Biography of Edwin N. Blasingim
First Sergeant, Leader, CCCman 1935-1941, Company 1466, Camp S-78, & Camp P-53, Camp Sam Houston, Pikesville, TN, Camp Superintendent W.L. Moore, Company Commander Lieutenant Brandon
Edwin N. Blasingim, my Dad is 98 years old and remembers his days in the CCC as some of the best days of his life. He has many friends from that 6 and 1/2 years, almost all of them have passed on. In the last few years I have taken an interest in my dad's early life and I am blessed to have him around to share these memories.
Dad entered the CCC in 1935 at the age of 18 years old. His enrollment was aided by the welfare people in Athens Alabama. He left the CCC in 1941 and was drafted into the Army shortly after.
Dad's first assignment was to the CCC camp just northeast of Pikeville Tennessee, Company 1466, camp P-53 called Camp Sam Houston. He was on his first project and remembers his first meal from the truck that came around at lunch time and served meals to the workers. A rain came up and flooded his mess kit so his food was wet and soggy but he ate it anyway. His first project was clearing a field that was to be a baseball diamond for the boys at Camp Sam Houston. Dad remembers that their first uniforms were World War 1 fatigues that were heavy and hot and they worked in those the first Summer. Pikeville was a small town located on the Sequatchie River about 60 Miles north of Chattanooga Tennessee. Highway 30, a gravel road then, winds its way up out of the Sequatchie Valley to up on the Cumberland Plateau that will be referred to as the mountain. About 13 miles out of Pikeville the road passes just north of Fall Creek Falls State Park and the site for camp S-78 was to be just across from the park on the north side of the road a little ways up into the woods. They loaded up 15-20 stakebed trucks with enrollees and gear and hauled them up the mountain and their project was to build a new camp.
They cleared land with hand tools and some heavy equipment to remove trees to clear an area for the camp. They went back to Camp Sam Houston every night for meals showers and sleep. The new camp was going to be camp S-78 . They brought in 4 barracks buildings, prefabricated structures, set up a power house with a generator. They set up a water system and painted the structures, put in walkways and driveways and when the camp was habitable Dad and some others moved into their new home. Dad worked on a crew doing outside projects for a few months in the new camp before he went to work in the rock quarry.
The rock quarry was 4-5 miles from the camp and was the source of crushed rock for the roadbeds of the roads that they built. Dad handled a hammer/drill for a few months, he said it wasn't that hard but it was very dirty. Dad's Mom passed away from tuberculosis when he was about 10 and when he was 12 they thought he had it too. Dad was very concerned about breathing all of the dust so he managed to get a job driving a dump truck, hauling the crushed rock to job sites. Once while he was driving a dump truck he was servicing the hydraulic reservoir, he had the bed raised and he was leaned over the truck frame and the hydraulic actuators bypassed enough that the bed crept down slowly until he was trapped. He let out an awful yell and a man close by hopped into the truck and cranked the engine, raising the bed and saving Dad. That would have been about 80 years ago but Dad remembers it vividly.
Soon Dad started driving a stakebed truck, hauling men from camp to projects and back and sometimes to R&R in the town of Pikeville just off of the mountain. There was no TV and movies in town were 15 cents. A CCC boy or two would occasionally get hard to handle and the local police would hang on to them for a while. Dad knew all the sheriffs and deputies and would let him pick the boys up and take them back to camp and the next time they were in town they would square up with the law.
The CCC sent Dad to first-aid classes, he went through the basic course and advanced first-aid so when a position opened up he bid and got the job. He administered vaccines to the new recruits and was in charge of the first aid station for a few months. Once Dad administered a vaccine to himself, never again he vows.
Sam Brown was first sergeant and when he left Dad took his place. Dad realized that first sergeant was more headaches than he wanted. The sergeant who ran the kitchen and the chow hall did not care for his duty so they got the company commander to make the necessary changes and my Dad was placed in charge of the kitchen. Dad loved that job and did it for the remainder of his time in the CCC.
They got a new baking oven, it had several large shelves and they started making fresh bread, Dad remembers than a man by the last name of Goff volunteered to be the baker. Dad bought yeast and Goff started baking and he made some of the best rolls. Several times, guests, officials from outside the camp would eat the food there and comment about how good the rolls and the food were. Officers from Fort Oglethorpe would routinely come to inspect the kitchen and they always gave that kitchen a high rating. Dad's most treasured keepsake was a copy of one of his exemplary inspection reports, more valued than his Army medal I think. During the course of these assignments Dad was promoted to assistant leader, senior leader, and first sergeant.
Dad remembers the times but mostly he remembers the friends. Here are a few of the many friends that he remembers:
Sam Spears from around Smithville Tennessee. Sam was already in camp when Dad arrived, Dad said that he was a really nice guy, very clean cut. Sam was the leader on a bridge crew. When my Dad was going out to remote job sites he would sometimes ride in the back of a stakebed truck with Sam and his crew. Sam loved to play basketball on the camp team and would travel with them to play night games against other CCC camp teams in the area. Sam dated a local girl named Pauline who was living in Pikeville at the time and after the CCC Sam went into the Navy and married her shortly after that. After Dad left the CCC he married a local girl also, her name was Estelle. Pauline and Estelle were sisters and Aunt Pauline and Uncle Sam's house became our favorite to visit. Uncle Sam, Aunt Pauline and Estelle, my Mom, have all passed. While Uncle Sam was living, I did not know that he and Dad were good friends in the CCC days. That explains why the relationships were so warm. our families so close and the times together were so memorable.
Luther Bates from Perry County Tennessee. Luther was a great guy and a close friend of Dad's, he was "Supply Sergeant". After Dad was promoted and was placed in charge of the kitchen he moved out of the barracks and he and Luther had cots in the supply building. Luther left the CCC and volunteered for the Army. He and Dad stayed in touch and Dad was able to meet up with Luther when his convoy came through Pikeville. Dad remembers that it was a short visit and it was a Sunday evening. Luther and his outfit were going on maneuvers at Fall Creek Falls Park. Shortly after Dad left the CCC Luther came to visit him in Chattanooga and Dad later went to visit Luther and his wife Wanita and spent the weekend with them. Dad doesn't remember the town but said it was in Perry County south of Nashville. Luther's wife Wanita was a good friend of my Mom, Estelle, when they were girls. Mom would come down from the mountain to Pikeville and spend the night or the weekend at Wanita's house. Wanita's brother, Richard, ran the theatre in Pikeville. He gave my Dad a tour of the projection room. My Mom and Dad saw " Gone With the Wind" at that theatre. Dad went to Luther and Wanita's wedding in pikeville, they had the reception at Wanita's house there. Dad remembers seeing Luther at several CCC reunions at Fall Creek Falls State Park over the years.
Sam Brown from Pikeville Tennessee. Dad described Sam as the best friend he had in Tennessee. He was very nice to Dad, he was outgoing and sociable. He was a hefty guy, a wrestler, and he would mix it up with anybody who would take him on.When Dad first met Sam he did not care for him, Dad said he was too hard nosed. Sam was the first sergeant at camp and when he left Dad took his place. Sam left the CCC and went to Pikeville where he opened a garage where Dad traded for the time he was in the CCC. Sam later owned a car dealership. Sam married Martha Sue, she was a pianist and played at weddings and other social events. He got into politics and was once the Mayor of Pikeville. When Dad was still in the CCC Sam invited Dad to his house for dinner. All the local officials were there and Dad new most of them, Once Sam got a bus and took a load of people to a carnival at Lake Winnepeauka. They got back late Sunday and Sam had my Dad stay the night and my Dad went back to camp Monday morning. Dad was always invited to Sam's house for dinners and parties. For many years Dad would look Sam up every time he went to Pikeville.
Dad says that one thing he learned while he was in the CCC is that it doesn't cost a thing to be nice to everybody you meet. Dad has wonderful memories of his CCC days. When he thinks about all those friends that he misses he wishes he could go back and tell them how much they mean to him.
----- Edwin Blasingham via his son, email@example.com
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