Saturday, December 5, 2009

Nearly Lost: Photos of CCC Work at Interstate Park, Wisconsin

The November-December issue of the Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy Journal ran a terrific article about the Intestate Park bison site and its connection to CCC history. Camp Interstate was established in order to use CCC labor to build roads, trails, shelter houses and other amenities at Interstate Park in northwestern Wisconsin. The archaeological work came about purely by happenstance.

In the summer of 1936, according to the article by Marlin Hawley, enrollees of Company 633 were digging a ditch to install a pipe. In the process of digging the ditch, the enrollees unearthed large animal bones and, before too long, having uncovered more and more bones, the camp superintendent decided to consult with zoologists at the University of Minnesota. The zoologists recognized the bones as those of some sort of bison, perhaps an extinct species.
Digging resumed and in short order a large hammered copper pike and two small spearheads were found amongst the buried bones at the Interstate Park site. According to Hawley, with the discovery of the of bison bones, the copper pike and the small spearheads “the CCC had unwittingly discovered one of the most enigmatic associations yet of artifacts and a vanished species.”

As it turns out, the name Interstate Park has a special significance to me all the way out here in the desert southwest. It seems that another bit of archaeological salvage work has resulted in the rescue of dozens of photos depicting CCC work at Interstate Park. It seems that the previous owner’s family was planning to dump them into the trash when Mr. Arley Ross, a member of NACCCA Chapter 44, saved them. Arley saved the whole lot of photos, along with a few postcards and it is only through his diligence several years ago that you are now able to see some of those images here.

In all the time I’ve had these photos, I never imagined that a significant archaeological discovery was also part of the CCC work at Interstate Park.

Perhaps the ditch in this picture is part of the work that ultimately resulted in the discovery of the bison bones. If you look carefully, you’ll see the sign that reads “Interstate Park Camp Grounds.” Working in the snow like this must have been tough business!

Here’s another image of enrollees digging a ditch.

Here’s a picture of the motor pool, where truck drivers appear to be shining up their trucks for inspection.

Here’s an image of three enrollees posing by a truck. The truck has “Camp Pattison” painted above the windshield. It’s unclear whether this was taken at the Interstate Park camp or somewhere else.

Here’s a picture of three fresh faced enrollees who look like they might be trying on their CCC work clothes for the first time.

Here’s a group of enrollees posing in the field with their foreman (the distinguished older looking gentleman in the sweater and coat).

Here’s a picture that seems to show that it wasn’t all hard work at Camp Interstate. The previous owner of the photos wrote “Homebrew” on this picture, so we can assume they’re not drinking milk. It’s fun to note that one fellow is drinking out of a gravy boat and the fellow on the far right is holding a pair of football or baseball cleats. The Hawley article points out that the bison excavation project was the largest archaeological project conducted by the CCC in Wisconsin and the assemblage of bison bones is the largest in the eastern U.S. It’s safe to say that the “forest army” did more than forest work.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

A Time to Gather. A Time to Remember. A Time to Give Thanks.

As the 2009 Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy national reunion draws closer I’m looking forward to the familiar faces I know that I’ll see when we gather in Denver. On the other hand I’m contemplating the likely absence of some of CCC veterans who I saw only just last year in Virginia.

We tend to think of those CCC boys as they were: 17 years old and wide-eyed as they sheepishly stepped off a train in some faraway town. We forget that those who survived their time in the CCC (most did), and the World War (a lot didn’t), and Korea and Vietnam (yes, they were still fighting then, too) grew up and grew old as they raised families of their own. Quietly, with little fanfare.

I think that for a long time, the National Association of CCC Alumni (NACCCA) and CCC Legacy reunions were just that: reunions. Recently, however, these gatherings are becoming something different as fewer and fewer CCC veterans are able to make the trip. I see a lot more sons and daughters and grandchildren at the national reunions now, and that’s wonderful. I hope the families always feel inspired to participate in CCC history if for no other reason than to fight for it, to preserve it and to stomp down the occasional naysayer who tries to tar the CCC using the same broad brush they use to denigrate the New Deal.

In time, our gatherings will be conferences or symposia, where academics discuss and debate the history and meaning of the CCC, but for now, the reunions have become something in between, not quite reunion, not quite conference. In some ways it’s the best of both worlds were it not for the declining numbers of CCC veterans in attendance. Perhaps some of us will look back wistfully – maybe on the advent of the 100th anniversary of the CCC – and say, “I remember the reunion of 2009 when we actually got to meet some CCC veterans in person!”

My point with all this of course is to simply remind you that the 2009 reunion, conference, symposium – whatever you’d like to call it – is fast approaching!

The 2009 Civilian Conservation Corps Legacy annual reunion is scheduled for October 8-11 in Littleton, Colorado. You can get additional details by visiting the CCC Legacy website HERE.

I sure hope to see you there!

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Spotlight Site

Spotlight Site

Once again, it’s been far too long since I posted anything new here and for that I apologize. My thanks to those of you who may still be checking in from time to time in the hope that I’ll finally get on the ball and post something new.

As a way to hopefully get the ball rolling again, I’d like to point you to what I’m calling a Spotlight Site. A Spotlight Site is another website or blog that has interesting CCC-related content. Spotlight Sites will be a way for me to quickly post new content here and to hopefully point you toward other interesting CCC history.

Our inaugural Spotlight Site is an interesting article entitled Into the Woods: The First Year of the Civilian Conservation Corps on the National Archives website. This article gives a terrific account of the creation of the CCC and its evolution during the first year of operation. The first year of the CCC could really serve as something of a metaphor or model for the entire lifespan of the CCC, a program that always seemed to be in flux as leaders and officials shifted the focus and work of the CCC between 1933 and 1942.

CCC Legacy National Reunion Coming Soon!

And, before I close out this long overdue post, a reminder that the CCC Legacy National Reunion is scheduled for Denver, Colorado this coming October. This will be the first time that the national reunion has been held in the western U.S. since it was held in Phoenix in 2004. Here’s a link to the CCC Legacy website where you can get all the information.

Buffalo Crossing Camp, Eastern Arizona

Buffalo Crossing Camp, Eastern Arizona