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More Weight On Men, More Roads Through Forest Show Result of One Camp Month

Now entering their second month of operation, the first two forestry camps established in Franklin county- those at the Erving and the Wendell state forests- present a picture of orderly routine, army training, and bronzed recruits gradually pushing roads through the forests as the preliminary steps to clearing, parking and reforesting these areas.

Developed as part of the President's plan to improve public lands while giving employment to the needy, the reforestation camps while accomplishing much in forestry, have been of importance primarily in developing men. Today youths who came from manufacturing towns of the eastern part of the state, flabby, with undeveloped muscles and sunken chests, have become husky and bronzed, and under the hearty bill of fare the camp cooks provide, there is hardly a man who had not gained weight, and at least one put on 27 pounds since coming to camp.

The work thus far has consisted mainly of opening up the forests by building roads. At Erving the principal occupation has been constructing roads in order that trucks may be able to carry supplies to all parts of the forest when it come time for tree-setting, and also to aid fire-fighting. For those in charge point out, of what avail it is to set out acres of young trees and to develop a first-rate forest only to have it destroyed by fire because there were no roads to permit fire-fighting crews to get to the scene of a blaze?

Heavy Dam Being Built

At Wendell, roads are being built in accordance with a plan to make a state park of the forest, a dam is being constructed to raise the elevation of Ruggles pond and brush is being cleared from among the taller trees. The dam is of stone, 15 feet high, 40 to 60 feet long and eight feet through.

What impresses a visitor, however, is the complete order and system that runs through the camps despite the fact they have been established only five to six weeks. From the layout of tents, cookstoves, storerooms and sanitary arrangements to the discipline and appearance of the recruits one is impressed with the complete order that dominates the camp.

The Erving camp, for example, which, under the command of Capt. M. A. Devine jr., of the cavalry, was rated highest in the New England corps area, displays much shrewdness in the camp layout. Capt. Devine's company was cited a week ago by Maj. Gen. Fox Conner, commander of the first corps areas, "for excellent morale, excellent appearance of camp and for initiative and ingenuity in meeting all conditions."

Grouped on a gently sloping plateau looking across the Millers river into the hills of Wendell, are 10 huge army tents, on the headquarters tent, another the supply tent, and the remaining eight sleeping quarters for the 171 C. C. C. recruits. Just below the plateau and not far from the route 2 highway are the mess tables, cookstoves, cook's store room, refrigerator and officer's tents.

Simplicity and Cleanliness

Simplicity, utility and cleanliness mark the arrangements. Mess tables- out in the open- are rough-sawed lumber boards erected on rustic poles cut from the vicinity. The cookstoves are heavy army stoves burning wood and also out in the open. Nearby is the cook's store room complete even to a mousing cat. A few steps away is the home-made refrigerator the size of a small room, half-buried in a hill-side and half-built up with heavy stone walls around the inner eight-inch sawdust-filled walls. Banked against the outside walls are sod and earth as further insulators.

Sanitation, of course, is one of the serious problems in establishing a new camp of this size and the precautions taken at the Erving site are typical of those made by the army in setting up new quarters. From a stream above any section of the camp, drinking water that is later chlorinated before used, is drawn. The same stream is dammed beside the cookhouse for cooking water that is boiled before used. Below this is a smaller dam and pond for the men to wash in, and yet below this the men use the stream for washing clothes.

Disposing of the refuse is another problem, yet one easily solved. Two large holes upwards of 20 feet deep have been dug in sandy soil. In one the slopwater is dumped and a film of oil kept over it to prevent odors, and keep out flies. In the other, tin cans-crushed to take up less room and burned to remove all traces of food that may spoil and smell- together with ashes from the cookstove are dumped and the whole screened to keep flies out.

Ingenius Shower Bath

Off at one side of the lower plateau screen from public view by a row of cut brush is another bit of ingenuity- the shower bath, consisting of a 50-gallon oil drum set up on a frame seven or eight feet high and draining through an improvised shower nozzle made with a tin funnel, a piece of sheet iron and some solder. The tank is filled by a portable gasoline pump at the side of the brook, a pump also used in sprinkling the roads to lay the dust.

While the routine at the camps varies slightly, that at any one of them is fairly typical. At Erving, for example, it is up at 6, breakfast at 7 to work by 8. At 11:30 the men come in to get ready for dinner, which comes at noon. Then it's back to work by 1 and in to camp at 4:30, with supper at 6.

Meals are inexpensive, the government allowing 30 cents a man per day, but with wholesale buying large quantities of wholesome food can be furnished, and one has only to ask the men what they think of the food and to see how they have put on weight since coming to camp to know that the mess is excellent. Yet it is something of a task to supply so large a crew, and as many as 70 loaves of bread disappear at a meal with surprising quickness.

Here are sample menus of food served this week-end at Erving: Friday supper, potato pie with 40 pounds potatoes, 10 pounds string beans, 10 pounds of tomatoes, 15 pounds meat. sliced peaches, pumpkin, 40 pounds bread, iced tea, the day was hot) and sugar. Saturday breakfast: Creamed beef, oatmeal mush, 200 half pints fresh milk; 40 pounds bread, 8 pounds coffee, 6 pounds sugar, 5 pounds of butter and 100 sliced oranges. Saturday noon dinner: 50 pounds bake beans, 24 pounds cole slaw, one gallon sliced pickles; 40 pounds bread, two pounds butter, eight pounds coffee, and six pounds of sugar and milk.

Mild Discipline

Some discipline, of course, with any such large body of men is necessary, and supervising the recruits is made the more difficult because regular army discipline is not permitted. Yet so well have the recruits been handled that the morale at the two camps in the eastern section of the county seems all that could be asked for. A ready, "Yes, sir" greets officers' instructions and the men will tell you that from the commander down their officers are a fine set. And the officers in turn show unusual confidence and regard for their men.

Discipline necessarily takes a positive turn- passing out rewards rather than severe criticism. Each Saturday morning at both camps there is a full inspection of the men, their tents and the camp as a whole. The men's personal appearance, the cleanliness of the tents, the order of the cots in the tents, how neatly clothes are folded and how clean mess kits are scrubbed are carefully scrutinized. Deficiencies are pointed out, yet at Erving rather than give demerits for the worse tent, a prize is given for the best tent. Through the courtesy of Louis Rosensweig free passes for the Victoria theatre are given each week to the members whose tent wins the highest rating in Saturday inspection. The prize winners are also given a week-end pass, and for these awards there is much [more] competition.

Some inspecting officers also throw a dash of humor into their criticism while avoiding any taint of sarcasm. Thus, an officer who smilingly tells a recruit "Be careful when you shave next you don't cut your throat with those fingernails," gets a smile in return but will be much surprised if at next inspection those long nails have not been cut.

The results of such unforced handling of the men can be seen for Wendell, in addition to Erving, was rated high by the inspecting corps area commander, who cited the Wendell camp "for high morale and excellent relations with surrounding communities."

In order to pass the evenings both camps indulge in sports, particularly baseball and there is much reading, with a special travelling library furnished for the C. C. C. Yet lack of electricity and lights handicaps this diversion. At Wendell camp, where supper is at 5:30 a special program is usually put on at 7 p. m., with a half hour of educational talks followed by community singing. In addition women from nearby towns, including Greenfield, have volunteered to put on entertainment, such as piano playing, and the Turners Falls Rotary club has aided with entertainment, providing much welcome diversion to the routine of a camp located off the beaten roads. Radios in both camps are found to be particularly popular.

Boys who wish to leave camp may do so over the week-end provided they are back by 6 a. m., Monday, and a further leave of one and a third working days a month is granted. Those who come in late must be docked pay, the pay that is docked being from the $5 monthly allowed the boys not the $25 monthly sent home. However, on occasion a recruit who comes in late is permitted to work Saturday afternoons to make up the lost time and the extra hours given as penalty, rather than have his pay docked.

New Buildings

Several new buildings are being erected at both camps, making the quarters more permanent and better fitted for colder weather, with the present six-month enlistments not expiring till about the first of November. Whether the camps will be continued through the winter is not known yet, however. Mess halls and cookrooms are the most needed additions and these are getting the first call. At Wendell the mess hall is being built to permit the showing of moving pictures, which will add much to vary camp life.

The Erving camp, under command of Capt. Devine, has the following other army officers: Lieut. M. F. Wakefield, field artillery; Lt. Thomas L. Willmon, U. S. N., surgeon; and Lieut. E. G. Finnell, chemical warfare division; Officers Reserve corps.

The Wendell camp, under the command of Capt. Hanley, has also on the officers' staff Lieut. Frank S. Spettell of the tank corps; Capt. W. F. Safford, retired, as forest superintendent with Kenneth Clark of Concord, as assistant superintendent of forests.

With Lieut. Willmon, the surgeon taking care of the recruits, prompt aid is available for any accidents and sickness. In addition, dental care is give the men with a dental officer from Fort Devens visiting camp last week and at Erving extracting 90 ulcerated teeth or roots that had long gone neglected. Indeed, it is a characteristic of the camps as a whole- with 250,000 C. C. C. men enlisted in the county- that they are doing much to put youths long idle, back on their feet physically, and to turn them back to society in better trim and better fitted to cary on when work is available.

(c) Pocumtuck Valley Memorial Association, Deerfield MA. All rights reserved.
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This article in the Greenfield Daily Recorder-Gazette shows why the Civilian Conservation Corps was such a popular program in the 1930s. In July of 1933 the CCC camps in the Erving and Wendell State Forests had only been in operation for two months but they were active and well organized. The Reporter describes the Wendell camp's work in the area around Ruggles Pond which is being transformed into a state park. Workers build a stone dam to raise the water level in the pond. The park and dam are still in use today. The article emphasizes the military organization of the camps, which were administered by the War Department. As a result of hard work and discipline, young men "from manufacturing towns in the eastern part of the state, feeble with undeveloped muscles and sunken chests, have become husky and bronzed?"


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"More Weight On Men, More Roads Through Forest Show Result of One Camp" article from the Daily Recorder-Gazette newspaper

publisher   Greenfield Daily Recorder-Gazette
date   Jul 10, 1933
location   Greenfield, Massachusetts
height   19.0"
width   4.0"
process/materials   printed paper, ink
item type   Periodicals/Newspaper
accession #   #L08.045

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See Also...

"Franklin County to get C.C. Corps Camps in Four of State Forests at Once" article from Greenfield Daily Recorder-Gazette paper

"Start New Gypsy Moth Campaign" article from Greenfield Daily Recorder-Gazette newspaper

"For the Softies" editorial from the Greenfield Recorder-Gazette newspaper reprinted from The Holyoke Transcript

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