Biography of W. R. Shaw

Leader, Company 852, Padegonia, Arizona & Yampa, Colorado

W. R. SHAW’S LIFE IN CCC by W R Shaw and Rita Shaw

   On May 24, 1933, I enrolled into the Civilian Conversation Corps, Company #852, at Camp Bullis, Texas. At a Saturday night dance near Eustace, Texas, my home town, my friend, Bradford Seals, invited me to join the CCC with him. I asked him what that was. After he explained the CCC to me, I questioned whether I was eligible. Daddy, who worked for Southern Pacific Railroad, was in the hospital with a broken arm. Bradford assured me that I was eligible.

   So, the next day we hitched a train ride Camp Bullis, Texas in San Antonio. We enrolled there, where we stayed for a week receiving our clothing (W.W.I issue uniforms), physical exams, and immunizations. I had a smallpox scar and didn’t have to receive that vaccine.

   The officer in charge of supervising completion of CCC enlistment forms advised the enlistees to sign their ‘John Henry’s’ on the appropriate line. One of the enlistees signed ‘John Henry’. The officer said, “No, you idiot, your name, not John Henry.” To which the enlistee replied, “You idiot, John Henry is my name.”

   After our time at Ft. Bullis, my company departed by train for Padegonia, Arizona; near Nogales. We would be working for the Forest Service building roads and bridges. The camps were staffed and under the auspices of the Army. Coincidentally, Bradford, because of his clerical abilities, was transferred to El Paso and wound up with a desk job.

   The trains were steam driven so stops were made to refill the water supply. At one of the stops, two of the Army officers that were in charge of our unit, got off the train. They made a visit to the local beer joint and purchased a couple of six-packs of beer. The train started up before they got back to the train. They were attempting, unsuccessfully, to catch the train. I was standing on the vestibule of the caboose and saw them running. I reached up and pulled the emergency cord and the train stopped. The officers, with their beer, got onto the train as the conductor came through the car inquiring, unsuccessfully, about who stopped the train. Later, the officers asked, “Who stopped the car?” I admitted to having done so. They seemed perplexed and wanted to know how I had done it. So I showed them the cord I had pulled. Pulling that cord will cause the engineer to stop the train no matter where you are. When they inquired as to how I knew that I told them that my dad works for the railroad.

While stationed in Padegonia, Arizona, we received $30 per month wages with $25 being sent home to our families and the CCC’er receiving $5 for pocket money. Leaders pay was $35 with $30 being sent home. I was given leadership roles, probably because I stopped that train.

Our first night we were given mattress covers, shown a pile of straw, and advised to fill our mattresses. We spent that night sleeping under the stars, as the tents and cots had not arrived. When they arrived, we slept on cots in W.W.I issue tents. The tents were eventually replaced with wooden barracks, built for us by the government.

   I celebrated my 21st birthday while at Padegonia. My family gets a chuckle out of a comment I made in a letter sent to ,y mother, written on my birthday, December 19th. The comment was that ‘the guys are taking me to Nogales to celebrate my birthday. But don’t worry about me drinking beer. I don’t like the stuff.’ In my later years, I was known to drink a beer or two. I also shaved my head and started a ‘fad’ while stationed at Padegonia.

   Food was supplied and prepared by Army. One pair of mess cooks were purchasing and preparing quality food for the officers. Then purchasing cheaper, poorer quality food to serve to the CCC’ers, apparently pocketing the remaining food allotment. When a new Lieutenant took charge of the camp, the discrepancy was brought to his attention. The mess cooks were replaced, the food improved, and the former cooks were dishonorably discharged from the Army.

   We had a basketball team that played in the Nogales City 20-30 League. I have the trophy we won in 1934.

   In 1934, Company #852 was transferred to Yampa, Colorado. Again to help the Forest Service build roads and bridges. Housing there consisted of tents with wooden floors and hot water. We could, finally, take a hot shower.

   On one of our work forays in Colorado, it began to snow. I asked the Forest Ranger if we could go back to get our coats, as were not dressed for the unexpected cold weather. The Ranger stated that we should have known that it was going to snow. I told him that we had just transferred from Arizona and were not used to snow and cold weather. He still refused and we finished out the work day without obtaining our coats. Upon returning to camp, I reported the incident to the Army Reservist Captain in charge of the camp. He advised me that he could not do anything about the Forest Ranger. But, if several of you report to sick call in the morning with coughing, sniffing, etc., that might accomplish something. The next morning, about 30 of reported in ‘coughing’, sniffing, ‘blowing our noses’ etc. An investigative team from Ft. Collins came, thinking we had a “flu epidemic”. As a result of that investigation, the Forest Ranger was no longer our leader.

   While in Yampa, I completed my second six month enrollment. Having a letter from Bradford Seals stating that I had a job waiting for me when I returned home; I was able to leave the CCC. I was honorably discharged, at Yampa, Colorado on June 23, 1934, “by reason of accepting employment to better his condition”. If you had a job when you mustered out of the CCC, transportation home was provided. Otherwise, you had to obtain your own transportation. I was able to get a free train ride home.

----- W R Shaw

         rsreindl AT cablelynx DOT com


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