Tale of the truck
Back in 2004 when my book, “The Civilian Conservation Corps In and Around the Black Hills,” came out, no one had any idea it would lead to a small but mighty museum in the Black Hills of South Dakota. After word got out about the publication I started receiving CCC artifacts from across the country. Items ranged from scrapbooks to long underwear, loose photos to hand-drawn camp maps. I had no idea what I’d do with these treasures other than keep them safe.
As the collection grew so did the desire for a museum. A CCC “boy,” as they were called, decided he wanted to purchase a CCC Worker statue to commemorate his fellow workers. Identical statues are in 41 states. Each one denotes a CCC museum, interpretive center or work area of the CCC. Nebraska is one of the nine states without a CCC statue.
When the group was offered a statue, we knew it was time to figure out where it should be placed. After much discussion we settled on Hill City as it met the criteria we set forth. We wanted it to be in a town that is open and vibrant year around, CCC camps had been located in nearby (Hill City had four close ones) and the third guideline was we wanted the statue to sit in front of a CCC museum.
It so happened that the U.S. Forest Service had built a new gargantuan office south of Rapid City, leaving their former building and about 10 acres east of Hill City vacant. Fortunately the Hill City government purchased the property and leased the building to the Hill City Chamber of Commerce/Visitor Center. And there was a room the museum could occupy. With funds from an Outside of Deadwood grant the museum hired Kathy Anderson, a museum display professional, from Hot Springs, S.D., to create the exhibits. We held a grand opening in September 2008 and artifacts continued to roll in, even today.
One year after the museum opened I got a phone call from two ladies in Kansas. They had visited the museum the week before and they wanted to make a donation — a fully restored 1935 GMC truck which GMC verified by axle number that it had been built for the CCCs. The women were sisters-in-law. One of them had a husband who had renovated the truck and passed away a few years later. They wanted the vehicle to go where it would be appreciated and they chose the museum.
It took nine years to actually get the truck to Hill City due to various issues. The museum has it now and it’s stored inside. In the spring the volunteer museum board along with some community assistance will construct a building devoted to housing the truck just outside the museum.
The truck runs and it already appeared in the Hill City Olde Tyme Christmas and Lighted parade, carrying precious cargo, Jay Hendrickson, a CCCer from Hill City. By mid-May it will be available for all to see. ❖
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