Biography of Robert L. Robeson

NACCCA National Secretary, CCCMan, Company 1852, Camp Wapiti, Wyoming

     From the time I was about nine years old and until I reached the age of 13 I helped my father to the extent of my ability and strength in his business as a cement contractor - my main jobs shoveling sand and gravel into a cement mixer and moving the cement from the mixer to the "dump site" in a wheelbarrow.

     At the age of 13, and an "eight grader", I obtained a "position" as a "Printer's Devil" (Apprentice) in a newspaper and job printing shop in my home town, Lander, Wyoming. The newspaper was the Wyoming State Journal and was issued weekly. For my work I received a starting pay of approximately ten (10) cents per hour. I started work at approximately 7:00 a.m. each school day and worked until approximately 8:30 a.m.. Then after school I would work from approximately 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. except on Wednesdays when the paper was issued. On that day I would return to work at approximately 7 p.m. and work until (usually) 10 p.m. On Saturdays my work time was from 8 a.m. until 6 p.m. with an hour off at noon for lunch. For this at first I received $2.00 per week but after a while it was raised to $2.50 per week. During the summer my work time was 9 hours each day, six days a week ( except for the usual approximate 3 extra hours on Wednesday) for this I received, finally, $5.00 per week. I stuck with this job for five years and until I finished High School. By that time I could run any piece of printing equipment in the shop and was for all practical purposes a "journeyman printer". At that time the Federal Government announced that a Civil Service Test would be given for a position as "Apprentice" in the Government Printing Office. I felt I could qualify so took the test and received an extremely high test score.

     Upon graduation in May 1935, I was offered a bit more pay by the manager of the daily newspaper in Lander so I went to work there for a short time. I had a small difficulty with the foreman and he fired me only to be fired himself the following week. I was asked to come back to work but wanted to get outside and get some "fresh air and sunshine" for a change so declined the offer.

     For approximately a year I worked at several "odd jobs" including a short "stint" under the N.Y.A. program as a Junior Rodman on a survey crew for the Soil Conservation Service.

     I was hired out as a "Jr. Rodman" on a survey crew of the U.S. Soil Conservation Service. It was a cold, cold job as we were working out in the hills of Wyoming. We were producing maps of the area, particularly to locate "draws" and "washes". As animals roamed over the hills they would find the easiest route to get up or down them. After a time this would become a path and as the rains came down, because the grass was worn off this path the water would run faster than on the rest of the hill. Eventually the water would wash out the dirt, etc. and it would become a "draw" or "wash", which were in effect the same thing. Over hundreds of years the soil eroding would result in deep cuts in the side of a hill. This is what the SCS was working to prevent.

     My "rod" in this case was a 1x4 board about 20 feet long. A man was located up on the hill top with a "Plain Table". The "table" was about 3 feet square on which the engineer drew a map of the area, based upon the sitings made by the rodmen. He used an instrument called an "Alidade" (Sp.?) to sight through to the rodmen's position. This guy was the engineer and was the "boss". I would walk down a draw to a bend and put up the "rod". After he had sighted it and located it on his map he would yell at me and I'd move down to the next "bend".

     Then I was given a "pea shooter", which was a very small instrument that you held up to your eye and sight through it at some object a short distance away. A "calibration" under the instrument would record the measurement of the rise or fall between the hight of the instrument and the hight of the object sited. My partner had a short rod about 6 feet long. We had tied a rag on it at about my eye level. We would go up and down the draws and I would make sightings with the "pea shooter". This was really a level. I don't remember where the bubble was, but I know I used to read the amount of change from where I was standing and where my partner was holding up the rod. This work determined the amount of fall in a draw. If it was so many degrees it would call for a "Dirt Check Dam" but if it was greater than a certain number of degrees it would call for a "Rock Check Dam" because water would be much stronger and would wash away a "Dirt Check Dam" if the slope was high.

     In 1933, approximately three years before, I watched a train load of CCC boys arrive in Lander and being loaded into trucks. They were transported to a place about 8 miles above our town which we called "Sinks Canyon" as the river sank into a hole on one side and reappeared about a mile below on the other side of the canyon. As a youngster I had always wanted to go to a military school, but knew it was an impossible dream because my parents couldn't afford such an expensive education. Here, before my eyes were young men dressed in military uniforms who had come to our country to work. At the time I had hitchhiked up the canyon to the camp site and visited with a number of these boys. They invited me to have coffee with them as they started putting up their tents and establishing their camp. When I tasted their coffee, I wasn't too sure I that I ever wanted to be an enrollee of the CCC's as it was AWFUL! Seriously, however, I vowed if I ever got a chance I would get into that "outfit".

     In the fall of 1936 I heard that there were openings in the CCC's for Wyoming boys. I don't remember how I got to Thermopolis, Wyoming, approximately 80 miles down-river from Lander, - probably hitch hiked as that was a favorite mode of transportation at that time. - but I arrived there in time to apply for a job. I had to "fib" a bit about not being able to find a job, because of my printing office experience, if I had tried, I most probably would have been able to find employment, but I just didn't want to go back to that type of work.

     On October, 29, 1936 I was enrolled into the Civilian Conservation Corps at Thermopolis, Wyoming. I don't recall how I got from there to Camp Wapiti, which was about 30 miles west of Cody, Wyoming and 20 miles east of Yellowstone National Park --- it was probably by truck - but I remember being very happy to see such a nice place.

      It was called Camp Wapiti (which is the Indian name for elk). The camp designation was F-24-W and the company was #1852. If you have a map of Wyoming you will find Wapiti listed about half way between Cody and the Yellowstone National Park on U. S. highways 20, 14&18.

     The Camp had been occupied by Company, Company 1852, on May 18, 1935. Before coming to Wyoming, Company 1852 had primarily been organized as a Drought Relief Company in 1934, by special authorization of the President, in the Arizona-New Mexico District of Fort Bliss, El Paso Texas - down around Carlsbad, NM. The earlier enrollees had done a good job constructing Camp Wapiti, as when we arrived there as replacements for Company 1852, keeping the same Company number, approximately a year and a half later, all the necessities of a good living were available.

     Most of the CCC boys who worked out here in the west were from companies organized in the east-a major portion coming from New York and New Jersey. Except for rare instances, they kept the same company number even though they might work in a number of camps over the time that they were out here in the west. Even the original CCC Company that started in Virginia served time out here in the State of Wyoming. Then it was shipped off to Idaho and I lost track of where it went after that. In this line, Company 1852 worked at a couple of locations down in the south central part of the U. S. before it was sent to work in Wyoming. After it got to Camp Wapiti it seemed to have found a "home" and remained there for the "duration" of the CCC operations.

     The boys involved in the original organization were long gone when I got to be a member of Co. 1852. As a matter of fact another group of boys from Oklahoma had come and gone before I arrived in camp. With the exception of the Assistant Educational Advisor and one or two others from Oklahoma all others had departed for "warmer climes". The country and the weather was considered too harsh for other than Wyoming boys to work there in the winter, so each fall they would recruit Wyoming boys to work through the winter - From about the middle of October until the middle of April (6 months enlistment) then if a Wyoming boy wanted to "re-up" for another 6 months he was allowed to do so. After all we didn't have to go out in the woods to work if the temperature got below 30 degrees below zero (and that did not include the so-called wind factor). I'm sure that the wind chill temp would be about 50 below.

     What an experience. Being handed some nice new clothes, toilet articles and bedding -- including sheets and a pillow case. Then our Barracks Leader very carefully explained how we were to make our beds, store our belongings in the locker and keep the barracks "policed up". I remember that at our camp we all had "foot lockers" in which to put our clothes, etc., but I certainly don't remember what they looked like and I'm sure that they didn't have any locks. If I would have had to pay for it I would certainly remember that. After all when our monthly pay was $5.00 reduced almost always by a canteen book and movie charges so that we were lucky if our "take home pay" was $3.50 a month. Back in those days -- at least in Wyoming -- a locked door was something unusual. I do remember reading about a CCC camp in Oregon which had a super wood working shop and that foot lockers there were made for each enrollee.

     After that in marched a person dressed in what appeared to be an officer's uniform. He was accompanied by two others dressed in white coats like those worn in a hospital. This "officer" ordered all the "recruits to strip down and then they proceeded to conduct a "short arm" inspection with all the other barracks members watching and having a jolly time of it. I found out the next morning, when we went through the infirmary, that the "officer" was the assistant education advisor and that the whole "performance" was for the entertainment of the "troops".

     The trip through the infirmary was to obtain "shots" including one for Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever (Tick Fever). This was my third time for this "shot" and it is supposed to make me immune from tick fever for the rest of my life, but the next morning I was wishing I had the tick fever instead of the shot when I was assigned to one handle of hook devise ( a Swedish Neck Yolk), similar to the iceman's block ice carrying tool, to help carry telephone poles to the creosoting tank. I felt that my arm would come off and my "partner" didn't want to trade with me because he had been "shot" in the same arm so he would have had the weight on it if he had traded.

     After a couple of days in camp I was assigned to a Forest Ranger (foreman), Stratton H. Van, and, after the morning flag ceremony and breakfast, climbed into a "staked" truck for a trip up into the mountains. Although I was only about 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed about 125 pounds I was assigned to carry a six-foot two man falling saw up the mountain.

     It took about two hours climbing to reach the place where we were to work. The work was to cut down Douglas Fir trees that had been attacked by beetles, saw them up in 9 feet lengths, pile them up over the limbs, etc., for burning by another crew. When I arrived at the work site I wondered how they expected me to work there as it took all me effort just to get enough oxygen to meet my body's requirements. Now I had been raised in a town with an altitude of over 5,000 feet and was this accustomed to "thin air", but this altitude was approaching 10,000 feet and so the air had even less oxygen. Surprisingly, however, within a couple of days I had become accustomed to this rarefied air and could do my share of the work.

     The Forest Service required us to cut the trees down so as to leave a stump only 7 inches from the ground level. As the winter arrived this became increasingly difficult as the snow often was almost hip deep and we would have to clear away the snow to get down on our knees and saw the tree off at the required point. We didn't have to go to work if the temperature got below 30 degrees below zero. One day we knew it was extremely cold and we had built our fire as close as possible to our tree cutting area. It was so close in fact that the leg of my pants caught fire while I was down sawing. That evening when we returned to camp it was a minus 35. We didn't have to go out into the "woods' for the entire month of February as the temperature never got above -30 degrees below zero day or night. (Note: we were not supposed to wear our woolen "dress uniforms" out to work, but it was so cold that I wore my pants under my work clothes. I had a bit of explaining to do as to how my dress uniform got burned.)

     Because we wern't out working almost every one of us finally came down with the flu. We had a vacant barracks at the beginning as the camp was not at its "full strength" during the winter, so we moved the sick ones into that barracks. Then when it was necessary to use a second barracks all the non-sick were moved out of it and the sick ones moved in. Finally we had 3 barracks full of sick boys. I was taking medicine until my ears rang and I thought At on of our "fly camps" there was a need for some material.I had escaped the flu to that time and so was directed to go with the truck driver to deliver the supplies. I got a chill on the trip so came down with the flu-I think I was the last one to get it.

     While I was in camp I wrote an article about the CCCs, called "Life in a CCC Camp" written by me in December 1936 while a CCC enrollee at Camp Wapiti, Cody, Wyoming. I sent the original to the Fremont Count Vocational High School, Lander Wyoming, at which school I graduated in May 1935. It was printed in the school's paper. The article relates what our camp was like, and the poem which ended it how we felt about our work.

     The CCC boy's life is not a picnic as some are wont to think. He has to do some work to earn that dollar a day. He is under the supervision of the U.S. Army. This organization see that he is properly fed, clothed, sheltered and generally cared for. The Technical Service, which in the case of this camp is under the supervision of the U.S. Forest Service, had charge of the "work program". He is under their supervision five days a week, seven hours a day. In this time they must transport him to and from the "job", and allow him one hour off for his lunch. This means that he is under the supervision of the Army for the remainder of the time, which is 133 hours each week. For this you can gather that the Army should and does have a controlling interest.

     Now as to the nature of the work, which differs in each camp. Some work in the forests, others on reclamation projects, while still others are employed on soil erosion control. As for "our" particular jobs, some of us are cutting down and burning timber that has been infested with a beetle, others are making signs and tables for campgrounds, and still others are treating telephone poles which are sent to another group of men who are employed in the building of a telephone line. There is still another crew building "cribbing" at the ranger station, which, by the way, is the oldest one in the U.S.. "Cribbing" is the building of log walls along the banks of a river and then filling them with stones to keep the river from washing away the banks. Still another group of men are employed solely by the Army - called Army Overhead. This group includes the cooks and kaypees, clerks, storeroom man, infirmary orderly, officer's orderly, carpenter and Assistant Educational Advisor.

     Now, perhaps, you would like to see something of the personal life of the men. They sleep in barracks (which are long and narrow one-story buildings) on Army cots, using Army blankets and comforts. The sheets are changed each week, to keep the beds as clean as possible. Forty-five men are housed in each barrack. The member's clothes are put in wall lockers beside his bed and this helps to keep the place looking tidy. The boys eat at the "mess hall". They march double file to this hall and stop each morning and evening to pay their respects to their country's flag. In the evening each member must be dressed in his "O.D.'s" (Olive Drab), which is the uniform of the CCC. He must be neat in appearance, having his hair well combed and his "meal ticket" -- a tie - properly arranged. Each morning there is an inspection of the barracks by the officers of the camp, and woe to the man who has not swept out from under his bed or has a wrinkle on his bed.

     No to tell you something of the rest of the camp. The two main interest points to the members are the recreation hall and the educational building. In the recreational hall (building) there is a canteen where the CCC can buy tobacco, candy, soap, toothpaste, and the like. Then there is a pool table, a ping pong table, and several tables for playing cards and checkers. There is also a library and reading room, which is arranged like a living room of a home. There is a rug upon the floor, several couches, and a number of chairs and tables. In the corner is a writing desk and on the wall a magazine rack. The educational building also gets its share of interest. All classes are held here. Several men come from town to give lectures and sermons to the boys. Each and every week there is a company meeting and a moving picture show, which, although the latest pictures are not shown, is well worth the twelve and one-half cents a week that each member pays. The machine is the latest equipment, including sound.

     We also have an infirmary, a barber shop, a newspaper, a tennis court and a base ball field. There is an orchestra, comprising of ten pieces, which helps to make this a veritable little city. We also have hot and cold running water and our own electric power plant. Mail is brought to the camp every other day and radios and newspapers keep us in touch with the outside world. As a matter of fact there is a short wave broadcasting station at this camp.

     Of course there are times when the world doesn't look so bright, especially if some fellow, who believes himself superior, decides to bull you for a while. This causes much discord in camp and is stopped whenever possible. One never knows just when he will get into his bed and find his sheets folded in such a manner that he can get but half way in, or find a piece of ice in his bed to keep him cool during the hot winter nights. But such is the life in a CCC camp. You can learn a great deal if you want to try, or you can just drift along and lose that much time out of your life.

     In closing I wish to express a little thought in the form of a poem - which I composed while riding back to camp from work on the mountain in the back of a Forest Service truck one cold winter evening.

The CCC's

When you come to the end of a perfect day

And you still have that long trek to camp,

And your legs are tired, your breath is short,

And your feet are cold and damp.

And you think back to the good old days

When you were young and free.

When you had no special task to do,

And life was one long spree.

Yet I wonder how well off we really are,

As we leave the boy for the man,

We get three meals, clothes and a bed,

All furnished by Uncle Sam.

Maybe Those mountains are hard to climb,

Those tree so hard to cut.

But the air is pure, the water fine,

And we're climbing right out of the rut.

As we come to the end of another day,

Let's all smile and be glad.

For besides helping ourselves, you see,

We are helping mother and dad.

     I didn't just write articles for outside of camp. Many of the enrollees spent their leisure time sitting around on their beds and griping about almost anything they thought should be griped about. But I quickly learned that in the Recreation Building the Assistant Education Advisor was involved in a number of things including producting a camp newspaper. Since I had been "involved" in the production of newspapers I asked if I could help. It wasn't long before I was the assistant editor and finally the editor of our camp paper - The Shoshonean. We had a mimeograph machine as our "printing press" and, because I grew up in a house where good music was "a way of life" I produced some "sing a long" music books of all the favorite old time songs as well as the latest "popular" songs. At our weekly movie time we would have a sing-a-long session and I'm sure it helped the morale of the enrollees.

     I was one of the very few people in camp that had a radio. Because of the mountains around us we couldn't receive much except at night and that wasn't too much. But my bed was always covered with boys listening to the radio. I think that this was where I got the crabs. I certainly disn't get them in town, because I only went there about 3 times during my 9 months service. It was a long ride about 40 miles traveling about 20 miles per hour over a very tough highway a lot of it cut out of solid rock.

     The citizens of Cody, at the time of my arrival in the CCC camp, were not too enamored with the CCC enrollees. Those that came before us were from Oklahoma and must have done some things to displease these citizens. In order to help us get back into good graces the company commander invited the people of Cody to attend an open house and share our Thanksgiving Dinner. We needed some entertainment so three of us got together and practiced singing some songs.

     We sang our songs at this "festive occasion" and one of the songs was "When its Twilight on the Trail". We must have done a pretty good job as we were invited to sing a a couple of church "socials" in Cody. After that, particularly when the Cody people learned that the camp was now "staffed" almost entirely by Wyoming boys, the attitude towards us was greatly improved in Cody.

     As the editor of the camp paper I got into a bit of trouble with our commanding officer, 1st Lt. Patterson. He had instructed me to make sure before the paper was "printed" he wanted to review it to make sure everything was OK. In our camp we had a couple of boys who never had to go out in the woods to work as they were almost constantly going off to service schools. I was a bit put out at this particular time when I heard that one was scheduled to go to the next "Supply Sergeant's School". So I wrote an editorial pointing out that it seemed strange that these two persons were the only ones who had sufficient "brain capacity" to be accepted for these training schools. Lt. Patterson was away at that particular tiem and I printed the paper without his prior review. The morning after, a very cold one of almost 30 degrees below zero, I was out by the truck awaiting time to climb in when the company clerk came out and told me the Commanding Officer wanted to see me. I expected to get "chewed out" but didn't expect any more than that so I was surprised when he said: "Mr. Robeson, you have 5 minutes to get ready as you are going to the Supply Sergeant's School."

     This school was in a CCC camp in the southeast corner of Wyoming near a town of Guernsey, and we were located practically in the northwest corner making it a two day trip. Transportation was in an army truck with a canvas cover for protection. I had on my Government Issue (GI) winter coat and took a blanket along too, but it was extremely cold in the back of that truck. We picked up a couple of boys at each camp along the way and stopped overnight in Thermopolis. I really didn't get quite "thawed out" during that overnight stay. When we arrived at our destination they took one boy out of the truck and placed him in an ambulance. I don't know whether he had frozen to death or nearly so. I never heard what happened to him. The trip back two weeks later must have been under better weather conditions as I don't remember any details of it.

     In the early spring of 1937 our camp's strength was greatly increased by a large number of boys recruited along the Texas-Mexican border. Many could not speak English and we had a difficult time recording who had been issued what. Many of them had never seen snow and thought it was beautiful stuff until they had to get out and work in it. At that time I had been assigned to go through a growth of Lodge Pole Pine trees, pick out those I felt would make good telephone poles and have my two ( 3 man ) crews of Texans fall them. At first I spent most of my time going from one crew to the other to help them get their "hang-ups" down, but it wasn't long before these guys, who had never seen such tall trees, were dropping them without a problem.

     During the spring and summer of 1937 I managed to help put out some small forest fires as I was one of the picked fire fighters. Whenever we had a lightning storm we prayed for rain as without the rain we could expect to be called out for fire fighting duty. We were told that if a fire ever crowned out we were to run like heck and pray for rain.

     I didn't mind the fire fighting but that work afterwards of carrying that big water can on your back and the "Indian Pump" putting out "hot spots" was the pitts. The Indian Pump was a tank that was strapped to your back. It held, as I recall, about ten gallons of water. Since water weighs about 8 pounds to the gallon a full tank weighed about 80 pounds. I only weighed myself about 110 pounds at the time! We used to get the water from the tank to drown the hot spots. You had to dig out the duff to get down to the burning fire and then pump water in. A hose from the bottom of the tank was about 3 ft long. As you pumped - both forward and backward the pump was operational so it didn't take long to empty the tank.

     I was then assigned to the telephone crew and our first job was to replace the line from the ranger station into Cody. This ranger station, by the way, was the first ever built in the U.S. as it was in the first ever National Forest. Many of the poles were so rotted off at the base that they were practically being held up by the wires. So when you climbed the pole and removed the wires from the insulators you had to slide down the pole fast to keep it from falling with you on it.

     I learned to use dynamite on this assignment as in many cases we had to install steel pipe poles in solid rock. Dynamite was one thing that only a few of us were allowed to handle. We had a "powder shed" some distance from the camp where the dynamite was stored, and we would carry what we would need to the job site on a truck, or at least as far as the truck could go. The rest of the way it had to be carried. I was instructed that NEVER, NEVER carry any dynamite at the same time I was carrying the fuses. But, when you are working up on top of a hill where you had to climb, hand over hand up the rocks, you didn't want to make that trip but once if you could help it. So I used to put a couple of sticks of dynamite in my left breast pocket and a couple of fuses in my right breast pocket and climb the rocks carrying the "electric switch" box. My "partner" carried a roll of wire, the maul and drills. I would hold the drill while he pounded on it with the maul to dig a hole big enough to insert the dynamite. One day the foreman, a Forest Ranger, came by as this was going on and asked me what I had in my pockets. Of course I got heck for this, but that didn't stop him later from selecting me for my most dangerous assignment, one with dynamite.

     My most dangerous assignment came at this time when it was discovered that a whole case of dynamite had "crystallized" so that the slightest jar could cause it to explode. I and a truck driver were given the job of transporting this material a distance from camp and dumping it into the river. You can bet we took a long time making that trip! Note: If you were to do this today they would put you in jail and throw away the key!

     I should note here a question of my pay.  Some of the CCC enrollees got promoted to Assistant Leaders and them to Leaders. When one got a promotion he got more pay. Assistant Leaders were paid $36.00 per month and Leaders got $45.00 when I was in the C's. I never did know how much was sent home and how much each got to keep but I assume they got to keep all but the $25.00 sent home. If that was the case the assistant leader would have received $11.00 a month -- at least when I was there. As I recall the Leader's pay was $45.00 per month and I suppose that he got to keep $20.00. Dumb me, I didn't know about the extra pay deal. I ran a crew almost all the time I was in the CCC's and never even got an extra dime. I was given jobs that the "ordinary enrollee" would not have had to do-- like taking a case of crystalized dynamite about 2 miles above camp and dumping it in the river. That stuff is really touchy. Just a little bump and all around it goes UP!

     My last duty was at a "fly" or "side" camp up on the Wyoming-Montana state line to help build a new telephone line. The Station was located between Colter Pass ( 8,066 feet elevation) and Bearfoot Pass (10,947 feet elevation). Here the wind blew almost constantly but with little "puffs' every few minutes. If you climbed the pole in any direction except facing the wind the constant puffs would soon cause your spurs to come out and down the pole you'd go. Oh boy Splinters!

     There were only about 4 of us that were high school graduates in camp, so we got the "good jobs" where our schooling could help. My special job at this Side Camp, in addition to running the pole installation crew, was to compute the angle of change where there was a "turn" in the line. In this work I used the "pea shooter" type level I had used earlier in my Surveying job. Where the angle was greater than so many degrees ( I don't now remember the number) I would order a "dead man" installed to counter balance the pull of the wires.  This is in effect an achor like used by a ship. At a short distance from the telephone pole you would dig a hole and "plant" this "anchor" which would have a steel rod sticking out of the ground with an "eye" formed at the end. Then you would attach a steel cable between the top of the pole and the "eye" of the anchor to keep the pole from leaning or falling over directly opposite the location of the anchor. When you have wires strung on the top of the pole with insulators to keep the electric current from escaping to the pole; and you have a turn in the direction of your wires, the weight of the wires have a tendency to pull the pole over in the direction of the change in direction. The DEADMAN counteracts that "pull". I also had another situation. We had to place the pole in a swamp. We could not dig the hole beyond the required depth, but the dirt tamped in around the pole was too soft and wet to keep the pole standing "steady". My only hope was that if I installed four (4) DEADMEN-north, south, east and west-I could keep the pole standing straight up. I also had to determine where the pole should be placed to change the direction of the line.

     While at this camp I got my last chance to fight a forest fire. It had been started by a no rain lightning storm. After trudging through the dark for some time we found the fire and put it out before it hardly got started. This was much better than a couple of others I had the misfortune to "fight". At this last fire we could look across the Clark Fork Canyon (3rd deepest in the U.S.) and see the car lights on Cooke City Highway in Montana. At this camp our worst experience was to have all the bridges wash out due to a "cloud burst" so the supply truck couldn't make it to camp. After about a week we were down to having plain boiled macaroni for breakfast, spaghetti for dinner and a combination of both for supper. I couldn't look macaroni or spaghetti in the face for a long long time after that. Some of the boys fashioned pins into fish hooks and caught some trout and one boy hit a squirrel with a rock and had roast squirrel for his lunch.

     Practically all the time I was in the CCC's I continued to receive "pleas" from the manager of the daily newspaper in Lander to come back to work. In July of 1937 I weakened and asked for a discharge to return to this job. On July 28, 1937 I was "honorably discharged to accept employment" and at that time I felt sure that I could "whip my weight in wild cats". A short time after I left the worst disaster to befall the CCC's, the Blackwater Fire", occurred just above this camp when 10 CCC boys were killed and a considerable number badly burned. During the operations of the CCC's - 1933 to 1942 - it has been stated that there were 29 boys killed fighting forest fires and almost 50 percent lost their lives in this one fire. There is a monument to their memory on the highway between Cody and the Yellowstone Park concerning this disaster. The wife of the ranger who was killed was my "math" teacher for the 6th, 7th and 8th grades and his daughter was a classmate for almost 11 years.

     I returned to Lander to work for $18.+ a week ( Social Security had been effected) and I held this job for approximately one year. Almost 3 years had passed since I took that Civil Service test and I had never heard why I had not received an appointment. So I wrote one of Wyoming's Senators. He informed me that there were 300 jobs to be filled but there were 300,000 who took the test. 1,000 for each job. He stated that while I had a high score the World War I veterans who took the test had been given an additional 10 points to their test score so that I had no chance for a job.

     Approximately a week later I received a telegram from Washington, D.C., sking if I would accept a position as a Junior Messenger with a salary of $90 per month with the Wage and Hour Division, U.S. Dept. of Labor. I immediately notified them yes! However, when I had to be given a physical examination by a Federal Government doctor he informed me that I wouldn't get the job because I was 30 pounds underweight. Off went another letter to "my" senator explaining that I had not been sick for a long long time and was sure I could handle the work. I got the job.

     I wound up with a long and successful career in Federal Employment. Many years later I became associated with the National Association of Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni. I have served as President, Vice President, and Newsletter Editor for the Seattle Chapter, and Regional Director for the Northwest Region and as National Secretary.

----- Robert L. Robeson


Life in a CCC Camp, Robert L. Robeson, NACCCA National Secretary, CCCMan, Company 1852, Camp F-24-WY, Camp Wapiti, Wyoming

The CCCs, A Poem By Robert L. Robeson, NACCCA National Secretary, CCCMan, Company 1852, Camp F-24-WY, Camp Wapiti, Wyoming

The Shoshonean, Volume Number One, June 20, 1937, Camp News Paper, Robert L. Robeson, Company 1852, Camp F-24-WY, Camp Wapiti, Wyoming



Back to Home Front Biographies

Please Share your Stories! E-mail the Curator to share or discuss or with any questions!1


1 1