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The Civilian Conservation Corps


"A Dollar A Day, Three Hots and a Flop"

Submitted by Mahlon I. Martin

The CCC was formed in 1933, through the efforts of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. The driving force behind the formulation of the CCC was the very high unemployment rate of younger American males due to the depression.

The idea was to employ these young men in projects such as reforestry; soil conservation; building roads, bridges, state parks, dams; lay telephone lines, build fire observation towers etc.

This bold idea credited to Roosevelt was not entirely new. The states of California and Washington, with the Forest Service running subsistence camps for the unemployed, had already  implemented it. Local authorities provided clothing and food while the Forest Service provided housing and directed the work.

In addition, by 1932 the countries of Bulgaria, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Austria and above all, Germany had conservation camps for the unemployed. The German Labor Service was, by far; the best known and more nearly compared to the CCC. The German program ended up being a major propaganda tool for Hitler and because of this, Roosevelt always denied that the CCC was patterned after the German Labor Service. The CCC was first named Emergency Conservation Work but was changed to the Civilian Conservation Corps in June 1937.

To qualify for the CCC a young man had to be between the ages of 17 and 25 (later changed to 18 and 28), single, jobless, in good physical condition and needy. He signed up for 6 months, which he could extend for up to 2 years or longer if he was promoted to a leadership position. They were paid $30.00 per month with $22.00 to $25.00 of his pay going home to his family.

The first boy was signed up on 7 Apr 1933. By July of 1933 there were 274,375 boys in 1,300 camps! At it's peak in September 1937 there were 502,000 members in 2,514 camps.

The Army built and ran the camps. Each camp usually consisted of 4 barracks, each housing 40 to 50 men. There was a mess hall, recreation building, officers quarters, a school for night classes and a latrine and bathhouse separate from the barracks.

When the CCC troops formed for work in the morning, the Forest Service took over and directed the work. There are many structures throughout the United States built by the CCC that are still in use today.

The average CCC boy enlisted when he was 18 and 1/2 years of age and stayed in for 9 months gained 12 to 30 pounds in weight and a half inch in height. He had finished the 8th grade, had no job before joining the CCC and had three to four family members dependant upon him. Sixty percent were from small towns or farms.

During its existence the CCC built 46,854 bridges, 3,116 fire lookout towers, more that 448 million feet of fencing, 318,076 dams for erosion control, and 33,087 miles of terracing. The CCC fought forest fires, planted trees and grass, dug canals and ditches, laid pipe, improved wildlife habitat and build and took care of thousands of miles of hiking trails.

There were accidental deaths by drowning and falls. Forty-seven were killed in forest fires. Three hundred were killed in 1935 when a hurricane demolished 3 camps in the Florida Keys. CCC boys in these 3 camps had been building a railroad. Most of these were World War I veterans.

The camps provided all types of education and training, from elementary school to technical school. Nearly 8,500 CCC boys were taught to read and write in 1938 and 1939.

There were 105 CCC camps in Mississippi. Some of these in our area were:

Date Opened/ Location/ Unit /Type Work

With the start of WW II in 1941 many, if not most, CCC boys went into the military service. In 1942 the CCC was officially disbanded and the Army dismantled the prefabricated buildings and hauled them away to be reassembled as Army barracks. When you go looking for one of the old CCC camps now, you'll be lucky to find a slab, road or some other evidence that a camp once stood there. However, almost anywhere you go you will find monuments to their work, such as:

There are a few CCC museums around the country, a restored CCC Camp in northern Minnesota, a statue in Los Angeles, and a CCC Alumni Association in St. Louis to which I owe a debt of gratitude.

I was unable to find a list of names that were in the Brooklyn CCC. However, the Alumni Association did provide me with a list of names and a newspaper clipping from one of the units in New Augusta.