Thursday 1 February 2007

1951: You're in the Army Now

1951 was a year where once again Clint’s plans were dashed. He received the letter that thousands of other kids had fallen on the mat. The Korean War was rife and now Clint had been called upon to serve his country. Fort Ord was situated close to Carmel, up along the Monterey Peninsula. It was here that Clint was to spend the next 16 weeks in basic training. During this time Clint heard that they were looking for a couple of swimming instructors down at the pool area, a stroke of luck as Clint had plenty of experience, so he volunteered for the job. Private Eastwood found himself at the pool along with another private, a handful of sergeants and a Lieutenant. Before long these guys eventually found themselves heading for action in Korea, yet Clint’s name never seemed to come up. He figured as a private it may just be a matter of time before he was transferred from the pool area, which didn’t appeal too much to Clint, he enjoyed the job, and hoped to remain. After thinking it over, he decided to confront the captain and argue his case that he felt he could take care of activities at the pool area by himself. His captain expressed how he certainly didn’t know how to swim, let alone instruct how to swim, so you go ahead and run the pool area, assuring Clint that he was always wearing a sweatshirt, so no one would ever know he was simply a private. Clint was encouraged by his captain’s remarks and soon implemented a fine swimming instruction program, eventually taking on 4 other men to help him fish out the rookies who fell short in their swimming tests. Clint loved this work; he even lived down by the pool in a hut, as opposed to the regulation barracks. ‘I was a private with a swimming pool, wearing Khakis and a sweatshirt, and a year and a half later I was a Corporal.’ It was while Clint was stationed in the area, that he fell in love with Carmel in particular and its surrounding beauty. Along with Clint’s army pay of around $70 a month, he decided to take a part time job outside of the base. Lasting some four months, he worked as a packer for the Spreckles Sugar Company based in nearby Salinas valley. ‘It was hard work, but they paid me $1.70 an hour’ he said. It was only a matter of time before the army caught on to his extracurricular excursions and the job came to a grinding halt. Not one to be beaten, Clint soon found another form of extra work, this time remaining firmly within the guidelines of the Army rule book, he found himself working as a bouncer at the NCO club on the army base. The pay was never going to match the sugar job, but it had its compensations, it was a whole lot easier and Clint could swallow half a dozen beers during a night of work, not bad.

1948-49 Moving on

Of course, playing the piano was to some degree a form of social recognition, but asking Clint, he’d simplify the reasoning. 'You might play for a while and look up and, hey, you might have a date.' To the envy of his friends, Clint was never too far away from the attention of young girls. Back at the Eastwood home, his father began working in sales for the Georgia-Pacific Timber shipping company; it was a long-term career move that would eventually take Clint’s father to executive status. The Family was once again on the move, this time settling in Seattle. Graduating from Oakland Tech at the age of 18 Clint once again decided to go it alone. It was a pretty uneventful period in his life, if he wasn’t busting his back digging either ditches or swimming pools he’d be working the furnaces from Midnight to 7.00am for the Bethlehem Steelworks up near Oakland, ‘My job was general maintenance around the big blast furnaces, and the heat got so intense you felt as if your skin would peel right off your body. I didn’t like the work, even though the pay was good. I was working the graveyard shift, from midnight until nine in the morning. I had my days free, but I was too tired to enjoy them.’ Clint had always dreamt about the prospect of lumber jacking and always wanted to experience it for himself. So it was perhaps inevitable that he headed for Springfield, Oregon by way of the Willamette River. Upon his arrival Clint eventually found work and was hired at the Weyerhaeuser Company mills. He’d only worked there a matter of weeks and soon became aware that lumber jacking could be a dangerous business. In Douglas Thompson’s 1992 book ‘Sexual Cowboy’ Clint explained, ‘I heard a shout and looked up and saw the crane driver and I hadn’t quite got it organised. A nasty load of giant logs hung suspended over my head. I don’t think I’ve reacted faster in my life. Yet even as I started to run, down came the logs. Any one of them could have crushed the life out of me. I just barely jumped clear- as the logs hit the ground they jammed against the crane, which was a lucky break for me. The money was good in the logging business and so was the food. The guys you met there were like wild characters out of a novel. It was pretty hard living but working outdoors in this fabulous country- rugged mountains, tall pine and fir forests – made it worthwhile. I never stayed long enough to work up into one of the really skilled jobs: if a man doesn’t know what he’s doing he can really pay for it. Some of the Douglas firs grew 250 to 300 feet tall and a man who goes up to the top of one of those to lop off the high branches has to be experienced. Log – rolling – that’s riding the logs in mid-river – is another job where you either know what you’re doing or you don’t live long enough to have grandchildren. I earned good money felling trees. I’d pick where I wanted a tree to fall, take my axe and cut a ‘V’ so it would fall in that direction. Then another man and myself would work a two-man double saw. It took two of us because some of these trees were six feet in diameter. Some of the time was spent in the sawmill which was better pay but I preferred being outdoors’
On the weekend the entire lumber jacking community spent their money in the town of Eugene, where they would turn the place on its head. They were loud, very loud, but the locals had grown accustomed to the loggers’ behaviour. Clint would often make the journey to the outskirts of town where he could grab a few beers and listen to some live country music, rather badly played live country music. There were as always, girls on the scene, but nothing that Clint took too seriously. Earning $1.80 an hour was certainly enough to keep him happy and in beer. As the job was seasonal the pay was well above the average. During the cold season the company would close down and Clint stayed at the camp with the other loggers, when they were working it was a long day, working from sunup to sundown. In terms of money, they remained fairly comfortable due to the simple fact that most of the time they were simply too damn tired to spend it. That winter was hard for Clint, especially as an acclimatised Californian. The sun could hide itself for 6 months and along with the humidity Clint began to find the conditions quite depressing. ‘In the winter you can go Six or Seven months without seeing blue in the sky. Finally the dampness got to me and I moved on.’ Clint had worked the mills for around a year but decided he’d rather move back to Seattle before a second winter set in. Aged 19, Clint returned home to take on a series of pretty non-eventful jobs, including truck driving for the Color shake organisation. During an excursion to the state of Texas he found employment in Renton as a lifeguard. Deciding to put his natural athleticisms to good use, he was also required to teach as a swimming instructor. He would later of course state that the most beneficial part of the job was enjoying the natural beauties that would visit the pool in their bathing suits! Clint remembers fondly, ‘Believe me, those jobs were hard to get.’
Inside though, he still remained pretty uncertain as to what he really wanted in life. He has since looked back at that time of his life with such self-inflicting terms as ‘a bum’ or ‘ a screw up’ yet, despite this, he remained clear, he wanted to be himself, and to earn his own way in life. After much deliberating, Clint finally came to the conclusion that he was going to continue with his music studies at Seattle University. No sooner had he become comfortable with his position and perhaps ultimately his plans for the future, the American government decided to intervene, and for the time being at least, Clint’s Plans would definitely be put on hold.
Below: Weyerhaeuser Timber Company