Warren Times-Mirror and Observer July 29, 1973 By Frank Rudolph

It was late winter in 1933, and the Great Depression that had gripped America since 1929 showed no signs of slackening. Old men were selling apples on street corners, and young men eager to work were without hope of gainful employment.

Then, on the first day of spring, 1933, president Roosevelt proposed legislation that resulted in the formation of the Civilian Conservation Corps, commonly called the CCC. By April 18, the first CCC camp was occupied near Luray, Virginia, in the George Washington National Forest.

The major objectives of the program were to restore among the enrollees confidence in themselves, to re-establish normal relations with life, and to recreate their own faith in the future through worthwhile work. Enrollment in the CCC was restricted to unmarried men between the ages of 18 and 25. The original quota was set at 250,000. Then it was upped by adding 24,375 older men who lived in or near the forest. These men had to be experienced in woods work.

The first CCC camp on the Allegheny National Forest was established in April 1933 at Duhring, PA. The first CCC enrollees on the Allegheny came from the Pittsburgh area. Later, enrollees came from the hard coal region around Scranton. Others came from south Philadelphia and the deep South. The enlistment period was for six months, but if the enrollee’s conduct and work had been satisfactory, he could re-enlist—and many of them did, again and again.

The $30 a month earned by the CCC boys might seem like a pittance by today’s standards, but with board and room and clothing furnished, the enrollee fared very well. Out of the $30 he earned, $25 went to his family each month, the remaining $5 was for spending money. Each camp was staffed by three Army officers, who were in charge of feeding, clothing, and housing, and one medical officer.

Each camp had full complement of trained foresters, local experienced woodsmen, and other supervisory personnel, and an average of 200 young, unmarried men who had been out of work for months or years through no fault of their own. The Army officers were responsible for camp discipline, a camp superintendent was responsible for the work program developed by the Forest Service.

The National Forests and State Forests were ideally suited for the establishment of the CCC camps. Each provided the opportunity for thousands of man-days of constructive work in a healthful and wholesome environment. The ten-year-old Allegheny National Forest was particularly well suited to provide meaningful work, with the result that 14 CCC camps were established here.

Most of the nearly 20,000 acres of planted forests of conifers that occupy old burns and abandoned fields on the Allegheny National Forest were planted by CCC boys.

City boys became accomplished axe men while working on timber stand improvement projects under the CCC program in the second growth hardwood timber on the Allegheny. The crop trees that they released, through felling or girdling low quality and defective competing trees, have put on substantial growth in the forty years since the first CCC camp was established on the forest.

Each CCC camp engaged in one or more road construction projects, for access roads were badly needed in the forest to serve the growing needs of timber operators, hunters, fishermen, oil and gas developers, summer vacationers, and the general public. The CCC boys were used on all phases of road construction, and hundreds of miles of roads were built by them on the Allegheny National Forest.

For the vacationing public, developed campgrounds and picnic areas were built by the CCCs. Trails through the forest were built to accommodate hikers.

The CCC program made men out of boys. It taught them self-reliance and teamwork. The first group of boys to fill a CCC camp had a little trouble adjusting to such a radically new environment and way of life, but later enrollees were taken under the wing of the older fellows who “knew the ropes.”

Most of the CCC boys I supervised were highly appreciative of the opportunity to serve in the Civilian Conservation Corps. Many of them told me that the CCC camps they served in were the first real homes they had ever had.

I think the CCC program was on the best things that could have happened for young men of the Depression era, and it was one of the best things that happened for the early development of the resources of the Allegheny National Forest.


Courtesy of the Warren County Historical Society