Monday, July 9, 2007

Catching Up With Robert Moore: CCC Historian and Author

As we approach the 75th anniversary of the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps, we expect that scholars and historians will increase their coverage and reporting of history related to the CCC - certainly that is our wish, anyway. A history of CCC work in Arizona promises to ride the wave of interest in this topic as we move closer to the important anniversary milestone in 2008. The Civilian Conservation Corps in Arizona’s Rim Country: Working in the Woods, by Robert J. Moore, published by the University of Nevada Press in 2006 will be of interest to anyone seeking a scholarly but down-to-earth account of CCC work in the western United States. Moore’s work includes footnotes, a useful bibliography, and index, which should make it a boon to other researchers of the CCC. On the other hand, the personal narratives make it historical storytelling at its best.

Working in the Woods grew out of an exhibit Moore put together during his time as a seasonal ranger with the U.S. Forest Service in northern Arizona. After gathering a number of pictures of CCC work in Arizona for the exhibit, Moore decided it would make the foundation of a good book about the CCC. Work on the book began in the summer of 1999 and it was released for sale in August of 2006, but it wasn’t always an easy project. Moore estimates that he approached 15 to 20 publishers with his book proposal – amassing a good-sized stack of rejection letters – before the field of potential publishers was narrowed down to Texas A&M University Press and University of Nevada Press. In the end, the University of Nevada Press took on the project and the result is a terrific account of the work of the CCC in Arizona, a region Moore feels has been largely overlooked by CCC researchers and writers up to now.

Moore explains that the content of the book is divided roughly in half, with the first part of the book devoted to a history of approximately 13 Arizona camps, while the second half of the book is based upon interviews with CCC alumni, including Richard Thim, Eugene Gaddy, Charles Pflugh and Marshall Wood among others. Moore’s research centered primarily on camps in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest, but also includes information on camps in the Tonto and Coconino National Forests as well.

Moore expresses disappointment that more photographs could not be included in the book, but the publisher set a limit of 50 images, a rule that was strictly enforced despite Moore’s efforts to add additional pictures. In the end, Working in the Woods seems amply illustrated with a number of images that have seldom, if ever, been seen in Arizona and which certainly have been rarely viewed outside the state. Moore is also dismayed that the book isn’t being offered for sale in some Arizona locales that would seem to be an obvious fit, such as the Mogollon Rim Visitor Center in the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest.

Moore said he has not been in constant contact with the publisher for updates on sales of the book but he reports orders have come in a “steady stream” and have come in from as far away as Hawaii. With the approach of the 75th anniversary of the CCC, it stands to reason that interest in Moore’s book will only increase. Additionally, the fact that many of Arizona’s CCC camps were staffed with enrollees from Oklahoma, Texas and Pennsylvania, interest from these parts of the country should grow as word spreads about the book.

One advantage to having so much information for the book: Moore says that, because he was able to amass so much research material, he is planning to publish a CCC-related article in the Journal of Arizona History. Late word is that the piece will run in the issue due out in late July and will focus on the CCC experience of Pennsylvania enrollee Charles Pflugh and his CCC work at Chevalon Canyon, Arizona. Moore estimates that the Journal article will draw about 60% of its material from the book and 40% will be new material, along with about a dozen photos, most of which did not make it into the book and have never been published before.

Bitten by the CCC bug, Bob has begun another CCC research and writing project, this time focusing on CCC work in Wisconsin’s Devil’s Lake State Park where the CCC built trail and visitor amenities using native stone. Bob has been a friend to Arizona’s CCC alumni for a number of years and we’ve watched as he worked on and struggled with getting his book published. We continue to consider him a friend and even a member of our extended CCC family, but now, with the publication of The Civilian Conservation Corps in Arizona’s Rim Country: Working in the Woods, he will become a friend and family member to CCC alumni and researchers across the country.


Thirsty said...

Howdy ~

Thanks for featuring the book -- I just ordered one for my granddaddy who served at Madera Canyon & Holbrook in 1937.

Maybe you can help me find more information on the Holbrook site.

~ Amy Schuh

Michael said...

Howdy yourself Thirsty:

I'm thrilled to know you've found this book for granddaddy and I hope it will bring back some fond memories.

I can see what I have on the Holbrook site. If folks have questions I usually ask that they post a comment here and provide their email - I won't publish the comment for all to see but I'll need an email address to send you what I find directly.

Thanks so much for dropping in - I don't keep this updated as much as I should but I'm hoping to do better in the future.

Sancha said...

Great write up on this book. That's my grandfather on the cover all the way to the left! Needless to say we've all read this in my family and love it. :D

Michael said...

Hi Sancha!
Yep, for my money, this is the best book on the CCC in Arizona out there and one of the best books on local CCC work anywhere in the country! Very cool that there's a family connection for you right on the cover and throughout the book, too, no doubt. Thank you for dropping in; please come back often.

Doug Andrews said...

My dad was in the Indian Springs camp in 1933. i have his original photograph of his company. I vivitec the campsite in September 2011. It was a very moving experience for me. My dad died in 2008. I wish the author could have interview him. I heard so many stories growing up.

Buffalo Crossing Camp, Eastern Arizona

Buffalo Crossing Camp, Eastern Arizona