Tales of Open Road

It's 1934, and I Join the CCC

... Another chapter in Jodrey's "Tales of the Open Road"

by Bill Jodrey

I also recall the day in early spring 1934 that I signed to join the CCC (Civil Conservation Commission). I knew little or nothing about the operation other than that the pay of $36.00 a month plus clothing and food seemed like a good idea compared to what I had going for me at that time.

Those who were chosen to leave in April mustered at the City Hall and a bus transported us to the Boston Armory where we were served a meal and then boarded a train which took us to Fort Devens, Ayer, Massachusetts.

Fort Devens was a real busy place at that time, what with the regular Army personnel plus the influx of civilians coming and leaving for places far and near.

Our contingent, which included members from as far away as Gloucester, MA, was directed to a barracks building and we were assigned a bed location and then we were free to look around until the evening meal.

I took quite a long walk-about to satisfy my curiosity of an Army installation and when I returned to my area an Army sergeant named Moribito was waiting for me and his greeting was "Are you Jodrey?" I answered "Yes" and he growled "I've been looking for you for an hour. I thought maybe you went back home."

Actually, he smiled  and continued, "Some men in your group say that you're a cook. Is that right?"

"Oh! No! I don't cook anything but spaghetti and coffee."

"You are now a cook. Report for duty at 4:30 a.m. at this kitchen tomorrow morning."


"No buts, that's an order. Dismissed!"

After the evening meal, another soldier found me and said, "Get your gear and follow me. You are sleeping in the cook's barracks." He was a corporal and a nice person at the same time. He showed me around a little and introduced me to a few of my new cooking mates and then handed me an alarm clock.

"Set it for 4:10 a.m. That will give you a few minutes to dress and clean up before you report for duty at the cook shack. Do you understand?"

I allowed that I did and then he said, "See you in the morning. Good luck."

Needless to say, I was having a bit of a problem adapting to so many changes that my life was taking in just a few hours.

At the supper table I had an opportunity to thank my friends for passing me off as a cook. As it turned out in the long run, it was a stroke of good luck because I was on duty 12 hours and off duty 12 hours during which time I was free to do as I chose.

Each shift came on duty after the noon meal was cleared away and they prepare the evening meal and the next morning's breakfast and noontime dinner.

By the end of two weeks the Army cooks had decided who was to be the leader or first cook and who would be the second and who was to be the third cook. I was chosen to be the first cook on my shift.

The next time I met Sgt. Moribito, he said, "I don't think that you were entirely truthful when you said you don't cook."

We both laughed and I explained that my mother had seven children and what with the housework, washing clothing, and shopping, she needed a speller. I was the speller.

The group from Melrose was joined into a contingent of about 200 men; the number of the men actually, over the period of a year, fluctuated between 185 and 225.

When our contingent moved to our assigned location on the eastern slope of Willoughby Mountain, Vermont, adjacent to the Townships of Willoughby and West Burke, the Army cook came along to insure that all went well in the kitchen area. As a matter of fact, he stayed as an overseer to help but not to interfere unless it was essential.

[February 3, 2006]

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