It all began in the spring of 1942 at South Bend High School when we were visited by Art Johnson, the state fire warden, who was recruiting boys to work as a standby crew to fight forest fires. The pay was $105 per month plus room and the services of a cook. The cost of the food, however, was to be born by the employees.
Three of us, including myself, Jim Davis, and Charles Bouffiou decided to sign up with Charlie taking on the job of camp cook at an increased pay of $115 per month. Charlie's specialties were pancakes every morning, and salmon salad sandwiches for lunch every day. When school was out, we assumed lodgings in a former CCC camp on Hull Creek near Grays River where we were joined by three other local boys named Wallace Anderson, Wallace Salme, and Howard Magnuson.
We were required to pay for our own food, but our board bill never exceeded $15 per month per person. The salmon cannery at Altoona provided us without charge with all the salmon we could eat, and we had enough venison to require renting a frozen food locker.
It proved to be one of those wet summers, and we were called upon to fight only one forest fire, but we were kept busy doing road maintenance, cutting surveyor stakes, stringing telephone lines and various other outdoor jobs.
We were supervised by Carl Lawrence, the local fire warden and an experienced logger named Irvie Holden. We also provided temporary relief staffing for a forest fire lookout at the end of the old H.B. and .A. railroad grade. (We were told that "H.B. and A." stood for "haywire before and after.") The lookout tower also served as an observation post to monitor airplanes, and required two men with each to work a twelve hour shift around the clock. I served one weekend to relieve LeRoy Sundquist, and I took the day shift while Joel Johnston stayed up at night. This had to be one of the most boring experiences of my life. The silence hurt my ears, and I was glad I only had two days of it. Joel Johnston apparently was killed in action during military service in World War II.
We were well received by the local people and made numerous friends. The Grays River Store was managed by Ralph Appelo who was a source of interesting stories and who drove us to the Saturday night movies shown at Deep River Grange. We had a lot of fun at the Naselle Grange dances with live music from Mr. Lahti and his band where we enjoyed great food and socializing with the local girls, especially Jim Davis who had several girlfriends before the summer ended. We swam in Grays River where the water was cold, but to take a shower, we went up to the creamery where a hot water tap was available. One night Mr. Meserve came over to our camp and hired us to help with his haying. This was my first experience with haying, and as I remember, it was very hard work. Mr. Meserve, his wife, and his daughter Maureen were intelligent, friendly people who were nice to us.
One day Wallace Salme badly cut his hand with an axe. We applied a boy scout tourniquet and drove him over to Cathlamet where the doctor sutured his laceration under a local anesthetic, and commented that it was like, "sewing up a torn baseball." I was impressed to the point that from that day forward I decided I wanted to be a doctor, and I did.
Howard Magnuson was our official truck driver and also owned a model "A" Ford of his own. He had a steam whistle which he apparently had liberated from a steam donkey engine and attached it to the exhaust pipe of the car with a whistle cord rigged into the driver's window. When he pulled up behind an unsuspecting vehicle on the highway and blew his whistle, the poor driver would pull completely off the road. My last contact with Howard was on Nov. 5, 1945 at the Portland Army Air Base when he was a sergeant, and I was a corporal, and both of us were being separated from the service.
We did actually become involved in fighting one forest fire. Very early one morning, we were bundled off in the truck to some area north of Raymond where other people had already contained the fire, and we were assigned to do mopping up. I was handed a shovel and did my best until I saw a man using a fire hose that was powered by a gasoline engine pump taking water from a stream. I thought this was more interesting than using a shovel, so I asked to give it a try. I stood up on a log with the nozzle in my hands and told the pump operator to "let 'er go." The recoil from the hose knocked me off the log, whereupon I then resumed my station with the shovel.
For me, the summer of "42" was a good experience. I learned some new skills, and I made some new friends. It was my first full time job, and I returned to my senior year in high school with a feeling of accomplishment.