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Guess What…Or the Boy By The Gate

Story ID:8263
Written by:Charles Dishno (bio, contact, other stories)
Story type:Musings, Essays and Such
Location:Dillon Montana USA
Year:2012
Person:Chuck
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Guess What…Or the Boy By The Gate
By Chuck Dishno
2012

I was 6 years old in 1940 and things were looking up for the U.S. The great depression had ended and Roosevelt was putting people back to work. Some of his recovery projects were the TVA, REA, and the one that hit home with me the C.C.C or Civilian Conservation Corps. The C.C.C’s started in 1933 and in 1936 a C.C.C. camp opened up in my hometown of Bly, Oregon. It was located on the south side of Bly and run like a military base. The boys ages 17 to 23 were from all over the United States. Most of them had never been in a rural area like southwestern Oregon and had a hard time adjusting. They were paid $30 per month of which $25 went to their parents. This gave the boys $5 to do with what they wanted. Five dollars doesn’t seem like much but it was more than most of them had ever seen and quite a bit in 1940. Like all military camps meals and medical services were provided so the $5 was theirs to spend, as they wanted. Bly, at that time had at least 5 beer joints where you could buy a bottle of beer for a dime if you were at least 21 years old.

My house was about ¼ mile from the gate of the camp and I could hear the bugle blowing revile, assembly, mess and retreat. The evening mess call was my favorite since I knew as soon as they had eaten dinner the boys would be walking to town for a beer or a snack.

When I would hear this call I would stand out by my front gate and wave at them as they came by. I don’t know if it was the fact that I was a cute little boy or they had younger siblings at home and were lonesome. I like to think it was because I was cute but that probably wasn’t the case.

As I would stand there and wave, a few of them would come over and talk to me. On occasion one would reach into his pocket and give me a penny or two. This usually prompted another to dig into his pocket too. It wasn’t unusual for me to get as much as 4 or 5 pennies

I think that windfall started me on my quest to make more money and spend it as fast as I accumulated it. I know that as soon as the boys had passed I would head to Elder’s, a mom and pop grocery store and drool over their stock of penny candy. They had a large assortment which included pepper mint sticks of all colors, a large variety of candy bars for a nickel and Cracker Jacks for a dime but my favorite in my price range was a thing called, Guess What. It was a cardboard tube, not unlike a toilet paper tube, that was filled with 4 or 5 pieces of salt-water taffy and a prize. This was all wrapped in a colorful paper tissue with the ends tucked into the tube. Best of all it only cost 3 cents. Wow, 4 pieces of taffy and a prize that in my opinion was a better prize than you would find in a Cracker Jack box.

This started my love affair with sweets. It’s too bad fluoride toothpaste had not been invented yet or I would still have all my real teeth.

When World War II started in December 1941, the camp began to shut down as the boys were being drafted into various branches of military service. The end of 1942 closed the C.C.C. Camp, as was my source of penny candy. Gee, I guess I would have to go our and do some work for my pennies as cuteness can only carry you so far in life-a lesson I learned early and never forgot.

The last thing I can remember about the camp was watching a D-2 Caterpillar dig a deep trench on the grounds then park at the bottom. A few minutes later another Cat pushed dirt in the hole and buried the first one.

The Gearhart Elementary School is now built on the old C.C.C. grounds. I wonder if they even know what is under the soil.