published: Sunday, November 18, 2012
Appreciation and Pride - a tribute to the CCC
By LARRY LEVEY
SEBRING - They planted trees all over America that are still growing. They developed parks all over America that are still in use. They fought forest fires, built buildings, bridges, roads. In short, they rescued and restored America's lands; and in so doing, they rescued and restored themselves - and rescued and restored their families.
And as they look back on those years, they are filled with feelings of pride and of gratitude.
Not bad for teenagers, teenagers enrolled in the Civilian Conservation Corps, an outgrowth of the Great Depression of the 1930s and of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal.
Many of these teenagers, all now well into their 90s, have kept the CCC heritage alive by joining a local chapter of the national alumni association (Chapter 169). Unfortunately, racked by the effects of age, it has now been disbanded.
The duration of enrollment for many CCC "boys" was six months. If you had a special skill, the time might be increased to a year, sometimes more. But in spite of this brief duration, CCC alumni tell their stories as though they took place last month or even last week, with names, places, dates, events vividly etched in their minds.
When asked, "How can you recall all these details so well?" they talk about their sense of appreciation, appreciation for the money the government paid them, usually $30 a month, with $25 sent directly to the family. "My family was able to buy food, to avoid starvation," they would say without exaggeration.
And appreciation for the way they were treated, with three hearty meals a day; with health care; with educational classes, from reading and writing to carpentry, road building and dozens of other subjects. And a chance to see the good old USA (some of these fellows had never been away from their home town before).
The CCCers also expressed a sense of pride, pride in knowing that what they were doing, like building state and national parks, would benefit the country for decades to come. Their work reflected high standards - standards you can still see today.
Members of Chapter 169 have partnered with Highlands Hammock State Park and its State of Florida's CCC Museum. Chapter members have shared their stories with dozens of community groups, served as museum docents, took part in the production of three CCC videos and even helped with the planning for the 1993 remodeling of the museum.
The chapter hosted a national reunion of CCC alumni, also occurring in 1993. It's been passing out coffee and donuts at the yearly CCC Festival, along with a special CCC luncheon served at the Recreation Hall.
But no more. Time has marched on. The CCC "boys" are running out of steam and out of health. At the 2012 CCC Festival, held Nov. 3, the chapter was given a plaque from the Friends of Highlands Hammock, thanking Chapter 169 for its contributions to the park's CCC Museum.
(In a touching finale at the plaque ceremony, it was noted that the frame for the plaque is made from wood from the building that houses the museum. The building was built by the CCC in the 1930s.)
News-Sun correspondent Larry Levey is a former president of the now-defunct Chapter 169 of the national CCC alumni association.
Small Banner Ads