Aug 2019 Story - Depression Times CCC

The 1930s brought the Great Depression to our country and it must have made a significant impact to the generations who lived through it.  How many of us have heard our older relatives talk about being ready for “the next depression”?  Many of our relatives were land rich but money poor.  Men looked for work anywhere they could find it.  Families worked hard to survive!  Two opportunities that provided possible work was through the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and the Works Progress Administration (WPA).  Both were voluntary work relief programs that President Franklin D. Roosevelt established as part of his New Deal to help provide jobs for young men and to relieve families who had difficulty finding jobs during the Great Depression.

Focusing on the CCC, I did some research to better understand the program.  It was established in 1933 and the maximum enrollment in the CCC at any one time was 300,000. Through the course of its nine years in operation, 3 million young men participated in the CCC, which provided them with shelter, clothing, and food, together with a wage of $30 per month and $25 of which had to be sent home to their families.  The CCC was organized under the U.S. Army and reserve officers from the Army were in charge of the camps.  There was no military training but the Army found numerous benefits from the CCC when World War II began and the draft began in 1940.  At that time, the need for work relief declined, and Congress voted to close the program.

The typical CCC enrollee was a U.S. citizen, unmarried, unemployed male, 18–25 years of age. Each enrollee volunteered and, upon passing a physical exam was required to serve a minimum six-month period, with the option to serve as many as four periods, or up to two years, if employment outside the Corps was not possible. Enrollees worked 40 hours per week over five days, sometimes including Saturdays if poor weather dictated. They also earned housing, food, clothing, and medical care.

Some of our relatives worked in the CCC.  I recently requested the CCC records on two family members by writing to the National Archives in St Louis, MO.  Their National Personnel Records Center was able to provide me the CCC records of Clavis Kinnaird Roberts (my grandfather) and his brother William Eugene Roberts.  If you have family members that served in the CCC, you may be interested in requesting their records by going to www.archives.gov/st-louis/opf and filling out the request.

Clavis Kinnaird Roberts

My grandfather sometimes told stories of his time in the CCC and together with the pictures and records I get a better idea of what life was like in the CCC.  Clavis Roberts was living in Grand Rapids, Michigan.  He signed up for the CCC at Camp Custer in Michigan on 3 November 1933.  His records identified him as 5’9” weighing 162 lbs with black hair and black eyes.

Service History:  3 Nov 1933 – 1 Dec 1933 at Camp Custer, Grand Rapids, Michigan.2 Dec 1933 – 16 May 1934 he served in the 1613th Company at Camp Harrison, Kalamazoo, Michigan.  16 May 1934 –1 Oct 1934 the 1613th Company was at Camp Kenneth, Clair, Michigan.  On 30 Sep 1934, Clavis was at Camp Kenneth Michigan where he was honorably discharged for expiration of his term of enrollment.

A few tidbits I got from the information he gave in his records. 

-          He listed that his name was Clavis Roberts and listed his middle name as “none”.  His middle name was Kinnaird.

-          He listed his birthplace as Knoxville TN for some unknown reason.  He was actually born on Hopewell Road in Boma.

-          He provided his relative allotment to his sister Carrie (Roberts) Boyd.  Possibly she had helped him out when he moved up to Michigan and he wanted to repay her.  But he did not send his allotment to his mom or dad.

-          He listed that he had a 4th grade education.

William Eugene Roberts

At the age of 19, William Eugene Roberts enrolled in the CCC on 2 April 1940 at Camp Cumberland in Crossville, Tennessee.  He was assigned to the 3634th Company.  His CCC records said he was 5’7” and 150 lbs with brown eyes and brown hair.  He identified that he attended Herren’s Chapel School until 1939 at which he had finished 7th grade.  During his CCC service, his mother (Pearl Roberts) received his monthly allotment.

Service History:  2 Apr 1940 Conditioning at Camp Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia.  He was transferred to 3402nd Company.  6 Apr 1940 – 10 Apr 1940 he traveled to California.  11 Apr 1940 – 26 Mar 1941 he did roadside cleanup, shovel, ax and concrete work at Camp Triangle Lake, Oregon.  26 Mar 1941 – 27 Mar 1941 Eugene was in 3464th Company in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  27 Mar 1941 – 22 Jul 1941 Eugene’s company served in Burns, Tennessee.  From 13-21 July, Eugene was absent without leave.  Don’t know for sure but maybe he may have gone home to see family since he was back in Tennessee.  He was honorably discharged to accept employment.  The employment might have been military service because Eugene enlisted in the Army on 27 Oct 1942.

When I think of Uncle Eugene leaving Tennessee and going west to California and Oregon, I wonder what he thought about that part of the country.  Did he visit the Pacific Ocean?  I would love to have read any letters he might have written home to his parents about his adventures with the CCC!

I would love to hear any CCC stories from our relatives out there!  If you want to research if your relative was in the CCC or WPA, look at column 22 of the 1940 census.  It asks if the individual served in the CCC or WPA.  I did a quick look at the 1940s Putnam County census and found some relatives that had served in the CCC (though not an exhaustive list):

Howard Roberts – son of Oscar Roberts and grandson of James Grant Roberts

Frank E. Roberts – son of John AGL Roberts and grandson of John Harrison Roberts

Dewey Medley – son of James Medley and great great grandson of Violet Roberts

I am requesting any information on other relatives that served in the CCC.  If you will email names, details and any photos, I can add it to our website. 

Below are some pictures from Clavis Roberts CCC time. 

 

Below are some pictures of Eugene Roberts CCC time.

 

Looking at the pictures, it looks to me that these young men were happy to have employment and do their part.  But even while the work was hard, there were smiles and happy memories.

 

 

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