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Camp Croft, South Carolina

Andrew J. Daley was responsible for motion picture exhibition at four movie theaters near Spartanburg, South Carolina between 1941 and 1944. He was a licensed projectionist in Pennsylvania when he was drafted by the Army. He was sent to Camp Croft for basic infantry training.

Camp Croft was one of 12 Replacement Training Centers (RTC) built to train young men being called to active duty for World War II.

Construction of Camp Croft near Spartanburg, South Carolina, began in late 1940. In May, 1941, the construction was completed.

The 16,929 acre camp included barracks, headquarters buildings, post office, post exchange, service clubs, four movie theaters, chapels, hospitals, dental clinic, Red Cross, and numerous other buildings.

Shortly after arriving at Camp Croft, Andrew J. Daley's civilian skills were put to use making sure the men saw the appropriate training film during the day. At night, he made sure there was entertainment on the screen to help the other young soldiers relax and forget their aches and worries.

On Father's Day, this year, Mr. Daley's son, Jack, called us and put his father on the line. Mr. Daley shared his memories about four of South Carolina's most unique movie theaters.

Interview with Andrew J. Daley, June 18, 2006
By phone to Bellflower, CA

"When I was drafted in 1941, I was supposed to go in for one year compulsive military training and then be discharged. But, I was drafted in June and on December 7th, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. I remember Franklin Roosevelt on the radio saying we were in for the duration of the war.

I took my basic training at Camp Croft [near Spartanburg, SC.] The camp was new, and they were looking for somebody to run the projectors in the theaters. Anytime you’re inducted into the service, they want to know what you’ve done. If you’re a flyer, they put you in the Air Force. They place you where they can use you best.

So, they needed somebody who understood projectors for these four theaters. They weren’t like these 16mm table projector models. They were these big things like they use in the Radio City Music Hall. They were Simplex projectors with Peerless lamps and RCA sound like I was running in civilian life. The Simplex was the advanced model, the latest thing.

I had a Pennsylvania state projectionist’s license because you cannot do any projector work in a commercial booth unless you have a state license. My brother was working in a movie theater and during the winter months I used to hang around up there with him because it was comfortable. First thing I know, he was letting me do the work and after awhile he told me, 'I think you’re ready for the state examination.' So, I went and took my state examination and that’s how I acquired my license.

When I was inducted into the service, my job was to keep the picture on the screen. The theaters at Camp Croft were quite big and very similar to the theaters outside. Between the four theaters they only had two prints of film, so one theater would start a little sooner and when the film was finished, a guy with a Jeep would run it over to the other theater. They just shuffled it back and forth. A half-hour or forty-five minutes would give the guy ample time. After the film would come off, they would rewind it. This guy would put it in a box, put it in a Jeep and run over to the other theater.

They would run training films during the day. They would show you how it’s done in training on film and then they would take you out in the field and want you to do it. When you were in training, sometimes they would get you up in the middle of the night just to take you out hiking. But, under normal conditions you’d get up in the morning, put in your day’s work and, say, around four or five o’clock you were done. You would take your shower and have your supper and, then, your evening was free. If you wanted to go into town or you wanted to take in a movie you could.

My son Jack and I were looking through some old pictures yesterday and we picked out some when Betty Grable was there. Bob Hope was there too. I can’t recall all the people. You know it was sixty-five years ago.

The films came from the Signal Corps. I have a picture that shows the safe that they were stored in. It says on the safe, 'Property of the U.S.A. Motion Picture Service.'

They were the same films that would be shown in a commercial theater. They would pick up the old films and leave us another film. They would advertise what would be coming next.

Camp Croft was a basic infantry training camp. It started out that you got twelve weeks of training. Then, they increased it by another four weeks. They figured twelve weeks wasn’t enough training. After the training period, the guys would ship out and in would come another new bunch. There was a big turnover but they always had what they called the Staff Overhead which I was a part of. It was just like getting up in the morning and going to work to do something, you know.

When I went to Camp Croft we got paid $21 a month. They fed you, they gave you clothes, they gave you a bed to sleep and you became government property. You did what they told you. They would say, 'When you were home, you did it your way. Now, you’re here and you’re going to do it our way.'

This guy that bunked next to me, his name was Joe Nader, and Joe says, 'Look, Andy, we get $21 a month. We could go into the paratroopers. They get about $60 a month. Instead of walking, we’d be riding.' So, Joe and I signed up. But, I became very sick. I went to the doctor and he admitted me to the hospital. Joe went off to the paratroopers but they scratched me off the list. So, if I hadn’t gone into the hospital, I would have been a paratrooper. I sometimes wonder if I would have been on the paratroop drop on D-Day in France.

After basic training, they put me in the projection booth. They gave me a Jeep and a Sergeant’s rating. There were three white theaters and one black theater. Back in those days the colored people were by themselves. They trained by themselves and they even had their own theater. We had drivers who shuttled the films between the theaters. There was this one colored driver who shuttled the film between theater 1 and theater 4. They ran the same film. He would deliver the film and wait for it. So, he began to watch the fellows while they threaded up the film and showed it. I knew all the shuttle guys. They wouldn’t be the same ones all the time. They got extra money for doing this on their own time. It was my job to keep the picture on the screen and I needed somebody at the black theater so I told him, 'You can do this.' So, I had a colored projectionist too.

During the day my job was running the training films. It wasn’t training films all day long. You know, there were films at certain times. In the evening it was the commercial films and the troops paid regular admission to see them.

The officers knew I had a Jeep and some of them would hitch a ride when I had to go into town. The ones that didn’t have a car had to ride the bus. Sometimes there were three officers in the back and one up front with me and I’d take them to town.

At Camp Croft we used 35mm projectors. When I went to New Guinea in the Dutch East Indies near Hollandia, I used a 16mm projector. It was a portable projector and you would put it on a table and project it on a light wall or whatever you had. We lived in a big tent. I can’t remember how many of us lived in one tent. Each of us had a poncho which was a raincoat with no sleeves but it had a hole for your head. Two of us would put two ponchos together to make a small tent. It was a hot jungle and full of infections. Two things we had to do every day. We took a salt tablet for the heat and an Ativan tablet to keep from getting malaria. After you took Ativan for awhile your skin turned yellow. But, you had to take it every day in front of a commissioned officer.

After New Guinea, I was stationed in the Philippine Islands, first in Leyte and then in Manila. I had a Jeep there, but we still used 16mm projectors. We were to go to Japan, but they had the atom bomb ready and when they dropped the atom bomb on Japan, I continued in the Philippine Islands. Otherwise, I would have gone on to Japan.

I was in the military four-and-a-half years. When I got out, I went back where I worked before the war. You know, the government said, “He got drafted. It wasn’t his fault. So, when he gets back, you should give him his job back.” But, somebody had my job.

Not long ago Jack and I flew down to Camp Croft. When we got there, we found out there was going to be a fifty-year celebration at the end of the month. So, we went back for that. I went over the roster of those who were there but I didn’t see the name of anyone I knew. You know, when you get right down to it, most of the World War II vets aren’t here anymore. For my age, I’m doing pretty good."

More about Andrew J. Daley provided by his family

On June 1, 1941 Andrew Joseph Daley was among the first Americans to be drafted, even though America's entry into World War II was still many months away. He went directly into the U. S. Army at Camp Croft where he received his basic training. An Army inventory of his civilian skills produced a professional movie projectionist license for the state of Pennsylvania. The Army needed this skill badly at the new post at Camp Croft. Daley quickly received the rank of Sergeant and responsibility of chief movie projectionist of the camp's four movie theaters and reported directly to a Major assigned to the Headquarters Detachment. The theaters showed training films during the day and entertainment films at night. The Major and his assistant, Sergeant Travis Taylor were in charge downstairs of the theaters and Sergeant Daley was in charge of the upstairs. As chief projectionist, Daley always had a jeep assigned to him so he could quickly commute between movie theaters.

While off duty, a favorite place to get away from the camp for a little while was at a local establishment called the "Tick-Tock", located about half-way between the camp and the city of Spartanburg. Daley was stationed at Croft from 1941 to 1944 when he left for Dutch New Guinea and the Philippines, where he was also a chief projectionist. He was honorably discharged at the end of the war. Back in civilian life, he moved briefly near Portland, Oregon, where he met and married his wife. The couple moved to Bellflower, CA in 1952 and Andrew retired from National Cylinder Gas Company in Los Angles in 1984.

Sgt. Andrew J. Daley
Projectionist at Camp Croft

One of the projectors used
in the theaters at Camp Croft.

Travis Taylor and Arthur Kaplan in theater office. Safe at right held films supplied by U.S.A. Motion Picture Service.

Betty Grable at Camp Croft

Betty Grable appearing on stage
at Camp Croft theater.

Chorus line in Betty Grable show

Andrew J. Daley with one of the members of the Betty Grable show.

One of the Camp Croft theaters
around 1942

All photos above from
the Andrew J. Daley Collection

Only Camp Croft theater remaining. It is now the David W. Reid Playhouse and is used by the Spartanburg Little Theater.

Special Thanks

We would like to express our appreciation to Jack Daley for arranging this interview and to Andrew J. Daley for sharing his memories of Camp Croft, South Carolina. We also appreciate the many photographs Mr. Daley shared from his collection.

For more information on Camp Croft, visit: http://www.schistory.net/campcroft/index.html

"In 1947, the entire acreage of the former Camp Croft was declared surplus by the War Assets Administration. By 1950, the Army sold the land by pieces to organizations and businesses, including the transfer of 7,088 acres of land to the South Carolina Commission of Forestry for the creation of the Croft State Park. The remaining acreage has been converted to residential housing, and industrial and commercial businesses." - Ron Crawley, South Carolina History Net

You can see the Camp Croft Band performing in the 13-minute short film, "Troop Train," made in 1943 by the U.S. Office of War Information. http://www.archive.org/details/TroopTra1943

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