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  Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Great Depression
brought many programs

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
Imagine if you will, the following scenario. The stock market crashed, sending the economy into a tailspin. Banks are closing right and left and 40 percent of the people are part-time employed or unemployed. Black clouds of dust arrive daily from The Dust Bowl and there seems to be no relief in sight from any direction. Many are saying the end is coming and all should make preparations.

This scene was exactly what newly elected President Franklin D. Roosevelt inherited when he took office in 1932. In order to provide relief and sustenance to those suffering, he initiated many programs, which were promptly named "The New Deal."

Reams of information have been written about these programs, some extremely successful, others not so successful. That period of time became known as the greatest environmental disaster in American history, resulting in the largest migration ever to occur in America, and marked a complete turnaround in governmental thinking about financial and economic planning.

Of interest is the fact this period has been recorded and photographed in great detail for study by future generations. Hundreds of oral interviews were taped of personal views of the time. Anyone can find, read and study this period with little effort.

One successful New Deal program that became the favorite of Roosevelt was the CCC or Civilian Conservation Corps. Operated by the Army and War Department, supplied and kept busy by the Department of the Interior, supervised by the Corps of Engineers, only young men between the ages of 17 and 25 years of age, unmarried, unemployed and living with their families on government relief were eligible to join.

They were enlisted military fashion, subject to military discipline, underwent physicals and received routine inoculations, then sent to Fort Dix to undergo five days of military training while receiving uniforms and military issue clothing. After completing this regimen, they were transported to locations across the country where government work projects were in progress.

The side benefits of the CCC to the nation were many. The wholesale recruiting of this age group in cities dropped crime rates committed by this age by 55 percent. The program removed a burden from families already on welfare and since the recruit was paid $30 per month with $25 sent directly home to his family, relief was multiplied.

Recruits nicknamed the CCC the "Colossal College of Calluses" because of all the hard physical labor involved. The $30 per month, bed and board was deemed, "a dollar a day plus three hots and a flop." There were few discipline problems and later most recruits recalled their stint in the CCC fondly.

As for the CCC accomplishments, the records are clear. After beginning in 1933 and closing in 1942, more than 3 million young men built 3,470 forest fire towers; installed 65,100 miles of telephone lines; built 97,000 miles of roads, trails and fire breaks; spent 4.1 million hours of fighting forest fires; cut and hauled out millions of diseased National Forest trees and planted more than 1.3 billion new trees.

Because of the extensive records and files of the CCC, mobilizing the nation's military forces for World War II was quick and easy. This quick call-up of young men, already used to military training, stopped the enemy in its tracks, turning the corner towards eventual victory.

Delbert Trew

"It's All Trew"
November 1, 2006 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.
 
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