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The CCC Boys in Eagle County

It’s 1934.

You’re about to turn 18 in the middle of the Great Depression—what sort of luck is that? No job, no prospects, trying to help your parents feed the family any way you can. One day, you’re using your last ration stamp for sugar and you see a sign: the United States government has created a work program and it pays $1 a day. Food, water, shelter, even clothing. Did I mention it pays $1 a day? It’s hard, manual labor, but at least you’ll be outdoors. You ask yourself: Where do I sign up?! 
Enter Civilian Conservation Corps. Created in 1933 as part of Roosevelt’s New Deal, the “CCC Boys”, as they would become known, became gainfully employed through manual labor jobs working in conservation, such as soil erosion, road construction and maintenance, planting trees, insect control, you name it. If you were between the ages of 18-25 and could pass a physical exam, you could have the opportunity to make $30 a month, with at least $25 sent home to your family. You received food, clothing, and medical care. The men were sent to nearly every state and it became one of the most popular federal programs to emerge from the wreckage of the Great Depression. It was a governmental slam dunk: men were given jobs, learned useful skills, and some of the most beautiful parts of our country were being maintained while gaining notoriety that could (and would) encourage future success in conservation and protection.  


Alright, so what does this have to do with Eagle County? Well, there's a Beck involved...

Earl Beck, of Red Cliff, didn't quite meet the age requirements but was hired by the Forest Service as a foreman for the Civilian Conservation Corps. He was responsible not just for the jobs, but for purchasing and requesting supplies like bunks, blankets, and other living necessities that were promised to the men. His camp was known as "F-15" and would work throughout Eagle County.
 
 
Beck's crew built the shelter house at Camp Tigiwon, as well as the trail to Notch Mountain and the shelterhouse on Notch Mountain. In the back of this photograph, you can see their tents and campsite. 

The CCC Boys developed camps wherever they were working and they had many projects. This photograph shows a camp on the Randall ranch, just southeast of Minturn, along the Eagle River. O.W. Randall took pictures of where the boys built a road (in the foreground). Randall would also lead Holy Cross Pilgrimages, which would take place at Camp Tigiwon.

Not all of the workers were unskilled. For some of these jobs, professional staff was on hand. This photograph shows the laying of the foundation for the Tigiwon Shelter House. The man on the right was a mason hired to supervise. This particular photograph comes from the Town of Red Cliff Museum

In 1933, an estimated 250,000 men were working in the program. Enrollees were required to serve 6 months. Many learned skills that promised future success.  Reports of malnourished and poorly clothed men are well-documented, and it could said that the CCC program saved many lives, futures, and families, as well as the foundation of our natural resources!

Usually, it’s not a good thing when a program dies out. But in this case, the economy once again picked up, and by 1942, the CCC was permanently shut down. CCC property, like the structures Beck’s crew built, were transferred to other agencies to maintain. Men were drafted for the war and new national programs took its place. But here in Eagle County, we can never forget the impact the CCC Boys had on our landscape and therefore, to our people.

Interested in learning more about the CCC Boys? The library is hosting an event on September 13 with author, storyteller, and producer Bill Jamerson. His program, “Dollar-A-Day Boys” showcases his extensive research and passion for this truly American story. Come meet Bill, see more historical photographs like these, and learn more about the CCC Boys program.

You can also check out these photographs and more on the CCC Boys, Beck family, Camp Tigiwon, and Holy Cross Pilgrimages at our Historical Photographs website!

Until next month… 

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