Jim O'Leary

Waverly Star

By Jim O'Leary

An e-mail newsletter for and about Waverly people, used with permission in the HLW Herald and on this web site.

 Dec. 1, 2001

Here's some more fun stuff from The Waverly Star, 1933:

Civilian conservation corps, chapter two

Our gallant recruits from Waverly boarded a Soo Line train in Buffalo to begin their adventure.

The editor of The Waverly Star, Francis P. "Marks" McDonnell accompanied them, so he could get a story for his July 8, 1933 issue.

One of his nephews, "Happy" Pususta was among the recruits, and it would be Happy who would supply him with most of the letters from camp.

Marks would dutifully publish the letters, just like he would later print all the letters he would get from Waverly servicemen nine years later, after Pearl Harbor.

His headline July 8, 1933 was:

Local boys are happy going to camp

"Last Saturday, a group of young men from in and around Waverly were happy when they received notice from the recruiting office in Buffalo that they had been accepted to work in the North Woods of Minnesota under the Reforestation Plan. They were even happier as they boarded their train with families and friends to see them off.

"Happy Pususta threw away his razor saying 'Here's where you and I part.'

"Harold Clements said, 'So long, gang. In six months, I'll have those ole woods looking like Waverly Park.'

"Tommie Graham was informed that cows were going to be very scarce up there, but he came right back with 'You can always sit alongside a milk weed.'

"A shy little miss stepped up to Ed Stotko and asked 'Where will I write you?' Ed said, 'Better make it Big Timber, care of the Mess Sergeant.'

"Ging Chevalier piped right up with 'Mess Sergeant! What a break!'

"Lawrence ('Hans') Kugler told a pretty Buffalo miss, 'I'll see you right after the war.'

"As the train was pulling out of the station, Junior Borrell and Bernard Fitzpatrick could be heard singing 'When They Cut Down the ole Pine Tree.'

"Memories of the Great War were revived for us, as we watched our young men leave but instead of facing machine guns and shrapnel the boys will be confronted by wood ticks, mosquitoes and acres of jackpines."

Soon, these same men would leave, one by one, for a real war after Pearl Harbor. Now, a lifetime later, these men are known as "The Greatest Generation." We are losing them now again, one by one, to old age. In 1933, some of them had just graduated from high school, Bernard Fitzpatrick for one.

How the boys are spending their time in the woods

The first letter home was from Earl Stuhr to Tom Haverty, who gave it to Marks to publish in The Waverly Star.

Here's what Earl said: "Our camp is about 45 miles southwest of Ely, near a little town called Isabella. It's about the size of Rasset but is listed on the map.

"There's a little town called Finland not far away. We are settled pretty good now, although we have only tents as yet, and the only water we get is from a river that runs right by the camp.

"They are working on a well now, and they expect to build a wash house and a mess hall soon. They have $3,500 for building purposes I am told.

"It sure is wild country out here. The trees are so thick that you can't see more than 50 feet. Most of the reforesting will be the cutting of the smallest and the poorest trees, although they expect to do some replanting in August.

"The work is hard for most of the fellows, especially for the younger ones who never used an axe before. In this hot weather it is pretty hard on them.

"It really is no place for a kid, because the older ones have to do what the younger ones can't do.

"The mosquitoes are bad, of course, but no worse than they would be down there in the middle of the woods. A forest ranger told me they die off about the first of August.

"Sometimes there is a settler living along the road. What they live on the devil only knows, because I can't see anything but rocks and trees everywhere.

"There are men from all parts of the state here, and quite a few from the Twin Cities. They are all nationalities. Some are Jews and Italians. We have one Indian and one Negro.

"Yours truly, Earl Stuhr. Co. 1722, CCC, Ely, Minn."

Side note: Isabella, Minn. and Finland, Minn. are both still on the map. Isabella now has a population of 20, and Finland reports a population of 80, about the same as they were in 1933.

Here's an unidentified letter to Marks two weeks later:

"Dear Marks, Hans Kugler, who was scratched up in an accident, has fully recovered and is out on the road again. Harold Clements has been promoted to assistant section leader, which means an increase in salary.

"Chuck Casey is now in the truck driving service, another well earned position. Happy Pususta, the heartbreaker, is now a telephone lineman.

"Earl Stuhr of Chatham feels all puffed up, after seeing his letter in The Waverly Star. For the last few days we have noticed that Tommie Graham, who used to be the life of the party, is singing the blues.

"Guess why? James McMahon has the old fashioned German measles, and now he thinks he is our great leader because he has the whole camp under quarantine.

"Tommie Lattimore of Howard Lake and Roy Le Page were arguing. Roy called Tommie a dumb bell and Tommie said, 'I forgot more than you will ever know, Le Page.' Roy answered, 'Well, you didn't forget much.'

"Wallace Yodder is now out playing volleyball, hoping to develop his physique to the point where he can get up the nerve to give Pususta orders since Wallace is becoming the foreman of his crew.

"Within a radius of 50 miles from here are two dang nice Finnish girls, and Harold Clements and Ed Stotko are absent from camp every night.

"Boy, it's rough hiking through those woods in the dark.

"Ging Chevalier had quite the experience the other day. He was sitting on a stump concentrating, when out of the brush waddled a bear. Ging bolted down the trail and met up with a jack rabbit, also on the run. Ging hollered, 'Jack Rabbit, get out of my way and let someone who can run show you how.'

"Paulie Wright of Montrose visited with friends in Ely last Saturday night and came back singing in the rain. Stub Fitzpatrick spent the most beautiful Sunday of the summer on KP duty, peeling potatoes.

"Stub said the first thousand potatoes are the hardest. The rest of the boys were carousing around the tent singing 'How Dry I am!' 'If the flies all die and the mosquitoes all faint and if I stay my six months, I'll surely be a saint.' That's all for now, from Fort Isabella."

Meanwhile, back in Waverly, on that very same Sunday that Bernie Fitzpatrick was peeling all those spuds, there was action at the Ball Park, where Waverly beat Annandale 15 to 2.

Marks always wrote up the baseball games inning by inning. I will just reproduce the eighth inning here to give a flavor of sports reporting at its best:

"Eighth inning. Waverly at bat. Cullen hit to third and was safe on a bad throw. Demarais and Kreitlow struck out. Dud Farrell doubled scoring Cullen. Martinson homered when he hit one into the lake. Charlie Farrell hit to short and was safe on a bad throw. Then Charlie Farrell was out trying to steal home. Jerry Cullen on the mound for Waverly pitched a brilliant ball game, allowing only 4 hits, 3 of them coming in the last inning. Annandale used three pitchers."

Another view from the woods

June 26, 1933, Isabella Work camp

"Dear Marks,

"Who would ever think in this day and age of advanced mechanical science that any young man would have to walk 25 miles through the woods just to get to a dance?

"(Not mentioning any names) Harold Clements and Chuck Casey blazed a trail five miles to Big Sand Lake to see a couple of Finnish fems.

"Ging Chevalier, who is now constantly on the lookout for bears, saw a field mouse and ran for dear life. Charles Pususta stepped out of bed onto what he thought was a carpet but discovered it was a porcupine.

"Monday morning, Ed Stotko lassoed and saddled his bed partner, which was a mosquito, and rode it to work. Stub Fitz was transferred to the diminutive peewee squad, which was very pleasing to him. Stub is the basso songster of the North.

"James McMahon has been making good as the official trail blazer with his size 14 hobnailed boots.

"Tom Graham is having considerable trouble raising his moustache to the standards which currently prevail at Camp Isabella. He said he wanted to raise a good soup strainer, but there wasn't any soup.

"My advice to you, Marks, is don't take any of the CCC pills they are giving us, because they can move mountains. We have the utmost convenience ­ hot and cold running water, coiled spring mattresses, and deck chairs for everyone. We sleep under mosquito netting. Well, if the mosquitoes don't bite and the flies don't chew, so long, Marks, we'll be seeing you.

"P. S. Roy Le Page went wading in his army underwear, which happened to be size 54.9, a true sight to behold."

In one of those NRA stores in 1933, there was this sign:

"If we don't have it, you don't need it."

That's telling them.

Recollections of the Great Depression will be most welcome, although I am told that people who remember those times of the Great Depression get depressed all over again remembering.

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