Biography of Bob Ott
CCCMan, Company 535, Yellowstone Park, Wyoming & Company 531, Prichard, Idaho
I was in the CCC camps for 2 hitches. I went in in 1938 and 1939. My time was spent in Yellowstone Park, WY, and Prichard, ID. One was camp 535 in Yellowstone Nat'l Park, and camp 531 in Prichard, Idaho. I believe camp 538 was across the street from us in Yellowstone, but not sure. We were told by the townsfolk that you could tell the boys from 535 from the other camp because we always looked sharper and had a better demeanor. We did have a very particular commanding officer, and he wanted us to be sharp when we went to town.
I remember being paid with silver dollars while at Prichard, Idaho, also I think the same at camp 535 in Mammoth Hot Springs, Wyoming.(Yellowstone Park). It was a good feeling to have those in your pocket, but they did not last long for me. I usually ran out of money before the next payday, but then we really didn't need that much. Not many places to spend it, and didn't drink, so it was not bad.
We had barracks. We also had showers, etc. It seems to me they were at the end of our barracks, both at Yellowstone Park and also in Idaho. We had water, but I don't know where it came from. At Yellowstone it could have been public water,. but in Idaho, we were far from anything, and on a river, so it could have been a well. Our rest rooms were at the end of the barracks, and we showered, brushed teeth, went to the "john", etc. A lot of that kind of stuff did not make a mark in my memory.
I can't remember going to a show, or movies either in camp or in town but must have. Especially those "health" shows, where we were shown all those grisly pictures. I don't know that they stopped any of the guys from doing anything.
We had a doctor and a dentist who took care of us at the camp. The dentist was ok, I guess. There were no horror stories about them. I had the experience of having a appendectomy in Yellowstone Park, and the Army Doctor was pretty good, I thought. He was our camp doctor, and I had pain in the groin area, and he could not get rid of it, so figured I needed the operation. I hope he was right, but have had no trouble since. The nurses and hospital folk thought he was deranged. He had me up and walking over a quarter mile out and back again, on the third day of the operation. The hospital folk thought that was terrible, but the guy had a hot date in Missoula, Montana, and wanted to be sure I was okay before he left. He could have been the forerunner of getting out of bed early, because back then they wanted you to stay in bed a week or ten days. Now, they kick you out, earlier than he kicked me out. I felt he did me a favor, as I had no complications, except at the barracks, at camp. We were changing sheets on Saturday, and as I started to enter our barracks, a guy came running out, swinging on the door, and opened the incision for the operation. Nothing serious happened then, either. Lucky, I guess.
We would fight fires. We went as far as Oregon when in the CCC fighting forest fires. I was there on at least two occasions for fire fighting.
We were in Idaho, and had to travel to Oregon to fight the forest fires. The ccc guys fought a lot of fires out there. We would stay on them for days at a time. We thought the transients started them, as times were pretty rough then, and they would be fed well and paid some for their efforts. We used the direct method, right up against the fire. The poor guys from the big cities like New York and Cleveland, etc. could not handle the fires, as they did not know what a tool was, or had seldom ever been off a sidewalk. Some could not drive a car or truck. Several times we would have a fire under control, and the New Yorkers would let it get away. They ended up carrying water on the fire lines. That was a necessary job, and they did a lot of good doing that, for which we were thankful.
I received a government driver's license while in the CCCs. The driver's license was issued in 1938 and with no expiration date, so maybe I could still drive a government vehicle? The license got me fixed up in the army, without a lot of hassle. Few inductees had a military rivers license.When I went into the Army, I was one of a very few that had a government drivers license, so did get to drive truck for a time, and then finally, most of the time.
The papers show me a few years older. That is due to the fact that I lied to get my driver's license as a kid, but it worked. When I retired, the Social Security folks thought I was 2 years older than I was, but I had to show them my original birth certificate.
There is actually very little I remember about the CCCs, but the things I do remember are good. We had a lot of good experiences, and worked hard, but never too hard.
----- Bob Ott
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