On Sept. 25, my wife, Mary Alice, and I attended a ceremony at the Lumbermen's Museum in Potter County to dedicate a statue in honor of the many young men in America who volunteered for the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). These young men worked hard to save our country's natural resources.
The CCC was put into practice by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1933 because the country had five million young men, including huge numbers of World War I veterans, unemployed in that year. Our natural resources were eroding away, and millions of acres of forest lands constantly were on fire.
Roosevelt's plans were to put up to 500,000 young men to work in forests, parks and range lands. Although the army would run the camps, the agriculture and interior departments would be responsible for the work projects.
The young men were to be unmarried, unemployed and between the ages of 18 and 25.
On April 7, 1933, Henry Rich, of Alexandria, Va., was the first enrollee.
In the George Washington National Forest near Luray, Va., the first camp was established and officially occupied on April 17, 1933. The enlistment period was for six months, with the option of re-enlisting for another six months. The enrollee was paid $30 a month, of which $25 was sent to his family, and the remaining $5 was for the enrollee to purchase items at the camp canteen. By 1942, more than 4,000 camps had been established.
In 1996, the CCC Worker Statue Program began in Michigan through the efforts of the National Association of CCC Alumni Chapter No. 129. Their vision was to have a statue erected in every state. As of today, there only are 14 states that do not have a statue.
The statue dedicated at the Lumber Museum near Galeton was the 57th statue to be dedicated in Pennsylvania. Hyner Lookout State Park in Clinton County has scheduled a statue dedication for Spring 2012.
Five men who were members of the CCC during their youth attended the ceremony. Afterward, I interviewed Fred Carr, who was one of the attendees.
Carr, who is from the Bloomsburg area, is the only surviving member of his family, which consisted of seven children growing up during the Depression. His father was a laborer, and his mother stayed at home to raise the children, a tough task at any time but even more difficult during the Depression.
Carr attended the two-room Buckhorn School until he quit to try and find a job.
After hearing that the government was recruiting young men to join the CCC, Carr enlisted. His CCC adventure began at Bloomsburg and then on to Sunbury, where he volunteered to go to one of the CCC Camps in the western U.S. In a few days, he along with other volunteers, was sent to Carlisle and boarded a train for Arizona.
In Arizona, Carr worked on a surveying crew. One day he was at the ranger's station, which overlooked the camp, when two couples came by in a Model A Ford. After looking down at the camp, one of the young ladies asked Carr if it was a prison camp. He replied that it was a CCC camp.
She then said, "What in the world is the CCC? Oh, I know, Christ's Chosen Children."
Carr just laughed.
After the camp in Arizona closed, Carr went to the CCC camp in Glacier National Park in Montana, where he was put on a fire crew. The crew stayed in the woods for five days and nights while fighting just one fire. Supplies and equipment needed to fight the fire were brought in by pack mules.
Later, he was sent to Missoula, Mont., to learn auto mechanics. After his second enlistment ended, he returned to Bloomsburg.
In 1943, Carr was drafted into the army and sent to Fort Jackson, S.C., for basic training. The unit then was sent to Tennessee for maneuvers and after maneuver training, the unit of combat engineers was sent to Europe.
Carr's destination was Belgium. The Battle of the Bulge began on Dec. 16, 1944. On Dec. 26, he was sent to the back lines for several days of rest.
However, this rest did not last for long as his unit was ordered back to the front lines. With frigid temperatures, Carr's feet were frostbitten, and he lost all 10 toenails. A medic told him to keep walking to help the circulation in his feet.
Carr's unit stayed in the front lines until March 4, 1945, at which time it was relieved. The first thing Carr did was take a shower, the first since Dec. 26.
The Battle of the Bulge was the last major offensive against the Allies. The Germans failed because of their inability to get fuel for their armored vehicles and because of our air power and the fighting ability of our soldiers.
After March 4, the unit was reorganized with new men added to replace the soldiers lost. The unit began training to be part of an attack on Germany; however, the war ended in Europe on May 18, 1945, and in the Far East on Sept. 14-15, 1945.
Carr was sent to Germany, where he trained new infantry troops, and remained there until his discharge from the army in September 1945.
He married Betty Brobst in 1955. Their family now includes four children (two boys and two girls), 18 grandchildren, 21 great-grandchildren and three great-great-grandchildren.
In the CCC's nine-year history, an almost unbelievable amount of work had been accomplished. Today, we still are reaping the benefits of their toil. Perhaps the most important accomplishment of the CCC was to prepare young men for military life, which was a great help to our country as it entered WWII.
Bower retired after 34 years as a wildlife conservation officer for the state Game Commission. He has published several books about his experiences, the latest being ''Every Day Was Game Day.'' Questions and comments may be sent to him at 153 Redington Ave., Troy PA 16947.