combat and becoming a tool and die, jig and fixture tradesman throughout my work years. I would recommend CCC or some disciplinary organization for all young men and possibly women. It was the best thing that happened to me at that time – I remember so much because the interest and challenge was there. I feel the CCC training and discipline gave me a very interesting life style also a strong desire to be the best you can be.
Thank God For This Experience.
----- Raymond Mingus
(Submitted by Post)
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