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The CCC and the NPS
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    Brief History of the CCC

    National Park Service Role

     NPS Camps


    Overall Accomplishments



The Civilian Conservation Corps and
the National Park Service, 1933-1942:

An Administrative History
Chapter Three:
The National Park Service Camps
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When the ECW program began in 1933, applicants were selected by the Department of Labor for the first enrollment period. Prior to the first enrollee selection, quotas were established for each state and federal agency. State authorities would set local quotas and designate a local selecting agency (the Labor Department or the Veterans Administration). This local agency was to review the relief lists and make a preliminary selection of eligible youths. The Welfare representative would then set up an appointment to meet with the youth and his family to discuss ECW work and offer the youth an application form to fill out. The welfare representative was to determine through the application and interview that the youth was between 18 and 25 years old with no physical handicap or communicable disease, unemployed, unmarried, and a United States citizen. Since this was designed to be a relief program, the applicant had to be willing to send a set portion of his pay to his family. The selecting official was encouraged to pick applicants who were clean-cut, ambitious, and willing to work. In this regard, it was suggested that applicants with backgrounds as Boy Scouts or Scout leaders or with some type of training in woodcraft be given preference. [10]

Despite the seeming stringency of the selection process, those selected were, on occasion, less than the ideal. A participant in the program described his fellow workers in the following manner:

Many of them [the enrollees] had left their homes reluctantly, urged by precinct police captains to "sign up" or go to the reformatory. This was not the intent of the CCC. But often it worked that way.

Most of the youths came from impoverished families caught in the Depression. They were in their late teens or early 20s. And all had known hunger. They had grown up in the streets and cluttered alleys of the tenement districts, undernourished, undereducated, underprivileged--forgotten flotsam on the backwash of an economic system which temporarily had broken down. Altogether too many of them were tough, embittered and anti-social. [11]

After an applicant was accepted, he was sent to an Army recruiting station where he was given a preliminary physical examination. He was instructed to bring a suitcase with his toilet articles, one good suit for excursions away from camp, and any other items he might require during the six-month tour of duty. If he played any small musical instrument--such as guitar, mandolin, ukelele, or harmonica--he was encouraged to bring it for use during recreation periods. If he passed the preliminary physical examination, he would then be sent to a conditioning camp. There he would be given a final physical examination and inoculated against typhoid, paratyphoid, and smallpox. [12]

Then the applicant would be given the "Oath of Enrollment" which went:

I, _____ , do solemnly swear (or affirm) that the information given above as to my status is correct. I agree to remain in the Civilian Conservation Corps for 6 months unless sooner released by proper authority, and that I will obey those in authority and observe all the rules and regulations thereof to the best of my ability and will accept such allowances as may be provided pursuant to law and regulations promulgated pursuant thereto. I understand and agree that any injury received or disease contracted by me while a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps cannot be made the basis of any claim against the Government, except such as I may be entitled to under the act of September 7, 1916 (39 Stat. 742) (an act to provide compensation for employees of the United States suffering injuries while in the performance of their duties and for other purposes), and that I shall not be entitled to any allowances upon release from camp except transportation in kind to the place at which I was accepted for enrollment. I understand further that any articles issued to me by the United States Government for use while a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps are, and remain, property of the United States Government and that willful destruction, loss, sale, or disposal of such property renders me financially responsible for the cost thereof and liable to trial in the civil courts. I understand further that any infraction of the rules or regulations of the Civilian Conservation Corps renders me liable to expulsion therefrom. So help me God. [13]

This oath was administered at the time of the preliminary physical examination if the enrollee was to be sent directly to the work camp. [14]

Those who went to a conditioning camp usually remained there for two weeks. The camps were mostly on military installations. The conditioning process included a regimen of calisthenics, games, hikes, and certain types of manual labor. To avoid criticism that the ECW was preparing American youth for the military, no military drill or "manual of arms" was conducted. While at this camp, the recruits were issued variety of Army surplus shoes, trousers, and shirts. Later the youths were issued blue denim work suits, caps, and a modified Army dress uniform which consisted of sturdy black shoes, woolen olive drab trousers and coat, khaki shirts, and black necktie. The shirts had chevrons on the sleeves that resembled those worn by noncommissioned Army officers except that the insignia of rank was red instead of khaki. While at the conditioning camp, the new recruits were observed for their ability to do hard labor and comply with camp regulations. [15]

The original pay plan allowed each of the enrollees to keep $5 for personal expenses and send $25 to his family each month. After President Roosevelt modified the organizational structure by executive order on June 12, 1933, the camp commander was allowed to select up to 5 percent of the camp complement to act as camp leaders; these leaders received a cash allowance of $45 (with a set portion going to their family). Those selected did some administrative tasks and could be used in overseeing project work. Another 8 percent of the camp company could be designated as assistant leaders and receive an allotment of $36 a month (with a set portion going to their family). Later the number of assistant leaders was raised to 10 percent. [16]

There were several categories for enrollees; the largest was for young men between 18 and 25 years of age who were known as "Juniors." In mid-1933 President Roosevelt issued executive orders to allow war veterans, Indians, LEMs, and residents of American territories to enter the CCC. In some cases, the territorial and Indian recruits were allowed to remain at home and perform work projects during the day. The LEMs were required to take a physical and be formally enrolled by the Army though their work was for the NPS superintendents. Each camp was allowed eight to 12 LEMs with an additional 16 permitted when the camps were moved from one location to another. These LEMs served as foremen and skilled workers in the camps. [17]

The recruitment rules were changed in 1938, primarily because those men eligible for the CCC were choosing better paying jobs. In September 1937 the average number of men per camp stood at 186. By June of 1938 this number had dropped to 142--well below the official designation of 200 men per camp as recruitment quotas were not met. The Hawaii National Park camp had been granted permission to enroll youths as young as 16 on an experimental basis. After considerable discussion in the CCC advisory council, however, it was decided to set the minimum age for recruits at 17. Instructions were sent out that these youths were to be selected because of their independent disposition. Parents were urged by the welfare representative to write cheerful and encouraging letters to the enrollees during their first weeks at camp to prevent desertions. The practice of placing the new recruits in a conditioning camp was discontinued in favor of sending the enrollees directly to the work camps, where they were assigned less strenuous tasks at first and more difficult ones as they became accustomed to camp life. An older enrollee would be assigned the responsibility of educating the recruit in the ways of the camp. These measures were taken to raise morale and lower the desertion rate. [18]

On January 1, 1941, a CCC enrollee could receive $8 in cash per month, with another $7 per month placed in a savings account until he was discharged. The remaining $15 would be sent to his dependents. Each 200-man camp was permitted to have one senior leader, nine leaders, and 16 assistant leaders taken from the camp complement, who were paid a higher salary than the regular enrollees. [19]

When the CCC program was terminated on July 1, 1942, the enrollees were sent home and the camp structures were either demolished or used for other purposes. After the program was ended, the American Youth Commission took the statistics gathered during the program to make a composite of the characteristics of the average enrollee. They described him as

between 17 and 18 years old, weighs 145 pounds, and is 5 feet 8 inches tall. His health is fairly good, though the physical requirements of the CCC are not so strict as those of the Army.

He has been living in a six-room house or flat, with his father and mother and four brothers and sisters. The home is not luxuriously furnished. There is no running water, no indoor plumbing, and no telephone or electric refrigerator.

The father and mother were born in the United States and went through the seventh grade in school. The father is most likely a farmer or an industrial worker. He has been out of work for about six months in the previous two years, and the family is on the relief rolls.

The boy himself has a little more schooling than his parents, having completed eight grades and part of the ninth, though it took him nearly eleven years to do it. His skill in reading and arithmetic is less than sixth-grade level. He believes that schooling helps in getting a job, and that he would be better off if he had stayed in school longer, although he is somewhat critical of the things he was obliged to study while in school.

As for work experience, he has done some odd jobs around the home, but he has worked for pay only a few months in his whole life, averaging between $8.00 and $9.00 a week. He has a commendable belief that the CCC will teach him how to work and he likes the idea. He has no feeling that hand labor is a disgrace, nor that happiness depends on having "lots of money" . . . .

Important segments of the CCC community include the 20 per cent of enrollees with foreign-born parents, the 10 per cent who are Negroes, and the 37 per cent from broken homes. Over 40 per cent of the enrollees have had no previous work experience. Three per cent are practically unable to read and write, and 22 per cent have not progressed in literacy beyond the level of the average child who has completed the fourth grade. On the other hand, 13 per cent have graduated from high school and a few have attended college before entering the Corps. [20]

It is unlikely that all, if any, of the CCC youths fit this stereotype, yet they probably shared at least some of these characteristics. When they left the CCC, they were healthier, stronger, more confident, and better able to earn a living. The CCC was an exciting experience that more than 2-1/2 million young men would remember for a lifetime. [21]

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