Eighty years ago, the most successful New Deal program began. It would eventually employ more than 3 million men and leave a legacy of forests, bridges, roads and buildings that are still in use today.
The 80th anniversary of the founding of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) will be celebrated locally at the Warren County Visitors' Center with the Tionesta Valley Snowmobile Club's (TVSC) annual CCC Statue Dedication, followed by a picnic and a memorial wreath toss at Chapman State Park on Friday, Aug. 23.
This year's event will be held in honor of the late Joseph Tullio, a CCC veteran who attended past reunions in Warren. Ed Atwood, president of the sponsoring TVSC, said, "Tullio passed away last year at the age of 98. He served in three area CCC camps the Camp 1 at Duhring near Marienville, Camp 9 at Salmon Creek near Kelletville and Camp 13 at Bull Hill. He was a cousin to the former Erie mayor Lou Tullio."
The Civilian Conservation Corps statue at the Warren County
Visitor’s Center in Starbrick
Atwood spoke about the CCC veterans being called 'boys' explaining, "They were young, a lot of them lied about their age to get in. The old boys did one hell of a job. When they were here it was just a mess, a giant clear cut."
Nick Stanko, a CCC veteran from Pleasant Township, said, "I must have been seventeen when I went to the Galeton (Pennsylvania) camp. It was just like being in the army. They gave us clothes, shoes and blankets. We'd get up at 6, do a drill with calisthentics, have breakfast and go out on work details. It wasn't exactly hard work, it was a job. We planted trees, worked on roads, bridges and parks. And the meals, you couldn't beat it. The food was out of this world."
"My brother Paul went to the Bull Hill camp and my brother Andy went to Wellsboro (camp). I liked it. The quarters were nice, with about 30 or 40 in each," he said.
When asked about how many 'boys' would be attending the reunion Atwood replied, "If we get three, we'll be lucky. They are 90-some years old, with 17-year-old minds."
According to the National Association of Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni (NACCCA), the CCC or "Roosevelt's Tree Army" was credited with planting over three billion trees from 1933 through 1942, renewing the nation's decimated forests. They built 46,854 bridges and developed over 800 state parks. Roosevelt brought together two wasted resources, the young men and the land, in an effort to save both.
The NACCCA, which is now the CCC Legacy, said the mandatory $25 a month allotment sent home to the workers' families totalled more than $72 million and made lives easier for the people at home. In the communities near the camps, an average of $5,000 a month from the $5 monthly pay kept by the workers helped keep many small business from failing.
On the Allegheny National Forest, in addition to planting trees on over 700 acres, they built the Farnsworth hatchery.
Atwood noted, "The hatchery is the big thing in this area. It's still operational. The boys that built it stayed in Camp 13 on Bull Hill, and mined the stone near the famous 'mystery well' nearby in Cherry Grove."
He added that most of the projects built by the CCC were "done right" and still exist today.