Friday, April 14, 2006

Texas and the CCC

Texas is one of the best states to see the craftmanship of the Civilian Conservation Corps workers.

The CCC was created by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the early 1930s as a program to provide employment for young men of the ages of 18 to 25. The men "enlisted" for six months and could re-enlist for up to two years. Pay was $30 a month with $25 of those dollars going home to the enlistee's family, but the men were provided with three hot meals a day and lodging which was a big incentive.

Taught by unemployed carpenters, stonemasons and other skilled workers hired by the CCC, the young men built roads in Big Bend National Park, created the limestone swimming pool at Balmorhea State Park, reseeded Bastrop State Park, built dams, hiking trails, lodges, cabins and even the furniture to equip the buildings in the parks. The buildings were rustic and simple and used materials provided by their surroundings, yet they were so well built that much of the furniture is still is use today.

Some of the CCC's most obvious work are the highway rest stops in Texas. Mostly built of stone, the picnic "shelters" seem to blend with the surrounding landscape. It's fun to see all the different styles used in the various rest stops along I-10 and state routes in Texas. Apparently in the 1960 the Texas Department of Transportation built specialized covered picnic tables in the form of tee pees, oil derricks and other shapes that was supposed to depict a local theme. These proved too expensive to maintain and few are left, although Denny and I did enjoy a picnic lunch under one of the teepees while traveling through southern Texas in 2001.

The CCC operated all over the U.S. of course, and we've seen evidence of their work in several states (the Painted Desert Inn at the Painted Desert National Park in Arizona comes to mind). The quality and craftsmanship of their work is amazing and most of their buildings still stand. There's an excellent display about the lifestyle and living in a CCC camp at the Rhinelander Logging Museum in Rhinelander, Wisconsin and an official CCC museum in St. Louis, MO which we have not yet seen.

All this because I get excited over rest stops. Sigh.

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