Michigan based author Bill Jamerson will return to Peoria Public Library to present a music and storytelling program about the Civilian Conservation Corps at the Peoria Public Library Main Library Auditorium on Monday, October 1 at 2:00 pm. The hour-long program will include stories, video, reading excerpts from his novel and playing original songs about the CCC with his guitar. Jamerson has presented the program at CCC reunions, state and national parks around the country.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was a federal works program created by President Franklin Roosevelt in the heart of The Great Depression. During its nine year run from 1933-1942, over three and a half million young men between the ages of 17 and 25 years of age enlisted across the country. They were known as “Roosevelt’s Tree Army” because they planted over 3.5 billion trees nationwide. The enrollees lived in work camps located far from towns and were paid a dollar a day. Twenty-five dollars a month was sent home directly to their families.
Jamerson’s novel, BIG SHOULDERS follows a year in the life of a seventeen-year-old youth from Detroit who enlists in the CCC in 1937. The enrollee joins two hundred other young men at Camp Raco, a work camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula run by army officers. It is a coming-of-age story of an angry teenager who faces the rigors of hard work, learning to get along with a difficult sergeant and coping with a bully.
Some of the songs he performs include Chowtime, a fun look at the camp food, City Slicker, which tells of the mischief the young men get into in the woods, Borrowed Mom, is the story of an orphan who finds a mother, and Tree Plantin’, Fire Fightin’ Blues tells of the hardships of work. The folk songs range from heartwarming ballads to foot stomping jigs. The stories and songs are as educational as they are entertaining, as honest as they are fun.
In Illinois, the Civilian Conservation Corps planted millions of trees, engaged in soil conservation projects, created river improvements and fought forest fires They also built state parks and historic sites including Starved Rock State Park, Black Hawk State Historic Site and Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site. Chicago received a major share of new recreational construction with the development of the Skokie Lagoons, part of the Cook County forest preserve. More than 165,000 men from the state enlisted in the CCC, with 92,000 men serving across the state. An average of 54 camps a year operated in the state with expenditures of more than 104 million dollars. The juvenile crime rate in Chicago declined by 55% from 1933-1935, in large part because of the recruitment of young men into the CCC.
The Civilian Conservation Corps not only revitalized the state’s natural resources but also taught the young men job skills and discipline. In his talk, Jamerson will share many nostalgic stories he has picked up from former CCC Boys he has met over the years and will also discuss some of their work projects in Illinois. He will sign books after his talk. For more information about the program please call the library at 497-2143 or visit Bill’s website at: www.billjamerson.com. The program is free to the public.