But the COs worked without wages, explained Chuck, and served longer terms than those serving in the military. In fact, many COs were not being released until well past the end of the war. “The churches provided some clothing,” said Chuck, “and the government provided the work. But no one offered to pay any stipend for the work we did.”
In May 1943 Chuck and others protested being conscripted into doing slave labor, as a violation of the US Constitution, and walked out of the camp. He was eventually arrested and sent to prison, for refusing to go back to CPS.
“Some draft boards even refused to recognize any COs so there were thousands sent to prison just for being a CO,” he explained. Chuck eventually served two separate terms in prison, spending two weeks in solitary conﬁnement for participating in a work strike and going on a six-month hunger strike.
Chuck and Betsy were married on Feb. 9, 1945, “between prison terms,” he smiled.
After being released from prison for the last time, Chuck met Fred Smith, who had also spent time in prison as a CO, and the two became fast friends. On Christmas Day, 1959, the two families moved to Cedaredge to start a plumbing business.
The two men’s evolving awareness of social injustice and destructive environmental issues resulted in personal activism on their part, “and gradually evolved into doing our own thing,” laughed Chuck, reminiscing about the time they protested the nuclear detonations at Project Rio Blanco.
According to Chuck, early one morning, with the help of four college students, the two climbed up a steep hill and placed a plastic banner that read, “Down with Nuclear,” on the cable to be used for hanging Christos famous “orange curtain” across Riﬂe Gap. “It worked,” laughed Chuck. “When we let the banner go, it slid down and along the cable, straight to the center of the cable, to be seen by all the workers when the sun came up.”
At the beginning, Chuck said he was not into organizing, just in educating people on issues via ﬂyers and brochures, but that all changed. Word got out about some of the things he and Fred were doing, and Rita Murphy, from Paonia, called to ask if he would help organize a group struggling against the coal companies in the North Fork. Chuck explained to Murphy that he was not an organizer, but he did agree to listen. That was the beginning of the Western Slope Energy Research Center, now known as the Western Slope Environmental Resource Council (WSERC.) After coming together, Rita Murphy, Mark Welch, Charles Gilman, Chuck Worley and Don Burrows signed the original documents formally creating WSERC. That was 30 years ago.
And in 1980 Chuck was one of the “founding humans” of Western Colorado Congress (WCC). “Things were poppin’ down in Montrose,” said Chuck, “Federal land issues, water issues, etc., with no organization to address those issues. I was contacted by Theresa Erickson to see if I would help organize a group. So I went down to work with her and other activists, and together, we created WCC.”
Chuck also spent more than 40 years making annual pilgrimages, sometimes two, to take locally donated fruit, onions and clothing down to the Hopi Indian reservation in Arizona. He took others with him, making them aware of the plight of the indigenous people of our country. Chuck noted that the word “Hopi” means “The People of Peace.” Among the Hopi, Chuck was known as the “Onion Katchina.”