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Mason County Memories

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CCC History Column 197 Dave Petersen "We can take a vast army of the unemployed out into healthful surroundings, we can eliminate to some extent at least the threat that enforced idleness brings to spiritual and moral instability." With those words President Franklin D. Roosevelt ushered in the era of the Civilian Conservation Corp or the CCC program. Roosevelt's plan was to put the great masses of newly unemployed men to work to restore the beauty of the nation by involving them in publics works programs such as planting trees in areas that had been lumbered out and left barren. Many of the properties had reverted to the States due to the fact that once they were lumbered off, they were seen as not having value. Indeed over the life of the CCC program nearly 3 Billion trees were planted and the great expanses of land left razed by the lumber barons of the nineteenth century saw new life and not only beautified the lands but also came to provide a renewable resource of timber in later years. The plan moved along quickly after being approved by Congress, and by June of 1933 over a quarter million men were at work in over a thousand camps all over the country. In Michigan, more then 500 bridges were built, over 200 building constructed including our beach house at the Ludington State Park, truck trails were built, thousands of fire towers built, and forest fires fought during the years of the CCC camps (1933-1942) The camps not only provided a release for pent up energy with the physical aspect of the job but also classes became available for men to earn their high school degree by attending classes at night. The camps grew from hastily constructed tent encampments to include barracks, libraries, a lounge and provide some medical services. Camps were constructed all over the State of Michigan including Company 687 the Camp Walhalla CCC camp. The camps we staffed with a regular or reserve army officer, the men who were eligible to apply were single, most were between the ages of 17 and 23, and also asked to send 22.00 of the 30.00 they received monthly home to their parents. In Michigan not only were the young men gainfully involved in positive activities they were sending over 100,000.00 a month to their families and the camps were spending over 5,000.00 a month in their local communities. Any initial hesitation on the parts of the community was quickly put aside when the impact of the boys work began to impact them, financially and in so many other ways. During the time the camps operated in Michigan a little over 100,000 men took part, Isle Royale was established, the State Park system was improved dramatically, campgrounds were built in the National Forest, leaving a legacy that is still felt by those of us today as we continue to benefit from the work accomplished during the time of the Great Depression by Roosevelt's "Tree Army." Speaking of Armies, another benefit from the CCC program that was when WWII broke out there was an army of young men who were disciplined and ready for the challenge because of their involvement in the Corps. Roosevelt in one of his radio programs in 1936 said " The promptness with which you seized the opportunity to engage in honest work, the willingness with which you have performed your daily tasks and the fine spirit you have shown in winning the respects of the communities in which your camps have been located, merits the admiration of the entire country." If you have local stories and photographs of the CCC camps and wish to share those with our readers please feel free to contact me at 757-3240, davep@blackcreekpress.com or mail in care of the Ludington Daily News PO Box 340 Ludington Mi 49431. Pic 1 Entrance to Camp Walhalla Pic2 A view of the camp and barracks of Company 687 Pic3 Officers that over saw the camp program Pic4 a view of the library at the camp, most camps had up 1000 or more books available. Pic5 The barracks, the living condition were Spartan, a bunk, a blanket and a few personal amenities. Pic6 the camp infirmary Pic7 lounge area, note the radio of the far right,

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