Summary of CCC start

March 4, 1933 witnessed the inauguration of Franklin D. Roosevelt as President of the United States. On March 9, 1933 the new Congress met. On the afternoon of the same day President Roosevelt called a meeting at the White House for the purpose of doing something to conserve the resources and youth of the nation. The Civilian Conservation Corps was born. The plan was to save the forest and the young men of the country. The bill for Emergency Conservation was drafted, passed the House on March 28, the Senate by March 29, and was signed into law by the President on March 31, 1933.

The Department of Labor was given the task of selecting the young men for the CCC. The Departments of Agriculture and Interior were to designate and direct the work. The War Department was given the responsibility of organizing the men into work groups, clothing, feeding, transporting and supervising the camps.

On April 4, 1933, the President appointed Robert Reckner, a Vice President of the American Federation of Labor, as Director of Emergency Conservation Work.

On April 5, 1933, orders went from the War Department to the Commanding Generals in the nine Army corps areas to begin the enrollment of men. The following day, the first man was enrolled in Baltimore, MD. Thus began the greatest peace time movement of young men this country had ever seen.

Within the next week, the first camp was established at Luray, VA in the George Washington National Forest. By July 1, 1933, more than 275,000 men were deployed to more than 1,300 camps.

The Departments of Agriculture and Interior provided the Technical Services to supervise the work in each camp. Technical personnel were assigned to each camp, consisting of a superintendent, engineer, forester, foremen, mechanic, and others for specialized work.

Each camp was designated by an alphabetical abbreviation before its number that indicated the type of camp it was.

A – Agriculture, Army – Army, D – Drainage, MP – Military park, MC – Mosquito control, NA – National Arboretum, F – National forest, N – Navy, NHP – National Historic Park, NP – National Park, P – Private, SCS – Soil Conservation Service, SP – State Park, S – State, TVA – Tennessee Valley Authority.

The type of work varied. It included

  • Construction of airplane fields
  • Construction of dams
  • Construction of bridges
  • Fire fighting
  • Fire hazard reduction
  • Construction of levees and dikes
  • Tree nursery
  • Landscaping
  • Stream development
  • Terracing
  • Maintenance of telephone lines
  • Road construction
  • Building construction
  • Surveying
  • Blister rust control
  • Developing parks

The CCC provided an education for the men who began a new kind of life, living and working with the soil, the forest, the streams, and most important living in a self-sustaining settlement wither they learned to cooperate with one another in their daily routine, working for order and cleanliness and a decent social atmosphere congenial for all.

On May 9, 1933, formal education became part of the CCC. The Forest Service was to provide instruction in forestry; Army personnel would provide general and vocational courses. By the fall of 1933, an overall educational plan was developed by the Forest Service, National Park Service, and Labor, and Dr. C. S. Marsh (Dean of the Evening Session, University of Buffalo) was appointed CCC Educational Director on December 29, 1933. A Corps Area Advisor was appointed for each of the nine areas.

Each of the nine corps areas was divided into districts with District Advisors; each camp also had local advisors who planned and ran the educational activities in each camp, in coordination with the camp commanding officer and superintendent. These camp advisors could draw on local resources, including the WPA and nearby schools. The educational program for each camp was based on the needs and wishes of the men in the individual companies.

The first advisors were appointed in February 1934. Some went to tent camps where the task seemed hopeless, others to barracks that had no provisions for classrooms. Despite this, many outstanding programs were developed. Soon, a school building was planned for each camp.

CCC educational goals were

  • Development of a well-rounded, healthy personality
  • More general knowledge of every day affairs
  • An appreciative understanding of the responsibilities that make for better human relationships
  • Practical instruction in those activities that give the men greater earning power
  • Encouragement to make appropriate use of their recreational and leisure time,

The camp advisor as a counselor and friend of the enrollees was at liberty to develop a program to meet the needs of the enrollees in his camp.

A Day in the Camp [Benezette]

  • 6 AM – first call; get up, “get their body in order,” police barracks and grounds
  • 7 AM – breakfast (fresh fruit, cereal, ham omelet, escalloped potatoes, bread and butter, milk, coffee); return to barracks for inspection
  • 8 AM to 4 PM – work call. All men (except for those assigned to “overhead” and are assigned duties in camp) report to Technical Services. Work under supervision of technical advisors, foremen, etc. When work projects are more than ten minutes ride from camp, lunches are sent to them at work, otherwise, they return to camp for lunch.
  • 12 to 1 PM – lunch
  • 4 PM – men returned to supervision of the Army
  • 4 to 5 PM – extra duty around camp; prepare for Retreat. At Retreat, every man must appear in his dress uniform, with trousers pressed, shirt pressed, shoes shined, and with tie on. Dinner served immediately after Retreat (typical dinner – veal roast, potatoes, string beans, cole slaw, bread, cocoa, rice pudding)
  • After dinner, free time. Many participate in seasonal sports, many visit reading room to keep up with current events and to get books from library. Canteen is open for those who wish to make purchases. Recreation is open for those who wish to play ping pong or pool. Daily educational programs available.
  • 10 PM – lights out.

The 303rd Company CCC was organized in Fort Hoyle, MD in May 1933 with 101 men and two officers. After a brief period of reconditioning the company was sent to Fort Tobyhanna, PA; returned to Fort Hoyle about one month later. On June 20, 1933 it was sent to Camp S-84, Benezett, PA (CCC did not include final “e” on Benezette) and stayed until July 12, 1937 when it moved to Wolf Rock Camp, Camp S-119, Philipsburg, PA.

THE CCC by an Enrollee

“When first asked if I would like to join the CCC, I can’t say that I was particular interested. But after being told some of the advantages that it offered I decided to try a six months ‘hitch.’ I was registered at the local relief agency and told that I would be notified when to report. About two weeks later I was told to report at the office of the agency the next morning at 9 AM. There I found a group of other youth who were also entering the CCC for the first time. We were taken to the station where we entrained for Fort Meade, Md. There we found thousands of other young men who had just arrived. We were first given a thorough physical examination. We were then outfitted in CCC uniforms and assigned to quarters. We had to work around the Fort while waiting to be sent to camp.

“Rumors flew thick and fast as to where we would be sent. Persons, supposed to be in the know, would speak confidently that we were leaving for Gettysburg or some other camp the next morning. The next day would find us at our daily tasks, so it went day after day. One day we were ordered to get ready to travel, then did rumors fly thick and fast as to where we were going. When we entered the train we were as ignorant of our destination as we were when we entered the service. The Officer in charge then told us we were going to Benezett, Pa., which did not mean a thing to us, as we had never heard of the place before. We arrived there the next morning at daybreak. Keen disappointment was written on our faces when we saw what had been a station, it was like getting off at nowhere. Trucks from the camp were there to receive us. Having been disappointed time after time, I thought that I was immune now, but when we passed through Benezett proper and started up the side of a mountain so steep the truck seemed as though it could hardly make it with its load, I did not know what to think. After seven miles of traveling up and down the mountains, we arrived at Camp. We were in time for breakfast, after having spent the night traveling.

“We found the men friendly but inclined to play practical jokes on us. After having been sent for the ‘bunk stretcher,’ the ‘left handed monkey wrench,’ and ‘white lamp black’ we became wise and passed out of the rookie stage, and became full pledged members of the Company.

“On the first day the Commanding Officer and Educational Advisor welcomed us to the Camp and explained the rules and regulations of camp life. The Educational Advisor explained to us the educational and recreational activities of the camp. Stressing the many opportunities the camp offered for self-advancement. He went over the educational program explaining the different courses, advised us to take advantage of the library. He stressed the importance of thinking further than the dollar a day that we earned.

“In another article in this paper entitled A Day in Camp you will find a description of a day in Camp.

“During my years of service I have worked on a large number of projects, striving to learn as much as possible about the work that we do. I have worked at road construction, building construction, stone work, surveying, blister rust control, fought fires and many other types of work.

“In camp I have taken intensive use of the library, and always read the daily papers. I have taken part in the educational program, trying to improve myself so that I will be better able to make a living after I leave the CCC.

“The CCC has given me a new outlook on life. I have a better appreciation of good health, a better idea of good citizenship, a better appreciation of safety first on any job, and a lot of other things that I thought I knew.

“I am a better man physically and mentally that I was when I entered the CCC. I find the food good, and have gained in weight. I find the surroundings pleasant, the other enrollees congenial, and I find that I enjoy myself here.”

The set up of an average CCC company

Commanding officer – 1

Mess and transportation officer – 1

Medical officer – 1

Educational advisor – 1

Leaders – 10

Assistant leaders – 16

Enrollees – 161

More than two million young men participated in the greatest movement to conserve the Nation’s natural resources ever attempted. It is estimated that reforestation in this country has advanced more than fifty years. It will take many years for the many millions of trees that the CCC has planted to grow enough for us to appreciate them, but they will stand for future generations to marvel at.