CCC Legacy Journal: January/February 2010, Vol. 34, Issue 1
This year on April 17, CCC Legacy and the Lee District of the FS are partnering on an event that will celebrate this historic day. The celebration will not come in the form of speakers and grand ceremonies, but will be a day when advocates and Scouts will prepare this popular area for another year of visitors.
The celebration will include a work project to clean away the winter debris, lunch and door prizes, and an historic walk on the Camp Roosevelt company streets.
For many years, only local CCC alumni remembered this special day in American history. The day drifted out of the public consciousness and its memory was overshadowed by daily life.
Like most camp sites after the CCC ended, Camp Roosevelt was left to lay in silence in the George Washington National Forest. The camp was closed, the buildings sold for reuse, and the forest growth soon embraced its remains and hid it from view.
Knowing of the isolation of Camp Roosevelt, local enrollees began an effort to uncover their former home and put it back into service. CCCers with names like “Moon” Mullins and “Hambone” Stanley, soon took up the task to once again expose Camp Roosevelt to the community. With the same energy and organization that Moon applied to other community activities, he rallied the men of the CCC to convert this abandoned spot in the woods into a campground.
With the help of local Congressman, John O. Marsh, who later became Secretary of the Army, the Camp Roosevelt Recreational Area became a reality in 1986. Enrollees built the picnic pavilion that still welcomes visitors today.
Although the camp buildings have long since been removed, the company streets still lead us to the story of the nation’s first camp.
A similar story of renewal is being told across the nation as advocates lift their voice for CCC heritage. CCC Legacy encourages America’s citizens to get involved in the care of public land. Plan a special day in your community to share CCC
CCC Legacy Journal: Vol. 34, Issue 1 - January February 2010
There is an enthusiastic buzz from CCC Legacy members concerning the recent airing of the PBS segment on the CCC entitled “The 1930s: The Civilian Conservation Corps”. The program has been highly praised among our members as one of the best produced to date. We are grateful for your positive feedback.
CCC Legacy was proud to play a part in helping to orchestrate the location of possible interviewees. It is interesting to note that the final CCC alumni that were interviewed were, or had been, our members: Clifford Hammond, NM; Harley E. Jolley, NC; Houston Pritchard, MI; and Vincente Ximenes, NM. A special thanks goes to these gentleman for helping to tell the story.
This DVD is a great tool for helping to educate American’s to the great legacy of the CCC. Please consider giving it as a gift to family, educators, and libraries.
There have been many inquiries about the process for purchasing the CCC segment or the entire series of five. These DVDs are available or purchase from PBS through their website. To quickly find the site, search for: wbgh american experience ccc and then click on the Shop PBS.
The segment on the CCC can be purchased for $24.95 or the whole five part series entitled “The American Experience: 1930s” can be purchased for $39.95.
According to the PBS website, the entire series includes the following:
The set includes: “The Crash of 1929 - In 1929” there were few critics of the stock market; it seemed to rise without limits. In fact, presidents and economists alike confidently predicted that America would soon enter a "New Era" when everyone could be rich. But when reality finally struck, the consequences of such unbound optimism shocked the world.
“The Civilian Conservation Corps” - Interweaving rich archival imagery with the personal accounts of Civilian Conservation Corps veterans, this film tells the story of one of the boldest and most popular New Deal experiments, positioning it as a pivotal moment in the emergence of modern environmentalism and federal unemployment relief.
“Hoover Dam” - An ambitious engineer turned a ragtag army of unemployed into a celebrated work force to create the Hoover Dam, a colossus rising 700 feet above the Colorado River that became a beacon of hope in dire times, bringing electricity and water to millions in the U.S. west.
“Surviving the Dust Bowl” - In 1931 the rains stopped and the "black blizzards" began. Less well-known than those who sought refuge in California, typified by the Joad family in John Steinbeck's "The Grapes of Wrath," the Dust Bowlers stayed and overcame an almost a decade of unbelievable calamities and disasters, enduring drought, dust, disease, even death, determined to preserve their way of life.
“Seabiscuit” - Despite his boxy build, stumpy legs, scraggly tail and ungainly gait, Seabiscuit was one of the most remarkable thoroughbred racehorses in history. His fabulously wealthy owner Charles Howard, his famously silent and stubborn trainer Tom Smith, and the two hard-bitten, gifted jockeys who rode him to glory turned Seabiscuit into a national hero.
Special Features include: Printable materials for educators for The Crash of 1929, Civilian Conservation Corps, Hoover Dam, Surviving the Dust Bowl, and Seabiscuit.
CCC Legacy Journal: Vol. 34, Issue 1 - January February 2010
By: Don M. Mahan, Freelance Writer
Visitors at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum are truly impressed by the numbers desert plants, trees, and specialty gardens. A fantastic setting. “It is all so natural,” An “Arizona paradise” are comments frequently made by visitors. Whether a few hours or a day, the time enjoyed at the Arboretum is never long enough. Sit down at any one of the numerous sites along the many pathways, relax and you will not likely not want to leave. That is how the founder of the Arboretum, Colonel William Boyce Thompson, felt when he first visited the area.
William Boyce Thompson was an extremely wealthy man. He had made his millions in mining and investments. Two mines from his worldwide portfolio, the Magma, and the Inspiration, brought him to this part of Arizona. Following his first view of Picket Post Mountain and the adjoining wide expanse, Thompson knew he would build a home nearby. The house he constructed was located at the cliff near the foot of Picket Post. It came to be Picket Post House. It was more than a modest home, it was an 8,000 square foot mansion. From his Arizona residence, he viewed the beauty of his neighbor, Picket Post Mountain the majesty of Apache Leap, Weaver’s Needle, the Superstition Mountains and the thousands of desert acres surrounding his Arizona estate.
Colonel Thompson established the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research in Yonkers, New York in September, 1924. This institute has proven of invaluable aid to farmers, florists, and horticulturists of the country.
Thompson envisioned a research arboretum in the Southwest, an institution to preserve the trees and plants of Arizona, and as his dream unfolded, the desert plants of the arid regions of the world. Thompson’s dream was about to come to fruition.
Colonel Boyce Thompson’s arboretum was located at the base of Picket Post Mountain in full view from his Arizona home. The dedication of the Arboretum took place on April 6, 1929. The local newspaper, the Silver Belt proclaimed, “Crowds at Thompson Arboretum Dedication.” Invitations had been sent “to all parts of the world where desert growth prevails.” The event was attended by dignitaries, scientist and many of the clubs from the Globe and Miami area. It was Thompson’s last triumph, but perhaps his greatest and most enduring. Although in his early sixties, he endured poor health. He died the following year on Friday evening, June 27, 1930. In announcing his passing, the Associated Press reported that Colonel William Boyce Thompson
was interested in anything and everything that came out of the ground.” Last rites were held at his home in Yonkers, New York. Although Colonel William Boyce Thompson was laid to rest, his Arizona dream would live on.
Colonel Thompson had been a very wealthy man, while many others were poor, very poor. It was the Depression era and many others were very poor and jobless. 12 million were unemployed. One of every four individuals able to work, wasn’t employed. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, shortly after taking the oath of office as the 32nd President of the United States, initiated the Civilian Conservation Corps a New Deal program that would have lasting effects. It was Senate Bill 598 that the President signed into law on March 31, 1933. The Corps quickly received the moniker, the CCC. Other nicknames were the “CCC Boys” the “Three C Boys,” “CCCers,” “the Triple C” or simply the “Cs”.
Those considered for enrollment were young, unmarried and unemployed men between 18 and 25 years old. The age was later lowered to 17. The average age of the youths was 18-19 years and the height was 5’ 8”. The average weight was a little less than 150 pounds. Yes, they were mere boys. One youth lied about his age and enlisted at 15 years, remarked Perry H. Merrill in the book, Roosevelt’s Forest Army, A history of the Civilian Conservation Corps,”. Under aged boys were known to have served in Globe, as well at Stafford, Arizona.
The wages the boys received was $30 a month. They were allowed to keep $5, but the rest of the amount was sent home to their families. For most of the youths, that was more than agreeable. They were thankful for what they called “three hots and a cot.” And that is what they received in most instances, a warm meal, a tent for a home along with a cot and blanket for sleeping. Those remaining in the permanent camps would eventually have barracks for quarters. Jobs and job training was their goal. The President was interested in their “employment and worthwhile leisure activity,” noted the Phoenix Gazette in a 1983 report. The Arizona Republic commented in a 1990 issue that the boys could “learn honest skills for an honest wage.” Enlistment was for 6 months. They were also given first opportunity when it came time to re-enroll.
Senate Bill 598 was launched by President Roosevelt on April 5, 1933; the first young man enrolled in the nationwide program the following day. The nation’s first camp appropriately name Camp Roosevelt, opened on April 17, 1933. Luray, Virginia was home to the nation’s first CCC camp. The first enrollment call nationwide was the 250,000 recruits.
The objective of President Roosevelt’s new program was a peacetime force of energetic youth, civilian youth dedicated to conservation. They were youths willing to work on the land and water, in the forests and on the mountain top. His goal was 250,000 enlistees by the first of July, 1933. When that date was reached, there were 275,000 enrolled in 1,302 camps in the United States. By 1935 there were 2,650 camps and over 600,000 enrolled.
The State of Arizona, like its counterpart States, was quick to meet the challenge. The first Arizona youth enrolled on May 9, 1933. Not only did the State enroll many of its own recruits, it also receive a large contingent from out of State. Arizona and New Mexico made up Region 3, the Southwestern Region, in the national program. Between the two states, 14 national forests were supervised.
The Arizona Daily Star released an announcement on April 26, 1933, in Tucson, Arizona, stating that the Civilian Conservation Corps would have 28 camps in Arizona. Nine were to be established immediately. One would be located along Russell Gulch, six miles south of Globe in the foothills of the Pinal Mountains. The camp and another one in Arizona near Safford, were the first two CCC sites in Region 3. Arizona’s initial call was for 4,800 recruits. Between 1933 and 1942, the state would have 50 camps and enroll 41,362 young men. With recruits from out of state included in the Arizona work force, the number would swell to 52,905 youths.
The first CCC camp at Globe was part of the National Forest project and designated F-16-A. The “F” was for National Forest as opposed to State Forest. At the time, it was called the Crook National Forest. Today it is known as the Tonto National Forest. The first companies organized were number 804 and 806. On Tuesday, May 23, 1933, the first of the CCC boys arrived in camp. Between Globe camp and the one in the Cononado National Forest near Safford, there were 525 enrollees. The newspaper for Miami and Globe, The Silver Belt, on May 26th carried an announcement of the local recruiting office. It was headquartered at the Maurel Hotel in Globe. The two headquartered at the Maurel Hotel in Globe. The two Arizona communities would supply many recruits as the years rolled by.
The following year, the Mesa Tribune announced that a chaplain, headquartered in Phoenix, would look after the young men in the Phoenix and Globe camps. The Tonto Wrangler, a camp newspaper, reported in its second issue that one chaplain brought along musicians from time to time. It stated that there were Mexican as well as Filipino musicians. The boys at most camps played harmonicas.
The Pinal Mountain camp would have a long life. From May, 1933, down to it abandonment in March, 1942, it was home to many a boy and completed a number of projects. The work assignments included road construction, fire towers, soil erosion, revegetation and recreational sites. The first recruits at Arizona’s Pinal Mountain camp arrived from Houston, Texas. The boys traveled from Texas on a special train provided by the Southern Pacific Railroad. It transported them to Stafford, Arizona. The train and its unique cargo arrived at Stafford on May 23, 1933. Of the 525 youths on board, 173 were immediately sent by truck to Treasure Park on Mount Graham near Safford. The rest were delivered by truck to Globe. From Globe the Texans were disbursed to various Gila County locations. A number of the boys were transported to the Grand Canyon and a special work detail.
Recruits poured in to the various recruiting offices from all over the state. As mentioned earlier, Globe and Miami supplied their share of recruits. By mid-July, 1933, most of the camps were in full operation.
At first, the boys lived in canvas tents until barracks were constructed. At the temporary camps away from the main camp, they always lived in tents. The boys of Pinal Mountain camp south of Globe along Russell Gulch eventually built four suitable barracks with material purchased in-state, reported, the Silver Belt on October 13, 1933. They also constructed a flagpole with a rock wall leading to it stated their camp newspaper, the Pinal Mt. Echo, on October 24, 1935. Each of the barracks was usually home for about 50 young men. The Strukan Store in Globe was one of the camp suppliers. The only indication today that a CCC camp had been in the foothills of the Pinal Mountains is the remaining erosion controls the boys placed near their camp site. A series of drainage ditches with dry laid cobble check dams is all that is visible. Nearby would have been their barracks. Now all is long gone.
Some issues of the camp newspaper remain. They are to be found in various libraries and collections. The small newspaper was printed on a mimeograph machine, thanks to the Globe Junior Chamber of Commerce. The camp newspaper, first named the Pinal Mt. Echo, later changed its’ name to The Globe. Most all of the C.C.C. Camps, and some of the fly camps, had their own newspapers.
Two other camps were located in the Miami area. One at the J.K. Ranch and the other at the Schultz Ranch. The camp at the J.K. Ranch was simply called the J-K camp, whereas the Schultz Range camp was called Airport Camp. The J-K was northwest of Miami and Airport was several miles southwest of Miami along U.S. Highway 60. It was adjacent to Bloody Tanks Wash. Both locations worked primarily in erosion control and revegetation. They also built check dams and worked on recreation projects. The camps were in operation between 1933 and 1935. The Silver Belt reported on November 17, 1933, and 200 boys had arrived in the country and were assigned to Airport Camp. The following year on October 5th, it again mentioned the camps at the J.K. Ranch and the Schultz Ranch.
The Boyce Thompson Arboretum was another site privileged to be on the roster for a number of recruits. On July 12, 1933, twenty young men were reported as being at the Arboretum. They traveled there by truck. The site was some 37 miles from their main camp in the foothills south of Globe. As the location wasn’t one of the regular camp, it was considered a side camp, some called it a spur or spike camp. The Arboretum camp was considered a fly camp. This was true for a number of other side camps in the national system. By late 1935, the number of the boys at the Arboretum had been reduced to twelve. The Pinal Mt. Echo reported, in its issue of November 7, 1935, that Leonard A. Prichard was in charge of the fly camp.
Following arrival at Superior, Arizona, the boys had looked for the largest level site near the vicinity of the Arboretum and Picket Post Mountain. The decision was to set up camp along Arnett Creek, noted James E. Ayers in his manuscript “An Archeological Reconnaissance of the Boyce Thompson Southwestern Arboretum.” Once the camp site was established, the boys began setting up their quarters. No, not barracks, but canvas tents. A half dozen or so tents were set up, the majority of them for sleeping and personal quarters. The tents would sleep four to six recruits to each tent. The other tents were for the commissary and other camp needs. The first cots the boys used were ones they had stuffed themselves with straw. A 55 gallon steel drum in a sand box served as their wood stove. Each man washed his own clothing and bedding.
The recruits were there to work and work they did. Their day typical of most camps, had a wake up call at 6 am. Breakfast was at 6:30am. After a busy morning, they are lunch at 1 pm and were soon back on the job. The work day concluded at 4 pm and supper was at 5 or 5:30 pm. The evening was theirs for study, leisurely reading or some type of recreation. At 10 or no later than 10:30 pm, it was lights out. None objected. They were tired and exhausted and ready for a good night’s sleep. Stan Cohen, in his publication “The Tree Army” revealed what was the unofficial motto of the CCC boys. It was simply “we can take it.”
Some of the boys were busy with pick and shovel making pathways which needed leveled and smoothed. The excess dirt was related to other demanding areas. Seeds and grasses, along with many plants and flowers, were to be set in place. The same was true of trees and shrubs. All the existing plants were to be saved, relocated if necessary, but more often then not, it was the path that was moved. A number of native plants were for revegetation projects. The boys put both their hands and heart into the work assigned. The CCC designed that particular character of their work as “nursery.”
The Pinal Mt. Echo on November 7, 1935, reported that the boys at the “Superior Spur Camp,” the one of the Arboretum planted over 40,000 plants, 26 different types of trees and about 50 different shrubs. The young men had been very busy.
The boys at the nursery also worked closely with those at the Miami J-K camp. Due to activities by the mines, the area there was devoid of any growth. With the help of man and thousands of plants and grasses, the goal was to revegetate the area. By December, 1935, the nursery at the Arboretum had stocked 91,000 potted and 142,000 bare rooted plants. Many of these were assigned for planting by the J-K boys in the Bloody Tanks area, reported the December 5, 1935 issue of the Pinal Mt. Echo.
The camp newspaper pointed back to the previous summer of 1935 when some 15,000 plants had been put in place by the CCC boys. Happily six months later, the report was a survival rate of 95%. It was estimated that over 300,000 native range plants were raised each year at the nursery and used extensively in revegetation of range land and erosion projects.
Today, thanks to those boys and the many volunteers that followed, the Arboretum’s 323 acres has nearly 2 miles of trails and walkways and over 3,200 different types of living plants and trees. The boys themselves considered the Arboretum as “one of the best in the world.” Following the death of Colonel Thompson, the Arboretum has been carefully looked after, allowing his dream to reveal to all onlookers the beauty of Arizona and the arid deserts of the world.
Grateful thanks are extended, from the first worker to the current staff and the many entities involved. To the boys of the CCC, there will always be a warm feeling and an extended hand for their time and loving interest in the plants, trees, and pathways of the Boyce Thompson Arboretum.
Arizona State Library and Archives, Phoenix, AZ
Phoenix Public Library, Arizona Collection, Phoenix, AZ
Arizona State University, Arizona Collection, Tempe, AZ,Tonto National Forest, Phoenix, AZ
Note: Reprinted with permission
Over the last several years our members have been reading articles about the Corps Network (former National Association of Service and Conservation Corps) in the Journal. Some of that news has been about attendance at the Corps Network Forum and the honoring of our CCC alumni at the Friends for National Service reception which is held every February in Washington, DC.
Representatives of the Corps Network have regularly attended the NACCCA/CCC Legacy annual events. This year Marty O’Brien, Vice President, was the guest speaker at the main luncheon on Friday.
After much deliberation, the CCC Legacy Board of Directors made a decision to sponsor the annual forum. This presence will give us a more visible opportunity to represent the alumni and their long lasting desire to support the corps experience in the modern environment.
The working relationship with the Corps Network is not new. Under the leadership of NACCCA presidents Charles Varro and Walter Atwood the partnership has slowly expanded and through the support of Sally Prouty, President and CEO, we regularly work with them to bring attention to the CCC and its role as the root of modern corps.
Sponsorship will include recognition in Forum documentation, display table, and an opportunity to be recognized by attendees. Some Corps are already our members and support the CCC in their areas.
Those Corps and associations are:
Across the nation, Corps Network members made a significant effort to the 75th Anniversary celebrations that took place in 2008. Their efforts helped to raise the awareness of the CCC and helped our 75th anniversary year to be truly successful.
CCC Legacy offers a special thanks to the Corps Network and its members for helping to make a difference in teaching the great legacy of the CCC.
By: Dr. John O'Rear
(The following presentation was given to a very special group of friends, Country Club Friends, Tuesday, 15 December 2009, by personal friend, Dr. John O'Rear - Mike Pixler )
Bill Pixler 1916 - 2009
I went to Bill Pixler's funeral yesterday for two reasons: One, because of my respect and esteem for our friend Mike, and also because as I read his obituary in the newspaper I was struck by the paucity of detail concerning his life. His obituary was approximately 10 lines, one for every 9 years of his life. We read in the Book of Proverbs: "As for mortals, their days are like grass; they flourish as the flowers of the field, the wind blows over them and they are gone, and their place knows them no more." Yet, every life has a story. For the rich and famous, in our newspapers and magazines their story is featured in columns of news print and in bold letters while for many of us ordinary mortals the remembrance of us is as fleeting as the shadows of a cloud drifting across the prairie.
At this service I learned some things about Bill which will soon be forgotten by the world, but I feel are worthy of telling. Bill was a CCC boy, a member of a group of men employed by the government during the great depression to complete public works. They were housed in camps, supervised by the military and spent their time building public parks, recreational facilities and buildings many of whom are still to be found and in use. This was a government stimulus which produced tangible results rather than a mountain of debt. Bill then joined the Merchant Marines, a dauntless group of men who steered our liberty ships across the frigid North Atlantic Ocean, manning their posts with the full knowledge that at any moment, from any point on the compass they were subject to being blown to bits by Nazi submarines or cast into the freezing water where the survival time was measured in minutes. Those of us who spent our time at home abed should, in the words of Shakespeare, "hold our manhood's cheap while any speaks" who participated in this great endeavor. These were the men who delivered the food, ammunition, guns and tanks which helped England to survive long enough for us to mobilize and save western civilization.
At the end of the war, Bill and his colleagues returned home, started families and engaged in the countless activities such as building cars, cultivating our fields, selling our goods, keeping our accounts and servicing the machinery that kept our country going. In short they became the backbone of our nation. As I watched his family and friends file in I was aware of the stark contrast between this service and the one for Michael Jackson. I was filled with awe and admiration for these people who go about their daily tasks unsung and uncomplaining. I was reminded of an elegy written by Thomas Gray in a country churchyard in which he said "Full many a gem or purest ray serene the dark unfathomed caves of ocean bare, and many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness on the desert air. The boasts of heraldry, the pomp of power, and all that beauty, all that wealth ever gave, awaits alike the inevitable hour. The paths of Glory lead but to the Grave."
The epitaph at the end could properly be used on a stone for Willie Pixler:
"Here rests his head upon the lap of earth,
A youth, to fortune and fame unknown.
Fair science frowned not on his humble birth,
And Melancholy marked him for her own.
Large was his bounty, and his soul sincere,
And Heaven did a recompense as largely send.
He Gave to Misery all he had, a tear;
He gained from Heaven all he wished, a friend.
No further seek his merits to disclose,
Or draw his frailties from their dread abode.
There they alike in trembling hope repose,
In the bosom of his father and his God."
The Epitaph” - Thomas Gray, 1716-1771
CCC Legacy Journal January February 2010 Vol. 34 Issue 1
Plans by the State of California to remove a historic Civilian Conservation Corps-built “Paymaster’s Cabin” at Fawn Lodge have been withdrawn in response to letters and phone calls from concerned Trinity County, California, residents, the Trinity County Historical Society, and a letter from CCC Legacy President Joan Sharpe.
Camp Fawn Lodge F-298 was active from April 1935 through the middle of 1936. It was a State-sponsored camp amongst other camps in Trinity County sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service. There were a total of eight CCC camps within Trinity County. Like the Forest Service camps, Fawn Lodge centered its work activities in the surrounding forest, including construction of fuel breaks and telephone lines. Enrollees were trained in fire suppression and responded to forest fires. For recreation, they were active in baseball and other sports, frequently competing against teams from other camps in the Redding and Eureka CCC districts.
The camp area became a California Department of Forestry—now called CalFire—fire station, its crew responding to structure and wild fires during the fire season. Recently CalFire made plans to expand and modernize the fire station. Reasons included lack of adequate housing and bathroom facilities that met State housing and safety codes, lack of space for modern firefighting equipment, and continually increasing maintenance costs for the old buildings.
The plan would require the removal of the two remaining original CCC buildings left from the old Fawn Lodge CCC camp: a “Paymaster’s Cabin” and a “Kitchen/Mess Hall” building. The Paymaster’s Cabin is in good condition, retaining enough integrity for potential eligibility to the National Register of Historic Places. The Kitchen/Mess Hall over the years has been modified and is not in as original condition.
A 97-page report detailing the proposed project was released September 14 by CalFire and gave the public a 30-day window in which to submit comments. Redding resident Robert Maxey, a retired CalFire captain who had served at Fawn Lodge for about ten years, alerted the Trinity County Historical Society in Weaverville of the plan. Maxey had actually lived in the Paymaster’s Cabin during his tour at Fawn Lodge, and he was aware of the facility’s previous CCC heritage. He related his deep concerns about the planned removal of the two structures. The historical society in turn contacted CCC Legacy President Joan Sharpe, a local county supervisor, a State senator, and others.
Most of the letters in response to this asked the State to reevaluate the plan and to allow the historic structures to stay. Trinity County Historical Society President Rod Plew wrote, “The two buildings are integral to Trinity County history regarding the 1933-1942 occupation here by the CCC…
“We are losing more CCC buildings as time goes on. It is important to preserve what we have. In Trinity County, we believe the only other structures left are one from Camp Mad River that stands on private property near Ruth and a second one from Camp Hawkins Bar that stands on private property at Hawkins Bar. The Fawn Lodge structures were part of a unique State operation and they are two of a very few such CCC buildings surviving today.”
In response to the letters and phone calls, CalFire changed the plan. The public comments had a real effect, according to CalFire Senior Environmental Planner Dan Foster in Sacramento. Foster sent copies of the letters to all the people involved in the planning, all over the State. They were impressed, he said. The engineers were “highly motivated” to go back to the drawing board. They created another alternative, “reshifted” buildings to allow for the new changes, and now have a way in which to keep one of the historic CCC structures, the Paymaster’s Cabin.
Foster explained that keeping both buildings would not be possible. The Kitchen/Mess Hall requires a large amount of remodernization to meet codes, including the replacement of old electrical wiring. California State allows funding for new structures but any maintenance or modernization comes from project funds, which the small Fawn Lodge Engine Crew just doesn’t have. Additionally, just a few days earlier another State structure, built in the 1950s, burned down from faulty wiring. This increased the concern about being able to properly take care of the Kitchen/Mess Hall.
Even though there is not much project money, Foster thinks that if they plan it right, they should be able to keep the Paymaster’s Cabin for another 20-30 years. He would like to see its continually being used, which will help keep it in better condition.
CCC Legacy Journal: January / February 2010, Vol 34, Issue 1
The stereotypical CCC camp worked in national or state forests or parks. The work was supervised by the National Forest Service, the National Park service or their State counterparts. There was a lesser known group of camps which were overseen by the Soil Conservation Service of the Department of Agriculture and were called SCS Camps. These camps worked on both public, and more commonly, private land to repair and protect the soil from the ravages of wind and water erosion during and after the “Dust Bowl” years. The long term abuse of the soil by poor farming methods had also wreaked its toll.
I had the opportunity to join one of these camps. I had graduated from high school in January, 1939 at 16 years of age with no money for college and no job opportunities. After working on and off for a year on odd jobs at minimum pay (of $0.25/hr) or less, I joined the CCC and was sent to Co. 3665, Camp Cochrane, Wisconsin (SCS-19) The camp was located near the Mississippi River in hilly farming country. The camp was organized in the usual manner with the Army running the camp itself and the SCS running the workday. We had two Army officers, the Company Commander and Executive Officer. And three Army sergeants, a First Sergeant, A mess Sergeants, and a Supply Sergeant. We had the standard tar paper covered wooden buildings with four barracks, a mess hall, latrine, office area, classroom building, canteen, supply building and a number of other service buildings, garages, etc. At the time, enrollees were paid $30 a month, Assistant Leaders $36, and Leaders $45. $22 of each man’s pay was sent to the enrollee’s families, leaving $8 the basic enrollee received in camp. Of course food, housing, and clothing were provided by the Army. The basic living responsibilities and discipline we all learned there stood us in good stead in a few years when the vast majority of us joined the military in World War II, as well as all through life. There was no military training per se in the CCC.
The private farms in the area were fairly large, from 300 to 600 acres in general and were primarily dairy farms. They consisted of broad valley bottom land, steep hillsides, rising some 400 feet above the valleys, and in some cases broad plateaus on top of the hills. The hillsides in general were forested with deciduous trees, oaks, hickory, maple aspen and birch, but primarily oak. Many hillsides had been turned into pasture with resulting loss of trees and a high incidence of gully erosion. Bottom land fields were rectangular regardless of the slope. High soil loss crops such as corn and small grains had been repeatedly planted in the same fields.
SCS agronomists and foresters would meet with farmers and sign them up for a program to improve the soil conservation and fertility of their farm. The CCC would do certain things and the farmer would agree to do certain things. A master plan for the farm would be developed and agreed upon. The field alignment would be modified to conform to the fencing and the CCC would cut the posts from the farm woodlot and install the fence. The steeper slopes would no longer be pastured and would be reforested by the CCC. The fields were to be strip cropped following contours. A 10 year plan was developed for each strip which would rotate leguminous (nitrogen fixing) crops such as alfalfa which grains and corn in such a manner that rivulets of water would not have long paths with open crops. This would take into account the feed needs of the farm for its cattle. Our camp operated a large quarry where limestone was blasted out and crushed to powder and delivered to the farmer for him to spread to sweeten the acidic soil. Where gullies had started, the CCC would cut brush and bundle it and place it in the gully as a dam to slow water velocity and retain soil to repair the gully. On large gullies, small concrete cams were sometimes constructed. A detailed forest survey of the large forested areas would be carried out. This would result in a timber type, size and growth rate map which would tell the farmer where, what size, and how much timber to harvest for a perpetual harvest. The primary timber produced was railroad ties and fence posts. This was a valuable cash crop for the farmer.
My first three weeks I was on a brush cutting crew for brush dams. Working with an axe all day was good exercise. I had been taking an evening class in forestry and the forester selected four of us to be a new timber cruising crew with me as foreman, later being promoted to Assistance Leader. Our job entailed making a systematic survey of tree density, size (diameter and height), type of tree and rate of growth. This involved taking representative sample plots and tabulating the above in detail. It involved some surveying and much walking up and down the hills. In February and March this was in deep snow and at temperatures frequently well below zero. A truck would drop us off in the morning and pick us up in late afternoon, frequently miles from our drop off
point. We carried our lunch and many times had to build a fire at noon to thaw out our sandwiches before we could eat them as well as thaw ourselves out a bit.
As the weather moderated this became a very pleasant task, not having to write with chopper mitts on anymore and working in the forest all day. When May came, all work in the camp switched to tree planting. My crew had the responsibility of working in the camp nursery, heeling in the trees, watering them, and preparing the bundles of trees for the next day’s planting. Our camp planted over 100,000 trees that spring, frequently on steep hillsides difficult to get to.
I had been saving my money to start Michigan State in September. Since you could get an honorable discharge anytime if you were returning to school, I signed over in July and went home September 1. I managed to get two years of engineering in before enlisting in the Army. I had Field Artillery basic training where my CCC surveying experience was helpful. I was then selected for the Special Engineering Detachment, Manhattan District, Corps of Engineers. This was the group who developed and built the atom bomb. I played a minor but important role in this project and was a radiation monitor at the Bikini tests* in 1946.
I have returned twice to visit the area we worked in, the last time in 1988. It was gratifying to see that strip cropping and presumably crop rotation was still the norm and that the farms looked lush and productive. It was of particular pleasure to me to see the healthy forested areas we had planted some 50 years before. My experience in the CCC was definitely positive. I developed from an insecure 17 year old boy with little hope for the future into a confident 18 year old man ready to meet the world. I strongly support the mission to reinstall a modern program similar to the CCC.
[*Bikini Atoll is in the Marshal Islands, South Pacific, where atomic testing was done.]
By: Norman Horton
In 1933 I was in company 723 in Faunce, Minnesota, close to the Canadian border. While there I fought fires, learned to notch good size trees with a two bladed ax and then, using a two man cross cut saw, fell the tree, then saw it lengths 2 men could handle load it on trucks. This was a tent camp.
In October we moved to Buyck, Minnesota several miles southeast of Faunce. This was a camp just built with wooden barracks, a mess hall, and officer quarters. It was right on the Vermillion River near a waterfall.
We fought a couple of fires at that location, but our company consisted mainly of a survey crew, a wood detail, and a crew cleaning out dead trees and underbrush. We were located 29 miles from Orr, Minnesota, the largest I town nearest to us with about three or four thousand people.
My most vivid memory-among many-was working on the wood detail, sawing and splitting wood to supply the camp with firewood for heating all the buildings during Christmas week. Most of the camp was home on five day Christmas leave. It was 64 degrees below zero. We worked in 15 minute shifts. We wore mufflers covering our noses and mouths so we wouldn't frost our lungs, and three pairs of socks.
In April 1934 we moved all the way south to Caledonia, Minnesota near the Iowa border. I became a platoon leader there. I had a 55 man crew. We planted thousands of trees and built erosion dams on farms in the area.
I had done some boxing in St. Paul at a gym where Tommy and Mike Gibbons, two famous fighters, worked out.They helped us young guys a lot. Tommy Gibbons had fought Jack Dempsey, the world heavyweight champion, in a close 15 round match which ended in Dempsey's favor. I started boxing again at Caledonia and won the district Golden Glove 135 pound title. I went to the Regional but did not pass the blood sugar test. My best buddy took my place and knocked out his opponent in 1 minute and 40 seconds of the first round. I bought him a Chinese dinner (25 cents) at the Chinese restaurant.
I left Company 723 in mid-July and found part time work at an Ace Auto Parts, a used parts facility. I learn to use a cutting torch there and disassemble junk cars, and drove the 4 cylinder International tow truck. I was delivering parts to Merrick's DX station on Marion and University Avenue in St. Paul when Homer van Meter was gunned down. A photographer reporter for the Minneapolis Minnesota Star Tribune grabbed the sheet off the body and said, "I'll give you two bucks to lay under this sheet while I take a picture." Two bucks was a lot of money. Homer van Meter was John Dillinger's bank robbing partner. I was only making $10 a week for a 60 hour week. I didn't hesitate. I got my 2 bucks.
Come fall, my hours were lessened some, and my pay was cut to $8 a week, $4 paid on Wednesday, and $4 paid on Saturday. They were taking enrollment for the CCCs so I signed up again.
I wound up at Company 715 20 miles north of Virginia, Minnesota. They were building a fire truck and crew; as I had firefighter experience I was invited. The truck had bench seats all along each side, a removable a siren, and painted fire red.
When we had our first fire call, we raced to the truck, took off two miles down the county road to the main state highway, siren screaming. As we "raced" down the highway, people were passing us up and waving to us. I looked at the speedometer-we were going 30 miles an hour, the top speed of that truck. They discovered they used a chasis from a dump truck that had a low speed rear end to pull out of the gravel pit.
The next fire I got on the investigative team consisting of the camp supervisor, a driver and me. I rode the back of the pickup truck. We had investigated this fire near this farm. As we drove down the long drive way toward the road I heard shots ring out. I flattened myself in the bed of the pickup. When we reached the main road the driver pulled over. There were two bullet holes in the cab of the truck.
The next day I lined up with the wood detail.
I left in the spring of 1935 when my six month enlistment was up. I spent most of the next year riding the rails with two friends, traveling through the western U.S. looking for work, staying in F.E.R. A. camps. The National Guard would not let us near the San Joaquin Valley where the big orange and fruit groves were. There was a 1,000 people for every orange tree. There were shack towns all over the area, fenced in.
We headed back north, had a lot of adventures too numerous to tell here-for instance, one of us fighting a carnival fighter, 3 rounds which wound up in a big gang fight complete with police. This was in Sacramento, California. We eventually wound up back in St. Paul.
I had attended Hamline University in 1933 but ran out of money. I got a freebie to Dunwoody Institute night school and learned welding, blue print reading, worked at various auto salvage yards, managed one, went into the business with two others (a mistake), then lucked out and got a job at the Ford plant, the best blue collar pay in the U.S.
I spent 3 and a half years there until it was forced to convert to war work. I had a job at an armament plant 12 hours a day, 7 days a week, and was asked to do some undercover work for the U.S. Office of Strategic Services in addition to my regular job. I did that for three and a half years; was inducted into the U.S. Army, got married along he way and had five children by 1943. After the war I became foreman of the crew at the armament plant, but left to become a scale repairman for Fairbanks Morse Scale Company, and started a night repair garage, which turned into a rebuilding plant and auto recycling business with four locations.
At present I am in the auto recycling business in Minnesota and Orlando, Florida.
As I look back over all the years I often think of my days in the C.C.C's-learned so much there; leadership, technical knowledge, appreciation for reforesting, getting along with others—an endless list of positives; not negatives.
Minnesota Winter Road Adventure - Norm Horton
I had my 1929 Model A Coupe with rumble seat stashed away in the trees at CCC Co. 715, Virginia, MN in 1934.
I rented it to John Arras from St. Paul who was taking a few CCCers on a five-day Christmas leave to St. Paul. I was to make a couple of bucks and John would get a free ride home and back. When they would got back to camp, I would take a few CCCers and we would get our five day Christmas leave over New Years.
As you can see by the letter from John, my poor Model A barely made it to St. Paul. I had to hitch a ride to Duluth and steal a ride in the “blinds” on a passenger train to St. Paul (35-degrees below zero and nearly froze to death), get the car fixed and drive back to camp in five days.
I was on the wood detail at Co. 723 in the wilderness of Northern Minnesota in 1933 Christmas week. We had to cut logs, into 15” lengths with a model T converted into a saw rig. Then split those chunks into smaller chunks. We had to distribute the chunks to Cords piles outside of four barracks, the mess hall, officer’s quarters, latrine, etc. Without this wood the whole camp would have shut down. Everything would freeze up within minutes.
The temperature was from 9 to 35 degrees below zero. Then one day it plunged to 64 degrees below zero.
We had to wear mufflers over out mouths to prevent frosting our lungs. I put newspaper in my boots and wore three pairs of socks. We worked in 15 minute shifts, splintering the wood. The cold was brutal on our hand feet and bodies.
Some buys tried getting out of our truck running, in case someone got hurt. Also supply trucks were stalled trying to bring in food.
They burned our truck to the ground.
They finally got one running and kept it running 24 hours a day. The temperature gradually climbed up slowly into the 30 degrees below range, then to zero and above. A crisis was averted due to the knowledge of our supervisors and a few CCCers from that area.