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Friday, March 27, 2015

Musical Tribute to the Civilian Conservation Corps Coming to Cameron County

Sing the songs sang at Civilian Conservation Corps camps in Cameron County, and hear the stories that helped shape the county! Michigan based author Bill Jamerson will present a music and storytelling program at the Cameron County Historical Society at the Emporium Firehall on Saturday, May 9 at 4 pm. Jamerson has written and filmed documentaries for PBS about the CCC and performed at reunions and dedications of state and national parks. The program co-sponsored by the Lumber Heritage Region is an entertaining look at the people, with stories of strength, wit and charm.

Cameron County had 6 camps, which opened between May 1933 and October 1935. They were located in Sizerville, Brooks Run Cameron, Wykoff Run, Bobby’s Run and North Creek. The Civilian Conservation Corps was a federal works program created by President Franklin Roosevelt in the heart of The Great Depression. During its nine year run, 194,000 thousand men between the ages of 17-25 served in Pennsylvania. The enrollees were paid $1 a day with $25 sent home to their families each month. The money often put food on the table for the families. There was an average of 74 camps in operation each year. The C’s went into nearby towns on the weekends and the money they spent help keep merchants in business.

In the region, CCC enrollees planted millions of trees in the Allegheny National Forest and state forests, constructed thousands of miles of roads, built hundreds of bridges and dams, stocked fish, repaired riverbanks, fought forest fires and built over 20 state parks including Blue Knob, Hickory Run, French Creek, Laurel Hill and Raccoon Creek. The work recreated our most important legacy, reforested our mountains in the county and constructed hundreds of miles of trails, some still in use today. They were also involved in historic restoration projects at Fort Necessity, Gettysburg and other sites. The camps not only revitalized the state’s natural resources but also turned the young enrollees into men by teaching them discipline and work skills.

At Camp Sizerville, many of the buildings in the park were constructed by the CCC enrollees. Wykoff Run Veterans Camp constructed bridges, strung 20 miles of telephone lines and surveyed roads and foot trails. They include Three Runs Tower Road, Jerry Run Road, Jerry Run Trail, and Pepper Hill Trail. The longest running CCC camp in the region was located in Hunts Run. More than 22 miles of forestry road built, telephone lines were strung to Emporium and more than 40,500 trees were planted. Square Timber, Rock Run, Kissel and Brooks Run Tower trails were created along with Brooks Run Tower Road. Sinnemahoning crew installed trail signs along more than 92 miles of forestry roads. Bobby’s Run Camp built and repaired bridges, constructed fish dams and built 9 miles of roads along Bobby’s Run. At North Creek, the CCC enrollees built Dividing Ridge Road, a bridge and completed more 2 miles of stream improvement.

Jamerson's book, BIG SHOULDERS is a historical novel that follows a year in the life of a seventeen-year-old youth from Detroit who enlisted in the CCC in 1937. He joins two hundred other young men at a work camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is a coming-of-age story of an angry teenager who faces the rigors of hard work, learning to cope with a difficult sergeant and fending off a bully.

Some of the songs Jamerson performs with his guitar include Franklin D., written by an appreciative CCC Boy. Chowtime, a fun look at the camp food. City Slicker, which tells of the mischief the boys create in the woods and Wood Tick is about the nicknames locals gave to the enrollees. Tree Plantin’, Fire Fightin’ Blues is about the hardships of work out in the woods. The folk songs range from heartwarming ballads to foot stomping jigs.

Along with a novel and CD of songs on the CCC, Jamerson produced a PBS film, Camp Forgotten, which aired on 58 TV stations. Former CCC’ers and their families are encouraged to attend and bring photo albums and CCC memorabilia. For more information please call the historical society at 486-0694 or visit Jamerson's website at: wwwbilljamerson.com. Further information on the CCC can be found on the internet at www.ccclegacy.org.

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