Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Something New

One of the great parts of putting this blog together has been talking with family members about what they remember from Robert's stories. Out of those conversations has come much of what you have read and several of the pictures.

Since my last post, a few items have come to me that I thought would make great additions. Today I have a great photo of the entire 2614 Company at Camp Finley. This is from 1936 and you can see Robert second from the right of the cooks in the center of the photo.

Out of the 175 shown in the photo, it appears there are seven in command and five cooks. I've tried to find out a bit more, but there just isn't much information on the 2614th.

2614th Co. C.C.C. Camp Finley (1936)
Click photo to enlarge
Robert's CCC Photo Collection

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Big Finish

I was debating on whether to tell you yesterday or today that Wednesday was the last entry in this series. Obviously, today won out. As I was typing through yesterday's post I guess I just wasn't ready to bring it to a close. Alas, today is that day.

So, whats's next? This seems a bit like the end of one of those movies where you get a quick update on what happened to the characters after the main story was over. Let's go with that.


Robert does have a few more entries in the journal. They take him up to Temple, Michigan for his next assignment. There is not much information though and I thought it would be good to end where he started, in Fort Sheridan.

In about a month from leaving Ft. Sheridan, Robert leaves the CCC program. I've got a recommendation letter dated 11/9/36 that mentions he is leaving for a job back home. I know that he spends some time driving a truck in the late 1930s, but am not sure if that is the job mentioned in the letter. Like many CCC boys, he goes in to the Army for World War II. Unlike his brothers, Robert would stay Stateside mainly in California where he would teach code to others in the military. 

Robert left the military after the war as a partially disabled veteran. He had arthritis problems which he felt came from the years of sleeping outside and on the ground in the CCC. On his return to Cairo he did accounting work where he met his wife Margaret and would raise a family. 

Robert passed away in 1984, one day before his 68th birthday. He had lived in Cairo the entire time. He was missed by many as he is today.


The CCC program started to dwindle down as the economy got better in the late 1930s. When young men could make more money at home than through the CCC program, they no longer signed up. While it had been shrinking for years, the formal end came in 1942 as the nation was focusing on the war effort.

Glacier National Park

Unlike the first two, the park is as busy as ever. The 1940 annual park visitor count was at 177,000. In 2007, it was at 2,083,000. You can go there now and take tours on the red buses, see Mt. Cannon, jump in Lake McDonald, and maybe even go in to Kalispell, but be careful. And stay away from the fires.

This Blog

I hope you enjoyed reading through this. My goal was to give you a very light summary of some of the subjects and spark some interest for further investigation. I know some of these lead me to much further reading. 
I'll keep this blog up for future readers. I can't say that I'll be posting regularly to it, but I may add some supplemental posts as I come across CCC items. I'm hoping to go to the park next year and will probably post some then. There is a "Follow by Email" box on the blog page. Sign up here if you want to be notified when I make a post.


Well, this has been an interesting venture. Career-wise this has been an extraordinarily busy time for me and getting a post out some days has been very tricky. Not having that daily 9:00 AM deadline will be nice, but I think it's good to have something in your life to make you accountable and push you to do the harder things. There are plenty of times people have things they want to do and put them off. After doing these posts I can tell you, there is always time if you make it, even if you can only do a little every day. I'm going to be looking for the next thing to fit in my extra little slivers of time. Any suggestions? Comment below.

Thanks for Reading!

Robert in World War II
Robert and his wife Margaret

Recommendation Letter

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Entry - October 7, 1936

12.00 PM Well we finally got here in Fort Sheridan today. Its raining to be the devil himself out side right now.

This old place sure is familiar to me. I hope we don’t stay here long.


Comments from Chris

"I hope we don't stay here long". He won't. Soon after he will be going to up to Wisconsin to Camp Finley.

While digging through my notes I came across a postcard from Robert to his mother. It was exactly three years to the day in 1933 when Robert had arrived at Fort Sheridan for his first term in the CCC. A 17 year Robert wrote this postcard telling his mother he had arrived safely. Interesting coincidence.

The post card reads -

Dear Mom,

I am just writing you a few lines to tell you I arrived safe. I am having a swell time except the cold wind which comes off of Lake Michigan. We are about 50 yards from the lake. I will write a letter with full details when I get time and money.

Your Son
Robert Fitzgerald

Robert's 1933 letter telling his mom he arrived.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Entry - October 6, 1936

8.00 Well we are stopped in the city of St. Paul now and I see the capitol building of the state of Minnesota from my window. Expect to be in Sheridan about eleven o’clock on the morrow.


Comments from Chris

Robert is getting close. I found a post card he mailed to his mother while he was in St. Paul. The letter reads:

Dear Mom,

Just arrived in St. Paul. Will be in Ft. Sheridan sometime tomorrow. Will write a letter when I arrive there.


Robert's Post Card
Great Northern Railway Map

Monday, October 5, 2015

Entry - October 5, 1936

Slept real good in the pullman sleepers last night. Past through the city of Fargo and it sure is a humdinger. I rode the trains so much the last three of four years that I am getting bored with it.


Comments from Chris

You can see on the map below how much ground they have covered. All the way from Kalispell on the left to Fargo on the right.

George Pullman started making luxury train cars in the 1860s. George was an engineer that had success in Chicago with architectural endeavors and then moved on to train car design. His first car was completed in 1864. Soon after this Pullman received nationwide attention as one of his cars was selected to carry Lincoln's body back to Springfield, IL.

Pullman's company continued to grow even after his death in 1897. In 1930 the company was at its peak and dominating the luxury car market. Air conditioning was even introduced in 1929. In today's world we don't think as much about what kind of train cars we ride in, but I would think it was something comparable to how we think about automobiles. These were the Cadillac's of train cars.

Great Northern Railroad Map
Pullman Sleeper

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Entry - October 4, 1936

Well we got on the train for Fort Sheridan today and we are well across the state of Montana. Sure is kinda good to hear the old train chugging along.

(Headed towards ILLINOIS)


Comments from Chris

Trains play an important role in the history of Glacier National Park. In 1891, the Great Northern Railway crossed the Continental Divide at Marias Pass which now is at the south end of the park. At that time, there was no park.

The Great Northern Railway was built by railroad tycoon James Hill in the 1800s. It was the only privately funded transcontinental railroad ever built. The rail line stretched from St. Paul, MN to Seattle, WA and had many contributing lines feeding it. When the line reached the area where the park currently is, Louis Hill, James' son, saw the value of bringing tourists to the area.

There was already an effort being made for the government to protect the land when the commercial interest joined in, it was enough boost for congress set the area as a forest preserve. This was 1897. In the years that followed, the railroad and other groups continued to lobby congress until in 1910 when the area was officially designated as a national park. 

During the 1910s the Great Northern Railway built several hotels and many chalets. An extensive marketing campaign was created to convince American tourists to come out west on their vacations instead of going to Europe. The investment made was key in getting the park started and building it in to what it is today.

This is where we find Robert today. Heading east on the Great Northern Railway.

Great Northern Railroad Railway postcard
Public Domain
Map of the Great Northern Railroad line from 1897
Public Domain
View of the Great Northern Railroad close to Marias Pass.
Google Maps

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Entry - October 3, 1936

7.00 P.M. Did not have to work today because of moving tomorrow. Spent most of the day washing up some clothes and packing up. Said goodbye to all of my friends and buddys and otherwise.


Comments from Chris

I've kind of got mixed feelings here. This adventure is coming to an end which is a bit sad. Glacier National Park has been a fun place to explore and hanging out with Robert every day has been interesting. The anticipation of the next adventure is exciting though. I get the feeling Robert is ready for the next thing. After all, he has been there sleeping in a tent or outside for four months now. It's starting to get cold as well. I took a look at the weather forecast for today (2015). It is for snow showers.

The CCC program is more than three years old at this point. Enrollment is at about 350,000 and more than 1,000,000 have been though it. When you consider the regular Army only had 125,000 enlisted men, this was really quite a project for them to manage.

Robert is sixth from the left in the back row
From Robert's CCC Photo Collection