News: Neillsville - CCC Camp History (May 2012)

Contact: Dolores (Mohr) Kenyon

Surnames: Jamerson, Roosevelt,

----Source: Clark County Press (Neillsville, Clark Co., WI) 6/30/2012

CCC Camp History Brought to Life (2012)

Local visitors to the Neillsville City Library Wednesday, May 23, were entertained by the stories of Bill Jamerson. Jamerson presented a program on the Civilian Conservation Corps, covering a lot of ground with his program, incorporating his musical talents, a clip from a PBS documentary that he produced, reding excerpts from his novel “Big Shoulders” and great stories shared by men who joined the work camps from 1933 to 1942. (Photo by Linda-Cottrell-Sanders/Clark County Press)

By Linda-Cottrell-Sanders

When asked how many in the audience had a relative or knew someone who had been in a Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp, several raised their hands, myself included. One fellow had a brother in the corps in Perkinstown; another woman had a relative at the Winter camp; and then I told how I wouldn’t even be here, had my father from Michigan not met and married my mother while working in the Holmen CCC camp.

Bill Jamerson was at the Neillsville City Library Wednesday, May 23, sharing his expertise, songs and stories of the CCC with about 20 interested people. The corps was set up by President Roosevelt in 1933 as part of the New Deal to help alleviate the suffering of families facing unemployment because of the depression or losing their farms due to drought conditions.

Jamerson of Escanaba, MI, is not only entertaining with his stories of the boys in these camps, he is also very knowledgeable on the history of this era. He opens his program with a little history, then moves quickly into his storytelling – such as the guidelines the boys had to meet to be accepted into the CCCs – must be age 17 to 25, single, weigh at least 108 pounds, be in good health and have four good teeth.

The camps were nonmilitary but were run by military with the guidance of the forest service, Bureau of the Interior and local conservation services. So many of the projects they did in the nine years they were active still affect our lives in a positive manner today. It was 3.5 million CCC boys who planed over five billion trees, 260 million in Wisconsin alone.

In Wisconsin, they also built 4,200 miles of truck trails, restored hundreds of miles of riverbanks with rip-rap and plantings after the lumber era ended, built fish hatcheries and stocked lakes and ponds, built 380 dams, 420 bridges and strung 400,000 miles of telephone wire.

Wages were $30 a month, hence the nickname, “Dollar-A-Day-Boys,” also the name of Jamerson’s tribute to the Corps, Twenty-five dollars of their wage was sent home to the family and the boys lived on $5 a month.

Jamerson said the boys were happy; they had food, employment, good friends, no crime and in many cases local girls to meet – much to the chagrin of the small-town fathers who lived near the camps.

Doubtless, many of the projects they undertook are still around today. Those in attendance agreed. One woman’s father told her the steps at Wildcat Mound were put in by the CCC boys; another added the old bridge over Arnold Creek in Hatfield (adjacent to the site of the Lake Arbutus CCC camp) was built by the boys.

Jamerson said the CCC experience “turned boys into men.” Those men, toughened by their hard-physical work, were soon to become the soldiers in WWII.

Bill Jamerson sings one of his tribute songs to the boys in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps. An almost forgotten part of history, Jamerson tries to keep the memories alive with his “Dollar-A-Day Boys,” multi-media program. He appeared at the Neillsville City Library May 23 and explained that is what the boys, 17-25, were paid per month. (Photo by Linda-Cottrell-Sanders/Clark County Press)

For more information on Jamerson, his novel - “Big Shoulders,” (DVD) “Camp Forgotten” or a CD of his songs, visit his Website




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