Frugal Film Project – Matt Melcher

The Fort 

It was just across County Line Road. Behind the school. Wilderness, danger, dirt, and old abandoned buildings. Everything a growing boy needs. I spent a large part of my single-digit years playing in ‘The Fort’. Every now and then some soldiers would drive by and chase us out, but I don’t think they cared. I knew there was some military thing happening there, but the older I got the less there was, until it was completely abandoned by the time I was a teenager. As I got older I would spend some time around the old buildings. They were boarded up and falling apart, and occasionally we would find our way into one. Junk and decay. My brother and I would take dad’s car and practice driving on the old streets. I wasn’t 12 and he wasn’t 15, but we taught ourselves how to drive there.

It wasn’t until I was much older that I learned of the history of The Fort. Fort Des Moines was built around 1903 and was an artillery base back in the days of horses. In World War One it became the training location of the first class of black military officers. The military was still segregated back then. In World War Two it was a training location for the Women’s Army Corps – the WAC’s. There were over 40,000 women located on the base during the war. If you were a young man, Des Moines was the place to be.

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Now, most of the old red brick buildings are gone, and civilization has encroached. This is one of two of the remaining old Officers Quarters. I have taken numerous photos of the remaining buildings. They are in the process of being refurbished. Soon the will look like modern interpretations of old buildings. That makes me sad. 


“You shouldn’t let other people get your kicks for you” 


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