Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Regimentation. Standardization. Professionalism.

The first rules of sturdy workmanship: work from a good set of plans and have knowledgeable, dependable foremen.

While every CCC enrollee’s story is unique, there is a commonality of experience that runs though the entire program and listening to the stories or reading the personal accounts of former enrollees, one is stuck by common themes that run through the narrative of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Well, I’ve happened upon a set of photos that may help confirm the universality of the whole CCC experience, while at the same time perhaps speaking to the regimentation that was required to successfully shepherd hundreds of thousands of young men through a national work program, while producing construction improvements of lasting merit.

Consider this image from a collection of photos taken in Northern Arizona during the 1930s. This particular photo is of a wooden pole configuration at or near Grand Canyon National Park. I’ve no idea what the purpose of the twin pole arrangement is; perhaps it was part of a gate, or perhaps it was one in a series of telephone or telegraph poles strung through the juniper. Considered on its own, the photo is not especially remarkable and one wonders why the photographer even bothered with snapping the picture at all. I received the negative from the old National Association of CCC Alumni in response to a request for information about the CCC at Grand Canyon back in the early to mid-1990s. I made a print of the image and returned the negative to NACCCA, not giving this particular photo much thought.

Flash forward a few years to a hike I took with a fellow CCC historian and advocate in the area around Prescott, Arizona. While walking the grounds of the former CCC camp at Walnut Creek, heads down, strolling through knee-and waist high vegetation, we studied the remains of what once was a shower and latrine building and assorted other structures. But one particular camp remnant spoke to me more strongly than the others that day and it only took a second or two for me to realize I’d seen this sort of construction before.

This pole configuration, evidently set for stringing telephone or electrical wire between buildings in the camp, was nearly an exact twin to the pole installation in the picture from Grand Canyon. I snapped a couple of shots of what otherwise would have been a meaningless, nondescript wooden pole, knowing that somehow there was probably a lesson there somewhere.

I started off this piece with the notion that I’d find value in the commonality – the banality, perhaps – of CCC work and the CCC experience, thinking that to be a good thing. I still think the commonality of the CCC experience is a good thing; perhaps it sooths us some 75 years later, but in contemplating these two wooden poles in two separate regions of Arizona, I’m struck by a more valuable message, and that is the importance of good standard plans, a strong work ethic, high standards of workmanship and a cadre of experienced professional leaders (in the form of Park Service and Forest Service foremen). How else can you account for the fact that these two poles – hundreds of miles apart – form nearly a mirror image and that at least one of them is still standing more than 7 decades after it was placed in the ground? That’s a bit of commonality we could use today.


Anonymous said...

My father is the fifth person from the right in the group picture of camp F33a. Francis Terrizzi.

Michael said...

Hi Anonymous, I'm glad you dropped by and especially pleased that you've seen a picture of your father. Seems we all have a family member who was in the CCC.

Buffalo Crossing Camp, Eastern Arizona

Buffalo Crossing Camp, Eastern Arizona