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Opinion >  Letters

Riverside State Park mystery solved!

The photograph of Clark Gable training in a World War II gunnery turret (“How Spokane played a role in helping Clark Gable take on Hitler’s Luftwaffe,” Aug. 15, 2021) explains a peculiar structure still found today in Riverside State Park at the old Seven Mile Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Camp.

The structure is a double concrete track located near the northwest wall of the inner Seven Mile Canyon. The track has a peculiar J-shape, running several hundred yards, in some sections rising or tilting. The track seems made to run a vehicle with tires. The system of wooden struts between the concrete tracks must have supported a guide rail. Nearby is a concrete wall and berm, perhaps shielding operators.

I suspected an artillery piece ran on the tracks but I couldn’t understand the purpose of the odd shape. I never thought I would be able to identify the actual weapon. That is why the picture of Gable in a gunnery turret, which can both rotate and incline a gun barrel, is amazing. The photo shows the track must have been used to simulate shooting at targets from a moving plane.

The Seven Mile CCC Camp (circa 1935-1939) is marked by a kiosk near the Wilbur trailhead. Concrete foundations and walkways for some dozen buildings remain, including four barracks, mess hall, motor pool, infirmary and administration. The camp had flushing toilets, a sewage system, and a water tower on the bluff overlooking the river above the camp. Unfortunately, the park service senselessly destroyed the historic CCC water tower in June of this year.

Terence B. Allen


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