William Johnie Lindsey CCC Memories
Submitted by Jolene Dew (Daughter-in-law to Lamar Owen and Veda (Lindsey) Dew)
William Johnie Lindsey is the son of John Isaac Lindsey Jr. and Bertha Clemons Lindsey; grandson of John Isaac Lindsey Sr. and his wife Mary Marinda Lee; great grandson of Harmon Young Lee and Hixie "Linda" Whitehead; great great grandson of William Browder Lee and Marinda Roberts; great great great grandson of Joseph Roberts. He wrote these memories in 1994.
The 9th of March 1934, I received my certificate of finishing the Public Schools of Tennessee. I was able to enter any High School in the first year in the State of Tennessee. I went two years to Baxter Seminary. Before it was time to go to the third year, I enlisted in the 3 C's (C.C.C.) Civilian Conservation Corps. For the next two years I lost tract of a lot that happened at home. For the first 5 months I worked helping build roads through the forest. It was called the Cherokee National Forest. I think it is in two or three states. After 5 months I was made Assistant Leader which paid $6.00 more per month. I was taken out of the field and put on overhead as an Assistant Education Advisor. I spent several months in this job. They wanted to make me the Education Advisor except I didn't have a College degree.
To make up for not being able to get the job as Education Advisor which made $120.00 a month, the Commanding Officer told me that if I would stay in charge of all reports for the school, he would give me a helper for classes and he would give me the job and pay as a Canteen Steward out of the company funds. This made me the highest paid enrollee in the camp. The leader was paid $45.00 a month. The assistant $36.00 a month. The regular enrollees got $30.00 a month. $25.00 went home to our parents and the rest we got in camp. Regulars received $5.00 in camp. Assistant received $11.00 in camp. Leader received $15.00 in camp. I was getting Assistant pay in camp plus $15.00 from company funds and that made me the highest paid man that was in camp. I received $11.00 more per month than First Sergeant, Co. Clerk, Mess Hall Sergeant or any other leader in camp. This was while I was in Co. 4494 Vonore, Tennessee.
After about six months in the 3 C's, I had been made Assistant Educational Adviser. I started working with a 28-year-old man that could not even write his name. The ED Adviser told me that the commanding officer and he had tried everything in the book to get him to learn to spell his name so he could sign the pay roll. He was still making his X and having it witnessed. I
Figured the best way to help him would be to find out what he was interested in. I spent about a week sitting around with the groups he was talking with. I found out he thought that one of his Uncles was in World War 1. He had captured a few Germans single handedly. This uncle seemed to be his idle, so I told him I had a couple of books in the Library that had every soldier that was in the war. It had their pictures in the books. He said he didn't want the fellows seeing him at school so I told him that I had a back door that was to my bedroom and I could close the bedroom door and no one would know he was there so they couldn't bother him. He came up the hill to my room. I gave him one of the books and told him to see if he could find his Uncle's picture in the book. I went into the room where we had the classes and left him; alone. He looked for two or three hours and wanted to know if he could come back the next night. I told him he could. He came a little earlier the next night and stayed a little later. He found several pictures of his Uncle, and I read some of the writing under the pictures for him.
After a few nights I ask him if he would like to know how to read. He said that he wished he had learned how to read when he was younger. I told him that as smart as he was, he could learn very fast. He told me that he couldn't write his name. I said we would fix that tonight. I wrote his name down for him and then I went into some classes while he practiced there by himself. He did very well. We didn't let anyone know that he was learning how to write his name. We thought it would be a big surprise.
The day came that he was ready to write his name for the payroll. The payroll was given in cash and they didn't let too many people in the room at once. One person would call the name, the First Sergeant would stand just inside the door and tell the person who had been called where to go, that way there weren't very many inside at once. Sometimes I would help with the payroll and this time I made sure I was in there. After the men signed their name they would move to the next man with the money. They called his name and the Education Advisor said "OK Bob, mark your X." He picked up the pen and signed his name. Mr. Kellyhan, the Education Advisor's, chin dropped about two inches. When he got to where he could speak, he said, "When did you learn to do that. I didn't even know you were going to school." "Last week," he said, "Bill showed me how." Naturally Mr. Kellyhan wanted to know how I was able to get Bob in school. He had tried to force him to go to school over a year ago and it didn't work. I explained what I had done, saying that I never would have made it by getting him in school. Mr. Kellyhan thought it was nice that I figured out how to accomplish the job. After that I had a true friend in Bob.
Once or twice someone said something to me like they were sore at me or something and he jumped in right then and said. "If you want to fight you have to go through me first to get to him." As long as I was there after that no one said anything smart to me. When I left he was still going to school. I was so happy that I was able to make a difference in at least one man's life.
I was transferred to Tellico Plains, Tennessee and was transferred from there to Simnasho, Oregon on a train. We were 6 nights and 5 days on the road. We were building an earthen dam to have water for the Indians to raise hay for their horses. It was a great experience for all of the young men. All the time I was in Oregon, I was a Timekeeper for 150 to 300 men working on the dam. I also kept time on all the equipment. I would check how many hours a day it was running. There were two Carryalls with caterpillars pulling and moving dirt. Two bulldozers pushing dirt, 6 dump trucks hauling dirt. About 12 Bouncing Betty's 2-two foot wide vibrating tampers, 4 air compressors, 1 steam shovel loading dirt on dump trucks, 3 water pumps keeping the water pumped away so we could keep the earth compacted very well so it would not leak when it was finished. We also had a blasting crew to keep the rocks and cliffs broken up so everything would compact good. We also had a couple of rolling compactors that we kept moving most of the time. It was quite a moving job for everyone was doing his different job. It took a lot to make it all come together at the end, I think there were about 20,000 acres to irrigate.
It was quite different on the Reservation. We had to live by the Indians law, more or less. The Indians would take a bath in the winter outside by a stream with a big fire burning by the side of the creek. They would all take a bath at the same time, mother, father, and children. That was the easy way for them, so they didn't have to keep the fire going so long. They had no running water to use inside.
We weren't allowed to mix with the Indians very much. The older children were away going to school. I left before school was out. I went from the reservation to Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, and was there discharged from the three C's. When I arrived home, I was very happy that I had spent almost two years of my life helping my family to have a little better life than they had before. $25.00 a month is not very much for a family of Mother, Father, and six children to live on, but with the farm food and $25.00 for a few extras a month; I think it helped a lot. My Mother could take a little money and squeeze more out of it than anyone I ever knew. She was an angel for us. Our Mother and Dad were the best two people I ever knew. They could give so much even when having so little to start with. I guess it was because of the love they had for us.