Biography of Wesley E. Muth
CCCMan, Company 1433, Hyrum, Utah & Lake Ontario, New York & Lily Lake State Park, Binghamton, New York
Soldier, Schofield Barracks, Pearl Harbor, WWII, USA
My name is Wes Muth. My hometown is Endicott, New York, which is nine miles west of Binghamton. In 1938 I was living at home with my Mother, a brother, and a younger sister.
My father had died seven years previous in 1931. My Mother was having a hard time feeding us even with the sewing and other things she did to make ends meet. We were on relief, as they called it then. At that time we didn't see much money. They paid our rent and gave us coupons for food. I had quit school but couldn't find much work to help out.
When I heard about the CCC Program I immediately joined. The boys from our area were sent to Camp Kilmer and from there we were put on a train. My first Camp was in a canyon 3 miles from Hyrum, Utah.
We arrived on a cold October morning. My buddy, Larry Dykeman and I were assigned the job of shoveling coal in back of the mess hall. We weren't too happy with the job and as I said, it was very cold.
The Mess Sgt. came out and said he needed two men for K.P. Dyke's and my shovels hit the ground at the same time. As it turned out we started K.P. and eventually graduated to cooks.
KP was the same as in any outfit, washing dishes and pots and pans. As for cooking we had regular menus put out by the agriculture department.
They started a system of permanent cooks and K.P.'s. Two days off and three day weekends. We organized cooks and kp's into teams with two days on and two days off with three day weekend. That's when three of us decided to send away for 22 cal. pistols. Two other guys and myself got 22 cal. pistols by mail order. That was before they passed a law against sending guns through the mail. When we got our pistols we were getting 33.00 per month with 25.00 going home. That would have been in the spring of '39.
I vaguely remember that some of the symbols had shovels or a mattock which was used to fight forest fires and the cook might have had chevrons with a hat symbol.
We had to buy our own foot lockers and I think they cost around $7.00. I do know I had to save up 2 months before I could get mine. They did have locks. but human nature being what it still is---when the opportunity arose some of them were broken into. Mine .was not. It was a very handy thing to have to keep your clothes in and keep them clean. Also to store other personal items it. I feel it would have been very inconvenient not to have one. I had my name painted on mine with the camp number 1433 Hyrum, Utah painted on it.
We lived in barracks. The barracks which were very similar and adequate. We had latrines in each barracks and sinks to brush our teeth and to get a drink of water in the middle of the night. The showers were a separate facility at one end of the barracks. The showers were heated. The water source was a big tank on the hill in back of the camp.
The side camp was 20 miles from the main camp which was just across the mountain from Bear Lake which is in Utah and Idaho. We were going to listen to the Louis-Schneling fight but there was a delay so we started to Hyrum. We were about a half mile down the road when a guy caught up with us and said the fight was over. It lasted about a minute and a half. As alternative entertainment we went into town to chase girls!!!!!! We played a lot of pick-up games like cards, ball, etc.
We didn't have much to do on our days off. We got $30.00 a month and after sending $25.00 home my $5.00 didn't go very far. If I remember correctly, when you first went in you were the equivalent of a private in the army and you received five dollars and 25 dollars went home. If you got promoted you got three more dollars a month. I may be getting the army mixed up in this because when I first went into the Army I got 21 dollars a month. When I made Pfc I got 3 or 6 dollars a month more. Anyway, with so little money, we decided to take overnight hikes up the canyon the Camp was located in.
The Forest Service loaned us backpacks. We took only food to prepare. Cans would have added too much weight. We probably took 6 or 7 hikes, the longest being about 12 miles. The last one we took was the best. We hiked well after dark. We had one wool army blanket apiece. One went on the ground and one over us and one suspended in the bushes above our heads. Two slept while one kept the fire going, taking turns. You guessed it! By morning we were all snuggled together with about an inch of snow on the three of us. Hutch, our 1st. Cook, started breakfast. I started building a fire and Dyke went looking for more wood.
About five minutes later we heard Dyke calling us. We had camped about a quarter of a mile from a line shack, complete with stove, beds, table and chairs. Needless to say our second night was much more comfortable.
I stayed in the camp in Hyrum, Utah #1433 for a year. Hutch had to get out because they had a two year limit and Dyke went home.
I transferred to a camp near Oswego on the shores of Lake Ontario in New York State. I do remember swimming in Lake Ontario in March or April and it was mighty COLD with ocean size breakers. I didn't swim very long!
I stayed there for 6 months and then went to a camp in Lily Lake State Park just outside of Binghamton, N.Y, about 10 or 15 mils northeast of the city. The camp was a mile or two from the Lake. There we built roads, docks on the Lake and concrete pads for dancing.
After we laid a large concrete slab down, we put tables around it and a juke box. We invited friends up on Saturday night. The girls came from the surrounding small towns. The juke box was filled with Big Band records. That was in 1939. That was a long time ago, as the saying goes.
A few more memories came to mind----like at the camp in New York, just above Binghamton, where we learned the social graces that were taught at West Point.
The average annual snow fall in New York at the time I was there was 8 feet. We got to town by truck plowing through 14-16 inches of snow at times.
One of the jobs I had was loading top soil into dump trucks. It was the last few weeks of winter and the top soil was frozen about 12 inches deep. We had some competition to see who could cut the biggest chuck. They mixed it with gravel and made roads or shoulders for the roads.
One of the things I do remember is I had a tooth filled with the dentist using a drill that was powered by a foot pump. boy! was that fun. especially when he didn't pump hard enough and the drill got stuck in your tooth.
I think they also had a doctor in camp but I can't offer anything on that since I was never sick so didn't have a need for his services.
With Technical Advisors the CCC built roads, benches, fountains and in Utah an outdoor theatre of concrete, including a stage and dressing rooms underneath the stage. The outdoor theatre, this was built about 20 miles northwest of Logan Utah before my group arrived. It was big enough for fifty or a 75 people. The seats and stage were made of concrete. the stage had dressing rooms built underneath. there were also fountains and paths built through the park, which was a state park. I have no idea if it still exists.
I learned to cook and also how to fight forest fires. We were into firefighting while stationed in Hiram, Utah. We received training there which consisted of the rangers setting a tree on fire and we were instructed how to put it out. I did not become involved with fighting a "real" fire, however, but had one started in our area that would have been a company assignment.
The hardest jobs I can remember having was building roads in Up-State New York and learning to fight forest fires in Utah. All things considered, we were young, strong and in good health so the jobs didn't seem that hard. Of course that was 62 years ago and maybe I have forgotten the worst part.
I finally got out of the CCC in October of 1939. I tried for three months to find work, finding only part time jobs that didn't pay enough.On January 20, 1940 I joined the Army and was stationed in Schofield Barracks, Hawaii.
When we went back in '89 we could not find any sign of the camp. The water tank was also gone. I don't know at what point in time they removed all signs of a camp.
----- Wesley E. Muth
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