Interviewer: Maria Schleidt
Interview Date: June 5, 1993
Transcribed by: Mim Eisenberg/WordCraft; July 2013
Listen: Read Transcript
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
U.S. FOREST SERVICE, REGION 8
Interview with: Emory James and William (“Red”) Smith
Interviewed by: Melissa Twaroski
Date: June 5, 1993
Transcribed by: Mim Eisenberg/WordCraft; July 2013
MELISSA TWAROSKI: This is an interview with Mr. Emory James and Mr. William Smith for the DeSoto [National Forest] Oral History Program, by Melissa Reems [her maiden name]. We are at Mr. Smith’s home, and it’s June 5th, 1993, about 1:20 in the afternoon. What I want to start with is try to get the time before the CCs. I try to want to get a picture for people to know what the environment was like when you were small. You said you remembered the big timber in the forest and how the logging industry and the turpentine industries came in and what they did. So if you can kind of give me some things from there.
EMORY JAMES: [Stall woods? 1:00]. Called them stall woods, coming in. They set up right down here where [unintelligible; 1:06] house, about two, three miles south of here. And they [hung? 1:14] that Blodgett Timber coming in, Blodgett, and come in there and set up there and [unintelligible; 1:22] all the timber. That was the year 1924, winter of ’24. And they run it four or five years, and then the Piave Lumber Company come in, and they started with the [bubba lines? 1:41]. And they cut this big timber, [unintelligible; 1:45] like we cut today [unintelligible; 1:47]. They wasn’t through with it. But they logged big skidders, four-line skidders that [tied? 1:57] the railroad track, and these big horses weighed about 1,400, and they had britches on these horses, hooked that chain cable in them britches. And [unintelligible; 2:12] that thing and [unintelligible; 2:13] that cable back, and the man would get the cable in and hook it to a log and drag it back. And that skidder would bring whatever would come with it. And all this [unintelligible; 2:24]. And they was just as open—you could just see for miles through [yonder. Some hill cut you off? 2:31].
TWAROSKI: Do you want to say something about how the environment was when you were younger?
WILLIAM SMITH: Yeah. Well, basically the same thing. Of course, I was—I was at [unintelligible; 2:47] County, but the same thing happened there with Long-Bell Logging [sic; Lumber] Company. Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Long-Bell_Lumber_Company. And they logged it out to down to where it wasn’t anything much. And that was when I was just a small kid. By the time I got here, I was about big enough to work. Everything was cut out, so there was nothing much to do. You could cut a little, few cross ties and stuff like that, and paper wood or [pulp? 3:14] wood. Back then, pulp wood [unintelligible; 3:17] because they’d cut it and make [shuttles? 3:20] with cotton mills.
And so by the time I got grown, [unintelligible; 3:31] cut out and moved out, and there wasn’t nothing hardly to do, so about all that was left in there was just [forming? 3:37] a little bit and get out and chop a few cross ties. Once in a while, they’d get [unintelligible; 3:42], something like that. And then there was a [unintelligible; 3:48] mill put up in there, because they didn’t cut much hardwood then as they did. That little old mill they set up cut cross ties [unintelligible; 4:00] and stuff like that.
So it was pretty hard for me back then, and young people growing up. So, of course, when I got eighteen—well, then this come along about a year or two before I was eighteen, but, like I said, I saw the fellows going into CC camp come out and tell about it, and I couldn’t hardly wait till my time, till I got eighteen to get in, see? Which I did. And it was—for me, it was one of the best things that ever happened. I mean, it gave me a job, the work I had to do, and [unintelligible; 4:44], too. And just a lot of things.
I can remember my dad would try to buy a place. We didn’t own my home then. We just rent here and there, or we just farmed, a little sharecrop, one thing or another. But by the time that I left home to come in there, it was twenty-five dollars of my money each month went to my mother and dad. There’s nine of us in the family, so—but before I got—[Telephone rings.]—married, why, I’d taken—[Telephone rings.]—I’d sort of take the money that they was getting, and—they finished paying the place out, so they had a home, so that meant a lot to them, which they—it’s still [unintelligible; 5:38] in the family today.
Of course, I got in there, and the things that I learned while I was in camp has helped me all down through the ages. And this part of the country [unintelligible; 5:51]. You could see for miles. There was no—nothing much. And so I learned to work, and this thing—I worked as a mechanic in there, which I didn’t know anything about. I was in charge of generating the lights, pumping water, and I had two Jeep, two Army trucks. I didn’t work on them except little minor things. But I just was supposed to see that the other fellows were taking care, kept it clean, stuff like that.
So it—then I learned to do mechanic work, electrical work and so on. And so it’s meant a lot all the way through. And every place I ever went, why, it’s helped me. Most of the time, I’d always be a foreman or a leader in any of the jobs that I did get from [unintelligible; 6:47] till I retired. Of course, [unintelligible; 6:53] loafed around [unintelligible; 6:55] whenever I first come down here, you know? I went in Little Creek Swamp up there, and I found a million dollars in there. And so I brought it back out with me. And for that million, they had me create five more million.
SMITH: So [unintelligible; 7:13].
TWAROSKI: Mr. James, would you kind of give us some personal background about, you know, your family and your life before the CCs?
JAMES: Well, there was ten of us children, my grandmother, [unintelligible; 7:39], and one hired hand lived with us, so that made fourteen sit down at the table and [unintelligible; 7:46]. And I was the oldest boy. One girl is older than I am. And the first job I got was fifty cents a day for six days a week, in full daylight till after dark, [unintelligible; 8:04] cross ties. I had to [cut the timber over? 8:06]. Each and every day, we put a high of 250 million out here where a truck would get them or a pair of mules, me and another black man. And that’s how [unintelligible; 8:18] fifty cents a day.
Well, I didn’t [unintelligible; 8:24], that kind of played out, and he was logging. And I went—he had a team, getting hardwood, like [Red? 8:28] said. They didn’t cut nothing but the pine timber, and he was in there getting the hardwood timber. When I got a promotion, I went [unintelligible; 8:36] and driving a team, driving [unintelligible; 8:40], a four-yoke team. That’s all we had. We didn’t use no wagon; we’d dump it out where a truck could get it. I made seventy-five cents a day. [Then I went into money then? 8:46], made me money. Yeah.
But, see, Mama gave me the grocery bill till I could give it to Daddy, but I [unintelligible; 8:56]. If I had a nickel left, I could buy my girl a pack of gum, but if I didn’t have a nickel left, she’d [unintelligible; 9:05]. We just raised that-a-way. But whenever you got big enough to eat—if we’re eating breakfast at five o’clock, everybody eat. Daddy would get up in the morning. He’d go feed the mules. He’d get up and do the [forest walk? 9:22] later, in the wintertime. And [he had to build a new stove? 9:23]. [unintelligible; 9:27] shoes on, he’d call Mama. When she’s was in the kitchen, he went and [paid it? 9:32].
When he come back in the house, he went to the boys’ room door, and he says, “All right, boys,” and we all know what it meant. Went to the girls’ room door. He said, “All right, girls,” and he went on. He did not have to come his hair; he was bald-headed. But we had to comb ours. And when he got out of that [unintelligible; 9:54], he was looking for a boy’s [hand? 9:54] to be in that [unintelligible; 9:57]. He [unintelligible; 9:59] call a second time. [He never would make nobody to give it up. ? 10:00]. [unintelligible; 10:03] no trouble [unintelligible; 10:03]. Now I can’t get them up. And that’s the difference in life back then and life today. “Oh, I can’t get my young [unintelligible; 10:11] to go to school.” [unintelligible; 10:16]. But if [unintelligible; 10:16], he got up.
I remember my older sister and all—the sister down the line, next to the [baby? bigger?] sister—married. Her old man come in that morning. [unintelligible; 10:31]. I been married [unintelligible; 10:30]. And on about ten o’clock that morning, [unintelligible; 10:35] went home, your mom was in the kitchen frying eggs and bacon. I said, “Mama, what in the world are you doin’?” Well, [unintelligible; 10:47] today and never got up. You had [unintelligible; 10:49] in here fixing some breakfast. They’re getting up. I [unintelligible; 10:52] we’re not starting that now. [unintelligible; 10:54]. You don’t want to eat breakfast, [unintelligible; 10:56], [unintelligible; 10:56] eat about the same time.
But, yeah, “In your old age you’re cooking [unintelligible; 11:02]? Now, Mama, you’re gonna quit that right now.” They was hearing me, and I didn’t care because that’s just the way it was. And the old man [unintelligible; 11:13]. Mama [unintelligible; 11:14] breakfast. [Chuckles.] “Hey, you gotta have meat.”
TWAROSKI: How did you come to join the CCCs?
JAMES: Well, [unintelligible; 11:26] started, you had to have fifteen [unintelligible; 11:26] known as LEM, local experienced men. I didn’t get in the first call, but three of them dropped out. They wouldn’t stay. Then they [unintelligible; 11:38]. One got me and [Elmo? Elmer? Burr? 11:39] and Wilson Dunham’s brother. What’s his name?
JAMES: [Theodore] “Dory” Dunham. We come here and filled the three spots.
TWAROSKI: What did LEMs do?
JAMES: Well, we was local experienced men, like truck driving or grading machines or Caterpillar, something like that. You see, [unintelligible; 12:04] leaders to [help these boys? 12:04]. And get out, see? And we had to be on under quarantine two weeks, taking shots. And that’s what [unintelligible; 12:14] the most. Right now, they had me over there. They give me a latrine, a septic tank for the [forestry side? 12:21]. They never put one anywhere. And [unintelligible; 12:30] I had a bunch of boys, a bunch of rookies come in there. Not [unintelligible; 12:31] was teaching them how to work. [unintelligible; 12:35] down there, and the [forestry men was all standing there, taking everything in. ? 12:39] I just continued to tell them, “You do that job, do that job.” And all like that, you know?
And [unintelligible; 12:48] was backed up out there in the woods, [unintelligible; 12:55]. Said, “You ever been on a Caterpillar, grading machine, anything like that?” I said, “No. I seen many of them.” He say, “You [unintelligible; 13:02] to learn?” I said, “Anything. Anything you think I can do, I’m ready to tackle it.” “I think you’ll be a good road man.” And I never did go [unintelligible; 13:17]. [unintelligible; 13:86] walked in, we started right there in the grading machine. Old man Martin Mann and old man Pete [Brewer? Burke? 13:23]. And I was [roof boy? 13:27].[unintelligible; 13:30]. I was [unintelligible; 13:33] that Cat. Well, [unintelligible; 13:34], and I don’t care [unintelligible; 13:36] got where—“Let me try to cut while you come on the machine.” Well, that’s when I learned, you know? [unintelligible; 13:43] we [unintelligible; 13:43] machines. [unintelligible; 13:48] it wasn’t long before they all dropped down. Well, they just give me the machine, you know, [unintelligible; 13:50].
And I had a brother come in service [unintelligible; 13:53]. Come in there, and there was about seven rookies come in, and they always told [me? 13:59], said, “You take the [unintelligible; 14:01] man, now.” [unintelligible; 14:03] coming. You pick out somebody to go with you, that you think you can train to run the machinery. And [unintelligible; 14:11] nothing like that. I [unintelligible; 14:14] him. Made me a good Cat man. And he died on a Caterpillar. They don’t [unintelligible; 14:18].
He went—the Army got him. Called him. Went to Japan. He was a cook. He was cooking in the kitchen. And he got in down there, and he said, “How they found out”—he’d never been on a Caterpillar, and he didn’t know. He liked the kitchen. But they found it out and asked him, and he said, “Yeah. Yeah, I drove a Cat.” That’s what they did. They called him out and put him on a Caterpillar [unintelligible; 14:43], and then [unintelligible; 14:44] was down there. All that [unintelligible; 14:48]. [unintelligible; 15:50].
And he got out, and he come back home, and I was in the dumping business when he come in, and put him on a tractor, and he stayed on there for years, and then [unintelligible; 15:00] got out of business. He went to work with another fellow. He was the only Cat on the line.[unintelligible; 15:05] what you learned in CC. If you want to, you can—anything. I learned to drive a trailer truck. I never drove one. [unintelligible; 15:14] one more. It was hauled in from [unintelligible; 15:18], [unintelligible; 15:22]. A man, Will Smith, one of them. One of them out here on 63 out here, on [unintelligible; 25:25] 63. And [unintelligible; 15:27], “You stay in. Don’t you go out [unless you go where we’s goin’.” ? 15:29] Well, everybody left. I didn’t know where we was going. He didn’t say. And got around [unintelligible; 15:41]. He said, “I’m gonna let you drive.” [unintelligible; 15:46] you had to go through the procedure: raising the hood and checking your oil and checking your water before you drove. That’s number one. Well, now that he’s [unintelligible; 15:58], I’m doing his job, see? He wouldn’t have done it. But I was [unintelligible; 16:03]. I think he was maybe checking me out.
Well, I’m raising the hood and checking my oil [in the pickup and water? 16:10], gas. It was all right. I said, “Now, which way we goin’?” Said, “We’re goin’ to Camp 8.” [unintelligible; 16:15]. Said, “You ever drove a trailer truck?” I said, “No.” He said, “Well, you’re fixin’ to today.” [Haul? 16:24] this timber and them telephone poles, pilings. That old [unintelligible; 16:30], where it had [unintelligible; 16:33].
Well, I never backed one up, but [unintelligible; 16:36] over there, on Camp 8, on old Camp 8 Road there, and I stopped [unintelligible; 16:44] hills in there. I better learn to back this thing right here. I’ll give it a while, [unintelligible; 16:47] if I can back in [unintelligible; 16:48]. I was just taking that thing—[unintelligible; 16:52] right down that road. And I learned to put it down that road. I [unintelligible; 17:00] and back inside the [unintelligible; 17:01], [unintelligible; 17:03]. [unintelligible; 17:05]. Going to put a little [unintelligible; 17:08] in the [law? 17:12]. And that wasn’t even [dry? 17:13]. [unintelligible; 17:14] you can drive [unintelligible; 17:19]. “Oh, I ain’t gonna pull a trailer.” Said, “Well, you can learn how today because I learned how years ago.”
I said, “That’s good.” I said, “All you do is never forget you got a trailer behind you.” I said, “You’ll never get [unintelligible; 17:34].” That [unintelligible; 17:38] learned, and [unintelligible; 17:39]. And [unintelligible; 17:42] set that pickup down there in that trailer, [unintelligible; 17:44]. Then I tell him how I learned how to back it. And so his daddy down there told him to—told his mama—says, “When there’s a [unintelligible; 17:53] comes into school, tell him to bring the trailer on down to the farm, and we’re gonna move some cows.” Well, he got out and was going way down there. He said, “I thought about it. Not like you [folks? 18:06], but I stopped that trailer right in the middle of the road, and I learned to back it down that road, just put it in like—” [Chuckles.] [unintelligible; 18:14], but I put it down there.[unintelligible; 18:19] back up [the chute? 18:19]. [unintelligible; 18:20]. Said, “You can’t back it up. If you [can’t, let?” 18:21] me have it.” “I can do it.” So then [unintelligible; 18:30] looked down and said, “When’d you learn how do drive a trailer?” I said, “[Paul? 18:32] told me how to learn. You get [unintelligible; 18:36] and learn to back it.”
JAMES: [unintelligible; 18:39] into it. And then I put it in there. [unintelligible; 18:44] called him back out, and [unintelligible; 18:46].
Another good thing they taught me: See, we had to go to school. How many weeks we had to be a truck driver before we could take the exam to be a truck driver? Three weeks? So many days a week?
SMITH: Something like that. I never did go, but I know they had to go two, three weeks.
JAMES: Yeah. And one lady told me—I always tell people to this day—when you’re out there on that road, you’re driving three vehicles. They told us, “And never forget that.” And I haven’t. That in front of you, keep an eye on it. Consider that [unintelligible; 19:25] coming out, and keep an eye on it. You can get by even if [unintelligible; 19:30]. And watch out behind you. You have [unintelligible; 19:37]. You don’t [unintelligible; 19:35]. You’re driving three when you’re on that road: that in front of you, and back, and the one you’re in. And I tell people that today. All three of them is [unintelligible; 19:47].
TWAROSKI: Mr. Smith, now I want you to tell how you came to be in the CCCs, and if you could, kind of try to remember maybe your first day or your first days and what your impressions were and kind of describe how things looked and how you felt and things like that.
SMITH: Well, of course, when they said—I was looking for a job, is why I got in the first place there, because there was nothing around my home. And it was—at that time, I’d never been over thirty miles away from home. In fact, Mississippi would be the whole world at that time.
SMITH: And, of course, we went to Meridian, and had a good time [on there and all? 20:44], and then they put us on a train. I didn’t know where it was going. And so they brought us to State Line over—and we got off the train, [and this? 21:05] bunch of Army trucks there to pick us up and bring up in here to camp. And at that time, from State Line into here, the cow trail goes across my pasture out there. I was clearer than the road was, and all we had from State Line into camp here, there was two [ruts? 21:24] there, and the weeds—it was in July, about 17th, 18th, and the weeds is up there about waist high, and that’s where they brought us. And you could see everything had been cut. No timber. Just a little here and there and branches. And I was getting pretty sick the time I got over here. And we got over there. There was nothing. They had their barracks there, and they wasn’t finished. They didn’t have no doors or windows, shutters, you know. And the put me in a tent out there. And we had to eat on Army mess kits. You marched around, and they put your food in there, and you go out and sit down in the grass and eat it, see.
And so it was bad, especially [for a fellow] never been away from home, and 200-some people there, you know? Everybody’s trying to—nobody—there’s two people in there that I knew that was from my home. And I lost them the first day I was there. And so it was pretty bad. And I could just think of a million places I’d have rather been than there. And so after a while, I got—what helped me a little: they come around and wanted some volunteers for KP. That was to help in the kitchen. That was washing the pots and stuff like that and then [dish it out? 22:58]. So I done that for two or three days, and [Horman? Herman? 23:02] Lewis—he finally made a mess sergeant.
TWAROSKI: What was he like?
TWAROSKI: How was he? What was he like?
SMITH: Oh, he was just [unintelligible; 23:11] KP, too, see?
JAMES: But when I was sitting around talking one day, and I said, “You know,” I said, “I don’t think I’d like to be a KP.” He said, “You don’t?” He says, “I’d like to be one.” I said, “You want my job?” He said, “Yeah!” And so I went to the [unintelligible; 23:30]. They picked me out [unintelligible; 23:32]. I said to Horman Lewis—I said—he said he’d like to be a KP, work in the kitchen. And so that-a-way, I got off of it, see? And then I’d just be around here and there and picked up [unintelligible; 23:4] and stumps. It was a mess. It was just—well, we had to clean up grass [unintelligible; 23:57]. And when we almost left, about the third day [unintelligible; 24:00], two fellows I talked [unintelligible; 234:01]—they [unintelligible; 24:04]. They said, “You know,” says, “when it gets dark, we’re gonna leave.” Said, “You wanna go with us?” I said, “I don’t know.” I said, “How you gonna go?” “Oh,” he said, “we’re gonna walk.” I said, “How you gonna know where to go?” “Oh,” he said, “we’re goin’ back to State Line, [unintelligible; 24:21] 45, to Quitman [unintelligible; 24:24].” That’s the first time I knowed anything about that.
Well, they knew. They had been down in there before. One of the fellows told me later—you know, a few years ago—I was talking to him, and I asked him how he knew how to get out, because I didn’t know how to get out. I’d just as soon been—well, I thought [unintelligible; 24:45]. I said, “No, I don’t think I’ll go,” because I could just imagine walking back through that road that we drove through, and it’s just [unintelligible; 24:52]. I mean, just wide open hills, you know. So I stayed. And then I finally—things got looking a little better.
TWAROSKI: Why didn’t they leave during the day? Were they held there? Were you kind of like in the Army?
SMITH: Yeah. Well,—
TWAROSKI: What was it like?
SMITH: If they had have tried to leave during the day, somebody would have seen them and told maybe the captain or some other leader. But most of the time, if they wanted to come in, if they didn’t like it, if they knew how to get back out, they’d leave at night, see. So that was why they waited till about night. And so we wasn’t supposed, without leave, to be off of the campus, see. You’re supposed to tell the sergeant or ask him if you wanted to go out [unintelligible; 25:41].
And we had about, oh, two or three weeks while we was taking our shots and stuff like that. We wasn’t—we was supposed to stay right there. After everything got set up and started, the Army—we was under Army rules and regulations in the camp. Now, in the morning at seven o’clock they would march us across the highway there, were the Forest Service forest was across the road from where the markers are up there? We’d go over there. Then about four or four thirty, the Forest Service sent us back over there. And while we was over there at Forest Service, they was in charge of us. We was under their rules and regulations.
TWAROSKI: Did they have, like, an office and things over there—
TWAROSKI: —across the street?
JAMES: Yeah, they had an office, and all the officers [were there? 26:34]. [They had? 26:35] a garage and tool house and all the trucks for Forest Service parked over there. So on this other side was Army controlled, regulations. We had the Army captain, lieutenants, and it was basically run same as the Army camp. You was under their rules [unintelligible; 26:50].
So that’s why they would leave then, because somebody would have seen them and say, “Oh, somebody’s leavin’” or [unintelligible; 27:03]. So I was glad after that that I didn’t go, because it was one of the best things ever happened to me, working and learning things and so on, and the people. And today I look back at what [unintelligible; 27:38] great satisfaction. And I guess [unintelligible; 27:29] can tell you the same thing. I’ll get in my pickup and ride around a lot of days, just [unintelligible; 27:34].
And I can remember what it was here in this part of the country when I first come and what it’s like today. The Forest Service was setting out trees and taking care of it and controlling it, keeping the fires out a’burning—you know, just destroying timber. That’s one reason it wasn’t coming back, because people at that time, in the area here, they had sheep, cows and hogs. Well, that was their living, see. Well, they kept the woods burned so the cows would have fresh grass to graze on [part of the year? 28:10]. And so that was a big problem when we first come in. They still wanted to do it, which they did. Sometimes—I was lucky. I would stay in camp pumping some water and stuff, keep the lights burning so they could get in and out and have something to wash with. And they’d go out fighting fires all night a lot of time. As soon as they’d get one put out, they’d get back to the camp; they’d call them out and go again, see. The people—that was their way of life, and that’s all they could see. And I asked some of them one time, speaking about LEMs, and I asked—we was sitting around talking one night, and I said< “Why they got LEM?” That’s what we called them, local experienced men. In other words, [unintelligible; 28:56] and knew the country around. They said, “I’ll tell you.” Said, “You know their brothers or daddies and cousins and aunts and uncles.” Says, “That’ll help to keep the fires down because if there’s nobody local in here, in this [unintelligible; 29:15]”—well, they don’t care. They’re [unintelligible; 29:16]. They [unintelligible; 29:17] anyway, but then have a little bit of feelings. Said, “Well, embers up there. We [unintelligible; 29:21] it’s going to [unintelligible; 29:26] get away from it a little bit.” But they still burned for about two or three years pretty bad.
JAMES: And I was on the fire truck, on the first truck. We tracked it. Yeah, they had a [unintelligible; 29:34] tractor and two big water tanks on each side. And my truck–[unintelligible; 29:40] low boy. [unintelligible; 29:44]. [unintelligible; 29:46]. And [unintelligible; 29:46]. Every time that thing went out, I went out alone. They didn’t [unintelligible; 29:51].
JAMES: Got over there one night or one morning—it was one night. We left camp [unintelligible; 29:55] [eleven? 29:55] o’clock going to Camp 8 on the old Camp 8 Road, [unintelligible; 30:00] [big fire? 30:01]. And I got over there on that big sand hill going up there to the other side of Salem Church there. That old truck wouldn’t pull that hill. Now, what was I going to do? You [unintelligible; 30:13] get off them ditches [unintelligible; 30:14]. It wouldn’t pull that hill. The [governor was? 30:15] was too low. I said, Well, I’m gonna [unintelligible; 30:18] this thing up anyhow. I said, I’ll run out. I found me a screwdriver in the truck. I grabbed that [unintelligible; 30:25], and I went in there and cranked that thing up. Me and it went over the hill.
I went over past the barn and come on back to camp and lay down. Called me again. And get back out there. [unintelligible; 30:41] now. Come back. And I didn’t get across the road and they [unintelligible; 30:45]. I [unintelligible; 30:45]. [unintelligible; 30:47] going to [get off that truck business? 30:48].
SMITH: [unintelligible; 30:50].
JAMES: [unintelligible; 30:52]. I said, “unintelligible; 30:54] I done something [unintelligible; 30:53] now, and they’d take my driving license away from me, but I don’t care.” [unintelligible; 30:59]. I said, “I broke the seal on the governor last night, and [unintelligible; 31:03].” I said, “[unintelligible; 3:04] big hill I [jumped? 31:07] going to Camp 8.” And I said, “Now, here’s my driving license. I’m ready to give it up anyhow.” He said, “No, James, we’re not gonna accept this.” Said, “We’re just gonna let it keep everybody else off the truck. And you drive it.” I said, “Okay, man,” I said, “but I [unintelligible; 31:22] these hills with a governor that low down.”
JAMES: And he didn’t fire me. Didn’t take my driving license. I kept on driving the truck.
SMITH: Yeah, that was [unintelligible; 31:32] driving. I go around now, and I can look at the timber, and I feel proud of it, that it’s happened, that it did. Of course, I couldn’t see it then. [unintelligible; 31:44]. You look back and see. And I think it’s one of the best things that ever happened to the country, and for me, speaking—
JAMES: For a lot of people.
SMITH: [cross-talk; unintelligible; 31:52] their job and just grow timber, and the fifty, about fifty-five or between fifty-five or sixty years, I’ve seen it from nothing to a lot of timber, and it’s a lot of it being cut still, and we’re still—it’s growing faster than they’re using it up, [appearing to me? 32:14]. And so I think it’s one of the greatest things ever happened for me and the country, because I think, you know, that the Forest Service has carried it on and stuff like that as it is.
TWAROSKI: Okay. Let me keep you going a little while on this. You said you were involved with the electrical and the water things.
TWAROSKI: Could you describe a typical day, from when you got up—I mean, give us times and, you know, as much detail as you can remember, a typical day at camp.
SMITH: Well, it was—I had—my job, as I say, was—of course, in the mornings—the night guard before us—I was [unintelligible; 32:56] before I was in charge of the mechanic or maintenance—
TWAROSKI: Well, when—
SMITH: —and generated the lights.
TWAROSKI: Let’s do it in chronological order. Let’s start back from whatever—I think you said you were a KP when you first came in?
TWAROSKI: Let’s do a day for each one of these jobs, so we can have them all covered.
TWAROSKI: Do that, and then you can do the night guard and describe—
SMITH: Yeah, and come on down?
TWAROSKI: —a typical day for each one of those then.
SMITH: Well, as I started my first job, and it was only for a day or two. I gave it up. Was this KP. And then, of course, that was our first two or three weeks [cross-talk; unintelligible; 33:40]. And then—but after they started—after the camp got sort of taken out, we’d take all of our shots and all, then they started carrying us out and working. I worked on building a road from Camp 24 here, 202, going out to 63. There was no road back then. Not where it’s at now. They [re-formed it? 34:06] around, twisted around, went up there. So I worked on that for, oh, most of the way from the camp out to 63.
Then one day I went out to set out some pines. It was cold, and the ground was froze, and we couldn’t stick—we had these spades we stuck—you know, when we set the trees in. So I didn’t set the trees out that day. We tried, but we couldn’t get them in there.
Then after that, why, pretty soon I got on as night guard duty. And my job then was to every morning—well, at nine o’clock I would turn the lights out of the barracks. And so—but they stay on in the officers’ quarters and stuff like that, the Forest Service.
TWAROSKI: How did you have to do that when they didn’t have the switches or—
SMITH: Yeah, we had a little—
TWAROSKI: [cross-talk; unintelligible; 35:07].
SMITH: —just like you—now you [flip a breaker? 35;13]on your switch box, but we had then a little push-pull switch that put the juice on [unintelligible; 35:18].
TWAROSKI: That was just in one office somewhere, then?
SMITH: Well, [unintelligible; 35:22] barracks.
TWAROSKI: On each one.
SMITH: All the barracks and kitchen. So then the next morning, then, I was building a fire, and we cooks cooked with wood stoves. I was building in there, and I put on the hot water and stuff, then I’d go away to cook something, and they’d come over, and they’d cook breakfast. And that’s when I was on night duty.
And so then, by the time they’d get it, I’d take a whistle and I’d go over to each barrack and blow it, wake them up and get them ready for breakfast.
JAMES: Six o’clock.
SMITH: And that-a-way, why, I would—so then, when I did that, that was my day. We finished then. That was in the morning. Most of the time, we didn’t have to have the lights turned on in the morning.
So then the way I went from night guard then to company mechanic: There was a fellow there that—he really—the fellow that was sent to camp there—they transferred him from another camp before the camp started. Each one had a job. So he didn’t want it, so he got out, and they give it to this other fellow, Jimmy Steele. Well, he was a fellow that—he liked to go a lot. He didn’t want it, but they got him [unintelligible; 32:53]. Well, I was on night guard duty, and every evening he’d come around [unintelligible; 37:00] making sure there was plenty of water pumped up and starting the light [unintelligible; 37:06] when it got dark. And he [unintelligible; 37:08].
Well, I did that then for, oh, a long time, [unintelligible; 27:15]. Say, “What you doing his work for?” I said, “Well, I’m learnin’, and I don’t mind it.” I’m used to workin’ from daylight to dark anyway back then. You know, you didn’t work eight hours. Well, it wasn’t but a little while until he decided he’s going on. Him and two or three more fellows were going on. So the captain—well, he told the captain—I didn’t know what was going on. So he told the captain he was leaving. He said, “Well, we ain’t got nobody to take your place. You gotta train somebody before you go.” He said, “Oh,” he says, “Smith knows more about it down there than I do now.”
So the captain come to me one day and says, “Jimmy’s leaving, going to service, and he recommended you to take his place.” I said, “I don’t know nothin’ about doing his job.” I didn’t know what all else he done beside that, but I was already doing all his work anyway, I think. So he said, “Well,” he said, “you know as much about it or more than he did, so I’d like to you take it.” I said, “Well, I’ll do my best.” So that’s what I did. I kept the little things that I’d done—we had maintenance people that come from headquarters out in Laurel and Hattiesburg, between—what’s the name of that place now where we [all meet? 38:48]? Warsaw.
JAMES: Yeah, Warsaw.
SMITH: Between Warsaw and Laurel. There was a service depot there, where they kept supplies and stuff like that. I don’t know exactly where it’s at or was. It’s gone, I think.
TWAROSKI: Is it Warsaw, actually Warsaw?
SMITH: It’s on the other side.
TWAROSKI: Oh, it’s on the other side. It’s not—
SMITH: It’s almost in Laurel there somewhere.
SMITH: So if we needed anything, we’d call there and they’d send a fellow out, like if [unintelligible; 39:18] broke down or wouldn’t run at all. But I just done the minor repairs, changing oil and fueling up and stuff like that.
And then on down—the lines back then—they’re not like now. They just [unintelligible; 39:37], put a line all the way out and [unintelligible; 39:41]. Well, the further away from the generator you get, the smaller your light shines. I mean, don’t give much light. So after I was there I guess maybe a year or something, so they come and talk about—at night they would [unintelligible; 39:57] the Forest Service, which is all the way across the road, see? And there was only one line that served the barracks [unintelligible; 40:06] the barracks. So they wondered what to do, and I said, “Well, why don’t we just run a extra line from that generator house to the Forest Service and we cut everything off around—where it was at, when everybody goes to bed and just run that one line in [unintelligible; 40:27]. Run two generators. And then, you know, we got a separate line.” So I did. I put a extra line in there, and that-a-way they had good lights, because some nights the Forest Service has to stay up all night up there, during fire season. And on that-a-way. So they did—so that was about all down there, [unintelligible; 40:54]. Done little things around. So the flunkies for the officers—they wanted some little something done with it there. [I said? 41:07], “don’t do that.”
And we had a Lieutenant [Harden? 41:11]. He moved his wife there, and they put his trailer just outside the—they couldn’t put it on the campground, so he parked it just outside the first aid [unintelligible; 41:23] trailer there. So I had go down and [unintelligible; 41:30], patching up stuff for [unintelligible; 41:33] and fixing one thing or another.
WOMAN: Is that blowing out too much.
JAMES: No, I’m doing all right.
SMITH: So that was about the extent of my work. And then, of course, when it comes time for me to leave, I trained three different fellows for it before I could get one, because what had happened, I was training one—see, they [put aside? 41:54] on account of our age or length of time we’ve been in there.
JAMES: Two years.
SMITH: And so had one trained. They go up and said, “Well, we’re gonna have to go get another. He’s gonna have to get out on account of his age.” And then I got another one just about started in, and so he had to get out, [R.B. Hatcher? 42:15]. And he was [unintelligible; 42:20]. So then I had to get another one. But the last one I got, I only had him for about two weeks, but he had been a night guard with me, and he knew about as much as I did [unintelligible; 42:43], so it made him pretty good that-a-way. But once these other fellows—he really didn’t want it, but then I asked Mr. Hatcher if [unintelligible; 42:39], if he would [take it? 42:41]. He said yes. And he was [unintelligible; 42:46], so he got out [unintelligible; 42:50].
TWAROSKI: Just for the record, when—put in your date when you came to the camp and when you left.
SMITH: When I got in camp was July the 17th or 18th of ’35, and I got out the 30th of April ’39.
TWAROSKI: And you were in the first enlistees—
JAMES: I was one—
TWAROSKI: —at that camp.
JAMES: I was one of the first ones that went in this camp at the time. Now, they was twenty-five went in there ahead of us. There’s 200 of us went in with my group. About a week before we went in there, they sent cooks, office workers, sergeants and stuff like that, [unintelligible; 43:40] going to be in charge of it. They was there about one or two weeks before we did. Twenty-five. They was transferred in from—uh, down—I’ve forgotten the name of the place now.
JAMES: It says in that book.
SMITH: [unintelligible; 43:55] or somewhere down there.
JAMES: Down in Camp 5.
SMITH: Yeah, Camp 5 [cross-talk; unintelligible; 43:59].
JAMES: I believe it’s in that book.
TWAROSKI: Camp 5 down in—
JAMES: New Augusta.
TWAROSKI: New Augusta?
SMITH: New Augusta.
SMITH: So they was transferred from there. That was the overhead part—you know, like the cooks and so on, the main ones, the mess sergeant and so on. And they were there—
TWAROSKI: So they closed that camp there?
TWAROSKI: No? They left it open?
JAMES: Trained them to come up.
SMITH: When they start a new camp, that’s what they do to pick up some experienced cooks and so on, and [unintelligible; 44:31] if they’re going start a new one, [unintelligible; 44:34] then they’ll train [that set? 44:36]. So that’s where I got stuck in the KP.
SMITH: They had the cooks, but they didn’t send no KPs up there. KP was [cross-talk; unintelligible; 44:44]
JAMES: [cross-talk; unintelligible; 44:44].
SMITH: —washing pots and stuff like that, you know.
TWAROSKI: Did you have to help finish the buildings?
SMITH: The buildings?
TWAROSKI: Get the camp set up?
SMITH: Oh, no, we worked around in cleaning up. And we done a lot of work in the buildings. Of course, this is a little [finagling? 45:04] on my part, but, like, in the recreation hall, they was going to have a big party and dance. You know, they had them there. Well, Lt. Harden—he’s that fellow that I was talking about; his wife was there. So they had some fellows there trying to paint it, trying to do this, and [unintelligible; 45:27]. Well, I went up there and looking at them, watching them. They had brushes, they had spray paint going, and they couldn’t get nothing to work. And I told them—I said—I watched them, you know. By watching their mistakes, I got—I said, “I can show you how to use that thing.” I got up there, and I sprayed the place about as big as that living room, [right across the ceiling? 45:52], all across there, them beams. “Well,” I said, “now, that’s the way you do it.” So I got down and left there.
And the lieutenant [unintelligible; 46:02] had seen it, and they was telling about who done it and all. He come hunted me up. He says, “Mr. Smith,”—he was a good fellow. I liked him. And he [unintelligible; 46:15]. We sort of got at each other anyway, you know. And I had already been there long enough, I sort of knew how to [unintelligible; 46:24]—
[End File 1. Begin File 2.]
TWAROSKI: Okay, you were going to paint the recreation hall.
SMITH: Yeah, I told them—I said, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do.” He said, “What’s that?” He sort of talked funny, and—I liked him all right, but most of them did, and he used it to his [way? 2-0:15]. And I said, “I’ll tell you what I’ll do.” He said, “What’s that?” I said, “Now, I’ll paint that recreation hall.” I said, “Now, you know it’s not my job.” He said, “Yeah, I know.” And I said, “If you’ll give me a week and two weekends’ pass whenever I get finished”—he scratched his head, and he figured a little. He said, “Lemme think about it.” And he walked off about twenty-five, thirty steps. He come back and said, “Aw, go ahead and paint.” He said, “I’ll make it all right with the captain.” So I got—for painting it, I got two weekends and a week off, you know, vacation like. So stuff like that—why, it—I got—hell, you could sort of bargain around.
But speaking about the lights—of course, this is—when I was putting this in—I had a big switchboard made up, and so the captain comes down, and I don’t know—of course, back then I didn’t think about [unintelligible; 2-1:30], but I was married then, and [unintelligible; 2-1:30] married. Wasn’t supposed to be married in camp. But as I was working on my switchboard and all, and getting it all set up, I said, “Well,”—he come back, and I had the water pump running. You couldn’t—it was making a lot of noise in there. He come by, sulking about it. I tell him how it worked. “Naw, it ain’t that-a-way. It’s gotta be this way.” So he got to cussing, and I did too. And back then I’d say anything, just about. And so I didn’t know—my father-in-law—he come over there. He wanted to get him some tobacco and cigarettes, see. You can buy them about half price [unintelligible; 2-2:15]. And he’d walk up there, and he’d stand there, listening. Whenever the captain turned around,—it got so hot he couldn’t win. I mean, I just–[unintelligible; 2-2:23]. I don’t know we got in an argument, but—and he’d cuss, and I’d cuss. And so we like to [run over to? 2-2:32] my father-in-law. He [unintelligible; 2-2:32]. When we left, my father-in-law said, “Don’t you know you can’t talk to the captain like that?” I said, “Did you hear him?” He said, “Yeah.” I said, “Well, he’s talking that-a-way to me, and I talk that-a-way to him.”
SMITH: He said, “Well,”—he says, “He’s allowed to fire you.” But I hadn’t thought about it. You know, you get used to [unintelligible; 2-2:54], but he didn’t hold no grudge. The next time I seen him, he just [unintelligible; 2-2:59]. So it was good.
And so it was good, and I got along with everybody. And all the boys there—they was almost like my brothers. And even today, I see them—I think about a lot of them. And there wasn’t no fights and stuff there. Like, very seldom anybody would get in a fight. It was like a big family and just love each other. They got along good. I enjoyed every minute of it. I kind of hated when I got out, you know?
TWAROSKI: Mr. James, when did you come to the camp, and how long did you work there?
JAMES: Well, I come in [unintelligible; 2-3:46], and I [unintelligible; 2-3:47] give you no dates. But I went there in September 1935. They just get started, and they [was completed? 2-3:56]. But, now, what date it is, I don’t know. I stayed down there—it was two, three years, and I left. Well, I wasn’t gone [unintelligible; 2-4:10], here they came and get me back in, and I [unintelligible; 2-4:12]. All total, I [lined up a few days getting? 2-4:18] five years.
TWAROSKI: As being a local experienced man, what were the feelings of the people in this community to having the camp here?
JAMES: Well, when they first come here, they [unintelligible; 2-4:32].
JAMES: [unintelligible; 2:4:36]. They done blowed it to kingdom come.
TWAROSKI: There were some real rough people living around here?
JAMES: Well, they rough if you want to be rough.
JAMES: But they couldn’t see idea of them giving up their [unintelligible; 2-4:46]. Because, see, I was—connected them with a bunch down there. We sheared [unintelligible; 2-4:53] of wool a year. Out of wild sheep, sheep in the woods, running all the way from Little Creek up here and [unintelligible; 2-5:00] nearly to [unintelligible; 2-5:01] down here. From [unintelligible; 2:5:04] River to near by the sand hills. We sheared sheep eight and nine weeks a year. And they was going to [close? 2-5:13] them sheep out. We had [unintelligible; 2-5:15] going over the woods. And they was going to close them out. Then we had cattle all over the woods. [unintelligible; 2-5:25], you know? [unintelligible; 2-5:26] would be [unintelligible; 2-5:29].
SMITH: They had territories. James’, Smith’s, Henderson’s.
JAMES: And we thought it [was great? 2-5:38] when it first come in. When they called in my first cousin, he went in the first call of the [unintelligible; 2-5:47]. I didn’t know nothing [unintelligible; 2-5:48] [drawing? 2-5:48]. He seen it somewhere. And he went in as a truck driver. But when these three left, they wouldn’t stay, and that’s open, and they come for me then. And I come in, and I thought it was mighty fine. I just been married just a month. Well, I hadn’t started housekeeping and nothing like that, see? And, well, I went in there, and that thirty dollars come in pretty handy for when I was making seventy-five cents a day. Well, that was about a dollar a day, you know, thirty dollars a month, get your clothes and your doctor bills, all like that.
And I went in, and the first pair of pants they give you was fifty in the waist and thirty-six in the length. Well, I take them all around to the barrack, you know, and put my bunk up and put my clothes on, you know. I’m putting my clothes on. I don’t know why [unintelligible; 2-6:43], and that was one of the big things. You know, [unintelligible; 2-6:46], and they said no. See, they sent them kind of men in there—you know, supply men. They come in [unintelligible; 2-6:52] camp. They know how to do these things. They didn’t [set there and come in twenty-five boys? 2-7:00]. They didn’t stand them in a row and, “What size you wearing now?” and pick you out your size. No! They [unintelligible; 2-7:04] pack of them blue jeans over there, or khakis or wool clothes and whatever was on top, and that’s the size you got. If you couldn’t get in them, that’s your hard luck. But [unintelligible; 2-7:12].
TWAROSKI: Is it true that those were leftovers from World War I?
JAMES: No, no, brand-new stuff.
SMITH: They were brand-new stuff. Of course, just to add a little—he was talking about that. [unintelligible; 2-7:28]. I seen them come out with them [unintelligible; 2-7:30].
JAMES: That [unintelligible; 2-7:31].
SMITH: What you do when you get in the barracks, then you exchange them.
JAMES: You can exchange them.
SMITH: Find somebody that this—you got one that fit him, and he got one fit—so that’s what we did. We had to—
JAMES: Throw them out or wear them.
SMITH: [cross-talk; unintelligible; 2-7:46].
JAMES: [cross-talk; unintelligible; 2-7:47] and take this [unintelligible; 2-7:48] and [tie your string on that? 2-7:49] and bring it through this loop here and tie it and [unintelligible; 2-7:51] this one here and tie it on right here.
SMITH: He was talking about it. Now, he’s just married and [unintelligible; 2-7:59] camp.
WOMAN: Mm-hm. [You’re taking his time, through? 2-8:01].
SMITH: He’ll get some more time.
JAMES: [unintelligible; 2-8:04].
SMITH: And, okay, and I was night guard, I said, at this time, and I’d wake the cooks up before daylight and got everything going. All right. Now, the way they come in—they’d come back this way, towards Redhill, Turkey Fork, down that-a-way. One of them lived in there pretty close to Turkey Fork, and he lived back over this other way. The road forks this-a-way, and they’d meet up where this road goes through here to the dump at 42?
SMITH: But I’d see them coming in in the morning. Come through the woods at the back of the camp. They slipped off. See, they wasn’t supposed to be gone. And I don’t know just [unintelligible; 2-8:44] running like the old turkey—you know, I mean, like these people jogging [cross-talk; unintelligible; 2-8:48].
JAMES: [cross-talk; unintelligible; 2-8:48].
SMITH: But sort of between a run and a trot? Well, that’s the way they come in. And as they got closer to the camp, they slowed down a little. But whenever I’d first see them, everybody was running, and they’d be wet from the waist down where they run through them [unintelligible; 2-9:03] in there. [Laughter.]
JAMES: I’d come out my house out on the road there. I’d holler. And he could hear me across the creek.
TWAROSKI: How far was that?
JAMES: [I remind me of? 2-9:17] two miles, two and a half miles across that—
TWAROSKI: Because there weren’t any trees or anything, right?
JAMES: No, not [unintelligible; 2-9:24]. Nothing could happen even with [unintelligible; 2-9:29], and you could somebody hollering. Sound like five miles. Every time. [unintelligible; 2-9:33] people driving oxen. You talk about a man could holler! If a man had his voice trained to drive an ox, “Whoa, whoa! Back! Go back!” Talk at them ox like that, see? And that man—he just trained his voice up where you could just [unintelligible; 2-9:48]. Get it up there [unintelligible; 29:49] you just get out on the front and listen, see where people were. You’d hear them holler. But I’d holler, and he’d holler back. And me and him would meet at the mailbox up there [and the road near by? 2-10:02], walk up together. We’d just keep on walking.
SMITH: Yeah, it’s funny. I knew what they was doing. I knew they’d slipped off, you know, and slipped back in.
JAMES: I stayed down there seven weeks one time. I didn’t even get a weekend off. Didn’t go home! Seven weeks [fighting fire? 2-10:23].
SMITH: There was another thing that happened. I’d like to ask old [Alfred Roberts] “Knotty”? 2-10:25] I don’t know whether he remembers it or not or whether he got caught in it. I’ll sort of water it down.
TWAROSKI: Don’t water it down.
SMITH: No. Was in camp there, you know. And one night—this is before I married, and it’s along about the first year or two in there. So about two or three o’clock one night, I woke up, and I had to head for the bathroom. It was a little [unintelligible; 2-10:57] from the barrack that I was in, see.
JAMES: You was in Barrack 4, wasn’t you?
SMITH: From the Barrack 4, yeah. Well, I didn’t even think about putting no clothes on. I had my underwear on, anyway. But this time I got the door, the moon is shining, and there’s people all over outside out there. Some of them standing about—they had eat something or—we believed—I’ll ask Knotty if I ever see him—now, the cooks didn’t have it. None of the officers didn’t have it. They had diarrhea so bad, it was two days before they went to work. And we just figured they put something in there, but it may have been some poison or something. But we questioned—“No, no.” “Well, how come none of them had it?”—you know? But it was really [unintelligible; 2=11:41].
SMITH: It was just like poor cow’s been eating green grass, going out there.
SMITH: But it was serious then because they was sick. A lot of them was vomit[ing]. They didn’t [unintelligible; 2-11:53]. But a lot of them was vomiting, and—oh. But it was funny. I wished I had a camera of it, look at it.
JAMES: Shoot! [Laughs.]
SMITH: [One of them? 2-12:01] sitting around out there, you know, naked.
WOMAN: [unintelligible; 2-12:05].
WOMAN: [unintelligible; 2-12:06].
JAMES: Yeah, makes you want to go to the place to teach them how to work.
JAMES: You see, they believed in that, you come out there to work.
JAMES: You might not have been but sixteen. That’s the limit was, sixteen.
SMITH: It’s supposed to be eighteen. There’s a lot of them come in—
JAMES: Well, anyhow—
SMITH: —fifteen, sixteen years old.
JAMES: —one of the Waynesboro [unintelligible; 2-12:27]—he come in. He lived at Chicora. I can’t think of his name. I read the other night—I know he lives there because I saw him here not too long ago. But he lacked about three pounds weighing enough to get in, see? And the [unintelligible; 2-12:41] taking them in up there told him—give him some money and told him to go down there and buy him some bananas and eat them, and he come back. He weighed enough, and they brought him on in. But he never [were was? 2-12:52] nothing.
See, I was a road worker. I didn’t work with the other crew, setting out pines, all that. I sticked on roads. In the wintertime I carried the fire crew. And I had a dump truck and hauled the dirt. See, we did it for boys to get a job. We didn’t have [unintelligible; 2-13:12] like they got today. You [unintelligible; 2-13:16]. You have six men to truck. Well, that’s what I had, six men in a dump truck, and my fire truck was sitting on the road. And was sitting there that morning, and [unintelligible; 2-13:30], and the other boys were throwing about four shovelfuls to him, too, [unintelligible; 2-13:36]. And I kept sitting and watching. But if you went with me, you went out [in these woods? 2-13:41] because I was born and raised in the woods.[I got to know? 2-13:45] a little boy—he told maybe two of the other boys, three or four. I walked up to him. I said, “I’m gonna tell you somethin’. They’re watchin’ you out there.” I said, “You’re throwin’ one or two shovelfuls, these other boys, three and four.” I said, “What’s wrong? You’re drawin’ the same money they’re drawin’. And you come in here to work just like they come in here to work.” He said, “I won’t wanna work. I’m gonna quit work. I’m goin’ home.” I said, “Whoa, whoa! If that’s what you wanna do.” I said, “Well, I can get you a ticket. I’ll get you a ticket.” “Well, that’s what I want.” I said, “Well, go over there and sit down on that [unintelligible; 2-14:22] tree, and when the chow wagon come”—that bring our dinner every day. It had the chow wagon. “When they get here,” I said, “I’ll give you your ticket.”
And so he went over and sat down under that tree. And so I went in that night. I didn’t mark him up no pay. No day’s work. Couldn’t [unintelligible; 2-14:44]. So I [unintelligible; 2-145:45] over the loudspeaker [unintelligible; 2-14:48] I didn’t mark up a day’s work. They called me to the office. [unintelligible; 2-14:45]. Everybody ready to go to work. And so, “You didn’t mark up So-and-so time yesterday. Why?” I said, “He refused to work. Told me he wasn’t gonna work; he was goin’ home, and I told him he’s gonna work if you stay down here.” He said, “Well, he ain’t gonna stay out here.” I said, “Well, we’ll work it out [the way the rest of them? 2-15:10]. And I said, “He don’t want to work, sit down over there.” The chow wagon come, [unintelligible; 2-15:14].
He said, “Well, that’s a dishonorable discharge.” I said, “[unintelligible; 2-15:23]. So the little boy—they sent and got him. He come a’crying. Pitiful. It hits you down deep. He said, “I need to stay in here. I done wrong.” And the captain said, “Well, you done ask for a dishonorable discharge now. You refused to come, even though you come here to work.” And so—well, he’d like to stay, and he was crying. And I said, “Would you work if I take you back on there?” I mean, [unintelligible; 2-16:01]. The captain looked at him, said, “James, will you take him back.” I said, “Yeah. If he work. But, now, if he don’t work, he gonna come in on [unintelligible; 2-16:11].” [unintelligible; 2-16:16].
Then I had another experience there, [unintelligible; 2-16:21]. Come in and [unintelligible; 2-16:25]. Because the majority of them were scared of me. [Laughs.] I give them a bad time, you know, picking at them, you know. Said, “You’re picking on [unintelligible; 2-16:33] pretty hard, you know?” And they [unintelligible; 2-16:36] there. They just [unintelligible; 2-16:37] me, like—[Laughs.] And there was a little old [unintelligible; 2-16:40] right side of me. And so on Thursday night me and my brothers was cutting a fire lane way back up in yonder old man [unintelligible; 2-16:49], back in them woods. And the [truckmen? 2-16:52] come get us. Well, we [unintelligible; 2:17:00]. That way, [unintelligible; 17:01]. I said, “I ain’t gonna walk out of these woods.” We sat down and build us a big fire. I said, “Maybe somebody up in a tower will see it.” We piled ourself a big pile of wood there and build us a fire, and about eleven o’clock they drove up to get us.
Well, they brought us home to camp, and I had always—[boy always? 2-17:19] lay there on the bed and watched me put my billfold in my locker every night. Well, that night, me and Doug—we got to bed about—well, you come in. We had to get ready and go over and eat supper. Therefore we could go to bed—we didn’t get to bed till eleven, twelve o’clock.
Well, I always had to wake the boy up every morning, had to make him get out of there. And the thing is, I turned the bunk over with him, just flopped—I’d flop [unintelligible; 2-17:52]. And a big bunk. I didn’t ever give it a thought. That night, I come in, and everybody asleep. And I forgot to put my billfold in there, and [unintelligible; 2-18:05]. And I put my britches on, like I always do, and got up the next morning, and me and Doug went back to cut a fire lane. And I missed my billfold [up in the day? 2-18:16]. And I had forty some-odd dollars plus ninety-five cents in change in it. And I had that silver. And [Dad had a money rod? 2-18:31]. I didn’t [unintelligible; 2=18:35] about the billfold being gone.
So that Saturday then, I had a weekend coming up, and I had taken that money rod, and I went where me and Doug were in, and it would go to that silver dollar—silver, a quarter, a dime or a fifty-cent piece. Silver, you know—it would go to it, a quarter of a mile, and I couldn’t pick it up nowhere.
When Monday morning come, they sent me down yonder on the road where I had graded down there, and they was thinking to cut a lead-off ditch, you know. You know why you cut them with a shovel. It had to be square. Sent me down there with about forty boys. I went down there with two or three boys on the end down there, and I said, “You know,” I said, “last Thursday night somebody got my billfold out of my pocket.” I said, “Me and Doug didn’t get in there till about midnight.” And I says, “And I forgot about the boy I had to wake him up every—that morning, he was done up and gone.” [unintelligible; 2-19:29]. I reckon that little old boy [unintelligible; 2-19:40]. [unintelligible; 2-19:37] said, “I can tell you who got your billfold.” I had two twenties and two or three, four ones. I [unintelligible; 2-19:48].
Well, anyhow, this little boy slipped [over? 2-19:51] and said, “I know who got your billfold.” He said, “You know that boy sleeps next to you, that little boy?” [unintelligible; 2-19:57] hadn’t been there. [unintelligible; 2-19:59] never got a chance to go home. Going to sit. Because that letter [unintelligible; 2-20:03]. I looked up over his bed, and that was the letter [unintelligible; 2-20:06], and you know that plate? There’s a letter up there, and I’m reading the letter whenever he come in. He tells me, “I’m gonna send you some money as quick as your check comes in.” Well, [unintelligible; 2-20:18]. I told him—I said, “The little boy bought him a locker and broke a twenty-dollar bill.” And he carried the rest of his money up there and gave it to the first sergeant, and he got it in the safe. [unintelligible; 2-20:35].
I got in that evening. I went, seen that letter, and I read it where it said, you know, that he’s going to send some money at the end of the month. And he come in there, and I was reading the letter, and, boy, he was going to tear me up. [unintelligible; 2-20:46] like a dog getting a ’possum. I [shucked? 2-20:49] him a few times like I’m doing [jerking the knots? 2-20:54]. I said, “C’mon, [unintelligible; 2-20:54].” I said, “We’re goin’ up here to the captain.” I said, “You got my billfold last Thursday night.” Said, “You gonna [unintelligible; 2-21:00]. “No, I didn’t get it!” “Don’t you say nothin’, boy. I’ll tie you in a knot. You wasn’t [goin’? 2-21:06].”
I just grabbed him, and we [unintelligible; 2-21:08] up there. And he denied it to the captain. [unintelligible; 2-21:12] coming on back down. I said, “I’ll tell you one thing, boy, right now. [unintelligible; 2-21:17] or thieves. Don’t you go to bed here tonight without owning up to that. They’re gonna kill you!” I said, “They’ll kill you! They hate a thief. They don’t like it, and [unintelligible; 2-21:27], and they’re gonna get you. But, now, you better own up to it because I know you the one done it. I didn’t have to wake you up the next morning. You were done up and gone. You got it.”[unintelligible; 2-21:44] in the mess hall, and that boy, I don’t know whether he eat supper or not. And I sat at that table, eating supper, you know, and you had to have a necktie on. See, you had to have a necktie on. That was your meal ticket. If you didn’t have your necktie on, sweetheart, you didn’t get in the mess hall for summer. Did you know that?
SMITH: That’s after—yeah, if you went in there to eat with the rest of them. I never did put mine on.
JAMES: My! [unintelligible; 2-22:09].
JAMES: I had to go out there and stand in line, look at everybody else—
SMITH: Yeah. [Laughs.]
JAMES: —and see how they—[I had to tie? 2-22:12] 99 percent of them before they got out there. And then the shoes had to look just right, a shine, and they were [unintelligible; 2-22:20]. You see, we come from retreat to the mess hall. We had to come out there and stand in two lines in front of the old barracks, and the leaders had to go and check them all out, because if you didn’t have on a necktie, why, you just were [thrown? 2-22:36] and go get you one. “Well, somebody stole my [unintelligible; 2-22:39] last night.” Well, you had to go to the barracks right now and get you another. You have to pay for this one.” Or you didn’t get no [unintelligible; 2-22:46].
But anyhow, I was sitting there, eating supper, and it’s a call for me to report to the office. And there’s that boy. He went up there and told the captain he took my billfold. He done went and got it. And [unintelligible; 2-23:08]. I had one of them good billfolds, and I might have [borrowed? 2-23:09] from a Chicago mail order company. It didn’t cost but three or four dollars, but it was a good one back in them days. Even [unintelligible; 2-23:16] two or three holes in it. And he owned up to using my billfold. And the captain said he’d get the rest of the money out of his safe there, and [unintelligible; 2-23:24] tell me, and I told him I’d take the [locker? 2-23:28]. And had to hold out of his check the next time enough money to pay me back what of it he spent.
And he said now he’s going to get him a dishonorable discharge. [unintelligible; 2-23:42]. I said, “No, Captain.” I said, “I won’t stand for that.” “Well, it’s left up to you now because he has to go. You once told me”—I said, “Well, let’s don’t send him off. I don’t want nobody to go out of here with a dishonorable discharge that go with you to your grave.” And I said, “[I ain’t gonna? 2-23:59] have that.” That’s like being dishonorable by the Army. That’s what it was, part of the Army. I said, “Captain, don’t do that.” I said, “Keep him in.” I said, “I want him to sleep right where he’s at. I’m not gonna let him move his bunk.” I said, “I’m gonna make a man outta that or I won’t keep him on.”
And the captain said, “All right, if you say he don’t have to go”—I said, “Don’t send him off. Don’t send him off. [unintelligible; 2-24:34].” I still wake him up every morning. When I hollered, he got up, though. He didn’t give me no more slack. But when they got class for—you know, you could sign up and go west, you know, California? And the next [unintelligible; 2-24:43] to go to California, he signed up. He got out of there. But I helped that boy. I made a man out of him. I told him I would.
SMITH: Yeah, [unintelligible; 24:58]. They was all pretty good boys, as a whole. It’s just to think of the things that goes on today.
JAMES: Oh, Lord, yes!
SMITH: [unintelligible; 2-25:05].
JAMES: But I wouldn’t be in there like things is now.
SMITH: It would be rough. It would be hard [unintelligible; 2-25:10] today.
JAMES: Like we [unintelligible; 2-25:11].
SMITH: But most everybody had been taught to obey your parents and do work.
JAMES: And work.
SMITH: You didn’t have too much—but now [unintelligible; 2-25:22].
JAMES: [unintelligible; 2-25:24].
SMITH: It was a good life for me. I enjoyed it.
JAMES: I enjoyed it. And another good deed. I can’t think of that old [unintelligible; 2-25:35] boy’s name. I’m going to look him up in that book. He’s over here on the other side of Camp 8 in the summer. He was over there. And he come in there as a rookie. Taught him how to tie a tie and everything, dress him up and everything like that. Well, we [became? 225:47] good buddies. And he went across and went to World War II [unintelligible; 2-25:55]. Went through—first cousin of mine down here. Went through training all the way. Went to the battlefield with him. And [unintelligible; 2-26:08] right side of them, and when the bomb come in—[unintelligible; 2-26:10]. Lay down quicker than Webb did. Webb was behind him. And the bomb hit right between them, and the [spatter? 2-26:17] come up and got Webb.
And he said, “I jumped up a mile.” He said, “I run off twenty or thirty feet.” And he said, “The first thing fell in my mind was you.” He come tell me and told me. I said, “Boy, [unintelligible; 2-26:33] back home.” He said, “I couldn’t leave him. My feet got thrown to the ground, and bombs fallin’ everywhere.” I said, “What you doin’ for me while I was in that CC camp?” “I couldn’t leave Webb. I went back and put him on my shoulder, and I brought him outta there and got him into the ambulance, and they got.” Well, he missed [unintelligible; 2-26:57] by three months. But why? Then he got on [unintelligible; 2-27:04] and got out. That’s the way you do these good deeds [unintelligible; 2-27:08]. You may think that’d be the end, but—“Oh, I know I was going to save Webb’s life.”
JAMES: Because that boy, you know,—they was gone. They was coming in here! And the Army–[unintelligible; 2-27:19] had to [unintelligible; 2-27:23]. And that boy said, “I couldn’t go no further. I just froze,” thinking about how good that I was to him, ties tying and all this, you know. But it all paid off. I made a lot of good friends. I don’t know as I made an enemy in the world, but if I mention going out [unintelligible; 2-27:40] really going out to work when they got down there. That’s one thing they learned. Well, my pa taught me to work and taught me to love.
TWAROSKI: You mentioned earlier about when you painted the recreation area. It was for a dance?
TWAROSKI: Well, did you do those kind of things often, have dances? And what kind of things did you do?
SMITH: You can.
TWAROSKI: Yeah, you’d invite local girls in?
SMITH: Oh, yeah. About once a month they would have—see, around here—well, Waynesboro, Richton—
SMITH: [unintelligible; 2-28:21] were the only two places [unintelligible; 2-28:22]. And the people had dances around their community, little parties. The boys would go there. So they started to fix it about once a month, or two months anyway. They would have dances, and everybody was invited. The community would come by. And they would even send trucks out if there was somebody like maybe Sand Hill or around—if some of them wanted—
JAMES: Need a ride in.
SMITH: Some didn’t have no way to get there—they learned after a while, and they would haul them in there. Of course, a lot of the boys had cars. They’d go pick the girls [right up? 2-29:01]. So they had to have dances there. Then they set up—they’d have a picture show once a week there. And the whole community was invited. And they were just a little ways inside the gate.
Was you with us whenever we went down where the swimming pool was?
SMITH: All right. It was just a little bit back this way from the swimming pool.
TWAROSKI: They’d do that inside?
SMITH: No, it was outside, like a drive-in theater. You’ve seen them, haven’t you?
SMITH: Well, that’s the way it was. Had a big screen up out there, and everybody just—
TWAROSKI: In the car?
SMITH: —sat on the ground or benches. They had some benches there and stuff like that. And so it was—
TWAROSKI: What kind of movies did you get to see? Do you remember any of them?
SMITH: Old westerns and things like that and stuff like that, you know, just—back then—
JAMES: A whole lot better than what we see today.
SMITH: But, I mean, the technical part of it wasn’t good, but, I mean, the sound, the speaking really wasn’t, but it was up on a big screen, and it showed a lot of westerns and just a general mix-up of—of, let’s see, who was that movie star that was so famous from a baby up? Shirley Temple.
SMITH: They had a lot of them. And just—you know, back over, back then.
TWAROSKI: At the dances, did you have a record player or did you have a band?
SMITH: No, they had a band that played there—you know, a string band, [unintelligible; 2-30:45], stuff like that.
TWAROSKI: What kind of music? Country music?
SMITH: Country music.
TWAROSKI: Band music?
SMITH: They’d so some—well, there was a fellow on a guitar—
JAMES: I’d go [home? 2-30:55]. I [unintelligible; 2-30:57]. [Laughs.]
SMITH: So they would do square dances and round dances. And so it was—it was good. We enjoyed it. So that-a-way it kept—the captain said that would keep the boys there, a lot of them. He knew that wasn’t supposed to have cars, but a lot of them did. That’s the way [I rode around? 2-31:22].
JAMES: In the [cross-talk; unintelligible; 2-31:21].
SMITH: My buddies that had cars, you know, [unintelligible; 2-31:28]. So he said it was better to have them come there than it would for the boys to be out here.
TWAROSKI: Yeah. What kind of car did you have?
SMITH: I didn’t have one, but they would be an old Chevrolet, Ford, ’32, ’33, old A-Models.
TWAROSKI: Yeah. I just wondered how they were able to afford a car. Is it something that they had at the time?
SMITH: Well, back then—see, a lot of the boys—I didn’t, but they got their money—their parents, some of them, a lot of them were, you know, pretty well—I mean, they didn’t have to have the money. Now, my folks needed my money, see. So all mine went home. But occasionally I’d [strive? 2-32:17] and tell them, “Send me ten or fifteen dollars,” something like that. But these other fellows—see, back then you could buy an old used car, an A-Model or something, for twenty-five dollars, fifty dollars. You get a good one.
JAMES: [It would run. ? 2-32:28].
SMITH: And so—gas, fifteen cents a gallon.
JAMES: A lot of them were big, big—b-i-i-i-g things.
SMITH: So that’s the way we got around, you know? And my wife—that’s the way I met her, see? Well, I had borrowed my buddy’s car. I don’t know you ever met him or not. If you did, but I don’t remember. Marvin [Talley? 2-32:53]?
SMITH: He was over at [unintelligible; 2=32:53], The night I met her, I had borrowed his car, and me and my buddy—we drove—and she spent the night with her girlfriends coming from school, and we went to Waynesboro then, to a picture show. So after that, she would never let me go.
SMITH: But that’s the way we did. Knotty—he had a car. You know, the mess sergeant. I called him Knotty. That’s [unintelligible; 2-33:29]. So he had one, and I used his car sometimes. And I got along with all of them. I’d do a little work on their cars sometimes, [unintelligible; 2-33:42]. So after I got married, well, I used three or four of them’s cars, like go home on vacation, [unintelligible; 2-33:53]. So it was that-a-way, you didn’t have to [give money? 2-34:00]. They had it, see? I only drawed eleven dollars a month by being a assistant leader. I got a six-dollar [raise? 2-34:08] [unintelligible; 2-34:09] eleven dollars a month. Well, I could throw a big party on that just about every night—I mean every weekend, you know, [till the next one come up? 2-34:14]. Of course, if I wanted a little moonshine, why, I could get it for fifty cents a pint, you know?
SMITH: I had a bottle of beer, five and ten cents. So I tell you one time—you know, just thinking about the things that I got into—I can’t think of her name, but I remember her. But this was down here between here and Richton, between Sand Hill and Richton, down there at [Walter? Walker? Prine? 2-34:45]. Do you remember him?
JAMES: Yeah, yeah.
SMITH: He had a little honky-tonk down there, set up just for the CC boys, you know. Well, they had this record, Nickelodeon machines, you know. Well, I don’t know, we’d been drinking, [unintelligible; 2-35:02], [doing a round? 2-35:03] of partying. I really didn’t know nobody there. We just went there—
WOMAN: [unintelligible; 2-35:10]. Is that freezing y’all?
JAMES: No, no. [unintelligible; 2-35:12]. You?
SMITH: Had all the dancing [doing around? 2-35:16]. I remember walking in there, and so the next thing, I woke up, I had my [an arm pull? 2-35:23] or something, you know. I guess [she’d weigh? 2-35:25] 300, 400 pounds. And I looked at her, and I had to do this way to look up at her. She’s looking at me, and, you know, I mean, it’s just—actually, a [unintelligible; 2-35:36], but she’s big, and she had one white eye, and I told her—[Chuckles.] [unintelligible; 2-35:46]. But I looked up at her, and just as quick as [unintelligible; 2-35:47], I turned her loose and I got out of there. We [unintelligible; 2-35:49]. I said, “Let’s go.” Because she—I told them—I said, “She lookin’ back at me like a sick kid lookin’ at their mama.”
SMITH: But I know they’d kid me about it, so we left. And I didn’t see her no more for about five or six years. After the war was over, we come back. We was going down here to the Richton to sign up for unemployment. Well, a bunch of us at camp and a bunch of the fellows coming back from the war, you know—well, it would be a bunch of them. We’d bunch up out there in the [unintelligible; 2-36:23] parking lot. There wasn’t many cars parked there, and that’s where we drank and [unintelligible; 2-36:32]. So we went down there one [unintelligible; 2-36:30], and they had raided Richton. There wasn’t no moonshine around there [to buy? 2-36:36]. Well, everybody was wanting something to drink, so one of the fellows said, “I know where some’s at. If I had a car, I’d go get it.”
Well, I had a car. I said, “Well, let’s go.” We went up 15 toward Laurel about five or six miles back up in there. It turned out [unintelligible; 2-36:50] way back in there, just almost in the [unintelligible; 2-36:53]. [unintelligible; 2-36:56], and the first thing I see is that woman.
SMITH: I can’t even remember her name, but she was there. I know she didn’t remember me, but we got our liquor and come on back.
JAMES: I don’t know who that is.
TWAROSKI: This tall fellow, [unintelligible; 2-37:12] his arms.
JAMES: [unintelligible; 2-37;15] who he is. I don’t know who he is.
SMITH: I’ll tell you who it is. I think it’s Joe Pittman. Yeah. And Freddy Robbins and—
WOMAN: He must have been your barber. I saw a little fellow cutting hair over there.
WOMAN: I was just wondering who that was.
SMITH: Freddy Robbins and—I can’t think of his name right now. But there’s two of them little short fellows. Did you see it?
TWAROSKI: That guy holding—yeah. Either they were very short or he was very tall.
SMITH: Well, he’s tall, and they’re short, too.
JAMES: We at the camp believed in taking a bath, shaving and getting a haircut. And we had a old boy come in there, [unintelligible; 2-38:06] when we in Alabama. And his name was Buck. So he come in there. And I [unintelligible; 2-38:11]. He’s always neat, you know? So one morning, I come around—I come around. I was getting ready to do roll call for work, and a bunch of boys come in the front door. And they come and say, “James.” I said, “Hmm?” They said, “Old Buck’s down there.” I said, “He haven’t got a shave, haircut and a bath since he’s been here. He’s sent no clothes to the laundry.” Now, [unintelligible; 2-38:43]. I said, “Well, [don’t? go? 2-38:42] tell him. We walked on down through the barrack and got down there. Well, he raised [unintelligible; 2-38:49]. I said, “Well, I didn’t come here for that. I come up here and tell you before six o’clock tonight, you have a haircut and a shave and a bath. Don’t, I’m gonna give you one.”
And so, well, [unintelligible; 2:39:07] I wanted the [unintelligible; 2-39:05] boy to take them clothes, and he was coming up the aisle. You put your dirty clothes in a laundry bag and put your name in there, and they’d take your laundry off and you pay them. I said, “Go in that locker and get some clothes out and give them to the [unintelligible; 2-39:17] here.” I said, “Let ’em clean them clothes up, these things stored in that locker.” He told them, “I ain’t gettin’ no bath. I ain’t gonna shave.” “Yes, you are!” [unintelligible; 2-39:31] was on Monday night, I believe it was. Anyhow, it was [unintelligible; 2-39:34].
I was sitting there [unintelligible; 2-39:38]. I forgot all about it. And directly about fifty or sixty of them boys come to that front door. [unintelligible; 3-39:46], old Buck down there—said, “He hasn’t got no bath yet. No haircut or nothin’.” I said, “Well, let’s go get him.” I went down there to him, and Buck had no haircut, no shave, no bath. [unintelligible; 2-40:06]. I said, “You can get up, walk with us.” “Oh, you mess with me, you’re gonna get hurt.” I said, “Get him, boys! Get him, get him, get him, get him.” He didn’t even have to walk up there, to the bath—to the barber shop. And this fellow, [Lyde Palmer? 2-40:15] who was barber, and so Lyde had a man in the chair, old boy in the chair. Lyde told him, “Get down, get down outta the chair and get outta the way.” Them boys had—Buck didn’t even have to walk. They had him at arms, legs, neck and everything else. They just carried with him to the barber shop. And they set him down in there. Boy, I got them clippers. [Laughs.] I laid it on him!
Well, the captain was going up [unintelligible; 2-40:43] meeting, you know, and he seen all this crowd gathered at the little barber shop, the little thing, not much bigger than [unintelligible; 2-40:49]. And run across to see what was going on. And behind the barracks. He come across [unintelligible; 2-40:59]. “What’s goin’ on?” They said, “James is giving old Buck a haircut.” So he come on up to the window, and I didn’t even see him peep in, but I [unintelligible; 41:09]. [Laughs.]
Well, so I did [unintelligible; 2-41:12]. The boys told me—said, “James, the captain just walked by and said whenever you got through with Buck’s haircut, you can come on up to [unintelligible; 2-41:12]. They’d wait on you.” And so what I told the boys then—I gave a pretty good haircut, but I didn’t know what I done. I was just cutting hair. And I told the boys—I got through with that. I said, “Boys, y’all take him down there and give him a bath. I mean, use the G.I. brush, but I don’t want no hide scratched off of him, now.” I said, “I mean cold water. Don’t want no warm water ’cause we’re warnin’ him. But I don’t want no roughin’. Do it decent.”
And they carried him on down there and give him his bath and everything. And when I got out of the [unintelligible; 2-41:56]—well, when I got up there, I didn’t know what the captain was going to say. And the captain said, “Well, James, I’m behind you 100 percent. Keep it up.” When I got back, I said, “Boys, how’d y’all come out?” I come back to the barber shop, and he was in there letting Lyde fix his hair, you know, before I [unintelligible; 2-42:15] it around a little bit. [Chuckles.] And I went on down. The boys said, “Well, we didn’t skin him none. We just gave him a cool-water bath.” But he [unintelligible; 2-42:22] bath from that day on out.
JAMES: That taught him a lesson! We just didn’t put up with it.
SMITH: See, here’s the musicians. We had quite a few of them. This right here was [Ernestine’s? 2-42:32] boyfriend before me, see.
WOMAN: It was [a male? 2-42:34] boyfriend, too, Ray [Herringer? 2-42:36].
SMITH: Yeah, Ray Herringer.
WOMAN: [unintelligible; 242:39] talk to Ray Herringer.
SMITH: They played music. See, from Camp 8—see Camp 8 would come over there, and we’d go to Camp 8. But the boys were there. And sometimes they had people in the community would come and stay for the dances, too. Played fiddle and guitar and banjo. So I believe they had fiddles and guitars and mandolins, I believe. And a drum, I believe, there. So they had—
WOMAN: He must be dead, [unintelligible; 2-43:09].
SMITH: This is—I was [unintelligible; 2-43:11] paint. He’s looking up at the ceiling.
JAMES: [unintelligible; 2-43:16].
SMITH: At the paint. But I painted all of them cross pieces plus the ceiling in there with it.
JAMES: See, we had a canteen at the end of this building, a canteen. You could buy drinks and cigarettes and all like that out of the canteen. Candy bars.
SMITH: Now, this is the mess hall here, with the tables.
TWAROSKI: How much did the cigarettes and candy cost?
JAMES: Oh, I don’t know, sweetheart. I don’t think—
SMITH: Five cents for a candy bar. Cigarettes was ten cents.
JAMES: He’d sit down there on Sundays, you know, and Saturdays. No bar duty. You couldn’t go nowhere. You had to sit there, [unintelligible; 2-43:52] would ring. Had [unintelligible; 2-43:55] up there, and they’d beat that. That’s mean, you know, “C’mon up.”
Now, we played poker down in the barracks, you know. And it’s a violation of the rules and regulations—you know, gamble. We didn’t call it gamble; we’re just playing poker. With a penny up. Play a penny for the game. We played five or six games. In the winter, now, the one who won the money, he had to take—he’d go to the canteen and buy us a drink [and a Coke? 2-44:24].
JAMES: So we wanted [unintelligible; 2-44:30] loser or nobody [unintelligible; 2-44:32]. And the captain let him buy with it. He [unintelligible; 2-44:34] one day. I’m sitting down there, playing with the boys [unintelligible; 2-44:37]. I said, Oh, good God, I’ve been busted and everything else in there. But he didn’t. He didn’t. [unintelligible; 2-44:45].
SMITH: You know, we couldn’t name them by rows, like we’re trying, but in here, we could—all these in here would be the first bunch that come in, and all their names are here.
SMITH: You know, but if she wants them in rows, then you wouldn’t be able to do that.
[End File 2. Begin File 3.]
TWAROSKI: I wanted to ask you about the fires, about fighting fires and what the fires were like, their size and how [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-0:12].
JAMES: A big forest fire is one of the most destructive things that ever come in. Now, you get out there, and what we’re talking about, in one of those wiregrass hollows—I got in one one night. No, I was in one [evening? 3-0:28]. Back up here in these woods. And I had my [clacker? 0:34], my plow, my pump, and that wiregrass growing in there, and the wind was coming—I was going with the wind, close as far as I could get, you know, where it wouldn’t jump over my fire plow. Now, I plowed a lane [unintelligible; 3-0:48]. It goes down, what, about five or six foot, man? That plow. And she got to get up close to do it, and I wouldn’t give it a chance it would go over me. And I held in there, and—
TWAROSKI: Was this a machine plow?
JAMES: Yeah, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
JAMES: Yeah, I pulled on my tractor. And we’re going along [unintelligible; 3-1:09] that fire, and the wind whipped back and cut right over there, and my [tanks? 3-1:13] over my tractor, like that, and I was sitting down here between them. And that fire whipped, and [unintelligible; 3-1:20], and I went down between my tanks, sitting like that. And it was just a [flash and yonder it went back? 3-1:27]. Well, when I straightened up, my gas tank was up here in front of me, and riding it in the woods, you know, it sloshed gas out up on top of the gas tank. It’s burning. I didn’t know nobody was within a hundred miles of me, and I just grabbed my old blue denim hat off. That’s what we wore to work. I just grabbed the old blue denim and stopped the tractor, just got that old blue denim hat and smothered it out just like that.
Well, we went on, and, boy, come to find out that the forest superintendent and the [unintelligible; 3-1:59] foreman were standing out there [watching? 3-2:02]. They eat me up about that. Said, “Why didn’t you jump off of that thing?” I said, “Well, I didn’t have [unintelligible; 3-2:11]. I just put my hat back on my head.” That same fire went on [unintelligible; 3-2:18], then you go around in and finally [pulled it in? 3-2:18], if you know how to do it, you know. I knew how. [unintelligible; 3-2:24]. But that—
TWAROSKI: Did you ever have to do any handmade fire lines that they were digging [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-2:31] and stuff?
JAMES: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.
TWAROSKI: It was always done with the tractor?
JAMES: No, we always tried to plow.
TWAROSKI: Did you ever have to use any [pump or? pumper? 3-2:37] water?
JAMES: Oh, the [unintelligible; 3-2:39] did. We had a thousand gallons of water on that tractor, on the [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-2:43].
TWAROSKI: Okay. Did you carry any?
TWAROSKI: Did people carry any in on their backs and stuff?
JAMES: Oh, yeah. They got water tanks on their back. How many gallon? Five gallon, Red?
SMITH: Yeah, [unintelligible; 3-2:55].
SMITH: You mean the [unintelligible; 3-2:56] pump? Yeah, five gallons.
JAMES: Yeah, they held it on their back and spray it.
JAMES: But mine was much bigger. I [hit the hot stuff? 3-3:02], you know. They come along behind. If I let them get there, you know—well, I do the dirty work. I [unintelligible; 3-3:09] do dirty work. I [unintelligible; 3-3:13]. But anyhow I enjoyed it. And I [unintelligible; 3-3:18] today.
TWAROSKI: How long would you have to—how long would a fire last?
JAMES: Well, the worst [unintelligible; 3-3:27] that I ever got—I went to Camp 8 that night and [unintelligible; 3-3:35] truck, got back, went to bed, just got to sleep, had to get up again, leave, go way down yonder to another. I got in right about the crack of daylight. That’s the worst [seed? seat? 3-3:46] I had. First time in the lifetime I went all that long. But it wasn’t—that’s the reason they helped me. There’s seven weeks, seven days a week when I [wore the belt? 3-4:-02] for me and the Cat [skinners? 3-4:03], see? [Laughs.] So [unintelligible; 3-4:07]. But I enjoyed it. [unintelligible; 3-4:13]. If I wanted off of there too, well, they was always good to me. They let me off. Not as bad as the old captain was, now.
You know, [finding? 3-4:22] the last load on the thing—well, you could—they didn’t care if you get married, like Red did, here, see? They wouldn’t run you off on account of that.
SMITH: That was if you was a good boy.
JAMES: One of the little boys come up there to the captain one day. The old captain [unintelligible; 3-4:38]. He come up there, and he’s making his excuse, you know, wanting to get a weekend pass—you know, go home. He said, “Captain,” he said, “my wife is fixing to get pregnant, and I want to be there.” [Laughter.] [unintelligible; 3-4:54].
JAMES: She wanted to get pregnant. He wanted to be there!
JAMES: The other boys getting off because their wives were pregnant and [looking for? 3-4:59] the baby, and them boys [unintelligible; 3-5:02]. [Laughter.]
Here’s where [unintelligible; 3-5:11]. Now, that comes from camp—let’s see—Camp 16.
SMITH: From [unintelligible; 3-5:18].
JAMES: [unintelligible; 3-5:20].
SMITH: That’s the first twenty-five that come in, see.
SMITH: And then we come in down here, the 17th of July. That’s June. That’s [unintelligible; 3-5:32]. I [unintelligible; 3-5:33] somewhere.
JAMES: [unintelligible; 3-5:36].
SMITH: But different times [unintelligible; 3-5:41]. This was when they first [unintelligible; 3-5:40]. The barracks wasn’t finished, but it was Camp 16. That’s Perkins. I don’t know just exactly—he’s somewhere down there.
JAMES: [unintelligible; 3-5:50] him.
JAMES: [unintelligible; 3-5:51].
SMITH: But that’s where the first [unintelligible; 3-5:54].
TWAROSKI: I wanted to ask some questions. I don’t know if you had many dealings with them in your jobs, but the Forest Service personnel. You know, what were your impressions of those people, and what were they like at that time?
JAMES: [unintelligible; 3-6:10]. See, we had to be. They had to be. See, you couldn’t go out here and make enemies.
JAMES: If you did, you just—there’s no job. You had to be friendly.
TWAROSKI: What were their responsibilities and—
JAMES: Well, just go out there and [unintelligible; 3-6:28].
TWAROSKI: —things like that?
SMITH: They had—they even had a public relation man that went around. The Brewer folks back over here, and some of them worked—J.B. Brewer. You know, him.
SMITH: All right, some of his people and all worked [unintelligible; 3-6:44], but they called them BFI men, instead of staying FBI men?
SMITH: But he was public relation, and he would go around—and he had also—I mean, he [unintelligible; 3-6:57] the Forest Service. He was in the Forest Service. But he’d go around and talk with them and do—and he was trained to that [unintelligible; 3-7:07]. He’d come [unintelligible; 3-7:08] talk to you. I mean, he just [unintelligible; 3-7:10]. But in a way, he could read your mind enough if you was the one that set the fire he’s checking on, he could see it in your eyes. You know, and then some of them would hide their shoes—you know, go out and [unintelligible; 3-7:23], and he’d go around and could tell where the shoes are at. He’d see the different track. Well, he was good. But they did. It was public relation, and the Forest Service—they catered a lot to the public around—
JAMES: We had to do it. We had to do it.
SMITH: [unintelligible; 3-7:41] because [unintelligible; 3-7:44] burning out of house and home there for a while, you know?
JAMES: And one time we getting the hogs out of the pastures, and, you know, we fenced a lot of the land, the majority of it—fencing the sheep and the hogs. They want them out. And then they would rent the pasture to you for so much a head to put your cows in there. And I was [noting? 3-8:06] wood, you know, and everything, and they rented me a horse from over there and had it [unintelligible; 3-8:15]. They had a trailer to haul him in, and they furnished me a pickup to [unintelligible; 3-8:19]. They brought him. We kept him up here at the camp. I rode him every day. And I had a dog, a good hound dog. And that was my job. I rode that horse. In the last go-around, I stayed a month at a time, [unintelligible; 3-8:30] fire [unintelligible; 3-8:33]. That dog would be at the hog, and we’d catch him [in time? one time? 3-8:35]. And if I knew whose hog it was, while I’d load him and carry [unintelligible; 3-8:39]. If I didn’t, why, we’d just haul him out of the [fire? 3-8:41] and throw him out.
Well, [unintelligible; 8:45] around there, and I knew there’s an old sow and a bunch of [unintelligible]; 3-8:50] belong to an old man back down yonder named Will Smith. And I knew who the old sow [unintelligible; 3-8:52] was. And old Norm Gordon down here in Piave—you know. You know [unintelligible; 3-9:02] his daddy. He was over in there with him, going hog hunting one time. They come across and found Will Smith’s old sow over there, and he [unintelligible; 3-9:09] forester. They didn’t tell me nothing about the hog hunt. But the forester side had him in their hog hunt, and they found that old sow [unintelligible; 3-9:18], and they called him, and Norm told them it’s his. They hauled him out yonder and put him in Norm’s pen.
And one day I come into camp—I come into camp that evening, said to some of the boys, “You hog hunting today?” “No, ain’t nobody hog hunting [unintelligible; 3-9:33].” “Oh, yes, they are, too. There’s a [bunch? 3-9:35] in that old pasture down yonder.” “Yeah, that’s [unintelligible; 3-9:42]. Norm Gordon claimed him. He carried him home with him and put him in his pen.” I said, “Well, I’ll see about that. The next morning, I went across the road, talking to the [unintelligible; 3-9:53], talking to the man, himself. [unintelligible; 3-9:59] I’d catch you at home [unintelligible; 3-10:04]. Yeah, [unintelligible; 3-10:05].
Well, he hadn’t told me to get that old sow out of there. I happened to caught it running out the gate. He said, “Yeah.” “Well,” I said, “what did you do with her?” There’s Norm Gordon. Said it’s his. And they carried him over there and put him in the pen at the house. I said, “I tell you what you do. That old sow better be back out here [and? 3-10:31] Will Smith in the morning. Don’t you go and lose your job and a whole lot more you’re gonna lose, because I’m not gonna stand for this kind of [unintelligible; 3-10:39]. You know Norm go and live in the sand hill, didn’t have no hogs out here in these pastures, and you know that, yourself.” And I said, “As far as I’m concerned, I’m through right now. I’m washing my hand of this filthy mess. You know better’n that. And I’m not gonna put up with it. I’m just that kind of a fellow. I mean, your’n is your’n, and his is his. Don’t mess with [unintelligible; 3-11:06] with me knowing what it was because [unintelligible; 3-11:07].” I knew the old sow. Seen her.
And let me tell you one thing: He got squared up, and he begged me not to go over [unintelligible; 3-11:18]. And next morning, when I went—I went down [unintelligible; 3-11:24]. He [unintelligible; 3-11:22] and put her out that day. [unintelligible; 3-11:25] put out no more [unintelligible; 3-11:30] that day, [unintelligible; 3-11:31]. I didn’t do no harm. I just say that the government stood up for what they supposed to [unintelligible; 3-11:36]. Because, now, we worked for cooperation with everybody, [unintelligible; 3-11:43] to get you to go up [unintelligible; 3-11:44] with us.
See, that’s a give-and-take proposition. Now, it’s cooperation. Now, if you can’t cooperate with me, well, I can’t cooperate with you. It’s a give-and-take proposition.
JAMES: And the [unintelligible; 3-11:57] seen that through. He seen [I meant and did it? 3-12:01]. I wasn’t going to leave there that morning. And I’d have got out and told that, there would have been some wood burning. [Laughs.] But, now, I had a bunch—we had a bunch down there that could know how to do it.
TWAROSKI: [unintelligible; 3=12:19].
WOMAN: Do you need some water or anything?
JAMES: [unintelligible; 3-12:23], being you so smart.
JAMES: [unintelligible; 3-12:28]. There ain’t nobody—you not [unintelligible; 3-12:30]. You the boss of the house. Without a woman in the house, we’re used to men being [that? there? 3-12:35].
WOMAN: Do you want some ice in yours, too?
TWAROSKI: I sure would.
WOMAN: [Ben? 3-12:39], do you want some water?
JAMES: He don’t drink water.
MAN: [unintelligible; 3-12:46] all that ice cream and [unintelligible; 3-12:50].
JAMES: [unintelligible; 3-12:51].
TWAROSKI: Well, I understand, from what you had told earlier, that most of the men—the Army took care of them when they were in camp.
TWAROSKI: And then in the morning they’d go over to the Forest Service side and the Forest Service would take them out and make them plant trees and stuff like that?
SMITH: They was in charge of them from about seven o’clock in the morning until around four or four thirty. They had to have them back in there, I believe, about five o’clock.
JAMES: [After you? 3-13:15] worked six hours.
SMITH: And so—
JAMES: That’s a hard [day’s work? 3-13:18].
SMITH: But the Forest Service was strictly in charge of it, all jurisdiction over it until—well, after dark [unintelligible; 3-13:29] across the road. That’s [unintelligible; 3-13:31]. And then whenever they crossed the road going back into the camp [unintelligible; 3-13:36], then [unintelligible; 3-13:47].
WOMAN: [unintelligible; 3-13:49].
SMITH: But I was just looking here. This was in ’36. This was me. But I saw where—I forget how many thousands of pine trees had been set out by that time [unintelligible; 3-14:02].
TWAROSKI: It had only been a year, right?
WOMAN: Here you go.
SMITH: Yeah, it had only been a year.
WOMAN: I’ll get over here and drink mine.
SMITH: [unintelligible; 3-14:10].
TWAROSKI: Thank you.
WOMAN: You’re welcome.
JAMES: Well, [unintelligible; 3-14:13]. [Laughs.] I never had a chance to go back, but I didn’t cry about it. [unintelligible; 3-14:18].
SMITH: Yeah, [it wasn’t bad? 3-14:23]. [unintelligible; 3-14:28].[cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-14:28]
JAMES: [unintelligible; 3-14:29].
JAMES: You [unintelligible; 3-14:31].
SMITH: I could [unintelligible; 3=-14:33].
JAMES: [unintelligible; 3-14:35].
SMITH: [unintelligible; 3-14:39] just on my own and just [unintelligible; 3-14:41].
TWAROSKI: Did they ever have to, with all the fires and everything, have to go back in and replant them?
SMITH: No, [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-14:46], but they wouldn’t go back and replant them for maybe several years [unintelligible; 3-14:50], and sometimes it would be too dry or the air—now, there’s a place over close to her mother’s, Sand Hill, and it wasn’t nothing but these old—
JAMES: [Oak runner? 3-15:02].
SMITH: Yeah, oak runner, blackjacks—
TWAROSKI: White oak?
SMITH: No, I forget what the kind of oak. What kind of oak you call them?
JAMES: Oak runs, over there at Sand Hill.
JAMES: And blackjacks.
SMITH: And [unintelligible; 3-15:15]. But that whole [unintelligible; 3-15:19]—they’d go through there and [unintelligible; 3-15:20] the trees, and then they sent these out there. But they never did seem to do any good. I went all over the whole place. When the cooks would go out to carry the dinner and everything was all right—see, through the middle of the day, if I had plenty of water pumped up, didn’t have to run [unintelligible; 3-15:39], so I was free to sort of loaf as long as they didn’t want me. But I’d go with them, and I knew all these [whatever they was planting? 3-15:47]. I’d see the condition. [unintelligible; 3-15:51].
But as I started to say, they couldn’t get nothing to live there. So very few [lived around? 3-15:56], but they went here just before we moved back a little over fifteen years ago. They went back and [surveyed? 3-16:03] what was there and pushed all of it out and set out trees now. They’ve set [unintelligible; 3-16:09] out there, and they’re about fifteen or twenty foot high [unintelligible; 3-16:14].
JAMES: Back on the old sand hill?
SMITH: Yeah, old sand hill, just before—
JAMES: I [unintelligible; 3-16:18] go in there. I [unintelligible; 3-16:2-].
SMITH: [unintelligible; 16:25] some of the prettiest trees. They got short straw, long straw. They’re about ten or twelve foot high now.
JAMES: Me and Doug was driving that road down yonder on 42 down here, and went all the way through to the other side [unintelligible; 3-16:39] Little Creek, and [unintelligible; 3-16:43] up yonder, [unintelligible; 3-16:43] 63 Highway and go on out over there and hit the old Camp 8 Road over there. We built that road right through the [bald? 3-16:50] woods, and from down there at 42 to Little Creek there’s not even [a cover? 3-16:54]. And [unintelligible; 3-17:00]. We graded it up. See, we had a standard. They give you a blueprint. All you have is some [unintelligible; 3-17:09] down here on the side, and you couldn’t go according to these [unintelligible; 3-17:10] here and set up [unintelligible; 3-17:14]. You just have trouble.
We had to get out [unintelligible; 3-17:16]. Me and Doug done it. We measured so many feet from this [unintelligible; 3-17:21] to where you [unintelligible; 3-17:25]. You got to [unintelligible; 3-17:25] your stakes over down there. So many feet from that to the bottom of your next [unintelligible; 3-17:30] line on the bottom of the next [unintelligible; 3-17:34]. You got to have—and when you wound up with a [unintelligible; 3-17:40, now, you had to have an eighteen-foot flat [crown? 3-17:41] on top. [unintelligible; 3-17:44] you grade the roads up to some standard, and you can go there today and she’s still—they don’t grade it [near by? 3-17:52[ like we did. We had a way. We had to maintain it. It had to be right—the tail of the blade, when you haul this out here, come here to the flat of your road here, when you come in, that’s your shoulder. Don’t never put that blade on that shoulder. That’s your road, that holds you. That holds your roadbed. Your shoulder holds the roadbed.
Now they go and dig down out here to get dirt to get in the hole over here, and [unintelligible; 3-18:22] your road. But we couldn’t do that. We had a grade standard. That’s the reason why the county’s got [unintelligible; 3-18:32]. They never built a piece of road to standard. Well, they’d come in here from Atlanta, Georgia, and when I got a piece of road, [unintelligible; 3-18:42] turn it over from the Forest Service to the government. They coming in from Atlanta, Georgia, and it had to be so many feet from the shoulder to the bottom of that ditch, and you sloped your bank back every so many inches, whatever, a foot high. And it had to be that. Maybe you don’t care if you were ten miles out here, you brought your machine back, and you put it up to the standard. You [unintelligible; 3-19:12].
And so the way—when we got through the piece, grading going along here, we’d get out and get our tape out and see what we done. If you got it up to that standard, why, you move on. If you didn’t, turn around and [dig? 3-19:24].
JAMES: And that’s what’s wrong with our road today. You got to have a standard.
TWAROSKI: Okay, just a couple of more questions.
SMITH: [unintelligible; 3-19:35].
TWAROSKI: You’re getting kind of tired. You told me about how you did the lights, but how did you have to do the water?
SMITH: The water. Well, we had—well, I had a small old—utility has them, where they would have this water pump plus their light generators all in that [unintelligible; 3-19:54]. But we had a big water tank, and we had a gasoline motor that pumped the water into this tank, so—then, of course, we had pipes running to the bath house, kitchen. So just pumping—
JAMES: [unintelligible; 3-20:19].
TWAROSKI: So you [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-20:21]
JAMES: In the [bag? 3-20:22] water.
TWAROSKI: You would have to pump it by hand or automatically set it on and it would—
SMITH: No, it had a water pump that pumped it into the big storage tank.
SMITH: They have several thousand gallons. It was thirty, forty foot high. So then—
JAMES: [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-20:41].
SMITH: [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-20:41] just like today, they had water just like you got in the kitchen and stuff, in the kitchen and then the bath house down there and all that, a place to wash and so on. So we had lines running down. We didn’t have no lines running to the barracks, where they showered. There’s—down where the old bath house used to be, all the foundation and all is still there and everything, you know. Where we’d go into the shower room, they had a cement [build up? 3-21:24], but they had a little piece of iron laying across there, and I don’t know why the iron was there. That’s where it was, but it was [unintelligible; 3-21:36] like a angle, and it was put there. When I went there—that’s been about a year or so ago—I seen it there. And the bolt had rusted. I just picked it up and I brought [unintelligible; 3-21:45] out there in the shop [there with me? 3-21:47]. But it’s all there. And the septic tank is—you see it—
JAMES: It’s still there. So we’d dig these latrines, you see, dig them in the ground, and we just [unintelligible; 3-21:59], [unintelligible-22:01], you know, when it come time to move it when this one got full. You see, we could just go in there and pick that house up and just carry it over here and set it down on a new place. And that’s even [unintelligible; 3-22:13] to get off early. [Laughs.] [unintelligible; 3-22:16].
SMITH: This one was built [unintelligible; 3-22:19]. It’s always been there. It’s got—the septic tanks are still there. They—
JAMES: Well, we had [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-22:26] dug them things.
JAMES: Dug them.
SMITH: Oh, you mean at home.
JAMES: No! Up at that camp!
TWAROSKI: [unintelligible; 3-22:36].
SMITH: No, this is the first one built up there.
JAMES: Well, let’s see, we moved that thing about three times while I was there.
SMITH: Well, there was one sitting off down there for just [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-22:44].
JAMES: This here was a big one. We got [unintelligible; 3-22:46], put things [unintelligible; 3-22:49] and picked it up, and had to walk it off down here and put it down over in that [unintelligible; 3-22:53].
SMITH: I remember one being there, that temporary, right down at the Barracks 3 or 4.
JAMES: Behind the Barracks 2 and 3.
SMITH: Yeah, But anyway, they didn’t have a whole [unintelligible; 3-23:07], but they built this one, and—
JAMES: I’d get out. I’d be gone.
SMITH: You’d be ready to leave.
JAMES: [Laughs.] I never did have to move them things. They’d make the announcements, you know?
JAMES: Somebody on double duty, see? Some extra hours to put in. That’s the one [unintelligible; 3-23:30]. Didn’t have his shoes straight on the front of the bed, and some of them leaders would give you two, three hours extra duty [just as sure? 3-23:38]. And if your bed wasn’t made up right, they’d give you two or three hours extra duty. I never was that mean. I’d just [tie? 3-23:43] the bed up and make them fix it.
JAMES: I [unintelligible; 3-23:49]. And I’d show them how to put them shoes–[unintelligible; 3-23:50] set them right beside that bed every morning. And the [unintelligible; 3-23:56] flopped around [unintelligible; 3-24:00]. A lot of them boys gave them two, three hours extra duty, and that’s [unintelligible; 3-24:02]. Yeah. But I wasn’t all that hard on them, but I [unintelligible; 3-24:09].
TWAROSKI: Well, last question. Maybe both of you can kind of answer this one. They closed the camps in ’42, and some things I read—I mean, I know they closed them all the same day, that a lot of it, you know, was that the enrollment was down and a lot of people were going into the Army and everything like that. Was that the same kind of situation here, that there just weren’t as many people signing up to come in?
JAMES: They all went to the Army is the only thing I can [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-24:42].
TWAROSKI: Were they automatically pulled into the Army?
SMITH: Yeah. The one—of course, I’d already got out there, but I knew a lot of them—
JAMES: I joined.
SMITH: [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-24:51], and the younger ones [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-24:52]—
JAMES: [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-24:53] going.
SMITH: The younger fellows that qualified for the Army, the ones that wasn’t married, so they drafted them right on into the Army, and that was in July of ’42. But it would take them another year or two before they tore them all down and stacked them up. Now, if you could get to talk to Knotty—I call him Knotty. He’s got a granddaughter works up there, up at Warsaw—he was one of them that was in charge at the end of having all these tore down and carried and stacked. And then they shipped them out to make—made some Army barracks out of them. I think [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-25:36].
JAMES: That’s all we had. That’s what them was, old Army barracks.
SMITH: Well, they were built [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-25:41].
JAMES: The same [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-25:45].
SMITH: These were [unintelligible; 3-25:46] up here.
JAMES: Yeah, [unintelligible; 3-25:47].
JAMES: Bolted together.
SMITH: But he could tell you. Now, he was in charge. He’s one of the last—he got out, and then they went back and got him to go there and be in charge up there, and they sent him to a school in—I forget what kind of officer they called him, but it was in sort of civil service [students? 3-26:11], and they give them a lot more money, see. In other words, but he was still—he was in charge of taking them—tearing them all down and storing them wherever they carried them to.
TWAROSKI: So by that time, the economy had really improved?
SMITH: Yeah. Well, the shipyard work had started, and that’s where I went. When I got out of camp, well, I went and worked about a year, I guess, on WPA [Works Progress Administration]. I worked on the roads in that. And then from there, then [unintelligible; 3-26:45] but went to the shipyard, and I worked then till after the war was over. So everything began to grow. When the war started, why, there was jobs here [unintelligible; 3-26:59]. A lot of things, you couldn’t get, but people were [unintelligible; 3-27:01]. But they did take everyone that was available, that wasn’t married, [fittest of fit? 3-27:11] right out of the CC camp into there.
And they had a little advantage over the others. Some of them [unintelligible; 3-27:17]. They didn’t have to go through a lot of things that command just picked up off the street [unintelligible; 3-27:25]. They sort of give them a little more consideration or something like that.
TWAROSKI: Did they train y’all, make you drill and everything like that?
JAMES: Aw, mess us around. You know, [unintelligible; 3-27:42].
JAMES: [unintelligible; 3-27:46], but I [unintelligible; 3-27:46].
SMITH: He got his exercise before he got there. Now, I’d taken it for a while, but—
JAMES: [Laughs.] But he [unintelligible; 3-27:54].
SMITH: —I learned pretty soon that I didn’t have to, so I didn’t go.
SMITH: We’d have to line up, you know, in the morning with reveille. And we had to be out there—
JAMES: [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-28:05]. [Laughs.]
SMITH: All kind of exercise this way, another way, and they’d raise a flag, you salute the flag and all that stuff, you know?
JAMES: That’s a [unintelligible; 3-28:17] right now.
SMITH: And then in the evening they take it down. You’d get them out there just before supper. I think they went from there to supper after they take the flag down, something like that, you know. I’ve forgotten [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-28:30].
JAMES: Whistle blow, you march down [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-28:28].
SMITH: They always had some [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-28:29].
JAMES: They’d march them—everybody were lined up in the front of his own barracks, a double line. And the leader had to get out, look see if the shoe shine—
TWAROSKI: So you’d come in from work and have to change into a different uniform?—
JAMES: Oh, yeah, [unintelligible; 3-28:45].
TWAROSKI: —for that?
JAMES: [unintelligible; 3-28:50]. Go take a bath, shave, come on with your uniform. In the summertime, we used khakis. In the wintertime, we used wool.
TWAROSKI: Now, how did you deal with all the heat and everything during the summertime—
SMITH: We had—
TWAROSKI: —in the barracks and stuff?
SMITH: —wood heaters.
TWAROSKI: Okay. What about in the summertime, when it was really hot? [unintelligible; 3-29:06]?
SMITH: We’d let the wind blow.
JAMES: That’s all! That’s all.
SMITH: If they’re not used to it, they don’t hurt you.
SMITH: It wasn’t too bad. But [unintelligible; 3-29:22]. Everybody [unintelligible; 3-29:24].
WOMAN: I [unintelligible; 3-29:26] many a night [unintelligible; 3-29:32]. We lived here before we went to Michigan. It would be so hot, we didn’t have fans, and [they’d wet papers? 3-29:37], [fanned them like this? 3-29:38] [unintelligible; 3-29:41].
JAMES: Well, it was something, but, I tell you, I enjoyed.
TWAROSKI: A lot of people, it seems like, you talk to, even though they’ve gone on and had such rich lives—you know, doctors and whatever—but this is the most—it lasted only two years, but it seemed to be what has impressed them most in their lifetimes. It obviously meant a lot. Any kind of personal feelings you want to add here at the end about it, or what it meant to you?
SMITH: I don’t know. I mean, of course, I could think of a lot of—I mean, it’s—to me, a lot of people asked me why did I want to [clean off up there around the camp place? 3:30:31]. Said, “Why do you want to do all that work?” I don’t know, unless—about the only thing I could say—just like a lot of kids around their old home place, they like to keep it up and go back there and look and stuff like that. So it meant so much to me because I hate to see it going—like, whenever I moved back here. And I just—well, I don’t have the words to say it, but—I mean, I think that—but it meant just about everything. I mean, I can go now and look at it and think about the times and just ride around, see the area. I get emotional sometime. I can’t help it. It’s just something there that seemed like part of me. I can’t just push it off as far as what I do up there. I enjoy. I go up there a lot of times, just [unintelligible; 3-31:35], look at it. I got a few flowers growing in a ditch. I’ll wait until everything gets sort of settled down, then I’m going to fix but a few flowers. [Terry? 3-31:42] says, “I don’t want to hear it.” I’m going to set out some trees here. She said, “It’s easier to get forgiveness than it is permission.”
SMITH: So nobody’ll know if the trees is growing, maybe.
SMITH: And stuff like that. And I’ve got a lot of flowers, and I dig up wildflowers and put on up there. That way you can’t [cut the grass no way? 3-32:04]. And we’ve got some [unintelligible; 3-32:07] put up there. I don’t know if you’ve been by there or not and seen them, but I got some that don’t show up except in the morning. They [unintelligible; 3-32:15]. They have a blue flower there. I don’t know what they are, whether they’re wildflowers. We got some in the yard there. But it just—I go back there a lot of times and just sit there and [unintelligible; 3-32:34]. Just like a Ferris wheel turning in my mind, thinking about the things, the people and—you know, they—just for my part, there’s a lot of them I try to—some of us are real close together, and I’ve tried to get in touch with some. Some, I’ve found. Some, I haven’t, so—but we just like—to me, it was like a family, [unintelligible; 3-33:00].
SMITH: And I still—and being there—that’s almost just like—well, more so, I guess, I look at it as my home place more than I do where my mother and them live. There’s something about it just seem like I’m attached more to it, probably because I live here close by it or something like that. But it’s meant a lot to me, and I appreciate every bit of it, the privilege I had, you know.
JAMES: And that thirty dollars a month, you see. I was married in August. Went down in September and started the housekeeping in December. And I bought my furniture here and paid for it out of that thirty dollars a month.
JAMES: And you may laugh a bit, but the dresser I bought back then—be this coming December, be fifty years ago. Still in the house. [unintelligible; 3-23:06] cost eighteen dollars. [unintelligible; 3-23:12]. [Just till I could get a day to put in the house? 3-23:13]. Fifteen dollars. But all that come from that thirty dollars a month. And I paid–[unintelligible; 3-34:34] bought it for me, [unintelligible; 3-34:27] Bill Douglas [unintelligible; 3-34:27]. She ordered it through the store, and I paid for it monthly out of that thirty dollars. You tell me you can’t do so-and-so?
SMITH: [unintelligible; 3-34:37] he’s talking about the [unintelligible; 3-34:40] and all, [what they did? 3-34:42]. But I forgot whether I built it just before we married or right after we married, but I made her a dining room table, and I made my wife a rolling pin. She’s still a’got it. [Go show it to them. ? 3-35:00]
SMITH: And then I made her a little—I think we called it a center table—you know, about this big around. [Demonstrates.]
WOMAN: [unintelligible; 3-35:04].
SMITH: Three-legged thing, but it’s a [unintelligible; 3-35:07]. My daughter’s got it. And it [unintelligible; 3-35:14], a little table. And my other daughter’s got a dining room table. I turned my legs and all this, just fancied up. See, we had a woodwork shop there, and I built it, and made her a rolling pin because they—
JAMES: And you have [unintelligible; 3-35:33] [all these years? 3-35:34].
SMITH: Oh, she hadn’t hit me the first time.
WOMAN: I’ve used that for fifty-five years, I reckon. They don’t [break? 3-35:42].
SMITH: So that’s the first furniture we had, was them two tables. And I used—the captain let me have the Army truck to take it over to house. We didn’t live but two miles from the camp there. And so I carried it over there, and then we bought other little stuff along with it, [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-35:59].
JAMES: See, all kind of things [like this went along? 3-36:04] in camp life. If you wanted to get you some of it to stay with you, you could get it, but if you didn’t go around looking for nothing but the thirty dollars a month, that’s all you got. But they went away knowing all kind of different people. You got [whatever you do—education? 3-36:24], or you get that if you wanted it, and they was there for you, just like [unintelligible; 3-36:28] you want it, [unintelligible; 3-36:29] get it. And I take advantage of them [better than I could get? 3-36:32]. [unintelligible; 3-36:36].
TWAROSKI: Do you have any other personal things you want to say?
JAMES: No, no. That’s so much, I don’t [unintelligible; 3:36:44]. [Laughs.]
WOMAN: You see this magazine? Today you’ll pay, like, two dollars for them, and I think was, like, in ’57. I think [three was a nickel? 3-37:01].
JAMES: [unintelligible; 3-37:02]’s got them all [unintelligible; 3-37:04]. [unintelligible; 3-37:05].
WOMAN: This old [unintelligible; 3-37:06] lady.
JAMES: She’ll buy them and prescribe for them, come in. They never been opened. [unintelligible; 3-37:12] magazine. I said, “Well, you got ’em.”
WOMAN: Yeah, I like—this has got some pie recipes. An old German lady gave it to me. She lived with us about a year. And she couldn’t take all her stuff, and what she’d already given to me anyway, but I thought [unintelligible; 3-37:36] for about two dollars.
JAMES: And she [unintelligible; 3-37:04] but two dollars.
WOMAN: If you’re lucky.
JAMES: With them recipes in there.
WOMAN: They [worked it? 3-37:46]. [unintelligible; 3-37:47]. I like my recipes.
JAMES: Well, the madam had all kind of recipe books. Anybody come out and want it, she got it.
WOMAN: [unintelligible; 3-38:00].
JAMES: And [unintelligible; 3-38:05] she didn’t know nothing much, she [unintelligible; 3-38:10] every cookbook she had.
JAMES: Every one of them.
WOMAN: Every paper I get through the mail or anything, if there’s a recipe in it, I cut it out. [Laughs.]
JAMES: I might have done the same thing. And she accused our baby of stealing it. Well, then, when I went to look for this book there yesterday,—I don’t go in that room. I don’t go in that room at all. Period. You got a room. I have one. And she had that book hid in her room. And I went in there and got [unintelligible; 3-38:38], and I found all of her cookbooks.
JAMES: She [unintelligible; 3-38:45]. Betty Crocker and all of them. She got all them there, and different ones, you know, from churches that put out books.
JAMES: Well, she’d buy them [unintelligible; 3-38:53]. I said, “Mama, what’d you do that for? You don’t ever cook nothing out of ’em.” She [cross-talk; unintelligible; 3-38:57].
WOMAN: [unintelligible; 3-39:01].
JAMES: She’s already—she’s already cooking anyhow. So that’s how you want it. That’s why you got it.
WOMAN: Yeah, I got a lot of cookbooks.
JAMES: Oh, she’s got [unintelligible; 3-39:11].
WOMAN: [unintelligible; 3-39:13].
JAMES: I don’t know how come I didn’t seen the two pages there. There was some [unintelligible; 3-39:17] in the back of it. I looked [for real? 3-39:19]. [unintelligible; 3-39:21].
SMITH: I looked to see where I was at. I never looked [unintelligible; 3-39:26].
JAMES: But I hadn’t picked it up in years. Like I told you the other day—
[Abrupt end of interview.]