Sunday, May 5, 2024

Civilian Conservation Corps - Life in a CCC Camp

 By Mary Dodge Allen

Civilian Conservation Corps Logo (Public Domain)

CCC Camp in Michigan, flag raising ceremony (Public Domain)

In 1933, America's economy was in the midst of the Great Depression. Poverty and unemployment gripped the nation. President Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal Programs were enacted to help lift the country back onto solid economic footing.

One of the New Deal programs, the Civilian Conservation Corps - the CCC - provided much-needed paying jobs for unemployed young men. My Uncle Gordon Dodge was 18 years old when he applied to work for the CCC.

L-R: Uncle Gordon Dodge, Russ Fournier 1938 (family photo)

The CCC provided work on conservation projects across the country, such as:

  • Building fire observation towers, roads, camp/picnic areas in national forests
  • Planting trees in clear-cut areas
  • Flood control projects
  • Preventing soil erosion (after the "Dust Bowl" devastation)

What was life like in a CCC Camp?

My Uncle Gordon Dodge was assigned to work in northern Minnesota's Superior National Forest. He worked from July 1938 - June 1940, and he was grateful for this opportunity to earn money to help his family (he had six siblings).

Sea Gull CCC Camp, Grand Marais, MN 1938 (family photo)

Note: My uncle's CCC Camp claims it's "the most isolated camp in the USA." It was located near Grand Marais, Minnesota just south of the Canadian border.

I remember my uncle's stories about working at the CCC Camp. Northern Minnesota had areas where loggers had clear-cut the forest. He spent many days planting row after row of trees. He also drove trucks and helped to construct firebreaks, trails and roads.

L-R: Russ Fournier, Gordon Dodge, Bill Kraholm 1938 (family photo)

CCC Program Facts - Uncle Gordon's Comments in Italics:

  • Employed single men ages 18 - 25; later expanded to ages 17 - 28
  • Paid each man $30 per month; $25 of this salary was sent to each man's family (My family needed that income, and most of the other families did, too.)
  • Each man kept $5 of this salary for spending money (Our camp was so remote, there wasn't anywhere to spend that money, anyhow.)
  • The men lived in barracks (The CCC Camp prepared me for life in the Army Air Corps, after I joined up. The camp was run with a set schedule, like the military.)
  • Men were provided with work clothing (Our uniforms were surplus WWI Army uniforms. The wool was scratchy and smelled like mothballs, at first.)
  • Each camp had a dining/recreation hall, a lavatory building with showers, and a medical dispensary.
  • Work crews consisted of 25 men, and had an assigned Crew Leader to train and supervise them.
  • Classes were available during free time, as well as recreational activities.

Photo below of a dubious recreational activity. Uncle Gordon's head is on the chopping block! Glad that axe didn't slip!

Standing L-R: Mike Bereska, Leslie Nelson, Russ Fournier; Gordon Dodge with head on block!
(family photo)

My husband and I visited the Michigan CCC Camp Museum in North Higgins Lake State Park several years ago. Below are interesting photos of the exhibits:

CCC Camp Schedule - Michigan CCC Museum (family photo)

CCC recruits Before; and After dressed in uniforms:

Michigan CCC Museum (family photo)

CCC Camp Barracks, Michigan CCC Museum (family photo)

CCC Camp Dining Hall, Michigan CCC Museum (family photo)

These are a few of the celebrities who worked in the CCC before becoming famous: Actors Walter Matthau and Raymond Burr; Baseball Hall of Fame outfielder Stan Musial; Air Force test pilot Chuck Yeager.

The CCC program lasted nine years, from 1933 - 1942. (It was discontinued after the U.S. entered WWII.)

CCC Program accomplishments during its nine years:
  • Employed a total of nearly 3 million men
  • Established over 700 new state parks
  • Planted an estimated 3.5 billion trees
  • Routed over 100,000 miles of telephone lines
  • Constructed over 126,000 miles of roads through national forests

I have traveled on one of the roads my Uncle Gordon helped to construct - (northern Minnesota's Gunflint Trail) - when I went on canoe/camping trips with my close friends.

Canoe trip group. I am kneeling, on the left (family photo)

Even though the work was hard manual labor, my Uncle Gordon had fond memories of his experience at the CCC Camp. Do you know anyone who worked in the CCC program?

Lt. Gordon Dodge, B-17 Co-pilot WWII (family photo)

Note: My Uncle Gordon Dodge enlisted in the Army Air Corps and became a B-17 co-pilot who flew 35 combat missions. I wrote a Blog describing his 20th combat mission, from start to finish, based on the pilot's mission diary. Here is the link:

Mary Dodge Allen is the winner of a 2022 Christian Indie Award, a 2022 Angel Book Award, and two Royal Palm Literary Awards (Florida Writer's Association). She and her husband live in Central Florida, where she has served as a volunteer with the local police department. Her childhood in Minnesota, land of 10,000 lakes, sparked her lifelong love of the outdoors. She has worked as a Teacher, Counselor and Social Worker. Her quirky sense of humor is energized by a passion for coffee and chocolate. She is a member of the Florida Writer's Association, American Christian Fiction Writers and Faith Hope and Love Christian Writers. 

Mary's novel: Hunt for a Hometown Killer won the 2022 Christian Indie Award, First Place - Mystery/Suspense; and the 2022 Angel Book Award - Mystery/Suspense.

Click the link below to buy Hunt for a Hometown Killer at

Link to Mary's Spotlight Interview:   Mary Dodge Allen Author Spotlight EA Books


  1. Thank you for posting today. There were some CCC camp sites in the area I grew up. Neither my husband nor I remember anyone that we knew who said they worked there.

  2. What a great informative article! I enjoyed reading it. Through family history research, I've discovered several of my family members worked the CCC. My great-grandfather helped build Roaring River State Park located in Cassville, Barry County, Missouri, here in the SW Missouri Ozarks. Thank you for posting about the CCC!

  3. My husband's dad worked in a CCC Camp and a couple of my uncles did also. We have state parks in WV where rustic cabins and buildings were built by the CCC.