Of all the programs implemented to try to help the country out of the Depression, the most popular and most successful was the Civilian Conservation Corps. Through this program, young people had a huge impact on their country!
Jimmy Durante singing:
“Listen to me everybody, get out in front, get back of him, get back of the president and give a man a job. You know bore the brunt, you know that, I know it! So, step up and give a man a job. You know who’s in back of this signia of NRA? No? Well, I’ll tell ya, and when I do, it’ll give your heart a throb. You take this message straight from the president and give a man a job.”
With all the chaos, hoopla, and propaganda swirling around the implementation of Roosevelt’s New Deal, it’s difficult to know what was really being accomplished in any one arena. The Civilian Conservation Corps was perhaps the most popular and most successful New Deal Program. Its design and purposes were simple:
“We are giving the opportunity of employment to a quarter of a million of the unemployed, especially the young men who have dependents to let them go into the forestry and flood prevention work. And in creating this Civilian Conservation corps Ce are killing two birds with one stone. We are clearly enhancing the value of our natural resources and at the same time we are relieving an appreciable amount of actual distress.”
The mobilization of such a program was truly a miracle of organization. Robert Fechner was appointed the first director. He mobilized the massive program using existing government agencies. Since the War Department already had the experience and infrastructure to set up camp for thousands of young men, they took on the responsibilities of camp life.
The Agriculture and Interior Departments provided the work projects.
The Department of Labor directed the selection and hiring of enrollees and the Budget Director managed the funds.
News of the CCC spread quickly and tens of thousands of young men showed up to apply. The initial criteria for enrollment required boys to be unemployed, from disadvantage families, unmarried, and at least 18 years old. Some, desperate to help their families, lied about their ages.
Recruitment posters promised employment, food, and shelter—all scarce in 1933. Roosevelt’s plan not only had idle youth doing important conservation work, it also assisted their families. The boys’ pay was $30 per month, but $25 of it was sent directly to their families. They were left with $5 spending money for incidentals and gifts from the camp’s PX and the occasional trip into town.
Enrollment offices were set up in cities and towns across the country. Prospective enrollees had to pass a physical exam and take an all-inclusive Oath of Enrollment.
They came from the streets of Philadelphia and from the farms of southeast Virginia. They were from multi-ethnic backgrounds and diverse religions, but they all had one thing in common: they were coming from hard times and looking for better. Many were away from home for the first time and unsure of what was ahead. Some were looking for adventure, some were looking for opportunity; others were just hungry.
In his message to the boys of the CCC, Franklin Roosevelt said,
“Men of the CCC…through you the nation will graduate a fine group of strong young men, clean living, trained to self-discipline, and above all, willing and proud to work for the joy of working. That must be the new spirit of the American future. You are the vanguard of that new spirit.” (July 17, 1933)