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Harry Remembers The CCC's

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(How old were you?) I was sixteen when I went in. Just two months short of seventeen. You were supposed to be seventeen years old when you went in there. The guy came around to the farm and asked me how old I was. I asked him how old do you have to be to get in? He said you have to be seventeen by the 14th of September and I told him my birthday was the 10th. (laughs) So I got in. There were so many boys that wanted to get in at that time, you know, hard times and they limited it to two years

From the Kramer Camp I went to Sidney, Montana for two years. When I was in I ran the laundry. I washed clothes for five days every week. But I was usually done around noon. In the afternoon I'd help with the supply room where the clothes come, stack clothes up. The sizes had to be on different shelves. On weekends a couple of us boys would go out and work for farmers and top beets. We'd go and haul potatoes and stuff like that.

(How did you happen to work in the laundry?) Just lucky! (laughs) I helped the guy in the supply room on Saturdays when I first got in there. When the clothes came in I'd stack'em and he just liked me I guess. The first week I was there we mixed grasshopper bait to spread grasshopper bait with the airplane. I was there a week and then on a Monday morning we was ready to go to town and mix some more grasshopper bait and he come up and he called my name and I went down and worked in the supply room for - it must have been about a month - and then that other guy that was in the laundry quit and I got in and I stayed there. I really had it easy.

(How long a day did you put in?) Started at eight o' clock and by noon I was done. (Did you have to heat the water?) No, that was heated from the big tank. Somebody that run the latrine outfit with the toilet and stuff, that was a great big tank and that was always heated. There was always hot water. Hot water and GI soap, you know, that's lye soap, bars about like that. (indicated a size about 6 inches long) And then you had a great big washtub and when you was done washing then you had to prepare for the next day. You had to cut up, I don't know how many of those bars you had to cut up into the tub. Then take the hose with real hot water and then fill it. Then the next day I had a gallon pail and then I'd change water and so much into the gallon pail with that soap and then you go again (How many loads did you do in a day?) There was about 200 boys and there were 5 barracks so it was 40 guys and two were always supposed to go together. The bundle that I washed first, I'd put his name down and put number one. I'd put the clothes like this on the rack and number one I'd push into here. The second guy would be number two. Then in the evenings when they come in from work then I'd give them their clothes again. (So they dried on racks then?) Yeah, they usually dried them inside. In the summer time when it was nice, they had wash lines and stuff. The hell of it is if you hung it out somebody else might get it. (laughs) (Did you work alone?) All alone. Yeah, all alone. I don't know

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how many Maytags I wore out. They'd never fix any. When something broke new would come. The government never fixed nothing. Waste you wouldn't believe. Man! Shirts were turned in, maybe just a little slit in'em or something and they'd turn'em in for new ones and once a month the inspectors would come around and we'd go out to the dump ground and haul that stuff out with the army truck and then I and another guy we'd take ahold and twist it, you know, and that inspector he'd take the ax and chop it through the middle and burn'em then.

(So when you were done at noon you could do whatever you wanted to?) Yeah, I took care of the well too, that was quite a ways from the camp there and I'd walk down and the water pressure would get low then I'd go down there and start the pump and let it pump. I don't remember just how long it pumped. I had a certain time then I'd shut it off. It was all enclosed piping and everything. It pumped it up the hill and it run down to the camp by gravity. There was a lot of pressure cause it was up high. It was on kind of a high hill. Great big huge tank. I mean huge tank. (How far from town was the camp?) Six miles. (Then you didn't go to town very often?) Well the trucks would go in on Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday nights. Three times a week. A lot of guys hitchhiked all the time. They wanted to go to town and - but like on afternoons a lot of time I didn't do nothin in the afternoons until they come in from the fields again. You know and then I'd have to be over there and then giv'em their clothes. A lot of times in the afternoon the truck, the army truck, would go in and get the mail and I'd go along. I really liked it. A lot of guys never liked the C's, but I really liked it. Especially out at Sidney. And then in the summertime a farmer would come for help - oh ten, twelve or so - we'd go out there., we'd go out and top beets. You know - haul potatoes in the fall of the year. Thin beets in the spring. We got a dollar an hour. But that was good money. We only got a dollar a day in the C's. Thirty dollars a month. Now days they get that much an hour. (laughs) (Did you save all of it then?) I bought some sheep. And I bought a pony. And I bought some calves. I reinvested it all the time. When I got out of the C's I had three horses, seven head of cattle, a model A. I had to manage well. There was no such a thing as an inheritance from our family. (laughs)

Some of the guys got more. Some of them - leaders... if you had one stripe you got thirty-six dollars a month. If you had two stripes then you'd get forty-five. The leaders worked out in the field and they took care of a whole crew. I never worked out the field. Only a couple weeks - not even that long. Just with grasshopper bait --- I liked it in camp there. Man that was easy work and never had to go work in the kitchen no more either.

(laughs) I hated that!. You'd go in the kitchen and you worked in there all the time. Dang it - peel potatoes - man! Oh man! Clean the tables, wash the dishes, and- -. (It was all by hand then?) Yeah, every bit was by hand. Set the tables and then when they were done clean the tables off, wash the dishes. Course, it wasn't really that bad, there was always six or seven, you know. Whenever your name come up then you had to go in there. I had to all the time when my name come up in Kramer. Cause I never worked in camp. I worked

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outside all the time. ( Did you just have to work part of the day or all day long when it was your turn?) In the kitchen? (Yeah) No, you just cleaned up in there and then you had time off again until toward supper time. (You didn't have to cook?) No, no. They had regular cooks. They had four cooks. Two of 'em and then the next day those two - every other day the cooks had off. ( So they weren't CC guys then?) Oh yeah. They were regular CC guys. Most of 'em got a little more money for cookin than what the regular wages were. They had to be pretty good too. They were good cooks out there. Course the Mess Sergeant, the one who took care of everything, he was a World War I veteran. He was really nice - man. He was really nice to me. I told him he could bring his clothes over there any time he wanted to. It didn't have to be a certain day. I'd wash'em for him and then I'd dry'em for him and man he'd come over there with sandwiches and oranges and bananas. I had all kinds of stuff in my room. (laughs) A couple of my good friends they knew it too. They always wanted to get some. (laughs) We had a lot of fun there. But he was really nice - well he kind of an elderly man at that time. Well I don't know how old - maybe in the fifties or something. To me he seemed like a really old person. But I always hung his clothes up and dried'em and took'em over there or he'd come and get'em. He never did come over there without sandwiches or oranges or something.

(What kind of bunkhouse did you have to sleep in?)

Well there was five barracks. There was about 200 boys. There was five barracks so they were divided up - about forty in a barracks. They were long and there would be about 20 beds on each side of the aisle. (How did they heat the buildings?) Big stoves. Two big stoves like they used to have in the school, one on each end. (Did they burn coal?) Yeah, burned coal. (So it was somebody's job to shovel coal?) Yeah, well you had to take turns getting coal in at night. You know, wheelbarrow, but we'd always give somebody maybe fifty cents a month. Then two guys would do it all the time. That way they got a little extra money and then you didn't always have to find out when your turn was.

We had inspection every morning. You had to have your bed made nice and clean. You had two pairs of shoes. One pair of shoes had to be at the end of the bed and shined. You couldn't put a dirty pair there or else. And everybody was afraid of extra duty cause that's when you worked in the damn kitchen. (laughs). That was the thing that always come first - that damned weekend kitchen. (laughs) Weekend kitchen or peeling a hundred pounds of potatoes. There were a lot of guys who would get into trouble or stuff. Yeah, that was quite the life. But I really liked it. You got all your dentist work and everything else was free. Clothes was all free. Board and room was free.

You could take up high school in the C's. A lot of kids were in that never had eighth grade. (So then they went to school when they were in the C's?) Oh yeah. You could go to high school, too. There's kids that graduated from Sidney. They come in with two years of high school and they'd finish up in there. Yeah. (Did they have to take classes at night when their other work was done?) Yeah,


they had to go to class in the evening. But they had a pretty good school teacher. They said he was really good - high school teacher.

(Did they have a traveling doctor or dentist that went from camp to camp?) Well, for a long time there they had a regular doctor. Like the doctor and the lieutenants they lived in town. But they had their quarters out there, too. They could stay over night out there if they wanted to. But most of'em drove to town. There was a doctor there for - oh I suppose about six months, but man the lieutenants they didn't want him around there. The doctor was an inspector and he'd come along with the lieutenant in the morning. They'd go through the barracks. He'd stop to see how clean the laundry room was, too. And then one morning the second lieutenant, Lieutenant Sherm, he come over there and he says, "You want to go along with me." He says. "Shut the wash machine off." You can go along with me." I said, "Where are we goin?" And he says, "Out the dump ground." (laughs) And then he had a pistol along so we - oh hell, the dump ground was about a half a mile from camp. So we walked out to the dump ground and he shot a rat. (laughs) We brought her back and then we went into barracks number one and he said, "Which is your bunk?" And I says, "There is my bunk." And then he - we went to work and we laid the rat in my bunk and then with the head on the pillow. And we covered her up and then he says, "In about an hour the doctor is gonna go through for inspection. (laughs) What the hell ever happened, I don't know. But it was on my bunk. (laughs) I thought he was gonna really get me into trouble cause my name was on bunk. (laughs) I asked him, but he just laughed about it. They wanted to get rid of that doctor so bad. He was always saying how dirty it was and it wasn't dirty. It was clean. I don't think that doctor was ever out of New York all his life until he come out there. And I knew the way he acted he wasn't gonna stay very long. (laughs)

I remember one time one of the boys got sick - pneumonia - he really got sick. They had a hospital there, too, but just for minor things, you know. They put him into the hospital in town and then - I was working in the laundry - and then a guy by the name of Montgomery he was running the hospital there just for - well if somebody would get a little cut or whatever it was. The doctor wasn't there any more and then when they took this kid somebody had to be with him because at that time they had these deals that went into the nose you know - oxygen tanks - so he couldn't pull'em out. He had such high fever and stuff. They didn't hire a nurse to be with him so a CC boy had to be with him all the time. And then nobody wanted to run the midnight shift so I told'em I would take it. I was there from twelve to about seven in the morning. Midnight I'd go in there. And the lieutenants would take me in. Then in the morning the lieutenants would pick me up and then we'd have breakfast in town and then go back to camp. But I had the whole day off then. I didn't wash clothes then. A guy by the name of Braden, he was a real good friend of mine. He always washed when I went home on vacation. And the best part was - well they called this kid's parents cause they didn't even figure he'd pull through. Then they come out there and his sister come along. They were in the room there that night with me and then they asked

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if I could talk German and I told'em I don't know how to talk German. (laughs) They kept talking German and I understood everything. (laughs) They asked me if I could understand German. They asked me my name and then they asked me if I was German then I said no. Then they said the name don't sound German. They talked German and I understood every word. (laughs) About four o'clock that morning they left - went to sleep I guess. Then he always wanted to - he'd talk in his sleep - and he always wanted his own bed. He always wanted to go. Well I suppose he didn't know he was saying it. He always wanted to go back to camp. "I want my own bed," he always kept saying all the time. That lasted for about a week or so that I was in at nights.

And man, when he got out of the hospital he was always running around camp. He didn't have to work because he still wasn't too well. He always come over where I was washing clothes. ) He laid around I think over a month that he didn't work in camp. He was really sick. The kid lost all his hair. From fever I guess. Then his hair started growing back curly like you wouldn't believe. (Was it curly before?) No! He had straight hair and he lost all his hair. Man-o-life did he have curly hair. (laughs)

(How often did you get to go home?) Every six months. Yeah. (How did you get home?) Somebody would come and get us. Except one time it was on the 4th of July and then the lieutenant said that nobody's gonna go home for the 4th of July vacation because so many don't come back in time. They stay AWOL - out without leave. And he says there won't be nobody going home. Albert Kreiger was out there from Gackle and then a Greggor and a Barnick from Dawson. It was on a Friday night and we was having supper and the lieutenant come in and said they changed their mind. You can go home for five days. We didn't know how the hell to get home because we never had time to get ahold of nobody - to write. And then this Barnick and Greggor from Dawson says, "We'll go home on the freight train." (laughs) They said whoever wanted to go home on the bus they'd take the truck and take us as far as Glendive and then we can take the bus and go wherever we wanted to go. So we took a bus down there and we went down to the train station and we waited for a freight train to go east. We were there all night. The freight come in and Barnick - he was a kind of a hobo - he knew how to get into the boxcars when they were going and everything. We crawled into a boxcar and we took off and pretty soon he hollers, "Bail out! Jump off! We're goin west." (laughs)

We went uptown and we got a bottle of wine. We was laying on ties down there waitin for the freight train to come in that went east and we was on there all night long and about eight o'clock the next morning, then the freight train come and went east and we climbed on and there was forty some kids. That whole top of the boxcar was all tan. That was such a slow train and we stopped at Bismarck. I don't know how many times we stopped to hook cars and stuff. Then it was about one o'clock that night when we hit Dawson. Then Greggor says that you have to be ready, sometimes the train don't stop at Dawson. (laughs) Goll darn!

The End

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