- This event has passed.
Escanaba based author Bill Jamerson will present a musical tribute, Dollar a Day Boys!, about the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) at the Erickson Center on Monday, July 15th at 7pm. Jamerson’s presentation includes the reading of excerpts from his novel Big Shoulders, singing original songs about the CCC with his guitar and a brief video from his PBS film. It 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 ten year run from 1933-1942, an average of fifty-seven CCC camps in Michigan housed 112,000 young men between the ages of 17 and 25 years of age. They planted 360 million trees, fought forest fires, built state parks and county roads. The camps not only revitalized Michigan’s natural resources but also transformed the boys into men by teaching them discipline and work skills.
During the 1930s, work crews from Camp Germfask rebuilt, restored, and expanded the wetland drains at Seney Wildlife Refuge for active wetlands management purposes. These CCC ponds and drains are still used by the wetlands managers that staff the current National Wildlife Refuge. The Seney National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1935 as a refuge and breeding ground for migratory birds and other wildlife. The wild land that today is the refuge has not always appeared so wild. This is a land that was once heavily logged, burned, ditched, drained and cultivated. Despite repeated attempts, the soils and harsh conditions of this country would not provide a hospitable environment for sustained settlement and agriculture. So, nature claimed it once again. What was viewed as a loss by early 20th century entrepreneurs became a huge gain for the wildlife, natural resources and the people of Michigan’s eastern Upper Peninsula.
There were over 30 CCC camps spread across the Upper Peninsula. At Camp Cusino the enlistee’s imported moose from Isle Royale. The CCC planted millions of tree seedlings grown at the nursery at Watersmeet in the Ottawa and Hiawatha National Forests They also built the ski jump at Pine Mountain, and constructed Wells, Bewabic and Gogebic State Parks. Damaged riverbanks from the logging days were restored, fire lookout towers were built and maintained and many truck trails and fish hatcheries were constructed.
Jamerson’s novel, Big Shoulders, is an adult novel that follows a year in the life of a seventeen-year-old youth from Hamtramck who enlists in the CCC in 1937. The teenager joins two hundred other young men at Camp Raco in the eastern Upper Peninsula. His adventures take him into Newberry, Sault Ste Marie and Pine Stump Junction. The book 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 getting along with others.
Jamerson’s songs include Chowtime, a fun look at the camp food, City Slicker, which tells of the mischief the boys find in the woods, Living in a Tent in Winter is about the cold nights they endured, Borrowed Mom, is the story of an orphan who found a mother in camp, and Tree Plantin’, Fire Fightin’ Blues tells of the hardships of work out in the woods. The folk songs range from heartwarming ballads to foot stomping jigs.
Former CCC enrollees are invited to attend the presentation and share their photos and other memorabilia. Please contact the office at 586-9974 to make arrangements. For additional information about the presentation visit www.billjamerson.com. Or call the Erickson Center at 586-9974.