Francis Mikesh was barely 16 when he signed on for the Civilian Conservation Corps at Fort Snelling in 1936. From there he was sent by train to Cheban, Washington where he spent the next year working in the hills of the state’s northern region. Francis remembers cutting lots of trees to build a road, sawing logs with a bucksaw, picking up rocks behind a bulldozer, building a bridge across a ravine and fighting fire. Though the work was hard, “it was the best place I could be at that age,” he said.
When his term was finished, he rejoined for another year and was sent to central Minnesota, where instead of cutting, he planted lots of trees. Lots and lots of trees! “Take a step, take a swing” was the chorus they repeated, while planting rows of trees. Francis ended up serving only a couple months in Minnesota before he left for a job in the city. He was drafted into the army in 1941 and served four years as a combat pilot in the Army Air Corps before settling in Minnesota and having a family.
Today Francis is a spry 94-year-old, with lots of great stories to tell. Come meet him at the 80th birthday celebration!