World War II has its own tale to tell. But, prior to that event there is another
story. It speaks of the resilience of this country and the leadership of a President faced with enormous problems. It is about the young men of America and the history of the country itself, the story of the Civilian Conservation Corps. It would become known as the C.C.C's. In many ways the story helped to create the courageous spirit of the men we see in the above photograph.
While in New England this past summer I made time to visit the
Bristol County Historical Society. Browsing through the shelves I found two small booklets about the Civilian Conservation Corps. Remembering my Dad had been part of the C.C.C's I added the booklets to my treasures. I figured I would do a little post one day on the subject. Like anything else, the little booklets were only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The subject was not only
relevant to my family and the Village but to the country as a whole.
I was in up to my ears and learning every minute of my research.
Because the subject is so vast, this is the first of a series, the first being an introduction.
Often TV interviews demonstrate, our young do not know their history. I generalize but it still seems to woefully be the case. Perhaps a member of your family was part of the C.C.C.'s or perhaps you will just learn something fascinating about the resilience this country. It was not always the divided and worrisome place it appears to be today.
This dedication of this statue of a CCC worker took
place in the Freetown State Forest in Massachusetts in 2002.
Freetown Forest is between Taunton and Fall River. It is noteworthy for
the fact that is considered by many to be haunted....
Alongside the statue in the photograph below is my nephew Peter Nascimento.
Peter has two grandfathers who served in the CCC: Frank Souza, my father
and Joe Nascimento, Peter's other grandfather. both of them
Village boys. Peter has his own story of courage to tell, but right
now he is listening to this one and finding one more reason why he
loved those two grandfathers so very much.
The tale of the C.C.C is a fascinating one.
The Village played a part in this National endeavor. Faced with the same
extremes of a debilitating Depression beginning in 1929 people in the Village ,as always, helped each other. We read earlier that the Portuguese American Civic Club on School Street was founded to help families in the Village that could not make ends meet.
The P.A.C.C. , as it is still called, helped its members find employment on many levels, including the federal. They likely helped them, including my Dad and others, to get into the Civilian Conservation Corps. Keep in mind the national income was cut in half and a quarter of the work force in America was unemployed. I am proud that my Village stood up and helped its people.
Soup lines and queues for employment snaked throughout the country. In Washington D.C. you can find the impressive memorial to FDR remembering those lines. My husband got into the spirit of the moving monument by standing at the end of the line of men whose posture speaks volumes.
In 1927 my Grandfather Souza, age 42 years, drowned leaving behind my Grandmother and seven children in the little house on School Street. When 1929 rolled around and the Depression started it must have hit them like a bolt of lightening. My grandfather had been a successful businessman and suddenly the life of that family was turned upside down.
In the late 20's mill owners in Taunton with the means to moved south. The textile industry was not as strong as before. One reason is that women's fashions had changed. As shorter skirts became vogue material for their clothing changed from 19 1/2 yards in 1913 to 7 yards in 1928. Six Taunton mills closed and the job situation went from employing 235,000 in 1923 to 96,000 in 1932 .
From 178 mills in Massachusetts, the number dropped to 57.
In 1932 20 tenement houses built on Middleboro Ave to house mill workers were auctioned off for $5, 850. a per house total of $142. 50.
It was estimated that in those years there were people near starvation in Taunton.
The P.A.C.C. gave priority to those families most in need in the Village.
Here is an interesting aside....did you know?
Here is a bit of history I bet you did not know- I surely did not. When FDR ran
for President in 1932, William Foster was the Presidential nominee for the
Communist party in that election. His vote was minuscule.
However, he was born in Taunton ,MA in February of 1881!
The plaque at the base of the statue is Freetown, MA
The story of the C.C.C. is amazing on many levels. The first is its speed of inception. In our time, there is deepening stagnation of ideas and solutions to so many problems.
Not back then. "Shovel Ready" meant something in FDR's time.
March 9, 1933- mere weeks after taking office, FDR ordered his senior staff to draw up a plan to put 500,000 men to work.
March 21 - a modest proposal for 250,000 jobs was sent to Congress.
March 31- Congress approved and signed into law the plan giving broad discretionary authority to the President for setting up the "Emergency Conservation
Work Program." It got its new name in 1937.
Incredibly, the C.C.C. was successfully supervised by four Cabinet Departments: the War Dept for housing administration and housing and discipline. The Departments of Agriculture and the Interior planned and organized work and the Department of Labor selected and enrolled applicants via state and local relief departments.
Here is an interesting document. FDR tried to get the amount of money
it would cost per day perworker down from $1.92 per day.
Boom! "Bringing an army of unemployed into healthful surroundings," Roosevelt argued, "would help eliminate the threats to social liberty that enforced idleness had created." Keep in mind that this was not a welfare program it was a WORK PROGRAM.
None too soon.
Above: FDR visiting a C.C.C Camp in 1933. Skyland, Virginia.
Below are some of the boys from Taunton who were in the C.C.C.'s
taken March 12, 1937. Location unknown.
Front Row center: Joseph Murphy, Back Row: Louis Robino.
Perhaps you recognize others. There are none of the
Village boys that I have found. I did find their names
and they will be in the next post.
Lots more to come!
Sources: I will list sources in the next post.