Reviewing a Lifetime
(A Psychotherapist's Nightmare)
by John D. Sedory

Copyright©2013,2014 by Daniel B. Sedory, Editor. All Rights Reserved.

Chapter 15
High School and a Stint in the CCC


High School, Twice; Don't Ever Quit!

    In the last chapter I wrote about Dorothy coming into our family when I'd nearly completed my freshman year of high school. Since she was born on May 6th, it meant I had approximately a month and a half to go before reaching that most sought-after three month vacation time. When that time came, the new baby sister took up some of the slack hours—though there weren't too many of those—in helping fill what otherwise might have been unproductive hours anyway.

    It wasn't long before the summer months had faded into the past, and the hectic school schedule would soon be starting. Like most years, this happened much too quickly, coming upon me before I was ready for it. One factor made going back a little easier, though. I no longer had to be a lowly freshman. The sophomore title sounded more impressive and uplifting, as it indicated I was now among the people in the know who had "been there before."

    In any case, the first half of the year went well, and I anticipated doing great things. But as I went into the second half of that semester, something went wrong. Was it my classes, teachers, classmates, the clothing I wore? It could have been one or all of these, as I can't extract the exact data from the memory bank. I know I couldn't wait until my sixteenth birthday to arrive. That was the age at which the school board had determined a student could leave without much trouble. In other words, we had to attend school until age sixteen.

    Since times were still rough, and since the potential existed that I might be able to bring additional income into the family coffers, I was granted permission from my folks to leave school. "What a burden off my shoulders! I'll not have to study for classes or meet rigid schedules," I thought. It looked as though I'd made a wise choice.

    However, job hunting proved to be a problem. Most places of employment required a minimum age of eighteen, at least those which had much to offer in earning capacity. So I tried working with Dad at the brickyard, more or less as his helper. For here, too, I wasn't legally qualified to be on the job.

    It didn't take me long to learn that this was a rugged way to earn a living! It was heavy, back-breaking work in tossing bricks or loading boxes or moving rail systems, or in whatever needed doing. These guys were much older than I; yet in the prime of my physical life I couldn't keep up with them. I admired their tenacity and toughness, but that job wasn't for me!

    As the fall semester at high school approached, I'd already come to the conclusion it wouldn't be a bad idea to return. Besides, many outside of my own family gave me the wisdom of their years in advising me I should go back as soon as possible. I really don't think Mom wanted me to quit when I did, and she welcomed the idea of trying again. So back I went!

    I lost about three months of school work when I left in the previous month of March at age sixteen, so better than half of the semester was spent covering subjects I'd already studied. Finishing that half year was no sweat, and I even thought how nice it'd be to become a junior the next fall.

    But there was a certain amount of degradation in returning. My former classmates were now a half year ahead of me, making me feel foolish at times. But in a school which carried around six thousand students constantly, it was a bit easier to blend into the crowd and go unnoticed.

    Before the junior year began, Mom had insisted I get a job at the school to help pay expenses. The offerings were limited to kids in families of need and low income. So that put a label on me right off. As the semester began, I found myself going from room to room emptying pencil sharpeners and erasing chalk from blackboards. This took place between classes and during class sessions. I often had to interrupt (though I tried being careful to draw as little attention to myself as I could) teachers in the middle of lectures or reading by my entry into the rooms. Since some of the kids in the classes knew me from past semesters, they knew I should have been in their class. Yet here I was doing what they knew was low class work given to the more needy and that I was a dropout who'd returned to school. Up until that time I'd already been a prospect for the "couch," but this gave more meaning to lack of self-worth for me. The inferiority complex I suffered reached new heights!

    Into the junior year a month or so, I realized this was going to be the most trying time of my school life (I may have said that while in grammar school, too). I found that my physics class (physical science, I guess) instructor wasn't one who chewed his cabbage twice. If he lectured, you ought to have it down pat. But I not only didn't have it down pat, I didn't have it at all! The initial class was one in which he'd demonstrated that air had weight by heating a metal sphere into which air had been pumped. He weighed the metal ball before and after the heating process. It did come out lighter when heated due to the expansion, and I thought this was going to be a fun class.

    In the first two years I'd come to love mathematics, algebra, and geometry. I figured the third year class would be a snap for me. However, this was the year in which one was required to take trigonometry and calculus (or it may have been one or the other). This was extremely different from the ordinary mathematics, algebra and geometry, I'd known in the past. So here was added a second class which was going to give me trouble, I figured.

    English was the other subject at which I did real well the first two years. But this third year got into English Literature or some other study foreign to me and difficult to understand. I thought, "This is it! I can't hack it! I may as well drop out (I'd had the experience before) and put all this stuff behind me, then I won't have to face the possibility of humility should I stay and fail in any of this."

    Friends (hopefully a student or two whom I'd like to influence), this had to be one of the greatest mistakes of my young life! I did make other mistakes in years that followed, but I'm of the opinion this one was high on the list of the "biggies." Even if you are older in years and had contemplated returning to some course of study, do it! It's never too late to start over again, but once you've dropped out, it's also harder to go back. I ended up with a GED after I got out of the U.S. Navy, having studied some courses under the Armed Forces Institute to assist in getting it. A GED, by the way, is a test based on a standard for high school seniors measuring educational achievement. It's not like the real thing, though!

    In years that followed I attended three different colleges, taking a couple of courses at a time (while working full time jobs). At the last college they received transfers from the other two. Gads! They shaved off so many hard-earned credit hours it slew me. I ended up with about a year's college (or a bit less maybe) credit. The last year I attended was 1969 (and this, too, is getting ahead of myself).

    After the second high school dropout, I was seventeen. I thought it'd be easier to get a job than it was on my first try at sixteen. Wrong! It still read as it did before, "Applicants must be 18 or over." "What now? I'm out of school, am not helping the folks with added income, I feel useless" were my inward thoughts. "Guess I'll have to take anything that comes my way," I mused. And that's what my job turned out to be.

    I had never been inclined "domestically," nor was I one who cared to even work around the house. Some might consider this chauvinistic in attitude, though there are probably women who feel the same way toward that occupation. Ironically, the job description consisted of window cleaning, wall washing, floor scrubbing, venetian blind cleaning (a torturous, laborious drudgery invented by Satan himself), and painting. These were apartments where less-than-happy tenants often contributed to the difficulty of the job by their neglect. Dirt and crud which remains intact on surfaces for longer periods of time can be most stubborn in resisting removal. After a couple months, or less, of that I decided there had to be an easier way.

    I know I tried a couple other short term jobs, but what they were is inextricable from that place in which they supposedly exist—that area located between the ears. Whatever those jobs were, they couldn't have made much of an impression.

History Lessons

    School was over for me, jobs weren't available due to my age, and money wasn't coming in. "Where do I go from here?" I wondered. It must have been the Good Lord who stepped in and said, "Look at this article in the newspaper. This is something you should consider." No, that isn't exactly the way it happened; but if a Christian looks to the Lord for assistance and direction, He has His ways of directing people—if nothing more than by thought pattern.

    Whether the illustration given is the way it really was, I'm not positive. I do feel wherever it was I'd seen or heard of the CCC, the Civilian Conservation Corps, it was God's direction for me at that time. Here was the opportunity to work, earn a little, have all expenses paid, and the chance to travel and learn something new. And I'd not be [an] added expense to my folks.

    Before I progress into that story, I should relate that it was 1940. Hitler had been trying to add to his empire by ravishing other countries in Europe[1]. Heads of other nations either took an "ostrich-in-the-sand" approach, or they did nothing about that terribly unjust conqueror. "None of our business"; "Let's keep out of it"; these, and similar other conclusions had been reached. Hitler had determined to make his goal that of taking whatever he could in order to make or build the greatest of all empires. These other countries would then become satellite nations from which he could gain great wealth and power, taking the best of their natural resources, industry and farming enterprises.

    In the United States and Great Britain, 1939 was the year steps were being taken to stop this madman. Great Britain was already involved in the conflict; for Germany attempted to bomb them into submission. Hitler underestimated their determination and resourcefulness! Some U.S. citizens volunteered for service in Great Britain's armed forces, while the U.S. began its own conscription program shortly afterward.

    Charlie Krizek and I went through seven years of elementary school at the Little Red Schoolhouse[2] together. He may have been the one who advised me of the newspaper article about the CCC opportunity, having an interest himself. We learned there were six month enlistment hitches, that the pay was a dollar a day and "all you could eat," and complete housing and medical care. We decided we'd go for it. Naturally, I needed my parent's consent. To my surprise, there was no resistance to speak of, even from Mom, and Charlie and I enlisted.

My Time in the C's

    Well, here I was in the CCC. We wore army khaki, we were military in structure, we were being trained for various jobs (dissimilar from those of the army), and what better place to try recruiting into the U.S. Army? When I wrote home asking Mom if she and Dad would consider allowing me to join the army, the answer came back with no uncertain terminology. "No way, Jose!" As I was still only seventeen, I needed their permission to leave the CCC to join the army. They couldn't see why I should jeopardize my life when, in their opinion, it was unnecessary to do so. I suppose I thought of joining as being something exciting, rather than dangerous. My thinking revealed my immaturity, that of a seventeen year old who'd let emotion rule over common sense.

    The purpose of the CCC was for building, repairing, maintenance, etcetera. But the army's objectives usually deal with mass destruction of property and life. Admittedly, the army is also a deterrent to wars which bring about those things! But here I was thinking of joining an organization whose objectives could be quite the opposite of the one I was already in!

    At this point I should explain the army enlistment attempt. A recruiter was sent to our camp (and, I suppose, to all CCC camps) with the idea of enlisting as many men as he could. After all, this was a government sponsored program, so why not capitalize on it! That's when I'd asked of my folks if they'd sign a release allowing me to join the army. It was just shortly after I'd arrived at the CCC camp as I recall, but it could have been later on.

    Now I need to backtrack to how Charlie and I got to our camp before all this army recruitment stuff got into the picture.

    Charlie and I had hoped to be sent way out west somewhere, but instead we were sent to Wisconsin, the adjoining state to ours. The train ride there was interesting, the trip only taking something like eight hours or so. It was only three hundred to three hundred fifty miles to Minocqua/Woodruff, but lots of stops were made in between. On arrival we immediately liked what we saw, a nice little friendly town, pine trees all over the place and a clean-cut environment.

    At the station was a driver who was waiting to take us to Camp Blue Lake, a distance of ten miles or so. It was situated off the highway about three to four miles, abutting a small lake from which it received its name. The road leading to the camp was located between the towns of Minocqua and Woodruff. It looked to us like what an army camp would look like, even the guys walking around in khaki uniforms. Barracks were neatly separated and in a symmetrical pattern. The various other buildings included the commander's quarters, mess hall, supply shack, a medical shack, canteen, garages for company vehicles, etc.

    Soon after reaching camp processing began. Paperwork had to be completed, clothing issued, billeting assigned, etcetera. When this was completed, we were fed our first "away from home" meal in that military atmosphere. From there it was back to our barracks to meet the barrack's leader and others quartered there. Enough had been done and experienced by then to give us time to reflect upon where we were and whether or not we'd made a wise decision. I think a little homesickness may have set in, too.

    It was October, 1940. By that time of the year Northern Wisconsin can get pretty chilly—downright cold, for that matter. Wouldn't you know this was one of those years where winter got its start earlier than usual? Earlier than it did in the Chicagoland area at least. Therefore some adaptation was required to adjust. Charlie and I learned to put on some extra T-shirts and shorts so we could keep up with those who were better adjusted to such weather. After all, we were just like city slickers compared with some of the guys!

    It didn't take very long from the time we were billeted until we found what our first assignments were to be. Mine was "Roadside Cleanup." I forget what Charlie's was. But from that point in time we went our separate ways, not so much by choice but by assignment. Up until we got out of the six month hitch, there was only one time we were in the same work group.

    If you've ever driven along highways where bushes and trees lined the road, you may have noticed overgrowth, dead foliage and all kinds of litter which has been blown into and under it. Motorists sometimes use their open windows as a huge trash can and toss anything and everything conceivable through them. That's where lots of the trash comes from. Our job on roadside cleanup was to pick up all the junk, trim trees and remove dead or broken branches, and just about the same with bushes. In the overly thickened spots, we'd remove some of the growth to give remaining foliage a chance to survive. This procedure also added eye appeal to the scenery.

    Axes, heavy duty hedge-type trimmers, hatchets, shovels, rakes and "you-name-it" tools were used. In time, with proper instruction, everyone on the job learned how to use every tool available to us. This was not an easy way to earn the dollar-a-day we were paid! When the word "Take five" was given, men (boys?) could be seen collapsing to the ground right where they'd been working. I guess some were not too prepared for labor on that level.

    Roadside cleanup was a hard job—until I got to compare it with "scalping." This work was not intended for anyone with back problems or muscle-aching tendencies. The idea was to chop out or away approximately two foot squares of sod about six feet or so apart. The distance to the next chopping site was such that it didn't pay to straighten up to get to it. How many steps can one take in just six more feet or so? The trouble with that procedure, in trying to keep up with those aligned on either side and not straightening up while moving forward, a tremendous strain was imposed upon one's back. It became nearly impossible after a day's work to just get up and call it a day. Time had to be taken to gradually get the system back to normal. Hands, too, soon began to ache and burn and throb as raw skin, blisters and—eventually—calluses formed. Did I say roadside cleanup was hard work? It was fun and games compared with scalping!

    The tool used for scalping was a wooden handle much like an ax with a blade attached which was at right angles to the handle. The blade was flat and perhaps twelve inches across. Let's say it was a short-handled hoe, though with a heavier blade. It wouldn't bother me one bit if I never saw another of those things!

    Anything which causes such physical and mental stress should have some real good purpose. Scalping was merely removing the more impenetrable surface of the ground so trees could be planted. This was handled by our tree-planting crews which followed closely behind. I never tried getting on that crew, as I thought of it as being little better than scalping.

    "Any change from the scalping crew—outside of tree planting—would sure be appreciated," I dreamed. But little did I know this change was coming my way. The weather had turned very cold, and lakes froze. A Civilian older man named Hank (I don't know his last name) was a crew chief as a result of his wisdom and knowledge acquired from living his life in the woods. He was said to be looking for a man to assist him in Lake Surveying on the lakes and streams crew. In speaking with Hank about the job, the earmarks of a good friendship were present. So Hank applied the proper influence in the right direction, and the job was mine.

    Not only did lakes freeze, but they became huge sheets of ice and snow, as that wonder of nature (by God's design) fell freely. I'd soon be learning how to assist Hank and his other crew members while learning what lake surveys were all about. The frozen lakes had provided me with a new opportunity!

    When local, state and federal maps of lakes are charted, the data used is that supplied by the lakes and survey crews. Holes eight to ten inches in diameter are chopped in the ice so many feet apart. This takes place over the entire lake, including the area near to the shore. Heavy metal plumbs with hollow ends are attached to lines which have depth markings on them. When the bottom is reached (this is determined when slack appears in the line, though it can also be felt), the depth reading is recorded as is the type of bottom (mud, sand, clay, silt, etc.). What this does in effect is to give those charting the maps which follow from this data an opportunity to show the slope of the bottom, the various depths and the type of material at the bottom in the various locations.

    Now that I've told you what the crew did and why they did it, let me tell you what my job was. "Pencil-pushing" was what Hank called it. I merely recorded all readings of depth and types of bottom materials! One problem. It could get very, very cold on those lakes, so while standing and waiting for the next reading, the red stuff in the circulatory system began thickening due to lack of exercise. Or worse yet, no exercise (except to walk to the next hole). So I got colder and colder as the day went on. On occasion I was allowed to do some chopping so I could try thawing the ice in my system.

    Maybe my biggest task came when we reached a lake with heavy blankets of snow cover, a lake on which we had to trek for sometimes miles to reach our starting point. Lifting each leg, putting it down, drawing the other up so forward progress could be made; these maneuvers became strenuous exercise beyond what one would wish for. Then when lunch time came, the same trip had to be made back to the truck for chow time. The driver of the truck would drop us off (it was great distances from our camp usually) and head back to camp to return hot meals to us. Lunch and breaks came too infrequently and were too short in duration, as you might imagine.

    The lunch period (chow time) over, it was back to the last spot surveyed and settling down to the shoveling, chopping, plumb-dropping and recording for the remainder of the afternoon.

    The thickness of the ice often reached as much as two to three feet, so those chopping the holes had to change off to give themselves a rest. In those days water in the lakes was safe to drink as it was, and Hank often drank from the holes and related how good tasting it was.

    As much as I liked the pencil-pushing job on the lakes and streams crew, on days when the wind chill factor reached less than 35 degrees below zero we had to go out for the day. It was not pleasant or comfortable, unless you're one who enjoys frozen feet, hands and face. So I was on the lookout for another change again. Looks like I didn't stick to jobs very long, doesn't it?

    Before I get into my last two jobs in the C's, I want to cover the Deer Drives we took part in. As I recall, the whole camp's crew became involved in it, as it took a lot of personnel to accomplish the task. Deer-driving was a method of getting an approximate count of deer living in a large given area of wooded land. A long row of men lined up along a highway, men who were spread apart as much as a hundred feet or so. The same situation existed on the opposite side of the drive, but those men had the chore of walking forward while keeping the man on either side in view. It would have been very easy to get lost in those dense woods and swampy lands and fields.

    As we walked, we would chase anything in front of us toward the men awaiting the deer along the highway in order to count them. I know they were only to be counted if they came through on either one's right or left. Those hikes through those woods sometimes got very scary, for who would want to meet a bear who didn't decide to run or take refuge? And who would want to find he couldn't see a man on either side and that he was lost?

    Stories were told by those awaiting the deer to come out of the woods that some came through the line at such speed, they literally jumped the full width of the highway in one bounding leap! And others reported having deer headed right at them—until the deer spotted them and made a decision that they couldn't go back because of those behind who were chasing him, and yet they didn't want to get that close to a human, so they opted to vault right over them. Some experience for both the deer and the men!

    In the lakes and streams crew story I forgot to report that back at the camp we had what was called the "ice house." Ice would be useful for the summer and warmer months, but it had to be stored properly to last for any length of time. So we built that ice house out of railroad ties, carrying one at a time. Those babies are not light, either! I know. I carried more than my share. It was quite a distance from the place they were picked up to where the ice house was to be built, so one would have plenty of time to think about dropping that one off and having to head back for another. I would never have wanted anyone to know this was an almost inhuman physical task. As long as others were doing it, I'd keep up until I collapsed—if necessary.

    Eventually the ice house was built with those railroad ties, and some sort of caulking was placed between them to form a good seal. Now it was time to get the ice to put in it.

    I remember there was some sort of sawing device used to cut the ice into cubes right out on the lakes, but it escapes me as to what it was. The moving of those cubes to trucks and then from the trucks to the ice house was another manual, one-at-a-time thing. No shortage of manual labor every existed in our camp! The cubes were carefully separated with straw which was stuffed all over the place, especially well-packed along the outer walls. That's where summer suns would be most likely to attack the ice. It must have worked, as this was supposed to be the method employed by people in those areas.

    When the first snows fell I'm not sure. But it could have been as early as November, and surely by early December. But when it came, it came bountifully! Difficulty in trying to walk around in camp was even common. So we were taught how to use snow shoes. The idea was good, but learning to use them was almost impossible. Some chose to continue struggling through the snow or even crawling through it rather than using the snow shoes. I was one of them. But it was an experience I'm glad I had a chance to have. This same dilemma came when we were able to try our skills at learning to ski. Maintaining a standing posture while coming down a hill (without falling) also never became a sport at which I cared to continue trying.

    The next to my last job in the C's was offered to me, but by whom, I forgot. I know when I heard of it, I was gung-ho to go for it! As I think about it, it may have been our barracks leader who led me to that one.

    Maybe the title of it was something like Quartermaster. I was to take over the disbursement of clothing and all sorts of supplies. Little did I know when taking the job I'd be subjected to so much dishonesty and conniving from the men in the camp. Everybody became my "buddy." Each wanted something to which he was not entitled or qualified to receive. Of course there were those who were legitimately in need and who got those things from me. But those others made the job one where if I didn't cooperate, I was going to lose my "good guy" image. I chose to have it that way rather than to give in to those guys. But in the mean time I was suffering feelings of guilt and animosity toward some of the men, and it made me decide I'd look for something else. Exactly how long I had the job, I'm not certain. It was one which gave a certain amount of dignity and respect. And it did mean warm quarters in which to work and clean surroundings. But what went with it wasn't worth it to me, especially when I learned there were those who sold supplies outside of camp.

Christmas, 1940

    It was before Christmas when Charlie and I got a leave (think it was for a week). We decided the cheapest way to make it was by hitch-hiking. The first ride took us pretty well on our way toward Illinois, but from there the rides got shorter and more frequent. Since time was a factor, we became concerned as to whether there'd be any time left to visit family and friends before we'd have to head back for camp. The last ride took us to Waukegan, Illinois, the town in which Jack Benny was born. It was on the North Shore of Lake Michigan, an extravagant area. From there it became simpler to make it home to the West Suburbs of Chicago.

    As time had taken its toll, Mom and Dad decided they'd have to drive us back to camp, thus allowing us more time to spend at home. The Chrysler (either a '37 or '38) was serviced at a local gas station for the trip, and we got underway. Brother Phil was enlisted to do the driving, along with myself.

    When the car was serviced, Dad asked that everything be checked for the long trip (long in those days). So the mechanic even changed the differential oil.

    As we got into Wisconsin, probably just north of Madison, we noticed a sound which made us think a police car was around with its siren on. No police car could be seen, yet the noise persisted. As we traveled along, it got louder and louder. We stopped in Stevens Point to look for an auto repair shop, which we had difficulty in finding because it was a Saturday. Finally we found one open and drove in.

    After just a short time on the hoist, the mechanic came back with the bad news. "Your rear end (better known as the differential) is almost red hot due to having the lubricant removed from the hole where the drain plug is supposed to be. I don't have the parts on hand. I'd have to order them from...." It was a city distant from that location and was going to take a few days to get them. So Dad asked if this guy thought we could make it up to the Minocqua/Woodruff area if he refilled the differential with oil, as we couldn't wait that long for parts. He didn't know. But it was all we could do, so off we went again, noise and all! A job poorly done in Illinois was causing all this havoc! I knew I wouldn't have wanted to be the mechanic who'd be getting it from Dad when he got back home!

    Just north of Stevens Point to about Merrill there's a reservoir and river which border and go under the highway (Route 51) at various locations. The storm had been building as we traveled, and winds had trees blowing almost horizontal to the surface. Other debris and water were swept onto the windshield so we could scarcely see anything. In a way, it may have been some sort of blessing, for it temporarily took our minds off the whining differential. Though when crossing bridges which had water covering the highway, and not knowing if we were getting in too deep, the blessing didn't exactly occur to us.

    This had to turn out to be a most costly trip for my folks, and I don't recall now if they ever got satisfaction from that mechanic back in Illinois or not. I know Charlie and I (along with everyone else in the car) were nervous wrecks by the time we got back to camp.

    As Charlie and I made our farewells, Phil and the folks headed back home not knowing if the car would hold up. This fact had me feeling guilty for having gone home at all and being the cause of this calamity. In time I heard from home that they made it back without much more difficulty than we'd experienced when going up to camp. What a relief!

    As I ponder that leave and the time it took to get home (wasn't that much time, actually), I realize I must have been incorrect in calling it a week's leave. It had to be no more than three days, and that's why my folks decided to take us back.

    The storm reported earlier was written up in a newspaper or magazine as having been one of the most severe to have ever hit the area. So strong had those winds been that (and this is not Ripley's Believe It Or Not) segments of straw were said to have been found imbedded in tree trunks. I didn't think such a thing was possible, but that's what it said! And that ain't hay!

    Though I've become rather "windy" in covering my experiences in the C's, I must close this chapter out with my last assignment in camp.

    Charlie had been working as a "steward," I believe the job title was called. He served the officers (and, by the way, there were officers other than just the commander) their meals. He told me he had access to the better foods and drinks as a steward and that I should try getting in. Since what I'd heard appealed to my inner self, I applied. But low and behold, instead of becoming a steward, I was made an ordinary KP (kitchen police). That's the kind who washes all the dirty dishes, pots and pans, and utensils, along with the mess hall itself! Greed for something better did me in this time, but I learned to accept the job as something I could do and stayed on at it.

Job Offer

    Just before my six month hitch was nearing its end, my folks sent a letter to our commanding officer stating that they wanted to have my hitch shortened by that little time remaining, as they had acquired a job offer for me, and it couldn't be put off. As it turned out, I was released (kind of sad in a way to leave before the full hitch was completed, even if it was only a matter of a couple weeks or less). I'll explain about the job next, but I want to insert some things that happened while still at camp.

Could have froze to death!

    Almost every weekend, maybe every other one at least, we were granted passes to go to torn. The truck took us to Minocqua, the closest town of any size to speak of. The driver had instructions to drop us off and to return at a designated hour. If one missed the truck returning to camp, there was only one way to get back—on foot, maybe about twelve miles or so.

    On my first pass I learned to hang around with others who stayed close to our barrack's leader. He was a good looking guy, but that made him a "ladies man" of ill repute (from his own confessions). It was while on that first pass that I was introduced to wine as a low cost way to enjoy one's self. It went down pretty well, but it made me sick. In or around that same time period I'd been convinced a man looked more mature if he smoked cigarettes. So I took to that bad habit as well, though it, too, made me feel less than wonderful.

    So, wouldn't you know, the wine and showoff smoking led to walking all over town trying to impress people, especially girls. And in so doing, a bunch of us missed the truck pickup. It was Saturday night and we didn't have to be back to camp until Monday a.m. early. The barrack's leader sort of took over at that point and suggested we all go to the railroad siding area where freight trains were standing idle and that we could get into one of them and get some sleep and still not freeze to death. So we tried it.

    When we finally located a boxcar where we could get the door open, we all jumped inside. We found large sheets of a packing-type paper and cardboard attached to the sides of the car. So we began pulling off what we could with the intent of using it as blanketing. Enough material had been extricated to use for covering for everyone (don't recall exactly how many of us there were, probably twelve to fifteen), but try as we did, it just didn't warm us at all! I guess the alcohol in the wine wore off and no longer acted as antifreeze[3].

    No sleep; freezing; feeling pain; what next? The leader (I began to dislike this guy by now) determined we'd have to do the only thing left as an option—walk back to camp! The temperature was probably between ten to fifteen degrees, maybe less. The camp was a good twelve miles or so away. It was about 2:00 a.m. and getting colder by the minute, it seemed. So away we went!

    Some of the alcohol had still kept us from feeling the full extent of that cold night, but the longer we walked, the more we noticed how cold it had become. The darkness revealed objects which all appeared to us to be bears or some other wild animals which would overtake us, and each image definitely moved. If you have ever stood at the side of a casket viewing a departed relative or friend for a long period of time, it's inevitable you'll swear you caught a glimpse of movement from the corpse. We saw movement!

    There was still time to sleep in (it was now Sunday a.m.) and to try to catch up on lost sleep after we made it back to camp. We'd survived all those bears and other animals all the way home, and we'd had exercise unlimited. If this was fun, I didn't want any more of it. No truck-missing events would again be in my plans!


    The final C's story occurred as a result of a job I'd had where we worked with prickly bushes of some sort (maybe it was roadside cleanup), and some had gotten into my right hand. I noticed my hand had swelled as though infected, and I figured it'd go away on its own. It didn't. It got so bad I'd developed a high fever which affected my respiratory system somehow, and I was sweating profusely, then freezing. My breathing was labored and worried me (and the barrack's leader). So, since the infirmary's officer was not in camp, and the guy who took his place to handle minor things didn't know what to do, the guys in our barracks began piling blankets on top of me. The idea was to have me "sweat it out." Eventually it did work, and the fever left me. The swelling persisted for a time, and a big red mark was visible on the back of my hand. I have the red mark even today.

    As with other occurrences in my life (like leaving my ship's crew in 1945), it was with mixed emotions I left the C's. I would be away from the regimentation and the demand imposed by it, but I'd miss the guys with whom I'd become acquainted. And what did I know about jobs on the outside? How did I know what to expect of this wonderful job which was ready made for me? After all, I didn't even participate in deciding if I was interested in it. Well, be that as it may, I was stuck with it and had to get on with life.


Chapter 14


Chapter 16


1[Return to Text]  The following is a brief summary of the conflicts between major powers before the US was attacked by Japan; there are numerous battles, even invasions of countries in Asia, that are not listed here (it could take months of reading to gain a proper understanding of all that led up to and was involved in what we call WWII; this Timeline of WWII could be helpful):

  In 1937, Japan invaded China, and even parts of the Soviet Union in 1938; a cease-fire accord was signed between them in 1939, shortly before the Soviets joined Germany in attacking Poland, but also because the Japanese troops attacking Mongolia were defeated.
  In March, 1938, Germany occupied and then annexed Austria. On October 1, 1938, Germany annexed the Sudetenland of Czechoslovakia; with troop occupation. (Note: At the same time, Polish troops occupied and annexed Zaolzie - what had been part of Silesia.) On March 14, 1939, Slovakia declares its independence. The next day, Germany occupies Bohemia and Moravia; effectively ending the existence of Czechoslovakia.
  World War II began when Germany invaded Poland on September 1, 1939; the very first action being the shelling of the Polish garrison at Westerplatte in the Baltic Sea port of Danzig (today Gdańsk) by the WWI German battleship Schleswig-Holstein. On September 17th, the Soviet Union also invaded Poland from the east. The Soviet Union also moved troops into Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania (none having the means to fight the USSR), but had to invade Finland in November, 1939. In April of 1940, Germany invaded Denmark and Norway, and on May 10, 1940, invaded France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Luxembourg. On June 10th, France was also invaded by Italy. Also in June, 1940, the Soviet Union annexed Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; which did not become free republics again, until September, 1991, after the fall of the Soviet Union. On October 28, 1940, Italy invaded Greece. On November 20th, Hungary, Romania and Slovakia join the Axis powers. On March 1, 1941, Bulgaria joined the Axis powers. In April, Germany invaded Yugoslavia and Greece.   On June 22, 1941, Germany (later joined by Finland on the 25th) attacked the Soviet Union.   And of course, the United States was attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, on that 'Day of Infamy', Sunday, December 7th, 1941.
  On December 8th, 1941, the US declared war on Japan, but did not declare war on Germany and Italy until the 11th of December, after those countries first did so against the US.

2[Return to Text]  Charlie and all the other kids who attended the 'Little Red Schoolhouse' with the author are listed in Appendix F. Also see Footnote 3 of Chapter 2.

3[Return to Text]  A completely false idea! Drinking alcohol in very cold weather often hastens death due to hypothermia, because it makes someone feel warmer when in fact they are increasing the heat loss from their vital organs. Everyone in this group should have been very thankful they were not drunk enough to fall asleep, since they may never have woke up!