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Marion B. Matson (Pat)

Rapid City, SD

1937, 1790, Mystic, F-1 Member
1938-39, 792, Roubaix, F-6 Member

My CCC Days
Pat Matson

There was still no work available that winter (36-37) so I decided to join the CCC. This was a program of the depression era that FDR started to help young men out of work and also to help fix and build public projects around the country. CCC stood for Civilian Conservation Corps.

I was accepted on a cold January in 1937. We rode out to our camp which was Mystic Camp 1790. It was so cold that for a few weeks the only work we did outside was the wood detail. Everything in camp was heated by wood so we had to keep that going.

This camp was called a Forest Service Camp. We were under the Army when in camp, but under the Forest Service when we worked out of camp. We were issued Army clothes so we had warm clothes. We were paid $30.00 a month but we got $5.00 and $25.00 was sent home for the family to use.

In the winter most of our work was thinning trees. But in the summer we were busy fighting forest fires, fixing fire trails and planting trees. That summer I was transferred to a side camp at Rochford where we built a drift fence from Black Fox to Deerfield. It was hard work digging in that rocky soil and tamping the posts in.

They broke up the men at Camp Mystic and I got transferred to Roubaix Camp. While there I learned how to build guard rails around the parking lot at Roubaix Lake. I liked that real well.

The summer of 1938 an assistant leader and I got transferred to Savoy Side Camp which was up Little Spearfish Creek above Savoy to build guard rails and foot bridges at Roughlock Falls. The first week we were there the assistant leader quit and went home which left me the only one that knew anything about building guard rails and foot bridges.

These side camps were all under the Forest Service with a Ranger Station close by and a Foreman in charge of the camp who was under the Superintendant of the work of both main camp and side camp. My Foreman (Carl Hanson) said not to worry to just make a list of the logs we needed and we would figure out how to teach the men how to do the work. I felt like I was in over my head, running a crew of men at 19 years old. My foreman stood behind me and we built the original foot bridges and guard rails at Roughlock Falls the summer of 1938. Most of the foot bridges and guard rails have either been removed or replaced now after the originals rotted out.

In the early part of 1939 I got promoted to assistant leader. This meant $11.00 a month instead of $5.00, but it was short lived. I got discharged in the spring of 1939 because there was a 2 year limit a person could serve and I had already been in more than 2 years.

This CCC service was probably the happiest time of my work years and at 18 and 19 years old I learned to live with other men which helped me a lot later on when I joined the Naval Reserve to serve in World War 2.

I was scared to get out in civilian life because everyone told me how scarce the jobs were outside. Dad had just had the basement house built in 1938 and he liked Rapid City Lumber Co. where he had bought the material for the basement house. He talked me into applying for a job there which I did although there were quite a few applying ahead of me. Most of their lumber and coal came in by railroad and they hired the job applicants on Saturday and Sundays to unload the cars. Usually 2 or 3 men, depending on how many railroad cars there was to unload and haul to the yard and stack in bins. If it was coal we unloaded the cars with coal forks or scoop shovels into coal bins down by the railroad tracks. You were expected to unload a 40 ton car of coal in one day. The extras were then laid off. In a few weeks I was called and I never got laid off. I was told afterwards that "that was their way" of finding a hard worker. I guess my growing up as a child on the ranch at Imlay paid off because as kids if there was a job to be done we done it and got it over with.

I was assigned a 1936 Reo Flat Bed truck and became a delivery man. I received $75.00 a month which was good wages at the time. I remember as a high school student I would see these delivery trucks go by and dream of driving one someday. It wasn't as glamorous as I thought. It was real hard work because everything was done by hand there was little chance of promotion. I stayed with it until I joined the Navy and I went back for awhile after my discharge, but I didn't stay long.

Marion B. Pat Matson of Rapid City passed away at the age of 84 on Thursday, February 27, 2003 at Ft. Meade Veterans Hospital in Fort Meade, SD.

He was born on the Sheep Ranch at Imlay, South Dakota on November 22, 1918, to Olaf Karl Matson and Hazel (Scott) Matson. He grew up on the 160-acre family homestead in the Imlay area until a fire destroyed their house in 1933 and the family then moved to Rapid City, where he lived for the remainder of his life. However, the Badlands was always home and many picnics, hikes, hunting and camping trips were made there with the family.

After graduating from Rapid City High School in 1936, Pat worked with his dad in a logging camp in Northern Minnesota for a short duration and then spent 2 terms in the CCCs, working at Roubaiux and at Roughlock Falls. In 1940 he joined the U.S. Navy and was stationed at the Chicago Naval Station until contacting rheumatic fever and being given a medical discharge in 1942. He moved back to Rapid City, and in 1947, he met Nellie M. Fish from Spearfish, SD, and after a 2-week courtship, they were married in Broadus, Montana on April 6, 1947. They were married for 54 years, until Nellie passed away last March.

In the 1940s Pat worked on the B17 airplanes at Ellsworth Air Force Base as an engine mechanic and was a co-owner of a Harley Davidson motorcycle shop with Jack Kirschlinger. After his marriage to Nellie, he was employed at Johnson Machine, Guy Van Nice Construction, and Marine Life Aquarium, where he retired after 22 years as maintenance supervisor in 1986. He loved motorcycling (it is estimated he put on over 100,000 miles on his motorcycles in his lifetime), and attended the first Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and the Daytona Motorcycle Races in the 1930s when they were still on the beach. He loved the outdoors and was a very active member of the Black Hills Volksmarch Association, and a lifetime member of the Retread motorcycle group. He was proud of his involvement in AA for the past 22 years, and cherished the many friends he made there.

Having six sons, Pat was involved in Boy Scouts for many, many years, as a Scout Master and troop leader. He was one of the founding fathers of Rushmore Little League. He coached in Rushmore Little League for many years and then later umpired in Harney Little League when his grandsons started playing.

He is survived by two sisters Bernice Dinnel of San Bernardino, Ca, Shirley Morrison of Chemainus, B.C., Canada; and brother Karl Matson and his wife Lelah of Rapid City, six sons: Michael Matson and wife Lorre of Fort Morgan, Colo., Bernard Matson and wife Jean, James Matson, Joseph Matson, David Matson all of Rapid City, John Matson and his wife Janie of Fresno, Calif., four daughters, Vesper Wright of Rapid City, Jacqueline Lammers and husband Steve of Mt. Zion, IL, Beverlee Michelson and husband Richard of Loveland, CO, Mary Lou Gooris and husband Paul of La Jara, NM, 36 grandchildren, 17 great-grandchildren.

He was preceded in death by wife Nellie, parents, brother Scott, and one grandson, Anthony James.

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