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Pathways Through Our Past

Some of the lucky ones, part two

Last week I started to tell you about a young man who was lucky enough to be a part of one of President Roosevelt's tree army.

After the 30 young men from Kandiyohi County completed their physicals they were again loaded on another train that would take them to a place called Bena in Itasca County near Lake Winnibigoshish.

Here they experienced another first as they were housed in tents. Everybody enjoyed themselves except when it rained. They heard rumors about other camps being built on a permanent bases and they hoped to be moved to one of them before it started getting cold but in the mean time they were enjoying them self's getting all they could eat, doing important work and being paid for it.

Bennie was so proud that he could be helping his family out with the money they was sending home, his family hadn't seen that much money in a long time. The work the men were doing wasn't any harder then working on the farm and for a lot less pay plus the men were establishing friendships with men there own age. Rumors came to camp farther North on the Chippewa National Forest where other CCCs had been busy building a whole camp.

With a kitchen, hospital, officers quarters, barracks and even a classroom where the young men could study for their diploma and even train for other jobs. That sounded like the perfect place. Well Bennie was again lucky as he was soon to be transferred to that camp where he would stay for the next 37 months.

The trees that Bennie and many others just like him had planted have reached maturity and loggers have found this new source of timber awe inspiring. So many of the trees are still growing and will continue for many years to come.

Those trees are a wonderful sight to see standing straight and tall and the former CCCs still living take pride in the work they did so many years ago.

After leaving the CCCs Bennie returned to the Willmar area. Where he again got work on a farm, but in 1946 he purchased 160 acres in Hines Township. He rented out the land and with a crew cut timber for St. Regis.

For many years, a CCC reunion was held at Camp Rabideau. The men, some from other camps, reminisced of days gone by and spoke with pride about all the things that they and millions like them accomplished and renewed old friendships.

Bennie was lucky again as he got to know a couple another men who stayed in the Blackduck area. One was Perrie Parker.

Perrie, like Bennie, was a CCC and worked at the same type of work as Benny and when he left the organization he to returned back home and found work on a farm, but working for others wasn't for him so he left the farm and joined the army where he saw action.

After seeing action on several fronts Perrie returned to the area where he had enjoyed himself as a CCC. With hopes of starting a farm of his own he got six cows but found that men couldn't start up farming like people had for years. So he went to work for Oren Wolden. He married one of the new teachers, Betty, in the Blackduck School system.

The other man Bennie found at camp during the reunions was Ed Gorman. This man was unemployed when the CCCs set up camp at Rabideau. He applied for the position as foreman and out of 60 others he was put to work earning a whole $38.00 a month which he and his wife lived on. At the end of the CCC program, he went to work for St. Regis as a woodland manger.

Few CCCs are still around but those that find their way back to Rabideau still tell of fond times. The buildings may set empty and show their age, but to those men and their families who return to the camp it comes alive. Sounds of laughter, the smell of the great food served and ruffle of the flag being saluted each day at taps. To the men who served to quote a line from the Wizard of Oz, "There's no place like home."