Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy
"Passing the Legacy to Future Generations"  

Ed Happold - Camp Zigzag - 1933-1934

From the pages of "Oregon CCC Alumni Memories 1971 - 1996."  Written by Ed Happold, 1991.
Carl Alt of Sandy, Oregon, wrote an article for the local history book Sandy Pioneers, Early Settlers and Barlow Road Days.  This is an excerpt.   

In April, 1933, Captain Skinner from Fort Lewis and about a hundred boys from Portland arrived to build the camp at Zigzag. I (Ed Happold) and Scott Williamson of the Forest Service laid out the camp and supervised the building.  The foreman was Carl Hendrickson.  The camp was completed in about a month.  Arthur Glover, an engineering contractor, became the first Superintendent.

John Mills and Merle Acker of the Forest Service led crews in trail building and maintenance.  Crews led by Wallace Whitcomb and myself built roads to Aschoff and Hickman Buttes.  Also the back road on the north side of the Zigzag river from Truman road to Rhododendron.  Another crew dug ditch for water lines and one was assigned to cutting snags.

In 1937 a crew from Zigzag dug ditch and laid pipe for Timberline Lodge.

The camp at Zigzag lasted until 1941, shortly before the war.  

Now my own recollections

I was among the second group to arrive at Zigzag in May of 1933.  There was about a hundred of us who enlisted at the Pioneer Post Office, now the Pioneer Court House in Portland.  We were all local boys, from Portland, Gresham, Oregon City and other nearby places.  I lived east of Gresham, on the same property I live on now.  During my time at the camp we had none from other states.  There was a camp at Swim, near Government Camp, which had boys from Chicago.  We found their accents strange.  

On the north side of the highway at Truman Road was a small store and post office, run by Harry and Gladys Perkins.  Their store is still there, but no post office now.  The Perkins’ were very nice people, very kind to all of us.  She made delicious apple pies, which she sold for a quarter.  For a nickel each, she would serve it to us a-la-mode in her kitchen.  Beer was recently legalized and the laws against selling to minors were not strongly observed,  so we used to sit in their kitchen and drink beer poured from the half-gallon jugs they sold.  Across the road was the same inn that is there now, where much the same thing went on—without the pie.  It was known to the Forest Service men as Robber’s Roost.  I don’t know of any reason for that.  

Captain Skinner, I am sure, came from Vancouver Barracks, not Fort Lewis,  In the Marshall House Museum at Vancouver there is a picture of the officers of that era and Captain Skinner is among them.  He was assisted by Sergeant Boatwright from the same place.  Both good men.  And wise in the way of young men.  

We were each issued four army blankets for our bunks.  Once one of mine disappeared, so I went to the sergeant and told him.  He looked at me and said, “a good soldier never loses anything.”  So I assumed I was to get another the same way somebody got mine.  So I did.  

We built a trail up Zigzag mountain, within walking distance of the camp.  It has a 10% grade all the way.  I and Ivan Korsund, a classmate, built all of the switchbacks.  These involved a lot of pick and shovel work, and often required a bit of dynamite to move a pesky rock or stump.  I eventually became the unofficial powder man.  

When the trail was finished, we went on trail maintenance.  It was not unusual for us to walk twenty mile or more in a day, carrying our tools.  We used shovels, axes, saws, brush hooks, etc., to repair damage or clear blockage from trails.  

Every Friday night trucks ran to Portland for those who wished to go home for the weekend, leaving the camp pretty well deserted.  I dropped off at Orient, east of Gresham and walked about three miles home from there.

In the summer of 1933 there was an NRA (National Recovery Act) parade in Portland and we were asked to participate.  I think everybody went.  It was a warm evening so we stripped to the waist and marched with tools on our shoulders.  We got a lot of favorable comment and also dispelled the suspicion some people had that we were really a military organization.  One of the older fellows carried a two gallon canteen in the parade.  He slipped into a tavern and got it filled with beer. He passed it around as we marched.  

Once we spent three weeks at Bull Run Lake, whence comes Portland’s water, working on trails in that area.  There were some cabins there that we lived in.  We had to walk in nine miles.  On weekends we hiked out, and I recall walking back in the dark once.  The lead man had a flashlight and warned us of various hazards as we floundered along behind him.  Once about eight of us walked out the nine miles in an hour and fifty minutes.  We were really walkers. 

While we were at Bull Run Lake we were, of course, forbidden to swim in the lake, which is part of Portland’s water supply.  Some of the fellows, not including myself, did swim at night, supposing nobody would know.  However, the lookout on Hiyu Mountain nearby told our boss, John Mills, that he could see them by moonlight.  They were probably no more harmful than the thousands of water dogs, fish, etc. which were in the lake.   

During the winter of 1933 and 1934 some of us built a dike along the Zigzag river where it was threatening the highway between Zigzag and Rhododendron.  We had a Sixty Caterpillar with power drums on the back. Operated by Forrest Peetz of the Forest Service.  We used a 7/8 inch main line and a 1/2 inch haulback to pull a bucket scraper back and forth.  I was elected rigging man, which involved moving the blocks to send the bucket where we wanted it.  Often there was no tree or stump available for the haul back block, so I would have to dig a trench and bury a short log, called a dead man, to tie to.  Also, of course, there was always brush to be cleared away.  I made the area look so nice that the Forest Service made a small park there.  The dike is still there after fifty-seven years, but the river moved away during the flood of 1964, and the highway has also been moved.  So my park is gone too.    

I was at Zigzag for fifteen months.  We were given instruction in fire fighting, but never sent to any fires that summer or the next.  The first Tillamook fire passed us by.  I believe the chief cook was also an Army man.  After about a year, Captain Skinner left and a Reserve Lieutenant, whose name I do not remember, took charge. 

The second Camp Superintendent was a Major LaLonde.  A feisty little character.  “Hell, shit a bucksaw,” he said.  “Who am I around here?”  He was followed by Simeri Jarvi, a young Finn from Astoria.  About 1965 I read in the papers that he was found dead on a trail in the Angeles National Forest in California, where he was supervisor.  He was probably looking for a tree.  

The camp food was good and plentiful.  I recall waking once in the middle of the night with stomach cramps and heading for the latrine, about fifty yards away.  It was full when I arrived and the brushy area nearby was also being utilized.  I seemed that everyone who had eaten at the mess hall the evening before was affected.  The cause was never ascertained, but it was suspect that a bar of GI soap had somehow got into something,  It lasted through the next day and little work got done.  

It was told that an elderly Swede carpenter had stumbled on a root on the way to the latrine and had said, “Oh, vell, I vouldn’t have made it anyvay.”

In one of the other barracks was a man who was the prototype of the hippies of forty years later  He never bathed or changed clothes, which became apparent to his neighbors after a few weeks.  Also he smoked—or sometimes chewed—the strongest smelliest tobacco available.  Peerless, I think it was.  This could be tolerated, but the other could not.  One evening I went for a shower and there he was, surrounded by about a dozen of his barracks mates, getting a cold water shower and a good scrubbing with GI soup and stiff brushes.  I don’t remember seeming him again.  

Another man was an eater.  Food was served in enamel bowls which held about two quarts. It was his custom and pleasure to clean up all the bowls before leaving the table.  I saw him top off by eating a whole bowl of beans, followed by one of raisin pudding.  It was generally agreed that there was something wrong with him, and he also disappeared soon.  

My first job was painting.  A young man named Carl Tenny and I painted all the buildings at the Ranger Station, as well as the barn on our side of the road, where the pack animals were kept.  I don’t think the buildings at the camp were ever painted.  

The District Ranger at this time was Harlan Hiatt, known as Huck.  I don’t ever remember seeing him in camp.  

Working for the Forest Service there at the time were the Mills Brothers.  Also a half brother, Homer Osborn  All husky young men, and now mostly gone.

Several of my friends, including two high school classmates, were on John Mills’ trail crew, so when the paint job was finished I lined up with them at work call the next morning.  The leader, Les Davis, assumed I had been assigned to him and took me along.  He later told me he had had a bit of trouble about that, but had asked to keep me, as he like the way I handled a shovel.  Les ended up as Superintendent of Street Maintenance in Portland,  He is gone now, as is John Mills,  I got along well with both of them.  
I can say that I learned a lot about the tools and equipment we used and the knowledge and skills helped me later.  I grew up on a ranch in Eastern Oregon, so work was no stranger to me, but introduced me to a different life.  I was working for the Toledo Logging Company, which was cutting big spruce near Gleneden Beach on the coast when the draft board caught up with me in 1941.  I have never worked in the woods since.  I noticed than there were very few old men there.

I think the CCC was one of the best ideas in the New Deal and I would like to see it revived in some way.

In the summer of 1934, shortly after I left, the State Liquor store at Rhododendron, about two miles away burned.  A friend told me about it.  

The boys from the CCC camp were rushed up to fight the fire, but it turned out that their primary concern was to rescue the stock.  A great deal of said stock disappeared and the State Police were called to investigate.  They were interviewing the lads in the Captain’s office when one young gentleman was observed crawling across the area on his hands and knees toward his barracks.

He was immediately apprehended and escorted into the office door and propped against the wall outside.  When his turn came, he sidled around inside and promptly fell on his face.  Two big officers picked him up.  “My God boy,” one said.  “How much did you drink?”  “Only two quarts,” he mumbled.

The CCC built men.  

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