Results of CCC projects still present

     In this age of $5 an hour common labor, $15 an hour plumbers and $50 an hour lawyers, it's unlikely unemployed persons would be willing to toil long, difficult hours for a dollar a day and eats, particularly with welfare pay what it is.
     But if the need surfaces again, a textbook case history is tucked away in the Library of Congress, ready for revival.
     The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), one of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's bold New Deal ventures, is a classic example of the veracity of Plato's belief that "necessity is the mother of invention."

Valued at $1.5 billion

     In only nine years, an estimated three million young unemployed American men from 17-23 years of age were given hard work during the Depression - and they liked it. The value of their labor is estimated by Library of Congress researchers at $1,500,000,000. Hundreds of thousands of these dollars of value were added to the Eau Claire area landscape in the form of tree plantations, bridges, erosion control structures and trails.
     What these young men accomplished from 1933-1942 when the last CCC enrollee was mustered out of the Army-like camps, was construction of 150,000 miles of trails and roads, 85,000 miles of telephone lines, planting of three billion trees, erection of 4,000 fire towers, 45,000 bridges and thousands of dams that checked soil erosion, improvement and thinning of four million acres of forest land, predatory animal (coyote) control on four million acres of Western range land, porcupine control in northern Wisconsin forests and wildlife censuses in many parts of the nation.
      All CCC enrollees, high-school-aged, unmarried men, without jobs in the 1930s, now are nearing retirement age or are beyond.

500,000 on duty

     Authorized strength of the corps, administered by the U.S. Army, was 300,000 at any given time, but due to intensity of the Depression, upward of 500,000 could be counted on CCC duty at the depth of the Depression.
     In addition, enrollment of up to 10,000 Indians and 5,000 residents of Alaska and Hawaii, which then were under territorial status, was provided. Not more than 30,000 military veterans could be among enrollees.
     Selection of CCC members was through more than 4,000 local welfare offices in each state. Veterans selected for CCC work were screened by the Veterans' Administration. The Office of Indian Affairs of the Department of the Interior was responsible for enrolling Indian youth.
     Enrollment could be for periods up to six moths, with total CCC service limited to two years. Of the $30 monthly pay each received, $22 had to be sent home. The enrollee could keep the remaining $8 for spending at CCC camp post exchanges (PXs).

50 camps in area

     There were 50 CCC camps administered through the Sparta District which encompassed all Wisconsin territory north of Baraboo. Area camps were at St. Croix Falls, Hayward, Loretta, Long Lake, Nelson, Black River Falls, Perkinstown, Menomonie, Fairchild, City Point, Glen Flora, Independence and Ellsworth.
     The program was carried out in three phases; from March 1933-June 28, 1937; from June 1937-April 3, 1939; and the final period was assured when the Reorganization Act of 1939 was approved by President Roosevelt. The final phase was directed to preparing for civil defense and carried a military emphasis in the years nearing World War II, but this concept never was carried out because the CCC program was phased out 10 months before it was scheduled to end.
     A CCC camp was named and administered according to the U.S. Army manual. The camp superintendent was the highest-paid employee ($166 a month), but his pay was sliced by $50 as the Depression worsened. Assistant construction foremen earned $125 a month; leaders, $45 a month; assistant leaders, $36; and regular CCC enrollees $30 a month and benefits (clothing and food.) The normal CCC camp work day was eight hours and reveille was at 6 a.m.

Educational training provided

     Educational training was provided at night for youth who hadn't finished high school and one educational supervisor or officer handled from three to four camps. Many CCC youth learned to read and write while in the program.
     Memories of old CCC days die hard and former members of old Co. 648, Camp Twin Lakes and Camp Loretta in Sawyer County, still hold reunions every three years over the Labor Day weekend. This September they will meet again in the Ladysmith area. Many come from as far as Alaska and California to attend.
     A Library of Congress researcher critiquing the CCC program in 1969 wrote: "The Civilian Conservation Corps seems to have accomplished its stated purpose of relieving an acute condition of widespread distress and unemployment. It enjoyed great popularity and no administrative conflicts were repeated."

--Tom Lawin

Extracted from the Eau Claire Leader Telegram
Special Publication, Our Story 'The Chippewa Valley and Beyond', published 1976
Used with permission.

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