Biography of Leo Grover Vaughn

CCCMan, Enrollee, Company 1802, Camp P-64, Smithville, Oklahoma & Company 858, Camp SP-5-W, Thermopolis, Wyoming & Company 3853, Camp SP-15-O, Ponca City, Oklahoma &  Company 3853, Camp DG-11-C, Redvale, Colorado

The CCC Camp Experience of My Father, Leo Grover Vaughn

By Rodney L. Vaughn

   Leo was 22 when he enlisted in the CCC on Oct 5, 1934, in Tulsa, OK, and was unemployed at the time. The level of education shown on the enlistment papers was the 6th grade and that is probably correct. They lived in rural Oklahoma at the time and he and his brothers had to work to help make a living. His father died when he was 12 and they had some very hard times after that.

   After enlistment, he was sent to the Smithville, OK camp, company number 1802, the code number was P-64, and the camp was under the Forestry Dept. During his time at Smithville, he worked on road construction and was a truck driver. Being a farm boy, he knew now to use an axe, but while at Smithville, he really learned how to work with an axe. Knowing how to use a double bladed axe is a skill which he taught to my brother and me and then taught his grandsons.

View CCC Camp Smithville Okla. 1934, Home C.C.C. Co. # 1802., 1st Lt. N. D. Christian Comdg.

   While in Smithville, Leo almost drowns when the truck he, and some of the other boys were riding in, ran off the road and turned over, landing upside down in a creek. He got pinned under water by the truck and no matter how hard he tried, he could not get loose. The other boys noticed that he was missing and figured that Leo must be under the truck. They quickly got on one side of the truck and begin raising it up. Dad said that he was just about to give up when he felt the weight of the truck being lifted up. He immediately started to squirm out from under it, and got to the surface for some much needed fresh air.

C.C.C. Co. # 1802., Smithville Okla. Nov. 1934, 1st Lt. N. D. Christian Comdg.

   In January of 1936 he was transferred, or requested to be transferred, to Thermopolis, WY, company 858, code number SP-5-W, where he stayed until October of 1936. The Thermopolis camp was under the Dept of Interior and did park beautification. While there he worked as a forester cutting down trees, a cook, and at the Emery Hotel in town when off duty.

   He also spent some time at the local dance hall as this picture shows. Leo (in the white shirt) is standing in front of the Washakie Plunge Dance Hall with some friends.

   The reason he started working as a cook was the weather, it was too cold outside, and so an inside job was much better than anything outside! After the weather warmed up, he started working outside as a forester.

   Leo liked to talk about how fast his partner and he could cut down a tree with a big crosscut saw. He said that once you learned to work the saw as a team, it did not take long to cut down a tree. When I was growing up he taught me how to use a crosscut saw, and I was able to help him saw down trees and saw logs in two when he was removing old trees for people to earn extra income.

   This is a picture of Leo (on the right) and Earl McCain (on the left) standing in front of the Company 858 Bulletin board in Thermopolis, all dressed up and ready to go out on the town. Leo and Earl transferred to Thermopolis from Smithville at the same time and they both worked as cooks.

   When he left Thermopolis, WY, he went to a camp at Ponca City, OK, company 3853, code number SP-15-O, and was under the Park Service. He did General Field Work while there, October 1936 until November 1936. He did not talk about the Ponca City camp that I can remember and he was only there for a month.

   In November of 1936 Leo transferred to the Redvale, CO Camp, company 3853, code number DG-11-C and it was under the Dept. of Interior. They did park beautification and Leo did field work while there. This was his last camp, he received an Honorable Discharge in January of 1937 to permit him to return home and accept employment.

   He never complained about his time in the CCC (2 years and 3 months) other than how cold it was in Thermopolis, and seemed to have liked the food and the living conditions. He had some good friends while in the CCC but did not continue any type of contact with them after he was discharged.

   One of the things he talked about was how he was able to make some extra money because he knew how to sew. He could sew on buttons, and mend clothing, which enabled him to earn a little extra income. The reason he always tried to earn some extra money was that the CCC sent twenty-five dollars a month to his mother, leaving him five dollars for himself. For the CCC boys, the pay was not much, but they were furnished clothes, food, a place to sleep, and the money being sent home was an immense help to their families. The money from the CCC boys was a great boast to the local communities during this period in our history.

   When I was about 10 years old we went through Thermopolis, WY and he took us to the Hot Springs Park. He showed us the structures that were built by the CCC, which are still in use today.

   Shortly after his discharge in 1937, he was employed by Commander Mills, Inc. in Sand Springs, OK. and married the girl of his dreams later that year. They raised four children and were married over 50 years. The CCC helped him get started in life by providing work when he could not find any, and teaching him skills that would help him find extra work to provide for his family.

----- rlvaughn1 AT cox DOT net

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