Library plans Conservation Corps program


Staff report



SIDNEY — Michigan-based author Bill Jamerson will present a music and storytelling program about the Civilian Conservation Corps at the Amos Memorial Public Library, 230 E. North St., March 3 at 2 p.m.

The program is free and open to the public. It will include the serving of refreshments with CCC cookies.

Jamerson’s program includes telling stories, reading excerpts from his book, showing a short video clip from his PBS film and singing original songs with his guitar. It’s a nostalgic program with lots of laughter. He has performed at CCC reunions around the country and at dozens of CCC-built state and national parks. His presentation is about people both ordinary and extraordinary, with stories of strength, wit and charm.

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 beginning in 1933, more than 139,000 young men in Ohio enrolled in the camps. The camps were run by the Army with an average of 33 camps in operation for each year. The enrollees were paid $1 a day with $25 sent home to their families each month. The money kept many families from starving.

The CCC in Ohio planted millions of trees, built hundreds of bridges and dams, constructed more than 3,000 miles of roads, did erosion control, built check dams, stocked fish, fought forest fires, and built several state parks including Tar Hollow, Scioto Trail and Shawnee State Park. More than 4,000 enrollees helped in the rescue and clean up efforts during the Ohio River flood of 1937. The camps not only revitalized Ohio’s natural resources but also turned the boys into men by giving them discipline and teaching them work skills.

Jamerson’s book, “Big Shoulders,” is a historical novel that follows a year in the life of a 17-year-old youth from Detroit who enlisted in the CCC in 1937. The enrollee joins 200 other young men at Camp Raco, a work camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula run by reserve Army officers. 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” is a fun look at the camp food, “City Slicker,” is about the mischief the boys find in the woods, and “Tree Plantin’, Fire Fightin’ Blues” tells 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 about the CCC, Jamerson has produced a PBS film, “Camp Forgotten,” which aired on Ohio Public Television in 1994. He has also authored several articles on the corps. A question and answer period and book signing will follow his presentation. Former CCC’ers and their families are encouraged to attend. People are invited to take photo albums and CCC memorabilia. For information, call 492-8354 or visit billjamerson.com.

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Staff report