Monday, August 25, 2014

Learning More About the Civilian Conservation Corps

CCC Medallion placed on picnic shelter,
Fort Mountain State Park, Chatsworth, Georgia

It was the early 1930s.  The United States was still in the midst of a depression.  So many were unable to find work.  President Franklin Roosevelt, as part of the New Deal, proposed the Civilian Conservation Corps as a means of providing work to thousands of able bodied young men.  One of those young men was my father, Oscar Dean Perkinson.

Being in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was one of many things my father had mentioned in passing.  It was one of those things I didn't really think about until years after his death.  Since then, I've learned more about the role of the CCC and, more importantly to me, my father's part in it.

A few years ago I came across a fascinating web site, The James F. Justin Civilian Conservation Corps Museum.  The web site provided information about the history of the CCC, the quasi-military structure of the organization, and lists of CCC camps around the country.  And, where and how to locate the government records for someone who had served in the CCC.

The records, available from the National Records Service in St. Louis, were free and arrived within a few weeks of my request for them.  The five pages of my father's individual record provided some basic information.(1)  Some was surprising, some I had always known, including:
  • In all the typed CCC records my father's birthday is listed as July 1, 1908.  However, he was born in 1907.  Roosevelt's plan in setting up the Civilian Conservation Corps was to provide employment for young men ages 18-25 who had been unemployed for some time.(2)  When my father enrolled in the CCC at Ft. McClellan, Alabama on 6 Jun 1933, he was a month away from his 26th birthday which would have made him ineligible for the initial program.  Why the incorrect birth year was repeatedly recorded, I'll probably never know, but it was an interesting tidbit to find.
  • The pay for young men in the CCC was essentially a dollar a day, $30 a month.  My dad's records indicate that his mandatory allotment of $25 per month went to his mother, netting him $5 each month of his 12 month enlistment in the CCC.
  •  My father served in Company 488 which was stationed at Ellijay, Georgia. Eureka!
  • His work with the CCC was as a head telephone / telegraph lineman, a job similar to work he had previously performed stringing telephone lines and work he later did with the electrical company.
  • The entrance and exit physicals done of my father indicated that he had 20/20 vision with no mention of his wearing glasses.  Every picture I have even seen of my father from his teens on show him wearing glasses.  Interesting, especially since his exit physical was so specific that it mentioned a scar on one of his fingers.  Perhaps the primary focus of the physicals was to determine if he were a healthy young man, willing and able to do physical labor.
In an effort to learn more about CCC Company 488, I found several photos of their camp on the web site of The Georgia Archives Virtual Vault.  The pictures of the camp located in Ellijay, Gilmer County, Georgia, showed a number of canvas tents serving as dormitories and several large wooden buildings which were probably the mess hall and other common use areas.

A few months later I purchased a book about the Civilian Conversation Corps in Georgia written by Connie M Huddleston.  The book is part of the Images of America series about which I have previously written.  This book was true to form, filled with interesting photos from the 1930s showing the CCC at work in Georgia.  Huddleston's book also indicated that CCC Company 488 had been involved in the building of Fort Mountain State Park near Chatsworth, Georgia.

Last year we visited the CCC Museum at Vogel State Park in Georgia.  The museum's collection of photos, uniforms, and dioramas provided a lot of information about how the CCC was involved in the development of state parks within Georgia and other states.

CCC Museum, Vogel State Park, Blairsville, GA
personal photo

Fast forward to a recent trip we made to Georgia.  One beautiful day we decided to head toward the North Georgia mountains for a picnic.  Randomly, we decided to visit Fort Mountain State Park.  About half way to Fort Mountain, I remembered that was the park Company 488 had worked to build.  Good choice.

At the Visitor's Center at Fort Mountain State Park, I told the park attendant of my interest in the CCC and its work at Fort Mountain.  Although there are no exhibits about the CCC there, the park attendant did mention that a number of things built by the CCC are still in use at the park today.  Picnic shelters.  Rock lined trails and paths.  A rock fire tower.  It was easy to plan the rest of our time at Fort Mountain.  I even have the pictures to prove it.

Picnic shelter build about 1933-34 by the CCC
Fort Mountain State Park, Chatsworth, Georgia

Interior of the picnic shelter with original stone fireplace

Stone walking path from the picnic area leading up toward the fire tower

Fort Mountain Fire Tower (currently being cleaned and repaired)

No, I never found my father's initials carved anywhere on a picnic shelter or written in the concrete on a walking path, but our picnic at Fort Mountain State Park make the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps much more real to me.  

Since our picnic, my interest in the CCC has been rekindled.  The other day I came across's collection of "Happy Days", the weekly newspaper of and for the CCC.  Looking at the issues provides a real snapshot of the everyday work of the CCC, camp life, and the young men who were part of this progrtam.  The newspapers are filled with stories of building parks, fighting fires, controlling floods, doing meaningful work, and protecting public lands around the country.  The legacy of the CCC is something we still enjoy today.

(1)  Individual Record - Civilian Conservation Corps for Dean Perkinson, Perkinson Family Files; privately held by Mary Perkinson Nelson.  Photocopies (5 pages) obtained from The National Personnel Record Center, Sep 2012
(2)  Huddleston, Connie M. Georgia's Civilian Conservation Corps. Images of America Series. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishing, c2009.

No comments:

Post a Comment