My parents drove me from Antioch to Delta Center in Stockton. Delta Center had been a state mental hospital. The California Conservation Corps had moved into a section of the grounds, including what had been the main admin building. As we entered the grounds on North American Street, the perfectly manicured grounds still looked like a state hospital facility. Not only were the lawns mowed, but all of the shrubbery was perfectly groomed as well. The grass along the sidewalks was perfectly edged. Beautiful. We pulled up in front of the main building and found a parking spot.
I was wearing my civilian clothes, but I did wear my Red Wing Irish Setter hiking boots…my badge of honor as a Backcountry corpsmember. All of my gear was either inside of or strapped to the outside of my huge blue backpack in the cargo space of my parents’ Chevy Blazer. I hauled my backpack out and slung it over my shoulders. Dad shook my hand. Mom hugged me and said, “Do good.” I strode up the sidewalk through the carefully manicured lawn and through the front doors of Delta Center.
I stopped at the receptionist’s window inside the front door. The receptionist looked up and I said, “Reporting for Backcountry.”
“Welcome to Delta! Go through these doors and go right. It’s not a straight shot, you’ll have a few turns, but just keep going back as far as you can and you’ll get to the dorm where the Backcountry crews are staying.”
After I went through the door and turned right, the corridors were rather maze-like as I found my way back to the dorm. The dorm was a long cot-lined bay, similar to the dorms at the old Fricot City Training Academy. A few Corpsmembers were already there. “Just grab a cot,” I was told, so I dumped my backpack on a cot and went off to fond other Backcountry corpies.
I didn’t get very far before I was stopped by a Delta staff member.
“Where are you going in those boots?!”
I was confused. Why wouldn’t I be wearing my CCC-issued boots?
“Boots are not allowed to be worn inside the facility. It takes a lot of work to keep these floors polished. Now, who told you that you could wear boots in here?”
“It never occurred to me that I couldn’t wear CCC-issued boots. At Del Norte…”
“This is not Del Norte! This is Delta! Get those boots off!”
“Yes, sir. Should I remove then now and return to the dorm in my socks?”
“Don’t be a smart ass! Just go back and wear soft soled shoes on when you are in this facility.”
As I retreated back to the dorm, I heard the staff member bust another Backcountry corpie.
“What are you doing in those boots?!”