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114 6 Camp Life I n 1935, after two years of operation, the Civilian Conservation Corps was proving to be an overwhelming success with the public and with Congress. In April, President Roosevelt endorsed the extension of the CCC and expressed complete satisfaction with the program: “The results achieved in the rehabilitation of youth, the conservation of our natural resources, the development of new recreational opportunities for our citizens and the quickening of business recovery have proved so worthwhile that I have not hesitated to recommend continuance for Civilian Conservation Corps camps for another two years.” Roosevelt expanded the program to include men up to the age of twenty-eight and as young as seventeen . Congress provided funds through the Emergency Relief Appropriation Act of 1935 on April 8, 1935, for continuation of the program for another fifteen months. By August 31, 1935, the CCC enrollment throughout the country reached its maximum of 505,782, an increase of 115 percent since before the 1935 appropriation act, when 235,732 CCC men were enrolled in camps throughout the country. In September 1937, there were reportedly fifty-nine camps in Illinois. Between 1933 and 1942, Illinois had over 125 different CCC camps in operation.1 Approximately 20,000 of the total CCC men were put to work in the national park system, which included the state parks; 655 of the CCC camps were established among the 777 state parks, and 160 were established in 69 national parks. As Giant City State Park was undergoing its transformation and expansion for recreational use through CCC labor, so were Mesa Verde National Park and hundreds of others throughout the west, east, south, and Great Lakes region. The public was duly impressed with the work done on public lands but praised still more the effects on the workers themselves. Even the Chicago Tribune reported that the “CCC is one of the best projects of the Administration , and the great majority of its recruits, we believe, appreciate its opportunities and are being benefited.” On November 29, 1935, six years after the great economic crash, FDR spoke in Atlanta in answer to those critical of the taxpayers’ expense for his New Deal work programs: “I realize that gentlemen in wellwarmed and well-stocked clubs will discourse on the expenses of Government and the suffering that they are going through because their Government is spending money on work relief. Some of those same gentlemen tell me that a Richard Seyler, a three-striper, 1935. Courtesy of Earl Dickey. 5LSSHO&KUHYLQGG $0 camp life 115 dole would be more economical than work relief . That is true. But the men who tell me that have, unfortunately, too little contact with the true America to realize that . . . most Americans want to give something for what they get. That something, which in this case is honest work, is the saving barrier between them and moral degradation. I propose to build that barrier high and keep it high.”2 The normal daily routine at CCC camps was established by the U.S. Army and so was similar throughout the state and country; the main difference in camp morale came from the attitudes of the commanding officers. For the most part, these men were reserve officers, captains and first lieutenants. Most of them had held civilian jobs before the Depression and fully realized that the CCC camps were not military installations. A more relaxed atmosphere was usually understood as appropriate to the task of getting the necessary work accomplished. The men were enrolled for six-month periods, not enlisted or drafted for a two- or three-year tour of duty. They could choose to reenlist or be honorably discharged after their time came to a close. Improving the health and welfare of the men in the ranks was the primary mission of the CCC, but no man could be forced to stay in the CCC or be punished for leaving. One could, however, be dismissed through a dishonorable discharge, as some at Giant City were. Joseph Zimmerman, who served with Company 1657 at Giant City and who later visited Illinois CCC camps as an army recruiter in the late 1930s, said he didn’t recall any CCC men being sentenced for committing a crime, but even if an enrollee had been given a bad discharge for being absent without leave, it did not bar him from enlisting in the army.3 daily routine In military style, most camps...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780809385638
Related ISBN
9780809329229
MARC Record
OCLC
649913235
Pages
256
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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