Civilian Conservation Corps


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The Civilian Conservation Corps enrolled millions of unemployed young men during the great depression to construct new buildings and curb erosion of our natural resources. Evidence of CCC projects exist today throughout Arizona, namely in Walnut Canyon, south of Flagstaff where CCC workers built homes out of trees from surrounding areas. Former CCC enrollees discuss the contributions the CCC made in Arizona that still stand today.


Narrator: In 1933, with the country in the grip of the Great Depression, president Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill that authorized the creation of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The corps gave unemployed young men an opportunity to make money while preserving the country's natural resources.

Alfredo Flores: It was so depressed that nobody could find jobs, standing on the corners with your gloves in your pocket and maybe a sandwich in the other pocket hoping somebody'd come around to offer you a day's work For a dollar or something like that. We got away from all that. And physically and mentally and the opportunities -- it made a better person of us. Well, I did a job in the C.C.C.

From 1933 to 1942, nearly 53,000 men worked on C.C.C. projects in Arizona -- projects such as the construction of the Walnut Canyon visitor center east of Flagstaff . Alfredo Flores helped build it. The limestone and concrete remain strong despite being built more than 60 years ago.

Alfredo Flores:
This material used to construct this -- this rock's -- were hand-shaped, no power tools. See, all this concrete that's holding this rock together were mixed by hand -- no mixing machine, no cement mixers. And also, the columns that you see there are natural trees, and they were all cut and set by the C.C.C. boys back in 1941.

Remains of another Arizona C.C.C. project can be found in South Mountain Park Just South of Phoenix.

Michael I. Smith:
There was an erosion-control project up in Kiwanis Canyon along the Kiwanis trail. The museum building behind me was actually constructed by C.C.C. enrollees to be a museum building. Never really functioned, per se, as a museum building until recently, and ironically enough, the first exhibit that went in there was an exhibit commemorating the work of the C.C.C., and they didn't intend it to be that way, but 70 years later, there you have it.

The camps were run in a military fashion, which, as it happens, prepared the enrollees for later military service during World War II.

Arley Ross:
You know, go into -- I went in camp. I was already been trained by the C.C.C.s in basic training. We got up. We had regular hours. We had our salutes and all this, you know.

The boys received $30 a month, five of which they kept. They sent $25 home to their families.

Archie Fraijo:
Being able to sustain a home with $25 a month, being able to pay rent, being able to pay maybe the electric bill but mostly eating, yes, it helped my family quite a bit.

Despite the success of the program, a few enrollees felt shame for accepting what they believed to be welfare.

Mackie Clark:
I've talked to some that talked that way and I said, hey, you got nothing to be ashamed of. It no doubt did you a lot of good, and don't apologize to anybody for it.

At South Mountain , little remains of the camp that housed the young men who worked to create the park. A lone star suggests their origin, and the paths are still worn.

Michael I Smith:
We're standing on what would have been the dividing line between the two camps at Phoenix South Mountain Park . Over my shoulder would have been the camp commander's office, the foreman's office, and the doctor's dispensary. An enrollee would have walked down this path to visit the camp commander, perhaps to be reprimanded for goldbricking or rewarded for doing a good day's work. Further to the east, the camps were divided with a mess hall on either side of the dividing line, a barracks building on either side of those mess halls, a recreation hall on either side of those barracks buildings, and finally an additional barracks building in each camp. I have been told by enrollees that served at South Mountain Park that you didn't typically stroll into the other camp if you didn't have business there.

Alfredo Flores: We had our fun. We mixed pleasure with fun and work as long as the work got done. We had very, very good supervisors. The personnel, the staff was always good. Everybody was in for the same thing, and we enjoyed it tremendously. At least I did. If anybody had told me that I'd be here 62 years later, I'd have said no way. I wasn't planning on it.