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Thursday, April 2, 2015

A Musical Tribute to the Civilian Conservation Corps

Michigan based author Bill Jamerson will present a music and storytelling program about the Civilian Conservation Corps at the Coudersport Public Library on Monday, May 11, at 6 pm. The program is co-sponsored by the Lumber Heritage Region. The presentation includes telling stories, singing original songs, showing a video clip from his PBS film and reading excerpts from his novel. Jamerson has performed at CCC reunions around the country and at CCC built national and state parks. The program is as entertaining as it is important; as honest as it is fun. It's about people both ordinary and extraordinary, with stories of strength, wit and charm.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was a federal works program created in 1933 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 in the state. Company 380 opened up May 3, 1933 10 miles south of Coudersport. The C’s went into town on the weekends and the money they spent help keep merchants in business.
Bill Jamerson

The 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. 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. Thousands of homeless, destitute, and at-risk youth from Philadelphia joined the CCC and as a result the city saw significant reductions in juvenile crimes.

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 library at 274-9382 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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