Legacy Day Sunday at site of CCC camp at Poe Valley
The Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal-era work program, gave hope to young men during the Depression by providing them with a way to support their families while helping to make life better for succeeding generations.
Among the CCC's stellar accomplishments in Pennsylvania was the construction of infrastructure that became the foundation for Poe Valley and Poe Paddy state parks in Centre County. The contributions of the roughly 2,800 men who worked at the Poe Valley camp from June 1933 through April 1941 will be celebrated Sunday during CCC Legacy Day at the Poe Valley park. Among their ranks were men from the Shamokin area.
Bill Marcum, of Spring Mills, an organizer of the celebration and a CCC historian, said that, sadly, very few of these men are still alive today, although he expects one or two surviving CCC veterans to attend the festivities Sunday. One of them worked at the Poe Valley camp; the other is a Sunbury
man who was assigned to a different camp. In all, there were 147 CCC camps in the state, Marcum noted.
"The effort here is to provide a way for family members - children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews - to learn more about what their relatives were part of," he said. Legacy Day, which runs from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday, rain or shine, should also be of interest to local historians and anyone who wants to learn more about how CCC camps operated.
Marcum explained that during the eight years the camp was in operation, the men performed forestry services, such as preparing and clearing trails, timber management, eradicating unwanted vegetation, creating and clearing fire trails, constructing a fire tower and building roads into and out of the camp. They also built an earthen dam to create a manmade 25-acre lake. The 700-foot-long dam, with masonry spillway, is still is service today, Marcum noted.
The CCC was open to single men between the ages of 17 and 25. Marcum explained that in the early days of the program when so many people were out of work, service in a camp was limited to six months. Later, as economic conditions improved and there were not as many men applying for the program, it was possible to have service extended for a full year.
"The U.S. Army managed the program, so the camp was conducted in a military fashion," Marcum said. The Army supplied three or four officers, of lieutenant and captain rank, to supervise operations.
"The men wore Army surplus clothes," Marcum explained. "They looked like they were in the Army, except instead of carrying rifles, they were often seen carrying their shovels."
Marcum noted that when a new camp was first established, a company of men in the CCC were mobilized, while living outside in tents, to construct the camp buildings, such as barracks, a mess hall, an operations building, recreation, education and service buildings, maintenance shops, parking garages, and accessory structures. The camps were laid out like a small military installation.
Men in the CCC earned $30 per month. Of that, $25 was automatically sent home. Although the young men were kept very busy, they were often very far from home. Marcum explained that in the CCC's earliest days, the program avoided assigning CCC participants near their hometowns.
Marcum became interested in the CCC because his grandfather was a senior foreman at the Poe Valley camp. "When he passed away, he left a large box full of stuff related to the CCC. I was in the military at the time, so I asked my mother to hold onto it," Marcum said. "Years later, I went through it, learned more about him and the CCC and, as a result, I began coordinating reunions."
Over the years, Marcum got help from his wife and, at times, some camp veterans. He now partners with Rory Bower, Poe Valley park manager, and Vonnie Henninger, of the Penns Valley Area Historical Association in Aaronsburg, in organizing the reunion.
In addition to interesting presentations on the CCC camp's history by Bower, Henninger and Marcum, those attending Sunday's program can tour the original campsite and view camp memorabilia. Of particular interest will be the viewing of a recently acquired film clip on the Poe Valley camp. Those attending may bring a picnic lunch or buy food at the park concession stand.