A few months after my husband, Bob’s uncle Frank Knox passed away, I was having an email conversation with Frank’s son, Greg, and we were discussing some of Frank’s time in the military, when Greg told me about his dad’s time in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). The CCC was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men. Originally for young men ages 18–25, it was eventually expanded to ages 17–28. Right after Frank graduated from high school in 1937, which was in the middle of the Great Depression, he went to work for a local rancher. He got the job because of his experience in driving a team of horses on a mowing machine and a dump rake, which he learned helping out on his brother, Robert Knox’s sheep ranch. The farmer saw the value in hiring this young man to help with the alfalfa harvest of that season.
Nevertheless, the job was obviously temporary, it was a relief when on July 1, 1937, Frank made the decision to join the CCCs. Frank says that the decision to join the CCCs was purely out of desperation. Frank received his notice and was ordered to train in Miles City, Montana. Frank was stationed in Haugen, Montana attached to the 956 Company which was working in conjunction with the Forest Service. The site was Camp F9 with the forest service. Frank spent 18 months with this company, but was allowed to take 9 months leave in the middle of that service, though he never quite knew how that had been arranged. He went to his Freshman year in college, and then returned to the CCC to complete his 18 months of service. In the CCCs, Frank would make $30 a month, $25 of which would go home to help the family. Because he also received room and board, the $5 spending money he had a month was enough. Franks says he didn’t want for anything, and in fact, gained 15 pounds in those first months. Frank fought several forest fires in his time in the CCCs, but he knew that fire fighting was really not for him. Frank went to work in the kitchen, and then later applied for and received the position of assistant educator, and he was the editor of The Mountain Chieftain the camp newspaper. Frank also taught the Agriculture class to 8th grade boys in the area.
When Frank was released from the CCCs, he moved back to his parents home, now in Ellensburg, Washington, where he began his college career at Central Washington College of Education. Frank didn’t know that he was a born teacher, and so he went to college and earned a Bachelors Degree in electrical engineering from Washington State College, now Washington State University, in the spring of 1948. He had a job lined up with the Clark County Public Utility District in Vancouver, Washington, but the Vanport Flood on the lower Columbia River wiped out the new post-war housing in the Portland area, causing the job offer to be withdrawn. Frank was offered an instructor’s position in the electrical engineering department at Washington State College, and thus began his 37 year career at Washington State University. Frank was an amazing man, and very smart. It was a pleasure knowing him. Today would have been Great Uncle Frank’s 99th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven Uncle Frank. We love and miss you very much.