It was many years later as I pursued my family history that I began to wonder exactly what was the CCC camp that Granddaddy talked about. He occasionally talked about things he did at the camp. He talked about being the cook. He told us stories about how sick he got from pneumonia. Granddaddy saw his first snowfall while serving in the CCC. To a kid, it sounded a little like summer camp.
My grandfather James Lester Howard (Lester) was a good cook. It was not unusual to wake up and find him in the kitchen making a full breakfast. I was particularly fond of his cooked apples. He told us he learned to cook when he served in the CCC camps as a young man.
But then that changed.
I came into possession of my grandfather’s journal written in the 1990’s. The journal is fairly short, but much of his writing is about his experience in the CCC. Looking beneath the words the reader finds what Granddaddy did not say in words. His experience with the CCC had a tremendous impact on his life. He made life long friends there and for the first time was able to enjoy a little spending money.
I’ll let Granddaddy tell most of his story, but first a little background on the CCC.
The CCC camp or Civilian Conservation Corps was a work relief program put in place by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1933 during the Great Depression. The program was designed for unmarried men ages 18-25. Many of the men enrolled were from “relief families”. These men worked to develop and restore federal, state and local natural resources. In return, the men were provided with a small salary. They were organized into companies and resided in military type camps. Examples of the projects they worked on were erecting fire towers, planting of trees in federal forests, building of fire roads and working on soil erosion projects.
(You can learn more about the CCC here and here. PBS aired an excellent documentary on the CCC entitled American Experience: Civilian Conservation Corps. )
Excerpted from journal of Lester Howard:
A Mr. Cashier who came Down to fish and hunt told us about The CC Camps. I had never heard about. Had first started about six months before. Paying thirty dollars a month. We would send 25 dollars to our family and we got five dollars. ……..
After signing we were sent to Fort Bragg for physicals about 3 weeks. This was November 1933 [Granddaddy was 18 years old.] I choose to go to Old Fort from there. So did Robert [Robert Johnston was the son of Cornie Maddox Johnston and first cousin to Lester.] I had never been to the mountains. There were icles [icicles] hanging off those cliffs six feet long. I began to wonder if I was in the right place.
The CCC provided my grandfather not only a way to financially assist his family, but also an opportunity to see a different part of the state. I remember him talking about those icicles. For a teenager from the Sandhills of NC, the cold was quite a shock!
Stayed tuned! There is more to the story to share!