Biography of Joe Musilek

Leader, Camp Naches, Washington, President NACCCA Chapter 172

FIAT, Third Army, Battle of the Bulge, USA

For a depression era kid in the 30's, from the South Dakota dust bowl, with a questionable future that could not be relied on nor the WPA and handouts offered to people, decision time was here. Many people wondered if they should stay and bear it out, hoping some change would take place, or move on to anyplace to get out of the dust. The local barber's brother was planning a trip to the West Coast, so three of us boys approached him for a ride. We were told if we rode in the rumble seat he would take us to Yakima, Washington for $10.00 a piece. My dad gave me $20 and said "good luck and take care of yourself", so we accepted the ride and were off to Yakima.

It was crowded in that rumble seat, but we were anxious to go. All went well until we ran into car trouble in Powder River, Wyoming. While the car was being repaired our driver got into a card game and lost all his money. So he was unable to get his car. With no ride and on our own, we thought of several things: hithchiking, or staying in powder river hoping to earn some money to continue our trip. Standing by the railroad tracks we noticed a lot of empty cars and people riding on them. We took a chance and grabbed a freight train and again were on our way to Yakima. Making several stops and having to change cars we noticed a quart of milk and a sack by the door of a railroad workers home. Later we paid for it as there were three pretty sick boys for a few days.

We finally arrived in Yakima and applied for work at the labor office. They sent us to Moxee, Washington to pick hops. We were rich, making $3 a day. We bought our lunches and slept in a tent that was provided. After the hops we transferred to apples. We worked until the season was over sometime in October.

In town, trying to decide where to go, we saw a big sign reading JOIN THE CCC"S.. After sleeping that night behind a signboard and being awakened by the police and told to move on, we felt we should give the CCC's a try. We applied the next morning and we were accepted and told a truck would pick us up at 10 a.m. and take us to Camp Naches, Washington. At camp we were signed up, issued clothing, assigned to a bed in the bunkhouse and taken to the Mess Hall for food. We were three very happy boys and wondered what was ahead for us.

As the Army was in charge of the personnel, clothes, food, meals, etc., we lived somewhat under Army regulations. Reveille at 6 a.m., breakfast at 7 a.m., 8 a.m. report to work at the Forestry Headquarters. While in line we were asked if there were any truck drivers in the crowd? Driving a truck in the harvest fields back home made me feel like I was qualified. I was accepted and assigned to Foreman Klingensmith's crew. His crew's job was building the American River Ski Bowl. Little did I know at that time we would be rescuing tourists in the winter due to heavy snow. American River Ski Bowl is still in operation today and enjoyed by the people in the area.

Our work in the area pertained to forest trees, rip-raps on the river, building facilities for parks, and of course, the main job in the summer was FIGHTING FOREST FIRES.

While on a fire in the Skykomish Forest we were having a snack in a local bar and the music was being played by a western band. After listening to this for a while, one of the guys said, "Why donít we plug in the juke box, and Musilek, you are elected". As I turned to go back to my seat, three loggers got up and carried me back to it and said "Stay There." Which I did as most of the men in campe were "locals" from the area while there were only about ten of us from out of State.

We volunteered for week-end work at running patrols for fire protection and checking on people in the area. We hauled logs out of the high country which was a real interesting job. If a driver goofed on his driving he would get the old White Logging Truck on his next trip, and I mean OLD.

One interesting weekend I was taking the Captain and his good friend Freddie Steel, who was the NW heavy weight boxing champion at the time, on a trip into the woods. A pleasant time was had by all and we all became pretty well acquainted. In later years, after the war, Freddie Steel had a café in the fishing town, Westport Washington, on the coast. While dining there one evening with a friend, and as Mr. Steele was making the round of the tables, I called to him by name and asked if he remembered our trip in the woods. He didn't answer and didn't say a word and left the table. It did hurt my feelings, but a party at the adjoining table stated that someone was always saying they knew him and asking for a favor.

In our many get togethers with the local people we put on dances, games, and invited all to come and join us. It is here I met and later married my loving wife, Violet - a partnership that is now over 50 years old.

After about 6 months in camp an opening came for a Forest Service Office manager. I put in my application and was successful in getting the job which carried the rank of Leader, with $45 a month pay. I felt rich at the time. The Truck Master and myself lived at the officer quarters but ate in camp. Our quarters at night became quite a gambling hall. We played jawbone poker, which was IOU for money to play with a settlement at the end of the month. This was a very secure job, interesting and I gained purchasing and record keeping experience.

While at this position Chevron (Standard Oil) had a contract for supplying gas and oil. After getting well acquainted with their agent, he suggested that I apply for a job within Chevron as they were at the time taking applications. I did so and was successful in getting a job with their service station chain (Standard Oil, Inc.). This was the beginning of 30 years with Chevron, taking into consideration my time in the military service in France, at the Battle of the Bulge and in Czechoslovakia with Patton's 3rd Army. After the war was over I was transferred into an agency called FIAT (Federal Investigation Agency Technical). We picked up men flying in from the industries back home and took them all over Germany. They inspected German factories and confiscated items from these factories and shipped them back to the U.S.A.. What the Germans grabbed from France, was small potatoes compared to what we took from Germany.

Back to Chevron after the war and spending 30 years with them I retired and bought a service station the Company had for sale in Wenatchee, Washington. I operated this station for 13 years until, because of a cancer operation, I was told to take it easy. I have done this by watching the Grandsons, taking motor home trips, a trip to the British Isles and other places which have kept us busy.

Clarence Chapman, a CCC veteran, and myself felt we should organize a chapter here in Wenatchee. I attended a reunion in Yakima but that was really too far away to carry an active membership. We started with a news ad in the local paper and passed the word around and got enough people interested to start a small chapter. With 24 members we were assigned Chapter #172. We meet the second Thursday of every month except February and August. I was elected President and it has been a very interesting experience which also helps make our meetings interesting and helps to secure additional members.

With our young people needing guidance and leadership now, many "young people problems" could be solved or at least mitigated with a CCC program such as we had. The 3 of us boys, just out of high school, with Louis Immer learning the photo business in camp, and taking a job in Portland, Oregon that the CCC instructor secured for him; for Louis to purchase his own shop and become financially well off, and Ed Kukrall, trained as a Chef in the camp and holding down several jobs and later becoming Foreman in a glove factory in McMinneville, Oregon; and the help I secured from my association while in the CCCs makes me feel that the CCCs was a College for the future for us.

----- Joe Musilek

LINKS

Back to James F. Justin Civilian Conservation Corps Museum

Back to James F. Justin Civilian Conservation Corps Biographies Exhibit

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