Bill Piper

Bill Piper, 2004
Bill worked out at Farragut Naval Training Station while it was being built, and when his job ended there, he went back to the woods working for a gyppo logger in the vital lumber industry.

On December 7, 1941 Bill had been up on the East Branch of LeClerc Creek cutting wood, and did not hear about the attack until they stopped for gas at the Cole's Gas Station in Usk. That evening, Bill and his family talked about what was going to happen, especially since he and his older brother Al were old enough to be drafted. However, the attack itself was not a total shock, as he explains:
The Panhandle Lumber Company stopped their logging railroad in 1935 and that fall we tore up the steel and stocked it there at Camp 1, and in 1941 the United States put an embargo on all steel to Japan and the trouble was it was about three months before they started to enforce it, so the Washington Machinery Company from Seattle came over with trucks and loaded it up and got it to the boats for Japan before the embargo started. Well everybody said, "Well this'll be coming back," it was in the form of bullets. Course we really weren't sure, but that was the general talk about what was going to happen.
Bill's brother Al would later join the Army, and would serve in England, France, and Belgium as a truck mechanic. Bill however, was deferred for the lumber industry, and went to work for a gyppo (small independent operator) logger that provided logs for Diamond Match, the company that held governmental war contracts and ran mills throughout the Pend Oreille Valley.
I had a combination of a couple of jobs. I was a scaler, that meant I measured the log and determined the footage. But I worked for a small gyppo, Carol Graham and so I did whatever needed to be done. Generally I had a pickup I'd haul in groceries once a week to the camp and keep the bulldozers and the jammers and that sort of thing supplied with gas and diesel, and also I kept the time. That wasn't too much of a job, the Diamond made out all of the checks and we ran Carol's payroll through there so all they needed was the time.
Bill would also work for a summer out where Farragut Naval Training Station was being built, as part of the truck dispatch, and as he explains, the woods were almost totally emptied out of crews for that one summer here in the Pend Oreille Valley and the surrounding areas.
Everybody from around here flocked over there, you know they were paying what we considered high wages, $1.20 an hour for truck drivers and they worked ten hours a day, six hours a week, so it kinda drained the woods crews around there that one summer. And we'd go from Newport there the access roads in there were pretty primitive when you consider the 20,000 some men working there they were all headed in there in the morning and you had to get going early because if you got caught it was single file and if you had guts enough to get out into that other lane cause there wasn't much traffic coming the other way and go like hell but they wouldn't let you back in [laugh]. Some of those fellas were pretty hard-headed, they didn't want to let you back in. [laugh] They started in the early spring and gee by the time I left there in Fall, November, they were using some of the drill fields, if that's what you want to call them, there were six units. When they laid me off, well I guess I could have worked longer but I had a chance to go to work for Graham in the logging and they were laying them off by the hundreds. I worked in the truck dispatch, we did everything there. They kept a couple pickups there and the Superintendent bosses used the pickups to get around the project with. I suppose the Big Bosses had their own, but they would call and want a pickup and the truck dispatch would ask who would want that and they go up and pick them up and show them around wherever he wanted to go and the ambulance crews were there and all the transports went out of the truck dispatch.
Well I didn't go without anything, I was in a logging camp [an essential industry] and all I had to do was go to the Ration Board and say, "I need so many red stamp points or whatever," and whatever I told them they gave me, so I had all my ration stamps and gas. I was hauling gas around all the time so I didn't worry about gas. I had all my ration points and I'd eat at the cookshack. I had a Chevy pickup and it ran all the way through the war. But I do know that through the war, old Carol Graham had an old RD6 they called 'em. It was one of the first diesel bulldozers they put out. That thing kept breaking down all the time and about the second year of the war the Diamond Match bought him a brand new TD10 which was something.
Well while this didn't affect me much, the shortages because you couldn't get new vehicles and new cars. The news we followed that very closely and I worried quite a bit about my brother. I don't know if he was actually at the front or not, but he was close. We worried about him getting back alive. Well there was good times we hadn't experienced good times since the twenties but with the Depression on we had to scrimp and save for everything.
That was when they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Well I was in camp there and Carol Graham came up and he tried to tell us where they had dropped the atomic bomb and he couldn't remember what they called it. [laugh]
We had a lot of fun even though it was wartime. But probably the camaraderie of the camps. We were all young and we had to be pretty healthy to work and we had a lot of fun. We always had a lot of fellas telling stories, especially in the beer joints.

Copyright © 2004 by Kristen Cornelis