Our nation was just starting to recover from the Great Depression, and misery and need were everywhere. God sent us a great leader, a crippled, sickly man in a wheelchair. Many looked at his weakened body and could not see the indomitable spirit of the leader and his courageous wife. He gave us a plan to recover from the Depression: the Public Works Administration and the Civilian Conservation Corps.
The Public Works Administration went to work building roads. Men found they could stand shoulder-to-shoulder and do the impossible. And glory be, they were paid to do it. You could ride by and hear them singing.
I was 17 when my younger brother and I joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. Only sons of low-income families that were without work could join the Civilian Conservation Corps. There were 10 of us children, and only my brother and I were allowed to go. We received $8 a month and room and board; $22 a month was sent to our mother to help the rest of the family.
I reported to Neodesha, Kansas. We were housed in barrack-type buildings with a mess hall and a doctor on duty. We arose to reveille, and lights out to taps.
This company was assigned to do conservation on area farms. All work was done by hand. We dug rocks from fields and pastures and transported them by wheelbarrows to the locations where they were needed. At the relocation site, we would beat them into size and shape with sledgehammers. Smaller rocks were crushed finer for lime to put back on the fields they were removed from, and larger ones for gravel on the roads. We dug cactuses from the fields and pastures and burned them.
When we built terraces, we became a shovel brigade, building them completely by hand.
When I was drafted in 1942, I realized how much I had learned in the Civilian Conservation Corps to make basic training, and Army life, easier for me.
As told to D. M. Clifford
Back in 1955 a call went out from the editors of the then Capper’s Weekly asking for readers to send in articles on true pioneers. Hundreds of letters came pouring in from early settlers and their children, many now in their 80s and 90s, and from grandchildren of settlers, all with tales to tell. So many articles were received that a decision was made to create a book, and in 1956, the first My Folks title – My Folks Came in a Covered Wagon – hit the shelves. Nine other books have since been published in the My Folks series, all filled to the brim with true tales from Capper’s readers, and we are proud to make those stories available to our growing online community.