Many readers know that during the Great Depression of the 1930s, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was president. When he stepped into office, he brought action to improve the lot of Americans. He created many agencies which are fondly referred to as his “alphabet soup” agencies of which there were 14. The Civilian Conservation Corps and Works Progress Administration are the two involved in this story.

Imagine this scenario, as it happened after FDR’s first inauguration on March 4, 1933. Within three weeks, The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), was established by Congress on March 31, 1933, to provide jobs for young, unemployed men during the Great Depression. Three weeks?

Even more astounding is that on April 17, 1933, the first CCC camp in the country opened on the George Washington National Forest. This was Camp F-1, Camp Roosevelt, situated nine miles east of Edinburg, Va. Only six weeks after being inaugurated, the plan was put in place and the work started. If we didn’t have written history no one would believe that anything could be accomplished by Congress in such a short time frame.

It’s commonly known that the WPA paid for writers, artists, and actors to produce works; they hired individuals to record headstones in cemeteries. The “WPA Guides” to various states were done under WPA and most have been reprinted in recent years.

In 2013, I read an article that talked about CCC era art, that had been created by CCC men. It turns out that before the WPA programs came about, the CCC enrolled artists whose jobs it was to depict the CCC in their art. The writer of that article, Kathleen, and I got acquainted and she came from her New Jersey home to spend time in the Black Hills and to tour the CCC Museum of South Dakota at Hill City in 2014.

Fast forward to 2016. Kathleen called and said she had located a piece of CCC era art in Oregon that had been painted in the Black Hills by a CCC man in his off-duty hours. After months of dithering around and trying to find out how to acquire this original oil for the CCC museum, a deal was finally struck.

I know three people who live in that state. One of them, Jane, is a fellow author whom I had met on occasion; she used to live in the rural area where the painting was located. I contacted her and asked if she would be able to retrieve it and deliver our money. She said she would do so and would take it to UPS, have it packaged correctly, and ship it to the museum. We sent her a check to cash for the painting and her expenses. She was to look the painting over for damage and if it looked OK, she would give the man cash. It all worked and the museum has the piece displayed in a locked glass case along with an interpretive panel.

This artist’s CCC camp was located 10 miles from the museum, so the painting really did come home.

This story again proves the old adage, “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

Peggy Sanders


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