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Author Bill Jamerson brings his music and storytelling program on the Civilian Conservation Corps to Carrollton at 6 p.m. Monday, March 10, at Carroll County Public Library.
In an interview from his home in Michigan Monday, Jamerson said his one-hour program combines stories, songs, readings from his books and a video in a nostalgic, feel-good, coming-of-age program about CCC. “I will be sharing the experiences of these young men,” he said.
Boys who joined the CCC built many of the nation’s state and national parks, including General Butler State Resort Park.
While Jamerson said he doesn’t have specific stories from the project in Carrollton, he was able to quickly pull up information that shows Camp Butler opened on Nov. 28, 1933.
CCC constructed many of the buildings, roads and features at Butler Park, including a historic chestnut-log lodge and dining room, pool, trails and picnic areas, according to a news release from the library. Other work at the park includes an arched roadway bridge, scenic overlooks, park ranger station, interpretive center and log cabins.
Jamerson has attended many reunions and events with former CCC enrollees, gathering the stories of their adventures of leaving the farm or the city for the first time.
County boys often fared better coming to the Army-run CCC camps than those from urban settings. “The city boys would get lost in the woods,” he said.
The average weight of those arriving for duty was 138 pounds, Jamerson said. They were malnourished because of the extreme conditions of the Great Depression.
While they didn’t find gourmet food at the camps, they were able to eat all they wanted. “Eat all you want, but eat all you take,” was the message they got that helped inspire one of Jamerson’s songs, “Chow Time.”
In his program, Jamerson will share stories about these people, both ordinary and extraordinary, who worked for $1 a day so they could send about $25 a month home to help keep food on the table for their brothers and sisters.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was a federal works program created by President Franklin Roosevelt in the heart of The Great Depression. During its nine-year run from 1933-1942, more than 2.5 million young men between the ages of 17 and 25 years of age enlisted across the country. They were known as “Roosevelt’s Tree Army” because they planted over three billion trees nationwide.
One of the books that Jamerson will share readings from at the library is “Big Shoulders,” which follows a year in the life of a 17-year-old youth from Detroit who joins 200 other young men at an army run work camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.
It is a coming-of-age story of an angry teenager who faces the rigors of hard work, learning to get along with a difficult sergeant and coping with a bully.
Beyond its work at Butler Park, the CCC had a big impact in Kentucky with more than 89,000 enrollees planting millions of trees, fighting forest fires, improving rivers and streams, and building roads and bridges. They worked at Mammoth Cave National Park and in the Cumberland National Forest. Some of their destination parks include John James Audubon State Park where they built the French Norman designed museum, the Columbus-Belmont State Park, Cumberland Falls State Resort Park, Natural Bridge State Resort Park and Pine Mountain State Resort Park.
During its nine year run, there were an average of 33 active camps operating at any given time. The CCC also worked on many soil erosion projects for Indiana farmers, such as repairing gullies, terracing hills and putting up fences. The camps not only revitalized the state’s natural resources but also taught the young men job skills and encouraged discipline.
Jamerson hopes that anyone who knows someone who was in the CCC will bring them to Monday’s program. The youngest of those CCC enrollees would now be 90, he said, but there are still a lot of them around.
“It’s really special to them,” he said. Jamerson always allows them time to share some of their stories during his program.
He also encourages local residents to bring their photos, albums and other CCC memorabilia with them.
Jamerson has produced a dozen documentaries for Michigan Public Television, and recorded many songs on historical subjects.
For more information about the program please call the library at (502) 732-7020 or visit www.billjamerson.com.