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Books: "Adirondack Civilian Conservation Corps Camps"

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This year marks the 80th anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Created by President Roosevelt during the Depression, millions of young men provided manual labor for environmental, conservation and natural resources projects across the country. Todd Moe talks with Marty Podskoch, author of Adirondack Civilian Conservation Corps Camps, a book about the CCC camps that were set up in the Adirondack-North Country region.

Podskoch interviewed dozens of former CCC workers and their families about the men who helped plant trees, build roads and fire forest fires from 1933 to 1942. He says there were 60 CCC camps in New York State, and much of the conservation work by the young men is still enjoyed today.

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Reported by

Todd Moe
Morning Host and Producer

Almost all of the parks surrounding Lake George or on the islands within were built by the CCC. Some places in Wells, New York were expanded and enlarged by the CCC. They also planted millions of trees in the Adirondacks.

North of the Adirondacks, many farms were hit hard during the depression. A number of struggling farms landed in the hands of the federal government. The federal and state governments decided to reforest them. CCC camps in Brasher Falls, Brushton and Canton, did that work. At first, the workers lived in army tents. By fall, some barracks were built, but many were still living in tents in October and November.

When you see trees in the North Country that grow plantation style, all in rows, you can assume that they were planted by the CCC. “Going from Ray Brook in towards Lake Placid, you will see the red pines. Those were planted by the CCC, probably from the Lake Placid Camp,” says Mardy Podskoch.

If it wasn’t for Podskoch, many of the stories included in his book would be lost. “It just feels so good to be driving around and knowing that I’ve saved the stories.” Podskoch has been able to help many people locate records of relatives who were involved with CCC camps.

Fights in the CCC camps were uncommon. Podskoch says, “I’ve heard that sometimes they might have had a fight. The captain would just give them the boxing gloves, they’d go out and settle it and bingo, it was over.”

Workers in these camps spent eight hours a day building roads with a pick and shovel or smashing rocks, because they didn’t have rock crushers. “They were tired. These boys had clothing now that would function in all kinds of weather. And they were able to get paid now. Most boys dropped out of school by eighth grade to help their family.”

The CCC campers were still able to have fun on the weekends. There was entertainment of all kinds and sporting competitions. Many fell in love with girls they met in local towns, got married, and are still living in the local area to this day. In 1934 they started having education advisers. “Each camp had a teacher and he or she would plan classes that would be interesting for them.” Classes were voluntary and students could take any course of their choosing.

“When World War [Two] came in 1941, we no longer needed these boys to build up or forest, we needed them to fight. A good part about this is that they were trained by the Army,” says Podskoch. The last camp was closed in July 1942. The boys either volunteered or were drafted. “Some of the boys said, ‘Well I was a leader in the CCCs’, bingo, they were now a sergeant right off the bat.”

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