Midday Matinee is our people watching, people doing and people being feature. Join the Woodland Creatures for an afternoon break.

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) operated from 1933 to 1942 as a public work relief program. Since progressives and others are calling for some sort of equivalent program to address today’s lack of jobs, I have some facts and figures to share about the CCC.

The CCC was Franklin Roosevelt’s brainchild. He submitted it to congress on March 21, 1933 and congress approved it on a voice vote 10 days later. My how congress has changed. Roosevelt’s vision was:

I propose to create a civilian conservation corps to be used in simple work, not interfering with normal employment, and confining itself to forestry, the prevention of soil erosion, flood control and similar projects. I call your attention to the fact that this type of work is of definite, practical value, not only through the prevention of great present financial loss, but also as a means of creating future national wealth.

The Pavilion at the S. Kawishiwi River was built by the CCC. The sign there has some facts provided by the National Forest Service. 3,463,766 young men were employed in the program and another 263,755 were non-enrolled support staff. Although the eligible age was 18 to 25 most were 18 and 19 years old. They averaged 5’8″ tall and 147 pounds. Each enrollee received $30/month of which they kept $5 and sent $25 home to their families. They also received food, clothing and shelter. The unofficial motto of the CCC was “We Can Take It.”

The total cost for the program during its life was $3 billion which benefited 12-15 million people. The CCC built 3,980 structures many of which are now on the National Register of Historic Places. They planted 3 billion trees over 20 million acres. They stocked over 1 billion fish, developed 6,966 miles of wild land streams, built 32,149 wild life shelters, 4,622 fish ponds and 3,116 lookout towers. They also built 46,854 bridges and 125,000 miles of new roads.

From wiki “Approximately 55% of enrollees were from rural communities, a majority of which were non-farm; 45% came from urban. Level of education for the enrollee averaged 3% illiterate, 38% less than eight years of school, 48% did not complete high school, 11% were high school graduates. At the time of entry, 70% of enrollees were malnourished and poorly clothed. Few had work experience beyond occasional odd jobs. Peace was maintained by the threat of “dishonorable discharge”. “This is a training station we’re going to leave morally and physically fit to lick ‘Old Man Depression,'” boasted the newsletter of a North Carolina camp.”

The CCC was never a permanent program and was funded annually by Congress. By 1942, when there was a massive build up for the war effort, the CCC was not funded.

For me, the two important values messages of the CCC are “We Can Take It” and “morally and physically fit to lick ‘Old Man Depression.'” There is a basic human dignity in being employed and too many of our citizens don’t have that right now.

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