Biography of Lawrence E. Rapson

CCC Man, Enrollee, Unknown Company and Camp, Michigan

Military Police, POW Camp, Hopston, IL, USA, WWII

   My father, Lawrence Earl Rapson, 89, of Mikado, Michigan, served three tours in three different CCC camps of Northern Michigan. I believe he still has the old footlocker that he used while he was in the CCC. My father met, and became best friends with, Laurence Hickey, in one of the CCC camps. They worked side-by-side in the Michigan forests. When dad brought Laurence home for a visit, my dad's sister, Frances fell in love with him at first glance and it wasn't long before the two of them were married.

   Dad told us stories of the harsh winter months. They learned to use snow shoes while they worked in the woods cutting down trees. One morning, they discoved that they could not open the door to the barracks. The snow was up above the top of the door. With a sense of urgency, because the latrine was a bit of a walk from the barracks, they stacked up some of the foot lockers so they could reach one of the high windows in the room. They took turns trying to clear the snow away from the window, until a couple of the smaller guys could shimmy through the window to the outdoors. They got shovels and worked at getting the door to the barracks free of snow. Then, all the guys worked together to shovel a path to the latrine. Then, they shoveled another path to the place where they went to eat.

   They worked in snow that was over six feet deep and went out to cut trees. They cut them at snow level. So, in the spring, when they returned, they had to cut the very same trees because they were still over six feet tall with the tops cut off.

   During W.W.II, my dad, Lawrence E. Rapson, was a Military Police Officer at a German Prisoner of War Camp in Hopston, IL. He was in charge of forty prisoners. Each day, the prisoners were assigned to pick corn in a cornfield. Dad didn't speak German, but one of the prisoners spoke pretty good English and did the translating. Not too many words were needed, though. The prisoners pretty much knew what was expected of them. Dad communicated by blowing a whistle. Whenever he blew the whistle, the prisoners would come.

   One problem that Dad had, which he hadn't anticipated, was that the prisoners did the cooking, not only for their fellow prisoners, but for the M.P.'s, too. One of the cooks put something in the food that made the M.P.'s really sick. Dad said that he felt like he had been poisoned after he ate the German food in the mess hall. He got sicker than he had ever been in his entire life and thought he was going to die.

   The only good thing that came out of the whole experience was that Dad gave up smoking because of it. He no longer could stand the smell of tobacco. In fact, my mother, Grace Rapson, had sent him a present. The package included cigarettes, Bond Street Tobacco, a new pipe, and a tobacco pouch. Dad was so sick that he couldn't even stand the thought of smoking, so he gave everything away and never smoked again.

----- S. D. Campbell

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