Bill Summers, Camp Mercer Project Superintendent


Bill Summers, Camp Mercer Project Superintendent, 1933-1942

Beloved by CCC enrollees, project superintendent Bill Summers (second from the left) boosted company morale, even in winter.

Before the camp store or post exchange (PX) served beer, beer runs allowed enrollees to celebrate in their barracks.

Summers demanded and rewarded excellence in his men. He held popular "performance celebrations" to encourage hard work. These merry gatherings took place just past the dynamite shack in an area now available as a canoe campsite along the Camp Mercer trail.

Scandalous embezzlement of monies from the mess hall was reported by Bill Summers to Army leadership at Sparta District Headquarters. The next day, Major Roberts arrived at Camp Mercer and removed the offending officer. He asked Summers, a civilian, who should run Camp Mercer. Surprisingly, Summers suggested a junior officer, R.E. Ermentrout (left), as the best leader.

Camp Mercer Commander R.A. Ermentrout and his highly regarded book on the history of the CCC, Forgotten Men.

I have personal knowledge of one camp superintendent who invariably gave a holiday and a barrel or two of 3.2 beer to crews who completed a project satisfactorily ahead of schedule. I became aware of this superintendent's incentive ploy when he asked me for a barrel of 3.2 beer for a picnic on a certain hidden lake, a real fisherman's paradise. I got the beer. He had already made arrangements with the mess steward for food. There were no shirks even by new enrollees after the first days on the job. This man was not only a talented forester, he was a superb leader of men. There were many like him but not enough, unfortunately. He deserves memorialization: William Summers, Camp Mercer, 660th CCC Company, Manitowish, Wisconsin.

Timber Cruiser Axe awarded to Bill Summers for exemplary service to the CCC.

Life at the camp was all military, too, with bugle call at 6 a.m., breakfast at 7 a.m., work call off the roster (done by the bugler and work leader) 7:45 a.m. loading of workers-transportation and begin work at 8 a.m. Lunch was supplied in shoe boxes or brown bags marked with the name of each worker and eaten in the field. Work details ended at 4:30 p.m., if you didn't end up on K.P. for some disciplinary action. Flag retreat and inspection was at 5:45 p.m., supper call by buge at 6 p.m., and free time was available to most enrollees between 6 and 9:30 p.m. Since work was often hard and under unpleasant work conditions, lights out was usually ordered sometime between 9:30 and 9:45 p.m. This was the daily schedule, 5 days a week. Each Saturday was scrub day when the barracks were torn apart and put back together again. "The scrub day duties included moving the bunks and personal items all to one side of the building, with crews scrubbing down the floor, wall and around the stoves," remembers W. Hirte. "We then moved all this material to the other side to do the other half before placing all our bunks and supplies back in an orderly fashion." The inspections were rigorous but pride and competition was instilled in the barracks which helped with morale.

Town & Country Newspaper

Waupaca, Wisconsin 1983