“Don Adams’ Doodlebug”
These are some possibilities that Don Adams would not have his Doodlebug parked in his garage today…
- That our Vermonter Calvin Coolidge had not left a nice ‘surplus’ in our U.S. Treasury when he left his presidency in 1929.
- That our Washington politicians had not voted to give ‘war bonuses’ to all of our veterans returning from WW1 and then reneged on their promise.
- That our stock market crashed in 1929 and the ‘Great Depression’ took up most of the 1930s.
- The November 1927 flood did so much damage, especially in the Winooski River watershed area in central Vermont.
Don Adams bought his Doodlebug from his brother-in-law, Bob Rowe of Montpelier, in 2008. Bob had done a lot of work on the vehi-cle since he purchased it in 2003. The story goes that the vehicle was purchased by a Cuttingsville gent at a government auction after the Waterbury dam was completed in 1938. The Cuttingsville gent bought a number of the construction dump trucks but they were in such bad condition he made Doodlebugs out of them. Doodlebugs at the time were used by many farmers to replace horses. You can see an ad on page 12 where for only $195 you could buy a “Staude Make-a-tractor” kit and plow with your Ford the next day!
Don’s Doodlebug was made from a 1928 Ford AA one and one half ton dump truck (serial # AA65814). It has 40 Hp, a 4 speed transmission and very stiff suspension. No one knows when this truck was put to work on dam construction but we do know there were three dams involved and 184 dump trucks were leased by the Corps of Engineers when the first dam construction started in 1933. The first dam to be built was the East Barre Dam, the 2nd was the Wrightsville Dam and the last was the Waterbury Dam. When did Don’s AA start work…we don’t know, but we do know that between 1933 and 1938 some 4 million yards of material was hauled to build these dams. A lot of trips for trucks with a 4 yard capacity!
So….“who” built these three dams? Most everyone thinks they were built by ‘civilians’ in the Civilian Conservation Corp. Very few ’civilian’ were involved, but instead were veterans from WW1. When the veterans started returning from the war they started lining up to get their promised “war bonuses” but there were none. The politicians had disappeared with the promise and the bonus. Coolidge had built a fairly nice treasury surplus during his time as president and the Congress and Senate spent much of their time figuring ways to spend it to make votes. The mi-nute Coolidge left, the war bonus was passed with much funfair. When a large group of war vets marched on Washington in 1932 for their war bonuses they were ’run off’ causing much embarrassment to the folks in power. The next year President Roosevelt decided to allow these older vets into the CCC which was designed to put young non-vets to work. Some 25,000 (out of the 4 million) WW1 veterans were allowed into the CCCs to earn a living. A very large group of these veterans came to Vermont from all over the United States to live in CCC camps and work on the dam construction. Vermonters of-ten made comments about how lucky they were to have these ’older’ vets in the work camp instead of ’young rowdy’s that many other states had to deal with. In fact over the five years that some 15,000 war vets came and went in the camps, other than some public drunk-enness there was only one crime reported. A prize chicken was stolen in the Barre area and blamed on someone in the camps.
When construction began there were very few mechanized vehicles to help do the work. Some 2500 men used axes, shovels, picks, grub-hoes, bars, sledges, drills and 600 wheelbarrows to do the work. Then came the 184 dump trucks, 16 steam shovels, 4 draglines, the bulldozers and the huge cement rollers to pack the earth. All three dams are packed earth structures with Waterbury having the largest in the country at the time. Most of the men had wives and kids at home and they were able to make a living during the terrible depression. The dams were built be-cause of the 27 flood devastation and the decision to bring in the war vets. You wonder how many families survived the depression because of Don Adams’ Doodlebug…
(From the editor, some depression and CCC facts vary depending on the publication)