Even though President Franklin's Civilian Conservation Corps was his most successful New Deal program, it has been called a forgotten legacy.
Very few know about the nine-year program. Signed into law on April 5, 1933, just 37 days after entering office, it was America's first program to put people to work.
The CCC had three levels of organization. At the top was the Department of Labor which selected the young men.
The second level was the Department of the Army which administered the program. The third level was the many sponsoring agencies which directed the work projects.
The CCC, or CCs for short, was a voluntary public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men.
Originally for 18-25 year- olds, it was expanded to include ages 17-28.
Men were allowed to sign up for six-month periods at a time with a limit of four periods, for a total of two years. Pay was $30.00 per month with a compulsory allotment to a family member of $22.00 to $25.00 per month. The CCC program was quasi-military.
At the top of the program were nine divisions.
Louisiana was under the Fourth Division. Under the divisions were companies headed by military officers.
Men slept in 40-man barracks with four barracks to a camp. Each day reveille and exercise and ended with a retreat ceremony.
Nationwide there were 36 project areas. About 2,650 camps were established in all 48 states plus Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
The 1933 cap of 300,000 men was increased to 600,000 in 1935, which was never reached with 505,782 being the record number of workers. By program's end in 1942 about 2.7 million men worked under the program.
Men worked in the camps under one of many sponsoring agencies.
In Louisiana there were ten agencies such as the U.S. Forest Service, Soil Conservation Service, National Park Service, U.S. Army, Bureau of Wildlife and Fisheries, LA State Board of Engineers, and many more.
In Louisiana, there were 79 camps where 51,225 men were employed under the ten sponsoring agencies.
Twenty-four camps were established for agricultural soil conservation service, twenty-one camps worked for private land forestry, twelve camps for national forestry (all in Cenla), six camps for levees, five camps for drainage, five camps for state parks, two camps for state forests, two camps for the U.S. Army, one camp for U.S. Army soil conservation service, and one camp for federal reclamation projects.
Under the project areas men worked in the areas of structural improvement, transportation, erosion control, flood control, forest culture, forest protection, landscape, wildlife, and miscellaneous.
At the state level CCC workers constructed 3,000 bridges, 2,000 miles of telephone lines, 3,000 miles of roads, 3,000 miles of firebreaks, eighteen fire towers, 220 miles of fencing which enclosed 80,000 acres, state parks (Valentine Lake), air and army bases (Camp Polk), levees, and fought many, many forest fires.
Forestry was the primary work project in Cenla. There were twelve camps. Two forestry camps in Pollock, one in Provencal, two in Leesville, two in Dry Prong, two in Winnfield, one in Chestnut, one in Alexandria, and one in Reeves.
Three soil conservation camps were located in Leesville, DeRidder, and Forest Hill.
In Vernon Parish there were two main camps, Camp Lee and Camp Vernon. Camp Lee was located on Leesville's present-day golf course 1/2 mile north of Leesville as Camp SCS-13 which was Co. 4418. Camp Vernon was located on present-day Little Cypress Pond which was fifteen miles southeast of Leesville.
Camp Vernon housed Co. 276 from 1933 to 1935 which was enrollees from New York and New Jersey. Co. 276's replacement was Co. 5405 which was organized in Rome, GA in 1935 with men from Georgia, Florida, and Louisiana.
By 1937 most of the men in Co. 5405 were from Louisiana as many men returned to Georgia and Florida.
There were many spike camps, called side camps by locals in Vernon Parish. When jobs were too demanding to truck workers every day, small camps were established with tent living under the user agency.
Twenty-five men crews for two weeks rotated until the job was done. The most known side camp was located at the Fullerton Fire Tower. The farthest side camp was located at Camp Claiborne in Rapides Parish. Other side camps from the 5405 were involved in animal husbandry with overseeing 117 chickens and 12 pigs, locations unknown.
The primary jobs of Co. 5405 were tree planting and fire suppression. This is why the dibbler and flapper were the primary tools. Fire suppression was the most hated job.
All was not work at Camp Vernon. The men of Company 5405, as with other companies, were also engaged in educational activities, first aid training, typing, agriculture, leadership training, and auto mechanics.
College-level courses were offered in subjects such as English and math. All camps had recreational halls for movies and dances.
Much has been written about Camp Vernon. It was a shining star in President Roosevelt's CCC.
The camp maintained 108,000 acres of forests, planted 24 million pine seedlings on 20,000 acres, built 65 miles of fencing, hard-surfaced 40 miles of road, built 150 miles of travelable firebreaks, and extinguished many, many Vernon Parish fires, as Vernon Parish was called "Burnin' Vernon" for a reason.
Many CCC enrollees went on to achieve success in their chosen careers. In acting there were Raymond Burr, Dan White, Robert Mitchum, and Walter Matthau.
In sports there were Archie Moore in boxing and Stan Musial in baseball.
In music there were David Akeman and Archie Green. In politics there were Stanley Makowski and Edward Roybal. In academia there were Hubert D. Humphreys and Borden Deal, and in aviation there was test pilot Chuck Yeager.