Peggy Sanders: Confluence Chronicles – Where City & County Meet 1-23-12
There are so many aspects to growing older and one is that your friends do to.
When you hang around with old people your friends tend to die off pretty fast. A segment of my friends are dropping like flies and they are men who served in the Civilian Conservation Corps. Since the CCC predated World War II, it is easy to realize these men are old. Last week another 100-year-old friend passed away. At least when your friends are that old, you feel positively young if you are under 80 years of age.
Besides old age, another aspect these men have in common is optimism. They all went through hard times during the Depression, most served in the war yet they came through it with a positive outlook. A woman in England who is writing her dissertation on the CCC in the US, contacted me this week with a survey. She asked and I answered, because I have been researching the CCCs for six years and I wrote the book, “The Civilian Conservation Corps In and Around the Black Hills.” Her survey and my responses follow:
At its inception, what do you feel the main purpose of the CCC’s conservation efforts were?
The main purpose was conservation of human living. The thought was while people needed money to live, they also needed their pride. Instead of just giving out funds, men were hired to do physical work, were given shelter, training and medical treatment as well as funds.
At its conclusion, what do you feel was the main area of conservation work for the CCC?
It might be easy to name the forestry projects, the firefighting, the building with stone, but the true measure was in learning how to do things and the self-confidence to carry them out. In the past six years I have met, had letters from, or talked on the phone to over 300 CCC men. By and large they went on to be entrepreneurs, running their own businesses.
What do you feel was the greatest achievement of the CCC’s conservation work?
We live in a rural state, as it was then also. Many of the CCC men I’ve met were not farm boys as most farmers were able to feed their own families, but town boys who didn’t know how to work; their lack of work ethic hadn’t much chance of changing as long as there were not jobs available. Working in the CCCs, often taking educational classes at nights, gave them the wherewithal to push themselves for the betterment of their families and themselves. Teaching young men how to work, set goals and accomplish them, as well as master new challenges, were the greatest achievements.
It is interesting to know she is writing about something on this side of the pond. It seems an odd subject for a Brit yet she must have reasons to research the CCCs. I’ll keep you posted.
Peggy writes from southwestern South Dakota and is grateful for the CCC legacy in the parks and roads in the Black Hills. She can be reached through Peggy@PeggySanders.com.