Monday, October 19, 2015
CCC Camp Cable
In an antique store last year I ran across a foot locker that had once held the belongings of a man in a CCC camp. For those unfamiliar with the Civilian Conservation Corps program of the mid to late 1930s it was a very popular element of Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal" initiatives designed to help pull the US out of the Great Depression.
Young men from families "on relief" were recruited to go work on natural resource related programs in rural, often wilderness, areas. They were housed in camps that were usually build on the spot and along military lines. Barracks, mess hall, etc. The CCC companies were commanded by military officers from the Reserve ranks.
The benefits were many. Unemployment was reduced. Young men developed useful skills - although as a concession to labor unions they were not taught advanced things like machining and so forth. And when World War Two came along a few years later America had a cadre of men accustomed to a regimented life. In fact, CCC alumni were usually tapped for slots as corporals or sergeants in a rapidly expanding military when the draft began in 1940.
As to the camps themselves, most were allowed to revert to nature. But you can still find traces of them here and there.
Lets visit a couple this week. First up:
This sign is actually a little deceptive. Company 3653 was only formed in June of 1935. The earlier date above likely refers to the establishment of the "parent" company from which it was split off as the CCC program enlarged. Their main jobs included fire fighting, tree planting and construction of public works. After spending 17 months at a variety of camps in northern Wisconsin Company 3653 moved to Camp Cable in November of 1936. In May of 1937 they moved away.
It seems likely that Camp Cable had an earlier occupation as it is described as being one of the most modern camps in the area with extensive facilities including class rooms. A bit much to have constructed over the course of a single, chilly winter!
A look around in the early fall of 2015:
A road through the woods, trees growing in the middle.
The archaeological rule of thumb is that a right angle suggests a building foundation. This one was raised up fairly high and looks to have been substantial.
Oil cans. Might be from the 1930s but it is not as if people have gotten tidier since then.
There is not much that will give you a deep depression like this. Either a well or more likely a latrine pit. Perhaps archaeologists in the distant future will consider it an important feature to excavate!
A last look at some of the men of Company 3653 in an undated photo. The fellows in uniform show up well, the men in the back are washed out ghosts, probably wearing the white shirts of either the cook staff or of the civilian advisers. In a way I suppose these men, future heroes of The Greatest Generation, are almost all ghosts now. They have passed from among us, but for a small and dwindling band of survivors in their 90s.
Addendum. Camp Cable was built in the fall of 1934 by company V1676. The V designation indicated that the men were entirely World War I veterans. Among the features of the newly constructed camp were a pair of ornamental stone pillars at the entrance. Buried under one was a bottle containing a list of the names of the original builders of Camp Cable. No trace of the pillars is now to be seen.