Friday, December 15, 2017

Dolores CCC Camp alleviates unemployment distress

Library, sports, education all part of program

By Rob Carrigan,

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), was the first of the national recovery organizations set up by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, following his inauguration on March 4, 1933. Locally, the Dolores Camp, under two different company occupations, did important work in the river valley.
"Launched on April 5, 1933, as a move to alleviate distress caused by unemployment through the establishment of a great chain of camps where young men would work on forest and park conservation projects, the CCC won instant approval from the public and the press. By July 4, 1933, the conservation corps was enrolled to its full authorized strength of 100,000 men,"  wrote Robert Fechner, Director of the CCC, five years later.
"Since that time, an average of more than 340,000 young men and war veterans have been constantly at work on park, forest and soil erosion projects," he said.
In rural Colorado, Wyoming, Utah and New Mexico, it is hard to find a small town that did not have a camp at one time or another. Amazing work, like the construction of structures in Red Rocks Amphitheater, and rock walls and buildings in Mesa Verde National Park, and railroad bridgework that is still in place today around the state, bear evidence of the organization's lasting impact.
In Southwestern Colorado, Camp 53-C, was the builder of rock bridges in the area in around Dolores, Colorado.
"On the project, company 898 has many monuments to its industry," notes a history of the Dolores Camp 53-C. "There are nine rock bridges that will endure longer than the men who built them. There is the McPhee Truck Trail and the Lone Dome Truck Trail, which through the company's industry, have made a large part of Montezuma Forest accessible for lumbering and recreational purposes. Some work on the improvement camp grounds, begun by 898, will be finished by Company 2118. The Cottonwood Truck Trail, built by a side camp of Company 898 in the summer of 1936, offers a short cut between the West Dolores and the Norwood roads. The entire Montezuma Forest was covered by this company in insect control work. Many stock trails and drift fences were built."
The place even had a woodworking shop and a dark room for photography.
"In the Library of Congress and in the foot lockers of many members of the old Company are copies of the Company paper, 'The Score.'" For two years this paper was published by Company 898.
And there were athletes in every barracks at the camp.
"Company 898, in athletics, will be remembered by many of their opponents for their formidable oppositions. In 1935, they were district baseball champions. In 1936 they were sub-district champions. In 1937, they were not defeated in the entire season, but did not enter a district tournament," said a late '30s history. Company 898 was disbanded in July of 1938 and men from the camp were sent to Meredith, Colorado and to Company 861 at Mesa Verde, Colorado. A new company with recruits from Hartford, Connecticut, and Fort Devins, Massachusetts, along with several other eastern cities, reformed as Company 2118, which was transported by "a Pullman train of exceptional length" across the country, "passing through the Great Lakes Region, the Corn Belt, the Wheat Belt, the Cattle Country, the train finally arrived at Alamosa.
"The companies changed from Pullmans to two narrow gauge railroad trains. Having never traveled on a narrow gauge train, the remainder of the trip was a novelty to this Eastern Company."
Company 2118 was working throughout Montezuma National Forest (even the signs called it that) under the supervision of G.W. Bauer, Project Superintendent.
"In the town of Dolores, which is seven miles from camp, it is landscaping the dwelling of the ranger. At Lone Dome, Transfer, Priest Gulch, Forks, and Mavareese, the company is building campgrounds. In the line of fire pre-suppression, the company mans the McPhee Lookout Tower. In order to have a means of conveying fire fighting equipment and men to forest fires, the company maintains the Glade, McPhee, West Dolores, West Mancos, and Lone Dome Truck Trails," said documents at the time.
"The construction of bridges at Cottonwood and Fish Creeks on the West Dolores Truck Trails is a noteworthy project," said the late 1930s history. "Not only will these bridges prevent washouts, but they will aid tourist in enjoying the beauty of the West Dolores River and Canyon."
Many of the men in camp desired improvement, and attainment of new skills,  in hard times of the 1930s, and the Dolores camp was no exception.
"The education program at the camp is under the supervision of David S. Sutherland. Classes in woodworking, blacksmithing, powder work, forestry, mathematics, algebra, photography, typing, first aid, truck operation, psychology, economics, current events, and upper grade school work are offered to the men. The old schoolhouse of Company 898 was remodeled to house a woodworking shop and a dark room. Many pleasant and instructive hours are  passed in developing and printing pictures in the dark room. The woodworking class, under the guidance of Mr. Dougherty, is making interesting souvenirs out of red cedar," it was reported.
"The library, consisting of some 800 books, is in constant use. A small library is established at the Dunton Side Camp. Once a week, books are taken to the Mancos Side Camp, to be distributed to the men there."
Members of Company 2118 were from Eastern states and new to the area.
"They soon became acquainted with the country and resident of the nearby town. They have learned to like and respect the people as they have become acquainted. Many of the men spend their leisure time taking pictures and developing them. Others go horse-back riding, swimming, hiking, and searching for Indian relics," said camp documents.
The basic cash allowance for all CCC men enrolled in the 1930s was $30 per month, of which $25 had to be allotted to dependents. Leaders and assistant leaders made a little more.
"Since July 1, 1933, an average of more than 300,000 families has been receiving allotment checks each month allotted by members of the corps," wrote Director Fechner in the late 1930s.
"At the time the CCC was initiated, the sponsors of this new venture in social relief stated that its major objectives were to give jobs to hundreds of thousands of discouraged and undernourished young men, idle through no fault of their own, to build up these young men physically and spiritually and to start the nation on a sound, conservative program which would conserve and expand timbered resources, increase recreational opportunities and reduce the annual toll taken by forest fire, disease, pests, soil erosion and floods."

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