By Mal 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: re-forestry, 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 been implemented. 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 Germany had conservation camps for the unemployed. The German Labor Service was, by far, the best known and 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 renamed in June 1937.
To qualify for the CCC a young man had to be between the ages of 17 and 25 (later changed to 18-28), 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 its 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 40-50 men. There was a mess hall, recreation building, officers quarters, a school for night classes, 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 U.S. built by the CCC that are still in use today.
The average boy enlisted when he was 18 ½ years of age and stayed in for 9 months, gained 12-30 pounds and grew 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 dependent upon him. Sixty percent were from small towns or farms.
During its existence the CCC built 46,854 bridges, 3,116 fire look-out towers, more than 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 built/maintained 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, most of them were WWI veterans.
There were 105 camps in Mississippi. Listed below are some of the camps in our area with opening date and unit number.
(Three above located at or near Camp Huguenot)
(Three above located at or near Camp Shelby)
With the start of WWII 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. One local work that remains is Forest Lake, now Paul B. Johnson State Park, which was initially dug by the CCC. (It was later expanded by German POW's.) Evidence of the existence of the camps at Brooklyn can still be seen. After the camp was vacated, the Boy Scouts used it from time to time until it was dismantled. The compiler of this paper has spend many nights "camped" in the old CCC camp with the Scouts.
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