PLAINVILLE - The Plainville Historic Center was packed recently as author Marty Podskoch shared his research on the Civilian Conservation Corps, which was established by President Roosevelt in 1933 to put men to work conserving and developing the country’s natural resources.
Podskoch, a former teacher who has been doing presentations on the CCC since 2001, is the author of nine books, including “Connecticut Civilian Conservation Corps Camps: History, Memories and Legacy.”
The CCC was intended to relieve unemployment during The Great Depression as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal and the men who participated were organized like military units. Each state and territory at the time had their own units and there were 15 camps throughout Connecticut.
The Plainville Historic Center had to bring out additional seating for the program which saw about three dozen guests.
“I’m so happy that we have so many people here,” said Gertrude LaCombe of the Historic Center.
Among the audience was Donna Mazer, whose father worked with the Corps. in Stafford Springs. She brought a scrapbook of photos of her father in the CCC and a large photo of the unit.
“My dad was 19 when he was in the CCC,” said Mazer. “He was with them for two years, from 1936 to 1938 and he told me that he would go up into trees and destroy gypsy moth eggs to combat the infestation.”
Podskoch said Roosevelt first proposed the CCC on March 27 1933. Four days later, the proposal was approved by the House and the Senate and by July 1, 250,000 young men ages 18 to 25 had been mobilized and provided with food and clothing, mostly unused World War I uniforms. They had their own command structure and their own newspaper and worked for $1 a day, repairing dams, working in forests and parks and doing other tasks throughout the country. CCC officers earned a slightly higher wage and automatically became sergeants in World War II because they had demonstrated an ability to take and give orders.
“Each unit had 200 guys and five barracks, each of which had 40 guys,” said Podskoch. “Connecticut had integrated camps but there were also all white and all black CCC camps as well as youth camps and camps just for World War I veterans, many of whom had marched on Washington in 1932 to get the bonuses for their service that they were supposed to get in 1945. They wanted to get it right then because there were no jobs.”
Like in the army, they woke up at 6 a.m. every day with reveille, made their bunks by 6:30, had their barracks inspected at 7, and then went out for a flag salute and roll call. They then worked for eight hours, with a lunch from noon to 1 p.m. and supper at 5 p.m.
Podskoch’s program featured numerous photos of the CCC. He also told the story of a 103-year-old, African American, former member of the CCC, Audrey Lee, whom he interviewed. Lee died Aug. 22 2017. He was a poor boy from Wilson, Conn., and started off doing odd jobs around the camp. But he was later given the opportunity to work directly under his captain when he told him that he could type 90 words a minute. His captain was very impressed with both the quality of his work and his work ethic and when he left the CCC, he received a letter of recommendation. When they met, Lee handed Podskoch that original letter which he had saved for all those years. Lee had later gone on to work delivering mail and eventually became the head of his department. He also worked for a Hartford insurance company.
“He told me that the six months that he worked with the CCC had a big effect on his life,” said Podskoch. “‘We learned to get along with each other,’ is what he told me.”
Brian M. Johnson can be reached at 860-973-1806 or firstname.lastname@example.org.