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146 7 The Last Years of the CCC and Its Legacies A s Giant City State Park and the Shawnee National Forest were made publicly accessible by Civilian Conservation Corps labor, so were all the Depression-era forests and parks in Missouri, the Great Lakes region, the south, and the west. The evidence of CCC work is in nearly every state’s parks and national forests. The goals of the corps were accomplished, and President Roosevelt and the Democratic Party reaped the benefits of the New Deal programs for many years. CCC alumni interviewed for this history expressed profound gratitude and praise for the chance they were given in the corps. Kenneth Hawk said in all seriousness that if the CCC hadn’t come along, he “probably would have starved to death. . . . I don’t know what would have happened to me, probably would have been in jail with the rest of them.”1 The positive impacts of the CCC at the level of the low-income (or no-income) family were tremendous. Along with the money and the skill training also came pride and hope. Matthew Skertich of Gillespie was one of ten siblings whose father had lost his job. Skertich enrolled into Company 692 when it was taking in new recruits in 1935 and came to Camp Stone Fort. His job as a truck driver was to drive men to and from work sites in the mornings, at lunch, and at the end of the day. He helped the crews once at the sites in a variety of jobs: cutting dead trees, making bridle paths, planting trees, and cutting the stone for the lodge, of which he says he was “extremely “Like a bunch of brothers,” February 6, 1935. Courtesy of Matthew Skertich. Earl Dickey on back of Kermit Dunnigan in Wisconsin. Courtesy of Earl Dickey. 5LSSHO&KUHYLQGG $0 the last years of the ccc 147 proud.” Skertich did a lot of boxing and PingPong playing. He remembered classes being offered in masonry, carpentry, forestry, and cooking.2 Fine cooks at Giant City in 1937 were Pete and Paul Kosma of Dowell, “Talky” Salwin of Herrin, Emmalline Swinigan of East St. Louis, and Pop Johnson of Murphysboro. Camp inspectors often combined “mess” and “morale” in one category of their typed reports, proving the effect on the camp mood of good, plentiful food. Good food proved so important to every CCC camp’s success that the corps learned early on that experienced cooks had to be hired. In many camps, such as Giant City, promising cooks and bakers were sent away at CCC expense to short-term cooking schools to return ready to share much appreciated recipes and skills. Earl Dickey on swinging bridge over Bad River in Wisconsin. Courtesy of Earl Dickey. Skertich wrote that in “in all honesty our group was like a bunch of brothers who all got along so well” (see appendix 6 for Skertich’s name among the roster of Company 696 in 1937). Since one of Skertich’s real brothers, Rudy, enrolled into a CCC camp in Salem, Illinois , their parents received fifty dollars each month, “which at the time,” Skertich wrote, “was like a million dollars.” In 1937, the job market began to inch open. After leaving Giant City, Matthew Skertich worked with CCC Company 2659 in Elmhurst for a six-month stint. He left the CCC to work at Inland Steel Company in East Chicago, Indiana, where he remained for the next forty-two years.3 ccc company 692 at copper falls state park, wisconsin The other members of Company 692 were spending their remaining enlistment periods at Copper Falls State Park, four miles from Mellen, Wisconsin. The area had been clearcut for lumber, and the CCC was expected to work on reforestation, fire suppression, erosion control, and park development. Company 692 was chosen because of its special skills in drainage and erosion control. Lieutenant George D. Markel was still the unit’s commander . The winter of their arrival was one of the snowiest and coldest on record. In early February, temperatures reached forty degrees below zero. A severe cold spell lasted twentythree days, during which time the boys were stranded in their barracks trying to keep the wood stoves filled. The roads to town were terrible , there was a lot of illness in camp, and the outfit had some trouble in keeping competent cooks. By the end of March, half the company left when their enlistment...


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