ABOUT THIS POST
Franklin D. Roosevelt set up CCC camps throughout Kentucky
They had fun outside of work hours
CCC camp social life impacted local towns
When people think about Franklin D. Roosevelt, they don’t typically think of their hometown and the impact Roosevelt had on it. During the 1930s, when the Great Depression hit, Roosevelt started one of many programs called the “Civilian Conservation Corps.” The “CCC” put men, typically ages 18-25, all across the country to work in parks…
When people think about Franklin D. Roosevelt, they don’t typically think of their hometown and the impact Roosevelt had on it. During the 1930s, when the Great Depression hit, Roosevelt started one of many programs called the “Civilian Conservation Corps.” The “CCC” put men, typically ages 18-25, all across the country to work in parks and rural areas to help build things such as recreational areas, roads, bridges, and accessories to get more people involved in nature. People don’t know about the impact that Roosevelt had on their local towns. However, Roosevelt’s impact hits closer to home than they think. Roosevelt set up CCC camps all over Kentucky, some even right under our noses. According to an Explore KY History article, “Starting in 1933, three CCC camps were erected in Corbin near the Cumberland Falls State Park Area.”¹
Even small things such as the CCC camps social life made an impact, such as:
- local economic boosts,
- camp fun and games,
- strengthening Christian religion,
- community involvement and more.
In order to be able to participate in the camp social life, the men had strict rules they had to follow. The men would work five days a week doing projects in the wilderness that the camp directed them to do. Their day started with reveille at 6:00 am. Throughout the day the men were consumed with work, only stopping to eat a bagged lunch.
On the Virginia State Park website, writer Elissa Geisler wrote, “Once the workday was completed the men would sit down to a family style meal. After the meal, the men would often play recreational games, such as horseshoes, football, boxing, or baseball.”²
While the men had to work hard, they also had time to relax and leave their impact on the community around them. Since the CCC employees worked during the week, they had the weekends off to go explore the community and take some time off. Some popular things to do were play sports, go into town to bars, restaurants, and even movie theatres.
The CCC men also had holidays off to go to their favorite things around camp or town. In the CCC camp newsletter for the Frenchburg, Kentucky camps, it states, “Orders have been received to the effect that February 22nd, being a legal holiday, no work details other than regular camp routine work will be used.”³ Since the employees had holidays off, it made more opportunity for them to spend money or get involved in activities that would impact the community. For bigger holidays such as Christmas and New Year’s, they split the camp in half, and some went home for Christmas and some for New Year’s. This gave the men time to spend in their own communities back home. The more money they spent, the more it boosted local economies.
Boosting Local Economy
One of the biggest impacts the CCC camps had on the local economy is boosting the amount of money that went back into it. Communities that had CCC camps put in them rebounded faster from the Great Depression because the men spent their money in town. As stated in the last paragraph, the men had their free time in the evenings, weekends, and holidays. During those times it was popular to go into local towns and hang out.
In Neil M. Maher’s book, Nature’s New Deal, Maher writes, “Approximately $2,000 in spending money from each camp also found its way every month from enrollee’s pockets into local movie theatres, pool halls, bars, restaurants, and shops as the young men flocked to nearby towns on their days off.”4
The CCC men only had educational classes and sports on camp, so to blow off some steam they could spend their money in town. The economic boost was important because it could help improve the lives of people other than CCC employees like women, minorities, and people unable to work in the CCC. The money funneling into the communities was also a good way to gain support for Roosevelt’s other “deals” and his campaign. When local people saw the positive impact of having a CCC camp nearby, it would help generate support. According to Michael Sherraden’s article “The Local Impact of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942,” it says, “There is convincing evidence that camp spending in the nearby towns had a very significant influence in camp-community relationships.”5
It was important to build a positive camp-community relationship because the CCC camps were one of the vital roles that ended the Great Depression. However, in order to be able to keep the positive impact they had started, the men had to follow some strict rules.
To learn more about these rules, see my next post focusing on the rules and expectations of the men in CCC camps.
1 Whitney Todd, “Civilian Conservation Corps at Cumberland Falls,” Explore KY History, accessed March 28, 2019.
2 Elissa Geisler, “A Day in the Life of a Civilian Conservation Corps Member,” Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation, last modified June 6, 2017.
3 “Holiday,” The Mountaineer, Vol.1, No.8 (February 22, 1935): 3.
4 Neil M. Maher, Nature’s New Deal, (New York: Oxford University Press, 2008): 136.
5 Michael W. Sherraden, “The Local Impact of the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942,” The Journal of Sociology and Welfare, Vol. 10, No.3 (1983): 514-529