Friday, January 9, 2015

Mildred Blanche, Queen of the CCC

When people hear that there was, at one time, a sole woman enrolled in the CCC among 3 million men, they always want to hear her story. In her own words:

Her CCC experience
How could a young lady begin a career during the Great Depression? I didn’t realize it then, but the Civilian Conservation Corps would be the most important step for me toward a federal career spanning 34 years. Here’s how my association with the CCC came about.
A high school senior in 1935, I earned sufficient credit to graduate at mid-year. The school suggested I spend the last semester in a work experience and return for graduation at the end of the school year.

Winnebago, NE, my home town, was a mere village with no opportunity for adults, much less a teenager. But there was a U.S. Indian Agency on the outskirts of town which provided services to the Winnebago Indians, the most logical place to get a job. I applied, was offered work, but only as a volunteer. No pay was a disappointment, but believing the experience would be a valuable reference in the future, I accepted.
Graduating in June 1936, I prevailed upon the Indian Agency for employment, only to be told there were no jobs available. After a number of persistent visits, the superintendent finally told me, “You did excellent work as a volunteer. I will appoint you as an enrollee in our CCC Indian Division. Will you accept?” Ecstatic, I accepted. Pay would be $55 per month since no quarters or subsistence were provided.

Imagine my surprise when I was assigned to a warehouse where I would issue tools and supplies to CCC enrollees for their day’s work and meet them at day’s end for check-in. Some of these tools had strange sounding names but the CCC boys helped me to learn. In between, I worked on inventories, purchase orders, and correspondence. From June 1936 to September 1938, I trudged three miles over a dirt road to work, brown bag in hand, to take care of my duties. I held the rank of Leader when released.

A long career follows 

I then took an accounting course, passed a U.S. Civil Service test, and received notification of appointment to a cost accounting position with a CCC unit, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Ft. Totten, ND. Again, I was with the CCC Indian Division but this time as a classified federal employee. I developed many friendships among the Sioux Indians. I was flattered and honored when they called me their White Flower. Leaving Ft. Totten in 1943 to help with the war effort, I transferred to Fitzsimmons Army Hospital, Denver. Remaining at Fitzsimmons after the war, I advanced to the position of Personnel Staffing Specialist, the position I held at retirement in 1972.
 In 1982 I became aware of the National Association of CCC Alumni and local Denver Mile High Chapter 7, becoming a member of both. I served Chapter 7 as Vice-President and Treasurer. At the 1985 NACCCA convention I was crowned Queen of the NACCCA, an honor I treasure dearly. During the 1987 NACCCA convention, I was elected SW Region Director for a two-year term thus becoming the first woman ever to serve on the national Board of Directors. As Director, I traveled more than 20,000 miles and spent 1000 days on the road visiting NACCCA chapters. I would be remiss not to acknowledge the many awards bestowed upon me by SW Region chapters. My work was reminiscent of my days as a CCC enrollee dealing with a lot of men.

Wherever I traveled I came to expect the question, “What was it like to be in the CCC with more than three million men?” My answer, “It seemed as if I had somehow stumbled into paradise!” Most recently, I was appointed NACCCA Coordinator for Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah. Somehow, I can never relinquish my desire to serve the NACCCA or the personal satisfaction of dealing directly with CCC alumni.

The CCC gave me hope and opportunity when there was none. Whatever successes may have come in my life, I shall always remember the CCC was instrumental in preparing me to meet the challenges of life.

—From The Way We Remember It, by M. Chester Nolte

Although I never had the privilege of meeting Mildred, she was a long-time member of Chapter 7 until her death. Mildred exemplified the lifetime of service that seems to be typical of CCC alumni.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Interview with Al Coven

Al Coven was the last president of the original Chapter 7 alumni group. He was elected in the early 2000s, I think, and as membership dropped and candidates were hard to rally, he continued serving until the chapter was disbanded several years later.

Last fall, Rocky Mountain PBS captured this interview with Al, in which he discusses some of his CCC experiences.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

James Carden will be missed

The Chapter 7 alumni lost another member on May 30th. Jim Carden is one of many alumni who worked hard to restore buildings at the Mt. Morrison CCC camp. The Recreation Hall and Mess Hall were used for Chapter 7 meetings for about 25 years.

Jim visited the camp late in 2008 for an interview with the Rocky Mountain News. Read more about Jim and his thoughts on the CCC in the online article.

Jim's service will be Tuesday, June 8. See obituary at the Denver Post.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Gradually Losing the Legacy

Day by day and week by week, our CCC legacy dwindles as the original "boys" head off on their next adventures. With them go the first-person memories of their varied experiences in the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Another CCC boy was lost last week. Willie Pixler of Fort Worth, Texas, had joined us for the CCC Legacy Gathering here in Littleton in October, with his brother Truman and son Mike. He died December 8th, and will be missed! We're glad we had the opportunity to meet Willie and some of his family, and send them our sympathy.

Americorps NCCC members joined a few of the CCC alumni for this photo Friday night. Alums here are, left to right, Truman Pixler (seated), Ed Hohmann (standing), Philip Gouzie (standing), Willie Pixler (seated), and Richard Chrisinger.

CCC Gathering Participants October 9, 2009
Members of Americorps NCCC, with CCC Alums

Five Americorps NCCC members joined us each day of the gathering, and the young people really enjoyed meeting the men who were part of the depression relief effort that, decades later, inspired the program they belong to today. Five NCCC members were paired with alums, and on Saturday morning we had a panel in which they compared their experiences in national service and shared what they had learned in getting to know each other.

As a result of the conference, our local Americorps NCCC program plans to launch an oral history project in January to help capture more of the stories that are, so quickly, being lost to us.

Getting acquainted: NCCC Team Leader Scott Bruckner, 23, chats with Hank Sulima, 89, a CCC alum who served with Company 1608 in Tomahawk, Wisconsin in 1938-40.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Boulder, Colorado

Established in June 1933, Boulder camp SP-2-C was the first "state park" camp established in Colorado and about the 25th overall. The initial company to occupy this camp was Company 1813, which was followed by Company 809 in October 1933 and by Company 802 in June 1935. The Colorado State Archives lists about 165 men who were assigned to this camp. Although 29 Colorado counties are represented in the list, 42% of the enrollees were from Boulder County.

The Boulder camp turns out to be two; a little confusing, so let’s take it a step at a time.

Company 1813 was organized at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, in the spring of 1933. They were immediately shipped to Boulder, where they occupied Camp SP-2-C during the first period (May-November 1933). On November 15, 1933, they returned to Oklahoma and occupied Camp SP-7-O at Davis, OK. Their brief activities in Colorado are apparently unrecorded.

Company 809 was organized at Fort Logan, CO, but occupied Camp NP-1-C in Estes Park for the first period. They moved to Boulder on November 15, 1933, and spent the winter at Camp SP-2-C. In May 1934, they moved to Camp SP-5-C, where they stayed about a year before moving to Camp NP-7-C, a “tent city,” in Grand Lake.

The site of SP-5 was about a mile uphill from the original location of SP-2. When Company 809 moved there, the camp designation was changed, as described below. Camp SP-2 (at the site formerly known as SP-5) was located “on the Flagstaff Highway adjacent to the Chautauqua grounds, Boulder, Colorado.”
“We believe this is the only instance in the history of the CCC in Colorado that a camp has been moved from one campsite to another and retained its campsite designation upon arrival at the new location. At least the term SP-5-C was obliterated and the designation SP-2-C was made, which it has retained until the present time.”

Among NACCCA Chapter 7 memorabilia we found several photos of the Boulder camp, though which location is not clear. The first presented here shows a view of the camp in winter, with the foothills behind it; the second, some of the kitchen crew outside the mess hall. (If you can identify anyone in this photo, please contact us.)

During their tenure in Boulder, the enrollees of Company 809 were “received very graciously by the citizens of this college town.” In addition to “bank sloping, riprapping, landscaping and general forest clean-up” along the highway to Flagstaff Mountain, they also constructed its amphitheatre. At the end of the enrollment period in October 1934, “the Flagstaff amphitheatre and the Boy Scout cabin were completed. Appropriate ceremonies were staged and the amphitheatre and cabin were formally turned over to the City of Boulder.”

Among Boulder’s advantages, the men enjoyed staging minstrel shows in Macky Auditorium and active leisure sports teams, including softball, tennis, horseshoes, basketball, and boxing. “With this background of work, sports and useful leisure activities, it is no wonder that all men disliked to leave Boulder on June 15, 1935… Those twenty months at Boulder, Colorado, were sufficient to prove to the local citizens and those in command of our company, the possibilities of a CCC camp located so that enrollees could participate in educational activities of this college town.”

The records for Company 802 indicate that the company pioneered CCC work, arriving at their first camp in Lake George, Colorado, in early May 1933, even before it was built and when the national program was barely up and running. They moved to Camp SP-5-C in mid-October 1934 and moved to SP-2-C the following June (1935). [From the timing, it seems clear that the two camps had switched designations.]

The men considered Boulder “a Garden of Eden” after six months of alpine seclusion at Rand, Colorado, and took full advantage of its cultural opportunities. Many finished grade school and high school; some even accumulated a year of college credit. With virtually every member participating in educational activities, the camp was informally dubbed “College Camp.” Again, it is reported that:
“The conduct of the enrollees in the town and the work which they accomplished was of such character that soon the citizens of Boulder began to realize what a valuable asset to a community a CCC camp could be.”

The work of Company 802 involved continued improvements on Flagstaff Mountain, including construction of stone guardrails, picnic tables, public shelters, latrines, and hundreds of miles of fences. They also worked on road improvements, timber thinning, and eradication of “tree blights.” In October 1935, Company 802 relocated to Camp NP-1-C in Estes Park.

All quotes above are from: History of the Civilian Conservation Corps in Colorado, Summer 1936, compiled by L.A. Gleyre and C.N. Alleger.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Gardner, Colorado

The "Boys" of Company 1844 were stationed at Gardner, Colorado, Camp DF-46-C, where the company was organized, from July 1934 to June 1935. The company then moved to Walden, Colorado, and occupied Camp F-52-C. In October that year, they moved again to Elbert (Camp SCS-9-C), where the company disbanded October 23rd.

These photos show part of the company, above, and the camp view, below.

Gardner is located southwest of Pueblo, Colorado, with the distant Sangre de Cristo Mountains (Blanca Peak) on the horizon. Although I can't find the exact camp location, I think that must be Sheep Mountain and Little Sheep Mountain in the background closer to the camp.

Enrollees: The Colorado State Archives database lists names of only a few men who served in this camp, all from Pueblo or Huerfano counties:
  • Addington, Burch Ortella
  • Coco, John J
  • Grisham, Ball H L
  • Quintana, Philip
  • Renteria, Jess
  • Visich, Nick

According to the CCC Legacy database for Colorado, Company 2134 occupied this camp (labeled F-46 in that listing) beginning in July 1938. For an index of camp designation abbreviations, see this list.

Note: Other helpful links at CSA are: index of photographs, history of CCC in Colorado.

Friday, May 8, 2009

All About the CCC in Colorado

An ambitious post title for a brand new blog! Here we'll plan to bring you news and views of the Civilian Conservation Corps, as it existed in Colorado during the 1930s. We'll also provide updates as more current information becomes available for the CCC heritage today.

The biggest news to start off with is that we are hosting Colorado's first(?) CCC national reunion and gathering this fall. Alumni of the original CCC have been meeting annually since 1978, preparing for this New Deal program's 50th reunion year in 1983. They came from around the country to attend these events, several hundred strong. As their numbers dwindle, those of us in later generations must take up the torch. A new national organization, CCC Legacy, has been formed to remember their accomplishments.

Preliminary information on the Mile High CCC Legacy Gathering, October 8-10, 2009, is available now at the links below and will be updated here as new plans are in place.

Event Information and Registration (from the CCC Legacy national newsletter)
Registration form only

(CCC Legacy pages are available here courtesy of the national CCC Legacy organization.)

Below are earlier CCC-related posts imported from other blogs for reference, with their original dates of publication.