Franklin Roosevelt signed the Emergency Conservation Work Act on March 31, 1935, which created the Civilian Conservation Corps. The CCC combined two of FDR's interests: conservation and an agency that would provide youth service and relieve rural unemployment.
Selection agents were hired to recruit young men who were interested in joining; they had to be between the ages of 18 and 25 (later amended to 17 and 28), physically fit, unemployed, unmarried, and have family dependents. They would be paid $30 a month, $25 of which had to be sent home to their families. In exchange for their labor, they received housing, food and the opportunity to further their education with basic and vocational education. Corpsmen worked on soil conservation, reforestation, dug ditches and canals, stocked rivers and lakes, worked on access roads, restored historic battlefields and created state parks and wildlife refuges.
The CCC was not open to women and was segregated; African Americans were in separate camps in most parts of the country. Service was for a minimum of six months, but many re-enlisted at the end of their first term.
My father-in-law, Mack Kirkpatrick, was living in rural Shelby, Alabama in 1935. He was 21 years old and had ended his education in 10th grade to support his mother, who was ill with cancer, and three of his siblings, working a family farm. He enlisted in the CCC on June 25, 1935 and listed "three or four months cutting logs - farmed four or five years" as his outdoor work experience. He had been unemployed for two months. Mack's mother Lula died in November 1935 and his sister Norma became the recipient of his pay. He stayed in the CCC until March of 1938, when he became ineligible for re-enlistment due to his age.
Mack was assigned to State Park No. 5 on top of Lookout Mountain, Alabama, near the Tennessee/Georgia state lines. The camp, known as Camp DeSoto, was built on land donated by the citizens of Mentone and Ft. Payne, Alabama. The CCC went to work removing stones from a quarry to build cabins and a lodge. They also built bridges, roads and culverts, and were working on a bridge to span Straight Creek when WWII broke out and the men left to join the military. The unfinished bridge still stands in the forest of the park. This film from the National Archives shows some of the work of the CCC at Alabama State Parks:
A few years ago, DeSoto State Park opened a museum in one of the gatehouses built by the CCC. The museum includes a yearbook with Mack's photo included among the men. The museum also includes a replica of the dormitory rooms and other artifacts of the camp.
|Mack Kirkpatrick, bottom second from right among "Camp Characters"|
Mack married a young woman he met in Ft. Payne and joined the Navy in WWII. He had three children and lived most of his adult life in Chattanooga, Tennessee, where he died in 1997.