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33 3 CCC Companies #696 and #1657 and Their Camps, Giant City and Stone Fort G eorge Oliver was born in 1912 in Blyth, England, and grew up in southern Illinois mining towns—Tilden, Pocahontas , and Marissa. His father and older brother worked in the coal mines along with other English immigrants who had settled in the Tilden area. George managed to finish high school in Marissa but in 1932 and early 1933 could not find any work, not even in nearby St. Louis. He believed he heard about the CCC on the radio or from the newspaper and remembered that he had to contact the county chairman to get enrolled. The guy we had to go see was in Steeleville; he ran a grocery store. So five or six of us boys hitchhiked over there; none of us had cars. We talked to him, but he said he didn’t have the applications yet, but we should come back in a week or two. So we had to hitch back and go again. Then we were sent to Jefferson Barracks, from Sparta to Jefferson Barracks, to get our shots. They put us in companies of 220 men. . . . When they got ready to ship them out, they just took 200 in each company. They had lined us up by height. I was short— five-foot-seven. I was one of the shortest, so I was in the last twenty men. They pulled twenty out from each company and made up a makeshift company. My original company went to Oregon , and I was just lucky enough to come this way. That night they put us on an IC [Illinois Central] train. Didn’t take long [to get to Makanda]. We stayed in the coaches all night. The next morning, they loaded our baggage on a Liberty truck, and we crawled up on top and rode out to the park, dodging limbs along the way. . . . We felt happy. I had been out of high school for a year. . . . We were tickled to death to come down here.1 company 696 arrives Oliver was headed to Giant City State Park’s first CCC camp, one of the first to be built in southern Illinois. It was filled in June 1933 by Company 696, the country’s 696th company to be organized, and was named Camp Giant City. Throughout the nation, between April 1 and June 1 of 1933, an average of eleven companies per day were created and sent out to camps in the woods and fields from coast to coast.2 An advance group of state park supervisory personnel had arrived at Giant City State Park earlier in the month. Superintendent Albin F. Olson and a technical foreman arrived first on June 2. By June 12, all of the supervisory staff members were there studying the park and planning the scope of work for the entire George Oliver at his favorite resting spot, an old cedar leg near Devil’s Stand Table. Photo courtesy of George Oliver. 5LSSHO&KUHYLQGG $0 companies  and  34 Map that accompanied November 1933 work report. Note the placement of two camps, Camp No. 1 (Camp Giant City), just north of the Jackson County line, and the proposed camp site (Camp No. 2) in Union County. National Archives, CCC records, RG 79. 5LSSHO&KUHYLQGG $0 companies  and  35 View of some of the temporary quarters that were later made into winter quarters by the CCC. National Archives, CCC records, SP-11. Giant City State Park project. An early report by Olson states that the chief problem of the CCC upon their coming in 1933 to Giant City State Park was that of “making this natural beauty completely accessible to a varied public without in any way detracting from it by overdevelopment .” The “first and most necessary step” toward that goal was “the construction of an eighteen foot gravel road through difficult hillside terrain that would provide the visitor a safe, delightful drive from which he can derive a maximum of pleasure from the everchanging natural vista about him.”3 The 2.1-mile access road to the park was deemed the first priority. This bumpy, curving road leading into the park turned east from north Makanda. It was referred to by the park supervisors as the north entrance. Other work projects envisioned within the proposed threeyear agenda included surveying and marking boundaries, building five vehicle bridges, creating two miles of foot trails, clearing five miles along the...


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