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History
The Civilian Conservation Corps
Roosevelt's Tree Army in Maryland

Part III: 100th Anniversary CCC Plaque Dedication and Personal Perspectives

B/W copy of Civilian Conservation Corps commemorative plaque dedicated on Sept. 17, 2006 at Gambrill State Park

Photo taken 9/17/2006 of nine veterans of CCC with DNR Secretary Ron Franks unveiling the CCC Centennial Plage at Gambrill State Park

On Sept. 17, 2006, nine veterans of Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps joined DNR Secretary Ron Franks for the commemoration of their efforts with a new plaque at Gambrill State Park.

Remarks by DNR Secretary Ronald C. Franks

The Civilian Conservation Corps -- truly one of the most spectacularly successful public works project in American history -- was born of the despair of the Great Depression in the 1930s. It was the era of soup kitchens, Hoover Villages, and “The Grapes of Wrath.”

DNR Secretary Ron Franks, Francis Zumbrun in original Maryland State Forester uniform, and Fred W. Besley, III, grandson of the first Maryland State Forester at the CCC Centennial Plaque ceremony in at Gambrill State Park, Sept. 17, 2006Part of President F.D. Roosevelt’s famous “Hundred Days Legislation” to get the nation back on its feet was the Emergency Work Act, one aspect of which established the CCC. The CCC recruited millions of young, unemployed men across the nation to perform conservation work in forests, parks, on waterways and even on private property, to reclaim the nation’s natural resource base. Government could work amazingly fast in those days: FDR signed the Emergency Work Act on March 27, 1933, and the first camp opened in Virginia only 21 days later! By the first of July, 270,000 enrollees were serving in 1,300 camps across the nation.

The CCC boys were organized into 200-man companies, and assigned work camps across the nation. The U.S. Army provided discipline, camp officers, quarters, food, and medical care. Federal, state and local authorities designated work projects, trained the boys to do the work, and provided oversight of the work. The boys themselves received discipline, hearty food, clothing, shelter, medical care, educational opportunities, and, most importantly of all, a sense of hope and purpose. Their monthly pay was $30 -- $25 of which was sent home to their families. These pay disbursements alone had a significant impact on the national economy.

By the time World War II superseded the CCC, nearly 3 million young men had served, and they had enhanced millions of acres of natural resources and historic sites across the nation.

Maryland benefited hugely from the CCC. Over 30,000 CCC boys served in our state, at over 60 camps. Together they:

  • built 274 bridges;
  • constructed 3,500 erosion check dams;
  • planted four and a half million trees;
  • improved over 60,000 acres of forests stands;
  • and reduced fire hazards on over 23,000 acres.

The CCC boys also built the first major state park facilities in Maryland:

  • Herrington Manor (cabins and lake)
  • Swallow Falls (pavilions, trails, camp sites)
  • Big Run
  • New Germany (cabins, lake, pavilions)
  • Gambrill (all you see here, including this overlook where we are standing, was built by the CCC)
  • Elk Neck (cabins)
  • Fort Frederick (the fort’s walls were restored and support facilities built)
  • Washington Monument (the monument was reconstructed, picnic pavilions and support facilities were built)
  • Patapsco Valley (trails and pavilions)
  • Cedarville
  • Pocomoke (a public fishing pier)

If ever a debt of gratitude was owed by a present generation to a past one, our nation and state owe a huge one to the work of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

- Address delivered by C. Ronald Franks, Secretary
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
Gambrill State Park, Sept. 17, 2006


Park Service Veterans Gather for Reunion
By Geoffrey D. Brown

News-Post Staff
gbrown@fredericknewspost.com

Pictured (l to r) are CCC Alumni, Joseph DeCenzo, Keith Paugh, John Patrick Curley, George Smith, and Marvin Warnick.FREDERICK — Clarence Simmons, 88, stood a few yards from Gambrill State Park's Frederick Overlook and admired the stone he hauled almost 60 years ago.

Maryland's parks are what they are in large part due to the work of almost 40,000 young men who swept into the state from 1933 to 1942 and labored in dozens of camps, restoring forests, building shelters and cabins and fire towers, blazing trails and fighting fires.

On Sunday nine veterans of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's storied Civilian Conservation Corps returned for the commemoration of their efforts with a new plaque at Gambrill State Park. Fifteen had been invited. One had died since the invitations were sent.

The ceremony was part of the Maryland Park Service's 100th anniversary celebration. Joining the ceremony also were family members of Maryland's first State Forester, Fred W. Besley, who was among a handful of conservationist pioneers nationwide.

Mr. Besley had a staff of 25 at most before the CCC boys arrived. The "tree army" of unemployed boys and young men earned $30 a month to start — $25 of it sent home to family — in Roosevelt's jobs program, which aimed to restore the land and put unemployed men to work.

CCC Alumni and wife, walking to the Tea House, one of the buildings erected by the CCC at Gambrill State Park in the thirties."It was the greatest shot in the arm the young forestry department could have had," said Offutt Johnson, a retired state naturalist who worked closely with Frederick County officials to establish and improve parks in the county.

Mr. Simmons, who now lives in Hagerstown, worked in several state parks, and drove a truck carrying rock to construction sites, and ferrying workers to and from the camp on what is now Old Camp Road.

Joe Bianchini, 85, of Mount Rainier, visited with his wife Anita, and they both recalled their own service to the country. Mr. Bianchini, who grew up in the Bronx, New York City, took the train with 500 CCC boys and wound up in Idaho, where he repaired roads. Ms. Bianchini was a riveter at an airplane factory during World War II.

John Patrick Curley, 89, of Spring Ridge spent six years in eight camps and learned what was to be his lifelong trade as an operating engineer, running heavy construction equipment.

Keith Paugh, CCC veteran who served at the New Germany CCC Camp S-52 receiiving a commemorative Centennial certificate from DNR Secretary  Ron Franks, Sept. 17, 2006Joseph Decenzo, 88, of Clinton, Md., was a camp clerk, became a leader at the Sligo, Pa. camp at a whopping $45 a month, and was a star on camp baseball, softball and basketball teams. Keith Paugh, 81, of Middle River, Md., was a truck driver at the New Germany, Md. camp, and made $36 a month as an assistant leader.

"I didn't spend all the money, either, did you?" Mr. Paugh asked Mr. Decenzo.

"No, I didn't either," Mr. Decenzo said.

A movie cost 15 cents, a pack of cigarettes a nickel.

George Smith, 81, of Bowie, showed off a small, battered tin frame with a black-and-white photo of himself in his CCC uniform, aged 18. The photo and frame cost a dime. Mr. Smith joined the CCC while still in high school in June of 1941. In September he went back to school. That December, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, and in January 1942 Mr. Smith joined the Navy.

In Maryland, the CCC built 274 bridges, installed 3,500 check dams to preserve trails, planted 4.5 million trees, and improved over 60,000 acres of park land.

"All you see here, including this overlook where we're standing, was built by the CCC boys," C. Ronald Franks, secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, told the gathering.

"Our nation and our state owe a debt of gratitude to the CCC."

Note: The above article, "Park service veterans gather for reunion," by Geoffrey D. Brown, News-Post Staff is reprinted here with permission of the Frederick News-Post and Randall Family, LLC as published on September 18, 2006.  Maryland DNR and the Centennial Committee would like to thank Mr. Brown for his thorough coverage of this event.


New Germany Remembers the CCC
By Bill Martin

New Germany CCC Camp S-52, Headquarters & Barracks of 326th Company, 1936

One bright, sunny morning in June 1933 a convoy of covered stake-body and dump trucks appeared at New Germany. They carried tents, field kitchen, water purification equipment, clothing, tools and a cadre of regular army enlisted men from Fort Meade. New Germany was designated Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Company 326, S-52.

The trucks would be used to transport the company of CCC enlistees to the temporary site. All equipment and supplies were off-loaded into the field and the covered trucks were dispatched to Meyersdale, PA. The men had traveled from Baltimore via the B&O Railroad. The convoy returned in late afternoon with a bedraggled crew. Some of the men had never been out of the city before and were unprepared for camp life.  

The minimum age for enlistment was 18, but in the camp at New Germany there were frequently lads of 14 and 15. Enlistment was for six months but could be extended.  

The first problem was providing shelter for 150 men. Piles of canvas laying on the ground, their new homes, had to be assembled before they could sleep. A field kitchen was set up and supper served. Bedding was issued. Eight to a tent, the men were bedded down for the night. In addition to the usual complement of 120 men, there was a first sergeant, supply sergeant, mess sergeant and company clerk. Officers included a company commander, adjutant and doctor. These were reserve officers called to active duty by Congress.

New Germany CCC Camp S-52, typical Barracks Interior, 1935The tent city included squad tents, officers' tents and supply tent. The orderly room and dispensary tents were then set up for operation. The field kitchen was in the center. All meals were served from that facility. Slit trenches were used initially and later outside toilets were built.

All water was trucked into the camp.  Drinking water was available in Lister bags throughout the camp.  The only bath facility was the lake.  After several days orientation, the boys were issued: clothing and equipment.  This included a mess kit - two flat pans hinged together, a knife, fork and spoon, solid aluminum cup and a canteen.

Each boy was issued blue dungaree trousers, coats and a round blue hat as a work uniform.  Olive drab (OD) shirts and pants completed the dress uniform.  An overseas hat and overcoat were issued later in the year.  Other wardrobe items included a raincoat, galoshes, ties, gloves, shoes, socks, underwear towels and long johns.

At the onset everything was one size (too big).  It took some time to fit each individual.  But everyone had something to wear.

The first big project was to build platforms for the tents.  The tents were erected on the platforms.  When stretched tightly and tied down, it was very cozy inside.  A space heater was installed in each tent.  The first winter at New Germany was spent in tents.

The field kitchen served three meals each day. Kerosene stoves were used for cooking.  A large gasoline generator in the woods east of the tent city provided electricity.  It supplied power for the Refrigerators, officers' tents, dispensary and orderly room. Enlistees used candles and kerosene lanterns in the squad tents.

New Germany CCC boys (Camp S-52) observing an ax demonstrationAt mealtime, the entire company would assemble in a line at the field kitchen.  Meals were served cafeteria style.  In inclement weather, mess kits were carried back to the tents.  At other times, the CCC boys ate under the shade of the nearest tree. The quality and quantity of the food served from the field kitchen was outstanding. Most boys never ate any better at home.  Most of the food was locally produced.

After eating, the boys sterilized their kits.  They scrubbed their kits in a can of boiling soapy water and then double-rinsed in a can of clear boiling water.  Periodically they scoured kits with sand to shine them. Woe unto anyone found with a dirty mess kit.

One of the first permanent buildings was the mess hall.  Construction began in the fall of 1933.  The building was 200 by 30 feet with the kitchen about halfway on the east side.  At the north end the supply room held staples and canned goods and a refrigerated compartment. The south end was the officers’ mess.

The kitchen was modern. Hotel ranges fired with coal were used for cooking and baking. A serving line formed on the east side of the mess.  Picnic tables were used in the hall. A generator supplied lights.  Heat came from three large space heaters.

After several months of operation, the camp commander enlisted local men as trainers and supervisors.  This category of enlistees, known as local experienced men (LEMs), was permitted to live at home.  They earned several dollars more per month, wore uniforms and were subject to the same rules and regulations as the others.

Next came the construction of permanent quarters. Local carpenters supervised construction of six 80 by 30 feet barracks on poles east of the recreation hall.  There were three barracks on each side, with a company area and flag pole in the center.

These barracks were not occupied by the company members until late spring 1934.  The winter spent in tents acquainted everyone with the hardships of winter.

Interior - CCC New Germany Rec Hall 1936The recreation hall was the center of camp life. The rec hall is little changed from when it was built. There were several pool tables and tennis table games. Books and writing materials were available. Gambling was prohibited, but there was usually some sort of card game being played. The canteen was located in the alcove that now houses the snack bar. It was open daily and catered to personal needs. North of the recreation hall was a combination bath house/toilet.  This heated facility was welcome after almost a year without showers or toilet facilities.

 The barracks were not occupied by the company members until late spring 1934. The winter spent in tents acquainted everyone with the hardships of winter. By early summer of 1934, the majority of the permanent buildings had been completed and were in use.

With most of the buildings completed, the CCC boys formed crews to build roads. These included from the top of Savage Mountain to the High Rock Tower. In the winter, most of the roads were shoveled by the CCC boys. Snow plows did not venture onto the back roads.

The timber used to build the cabins and picnic shelters was cut and sawed by Sam Otto on his sawmill. Fire control was another duty during fire season.

Resident Warden Matthew Ellius Martin (2nd row, far left) and the CCC Camp Technical staff Camp S-52, 1936, Photo by H. C. Buckingham, District ForesterIn the winter, most of the roads were shoveled by the CCC boys. Snow plows did not venture onto the back roads. Camp personnel eventually built a wooden snow plow pulled by a small tractor. The summer of 1934 saw the rebuilding of the breast of the lake.  It was just a jumble of rocks stumps and logs.  The lake was completely drained and the existing breast completely removed.  The present earthen breast works were built along the spillway.

The lake was drained several times between 1934 and 1938 for purpose of stump and log removal. The bigger fish were taken to Sam Otto's pond.  It was not unusual to catch brown and rainbow trout from the catch pen below the spillway that were 30 inches in length. Most other fish were allowed to enter Poplar Lick and eventually made their way into Savage River.

Most boys gave a day's work for a day's pay. Foremen did not work anyone beyond his ability. Malingerers, gold brickers and malcontents were 'fired' from their jobs and returned to camp.  They cleaned out grease traps in the kitchen or joined the "honey bucket brigade" cleaning out the toilets.  After several days they were overjoyed to return to their job on the road or in the woods.  Periodically, a vaudeville show would perform at the camp.  This was usually well attended by both camp personnel and local citizens.

The generators were shut down after 9 p.m. One was kept running to provide lights for fire exits and the orderly room.  "Lights out” was strictly observed.  Some individuals circumvented this policy by hiding under the covers with a flashlight to read or write letters.

Church services were held at the rec hall on Sunday providing there was a chaplain available.  He was known as "Holy Joe." If no chaplain was available, those who wished to attend church were taken to local churches. Movies were shown in the rec hall several times each week.  They were free to the camp personnel.  Local citizens were charged five cents.  If you didn't have the nickel, you were welcome anyway. Saturday night was a special night.  This was Liberty Run night. The boys were loaded into the covered trucks and taken to Frostburg or Lonaconing.

Being close to a body of water was a great temptation to many of the boys. Some of them could not swim so in the summer of 1934, and every summer thereafter, water safety courses and swimming instruction were given to anyone who was interested.

In 1938, CCC Company 326 at New Germany was disbanded.  All men and equipment was moved to Meadow Mountain camp, S-68.

Note: This story originally appeared in the Fall 1990 issue of Parkline. Billy Martin grew up working at the newly-created New Germany State Park with his father, the first state forester at Savage River State Forest. After World War 11, Martin worked at New Germany and Patapsco before reenlisting in the Air Force from which he retired in 1965. He returned to the Grantsville area and beginning in 1985 he served as a contractual employee 10 months out of the year at New Germany. He volunteered his time during the other two months and inherited the job of historical interpreter.

Part I - A National Perspective

Part II - A Maryland Perspective

Acknowledgements: The editor of this article gratefully acknowledges the following persons whose contributions made it possible to present this perspective of the CCC in Maryland. Where errors may occur, Maryland DNR will sincerely appreciate any corrections, clarification or additional comments from former CCC members and their families, or from historians who may have a more accurate factual record. 

  •  "Park service veterans gather for reunion," by Geoffrey D. Brown, Frederick News-Post,  is reprinted here with permission of the Frederick News-Post and Randall Family, LLC as published on September 18, 2006.  Maryland DNR and the Centennial Committee would like to thank Mr. Brown for his thorough coverage of this event.
     

  • "New Germany Remembers the CCC," by Billy Martin. This story originally appeared in the Fall 1990 issue of Parkline. Billy Martin grew up working at the newly-created New Germany Recreation Area with his father, Matthew Ellis Martin, the first Resident Warden at Savage River State Forest.  After World War 11, Martin worked at New Germany and Patapsco before reenlisting in the Air Force from which he retired in 1965.  He returned to the Grantsville area and beginning in 1985 he served as a contractual employee 10 months out of the year at New Germany.  He volunteered his time during the other two months and inherited the job of historical interpreter.
     

  • Photos of New Germany CCC S-52 provided with notations. Offutt Johnson... spent most of his 35-year career with the Department of Forest and Parks and the Dept. of Natural resources in Annapolis, Md. For 26 of those years he worked for Program Open Space.  His last ten years with DNR, Mr. Johnson was involved in nature and history projects, most notably at Patapsco Valley State Park where he directed the renovation of an old stone iron workers' house into the Park's first history center for visitors. He and his wife Joan moved to Oakland after his retirement. He continues to volunteer by working on a history of Maryland's state forests and parks.
     

Photographs (top to bottom):

Nine veterans of the CCC with DNR Secretary Ron Franks unveiling the CCC Centennial Plaque at Gambrill State Park, Sept. 17, 2006

DNR Secretary Ron Franks, Francis Zumbrun as "Abraham Lincoln Sines" in original Maryland State Forester uniform, and Fred W. Besley, III, grandson of the first Maryland State Forester at the CCC Centennial Plaque ceremony in at Gambrill State Park, Sept. 17, 2006

Pictured (l to r) are CCC Alumni, Joseph DeCenzo, Keith Paugh, John Patrick Curley, George Smith, and Marvin Warnick.

CCC Alumni and wife, walking to the Tea House, one of the buildings erected by the CCC at Gambrill State Park in the thirties.

Keith Paugh, CCC veteran who served at the New Germany CCC Camp S-52, among others in Western Maryland, receiving a commemorative Centennial certificate from DNR Secretary Ron Franks, Sept. 17, 2006

New Germany CCC Camp S-52, Headquarters & Barracks of 326th Company, 1936

New Germany CCC Camp S-52, typical Barracks Interior, 1935

New Germany CCC boys (Camp S-52) observing an ax demonstration

Interior - CCC New Germany Rec Hall 1936

Resident Warden Matthew Ellis Martin (2nd row, far left) and the CCC Camp Technical staff Camp S-52, 1936, Photo by H. C. Buckingham, District Forester

Visit DNR's Online Historic Photo Gallery,
featuring the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)

CCC crew poses with forestry tools

This Page Updated September 26,  2006

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