Michigan based author Bill Jamerson will present a music and storytelling program about the Civilian Conservation Corps at the Nashville Public Library on Wednesday, March 29 at 6:30 pm. Refreshments will be served. Jamerson’s hour-long program includes stories, showing a video clip from his PBS film, reading excerpts from his novel and singing original songs with his guitar.
Jamerson has presented his program at CCC reunions, and state and national parks around the country. His presentation is as entertaining as it is important; as honest as it is fun. It’s about people both ordinary and extraordinary with stories of wit, charm and strength.
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 from 1933-1942, over three million young men between the ages of 17 and 25 years of age enlisted across the country. They were known as “Roosevelt’s Tree Army” because they planted over 3.5 billion trees nationwide. The enrollees lived in work camps run by the army and were paid a dollar a day. Twenty-five dollars a month was sent home directly to their families.
In Illinois, the Civilian Conservation Corps planted trees, worked on soil erosion control, restored river banks, cleaned out ditches, constructed roads and bridges and brought electricity to rural areas. The CCC also built state parks including Giant City, Fox Ridge, Kickapoo, White Pine, Mississippi Palisades, Illini and Matthiessen. The CCC also built the lodge at Starved Rock State Park, and did restoration work at Black Hawk State Historic Site and Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site.
The nearest camps to Nashville were near Sparta, Mt Vernon and Centralia. The men worked on farms in Washington County and came into towns on weekends to patronize stores, bowling alleys, movie theatres, attend church and help out in emergencies. They spent an average of $5,000 a month in town which was an important economic stimulus during The Great Depression.
Chicago, received a major share of new recreational construction with the development of the Skokie Lagoons, part of the Cook County forest preserve. More than 165,000 men from Illinois enlisted in the CCC, with 92,000 men serving in the state. An average of 54 camps a year operated in Illinois with expenditures of more than 104 million dollars during its nine-year run. In 1936 a Chicago judge credited the CCC with reducing juvenile crime rate by 50% between 1933 and 1935
Jamerson’s novel, BIG SHOULDERS follows a year in the life of a seventeen-year-old youth from Detroit who enlists in the CCC in 1937. The enrollee 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 get along with a difficult sergeant and coping with a bull.
Some of the songs performed in the program include Chowtime, a fun look at the camp food, City Slicker, which tells of the mischief the young men get into in the woods, Wood Tick is a song about the nicknames the locals gave the enrollees, and Tree Plantin’, Fire Fightin’ Blues tells of the hardships of work. The folk songs range from heartwarming ballads to foot stomping jigs
The Civilian Conservation Corps not only revitalized the state’s natural resources but also taught the young men job skills and discipline. In his talk, Jamerson will share many nostalgic stories he has picked up from former CCC Boys and also discuss their projects in Illinois. He will sign books after his talk. People are encouraged to bring photo albums and CCC memorabilia. For more information about the program please call the library at 327-3827 or visit Jamerson’s website at: www.billjamerson.com.