Interview with Clayton James

Interview with Clayton James

The following are excerpts from an interview with Clayton James:
Your experience at the camp sounds as if it was important to your lives. I wonder if you could talk about that part of it, how it influenced your lives.

Well, it was an important period of my life or our lives and I eventually, you know, walked out. The camp began to kind of disintegrate and I had been in these camps for three years and we finally began to, you know, go AWOL. So there was quite a lot of that going on and after a year in the camp I decided to go AWOL too and, of course, that was a very intense period of time. We came up to Washington and spent the summer up here. I don't know exactly what year that was, '44, I guess, '43, something like that. '45, summer of '45 we came up and spent, and then in August we went back to the camp because we didn't have any money. We had to go somewhere where we could be taken care of so we went down and I built my little shack down on the beach there and we lived in that and the FBI came and picked me up and took me to jail and we finally had a trial but we were given a suspended sentence.

What was the reasoning for having a suspended sentence?

Well, Barbara said it was because she sat in the court and had a long face and the judge said okay. It was stupid anyway because the war was over and there was no reason for sending us to jail.

And when you say things started disintegrating at the camp…

Yeah, well, the administration and things fell apart and one thing that happened was really quite, you know, a nuisance was that the kitchen caught on fire one time. They had these wood stoves, you know, and the cabin got overheated and the watchman was not at it and so it caught fire so that was a big mess and that was just part of what happened in camp. The administration fell apart. We were over in our little shack on the beach and Everson came running over, "Clayton, Clayton, the kitchen's on fire!" Of course, I was the main figure in the kitchen so I went, we went running. Well, they got it out but it was quite a mess but we had to get it cleaned up and get breakfast for camp. But we did but it was just part of the thing that happened, the breaking down of the morale and stuff. It was a pretty difficult period.

--Taken from Siuslaw National Forest and Portland State University History Department. "Camp 56: An Oral History Project." p99-102.

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