Advocate Walter Sekula Leads Tree Planting Effort
Walter Sekula of Norwich, CT. has volunteered hours of faithful service to assure that the CCC is not forgotten. He has logged many miles, attended events across the nation and served as an ambassador for the CCC wherever he has traveled.
His dream of planting a CCC commemorative tree at the F.D.R Presidential Library and Museum in Hyde Park, NY has become a reality. In a ceremony on June 13, 2009, at 2:00, pm an eight-foot white oak sapling was planted. The white oak was chosen to represent the State of Connecticut’s “Historical Charter Oak”.
A plaque, presented by Walter Sekula, will be placed by the tree. It reads:
Franklin Delano Roosevelt
Father of the CCC
75th Anniversary of the
“Civilian Conservation Corps” 1933-1942
By: Timothy Ivers
The existence of a CCC Camp in South Huntington, Long Island, New York. The former camp site is now a residential housing development of lovely manicured suburban homes. Directly across the street the sprawling Walt Whitman Shopping Mall has been a presence for many years. But from 1934 to 1938, this area was exclusively farm country, two lane roads, and the location of vegetable farms and estates. Today the only indicator of its past life is an historic marker, standing like a lone sentinel on New York Avenue, with the brief message, “Site of CCC Camp 1934-1938”. Unlike other Long Island CCC camps at Camp Upton and Mitchel Field which were established on military bases, or the camp started at Bethpage State Park, this camp (274) was begun on private property.
On Friday, May 25, 1934. Company 274 moved from Sag Harbor, Long Island to its new camp site on the John T. Leiper estate, a 100 acre horse ranch in South Huntington, which was located on New York Avenue one quarter mile south of the Jericho Turnpike. Mr. Leiper leased six acres of the property to the Army from 1934 to 1938. Initial construction was to occupy six acres. A year later, the camp expanded to about 10 acres. 192 boys, three officers and 19 New York State Forest Rangers were accommodated there in army tents, with six men to a tent. Captain E.G. Henschel, U.S. Army was the officer in charge of the camp, and he had 11 years experience in the U.S. Army, with 15 months in WWI. He was assisted by Lieutenants Frank Seitz, of Buffalo, New York and Harold Theilhelm of New York City. Charles Johnson was top sergeant of the company. Of the 192 boys, 18 were from Huntington, and the majority of boys were between 18 and 25 years of age. The group was to make its first public appearance on Memorial Day in a local parade and service.
In a press interview, Captain Henschel indicated the boys would be lodged in the tents until wooden barracks could be constructed. Local workmen were going to be hired to build the barracks and other buildings. CCC policy dictated that materials and supplies for the camp be purchased locally. This would amount to over $3,000 per month.
From eight in the morning until four in the afternoon the members of the camp were under the charge of the 19 New York State Foresters, who were transferred to the Federal payroll for the time. Each Ranger took 10 young men and their object was to fight the gypsy moth and other pests, among those being tent caterpillars and canker worms. The boys would line up, 10 deep, at the edge of a woodland, with a Ranger behind them. They worked straight up, through the forest, examining each tree and marking it. The boys would take with them a light lunch, consisting of 3 sandwiches and fruit. In winter, hot coffee was taken to them in huge thermos bottles.
From four in the afternoon until eight the following mornings, the Army officers were in charge of the youth. Evening meal was at five, and the boys were free after that to play ball, read, study, or go into town (Huntington village). When leaving camp, the boys were required to sign out and state where they might be found. Lights out was at ten o’clock, but boys were permitted out past that if they “returned quietly”. Six boys each day, chosen in alphabetical order, were assigned to kitchen police duty, working under direction of a head cook. In the barracks cots were arranged on each side of a center aisle. The boys were their own maids, and before leaving the barracks each morning, they had to make their own cot and leave everything in excellent order. There was a daily inspection of the barracks, and the barracks as a whole was rated. The boys in the three barracks rated the highest were relieved of all work on Saturday mornings, and those in the two highest got a pack of cigarettes. (How would that fly today?) About 30 boys would remain in the camp each day for ‘home duty’ while the remainder were taken out in trucks to the area woods, which extended a radius of 20 to 30 miles from the base camp.
The forest was to be cleared of insects and pests were from Huntington to Coram. The emphasis was on the gypsy moth insect, which was devastating to trees. Hunting gypsy moth egg clusters was known as “bug hunting”. Loose bark on trees was scraped off during an inspection and if eggs were found, the spot was sprayed with a small can of creosote. Gypsy moths were a menace to hardwood trees, particularly oak. Elimination of pests and insects was not the only function of the camp. During the last week of January, 1935, a detail of 150 boys from the camp provided assistance in snow removal after a heavy snowfall in Huntington. The boys were assigned to local schools, churches and Huntington hospital. Their work was greatly appreciated during the snow emergency.
Monthly dances were held in the camp’s recreation hall, and each boy could invite a lady friend and sometimes 50 or 60 girls were invited from Huntington village.
A few of the boys were paid $45 per month, and a few more received $36. The larger number got $30, and they sent at least $25 per month home, leaving them little spending money.
POLITICS AND THE “SEVENTY-ONE”
In October, 1934, there were 71 members (potentially eligible to vote) in the camp. At the approach of the local elections in Huntington, the landlord of the property on which the camp was established, Justice of the Peace John Leiper, arranged for these 71 young men to register in the Twenty-third District in order that they would be eligible to vote. There was an immediate reaction by the voting public to this registration, and suspicions of electioneering arose. On October 25th a show cause hearing was held at State Supreme Court in Riverhead seeking to nullify the registration of “The 71”.
The court’s decision resulted in the names of the 71 were to be stricken from the rolls in Huntington, but they would be permitted to vote by absentee ballot in their home districts.
SICKNESS IN THE CAMP
In early April, 1935, a quarantine was maintained at the camp following the discovery of a case of scarlet fever. Two other suspect cases were discovered and the individuals were removed to a hospital at Fort Totten. In addition, there were 15 cases of measles, which resulted in eight more patients being sent to the Fort Totten hospital. The remaining seven were taken care of in the camp’s hospital. The Suffolk County Health Commissioner and Commander Wicks of the USN Medical Corps inspected the camp and determined that the danger of an epidemic was very slight.
GUEST DAY AT CAMP -MAY 1935
Captain J.A. Noxon, US Army, was then the camp’s commanding officer, and Captain O.D.Swank was chaplain. Other officers in 1935 included First Lieutenants W. Smith and R. Visco, and Second Lieutenant M. Primoshic, who also acted as mess officer. Edward Morrison was camp superintendent and Murray Gilman was educational advisor.
Visitors’ Day at the camp allowed a large number of residents of Huntington and neighboring villages to tour the camp. Guides were furnished to all who attended, and the work and living conditions of the young men were thoroughly explained. One of the buildings of interest was the recreation hall. It had nothing except benches along the wall. Realizing that in many homes in Huntington there was suitable furniture stored away where it was doing no one any good, and which would help equip this hall so that it might be more comfortable and enjoyable to the CCC boys, an appeal was made through the churches and other places for furniture. Marshall Field, a nearby owner of a large estate was one of many who pledged their support. A $300 billiard table had already been presented.
ROTARIANS ENJOY VISIT
The Huntington Rotary Club held its weekly luncheon in October, 1935, at the camp. The club members were escorted about the grounds in groups under the direction of First Lieutenant Walter Smith, of the 28th U.S. Infantry. The general layout of the camp reminded one of a college setup. The buildings were around a large campus with a flag pole in the center. There were 17 buildings arranged in systematic order about the landscaped area. They consisted of an administrative headquarters building, officers’ quarters, U.S. Rangers’ quarters, mess hall, cook’s quarters, hospital, recreation hall, two garages, and five barracks, a machine shop and shower room.
The entire landscaping was done by the boys with supplies donated by Hicks Nursery in nearby Westbury, and Colonel Stanley Todd, who donated some evergreen trees. On the south side of the camp was an athletic field for baseball and football. An outdoor boxing ring also provided recreation. Boxing instruction was provided by Lieutenant Primoshic, who also organized a sport tournament to decide a champion boxer. Educational instruction was provided in biology, English literature, Spanish, French, chemistry, forestry, civics, and radio theory. A radio transmitting and receiving station was also installed. Arts and crafts instruction consisted of wood carving, art metal work, leather, and model building. A large dramatic club was established, under the direction of William Howard of the Federal Writers Project of New York, who was a volunteer dramatic instructor at the camp, and the club wrote and produced an original play, “He Who Brags”, with the boys of the camp also serving as actors and the audience. At the time, there were 207 members of the camp including 18 forest rangers.
The Rotarians enjoyed a luncheon in the mess hall at the conclusion of their tour. One of the boys in the camp, Tex Card, who used to be a Texas cowboy, sang songs for the entertainment of the guests.
PRESIDENT’S BALL --1936
A President’s Birthday Dance was held on Friday, January 31st, 1936 in the camp recreation hall, which was gaily decorated , and a mural especially prepared by enrollee John DiMauro was unveiled in honor of the occasion. Music was furnished by the Fort Totten dance orchestra. Dancing was continuous until 11:30 P.M. when all were invited to partake of refreshments in the camp mess hall. Dancing resumed at midnight and continued until 1:30 A.M. These dances were a regular monthly feature. The proceeds from this dance were turned over to the Warm Springs Foundation, to help establish the soon to become Warm Springs, Georgia treatment center for infantile paralysis (polio) begun by president Franklin Roosevelt.
THIEVES AMONG US
In December 1937, six camp youths were arrested for petty larceny after a few of them turned in their uniforms and declared they were leaving the camp. Instead of leaving they remained in the camp, and when all the others went out to work,
they stole clothing owned by those remaining in the camp. Two of the boys were charged with bartering clothing which did not belong to them. Four of the youths were given five days in jail. Two received suspended sentences. Those sent to jail were also dismissed from the CCC ranks. Those receiving suspended sentences got another chance to make good.
CLOSING OF THE CAMP--1938
October 10th 1938, Camp 274 closed and was moved to Poughkeepsie, New York under the direction of Lieutenant Wilyen. During its stay in the four years in South Huntington, the camp personnel had systematically covered all wooded areas as far west as Roslyn, eliminating practically all of the gypsy moth pest. It was not known at that time what would be done with the camp buildings.
But by the following March, the former camp became the Huntington Work Center, under the direction of the National Youth Administration. It was open to young men 18 to 25 who were out of school and unemployed. Woodworking, cabinet making and the metal and carpentry trades were courses offered. The work center hoped to employ 40 young men for 50 hours a month for which they would be paid $18 per month.
The original house at this location was built in 1858. It was purchased by John Leiper in 1903. The house remained until June, 2009, when it was deemed to be not salvageable, and was demolished to make way for a new house. The former camp grounds had begun to be subdivided in the 1950’s. Mr. Leiper died in 1960.
My thanks go to the following people for their assistance in providing information, inspiration and encouragement for this article:
Robert C. Hughes, Huntington Town historian, New York
Karen Martin, Huntington Town Historical Society, New York
Bonnie Sauer, National Archives and Records Administration, New York
David Haberstich and Marcia Rodwin, National Museum of American History, Smithsonian Institute, Washington, D.C.
Joan Sharpe, President, CCC Legacy
Editors Note: Thanks to Timothy Ivers for being a curious commuter. Tim’s interest in the CCC was sparked by a historical marker on New York Avenue about a block away from where family lives. He says, “I enjoy local history, and until I spotted this marker, I would never have guessed this location held historical significance.”
Tim, thank you for sharing your time and your research so all of us can continue to learn more about th__________________________________________________________________________________________________
By Evertt Coplan
I enlisted in the CCC 15 July 1940, age 19 at Waldron Arkansas. I was sent to Co. 3723 in Shenandoah, Iowa, Soil Conservation Service Camp.
I started working in the office typing up agreements for the supervisor. The men followed these guidelines when they went out to help the farmers.
I was later moved to a little hospital. A doctor by the name of Dr. Seasongood from Des Moines, IA came by once a week and checked to see if we needed any help. I took care of all records and reports and everything else that pertained to the hospital. The hospital had four beds and one bed in the Quarantine Room. I had a room at the end of the hospital. There was two bunk beds and a big stove in the middle of the hospital. The night watchman for the camp, by the name of Minor, would come around and keep the fire going in the big stove all night. Sometimes when he had time, he would wake me up and bring a bologna sandwich and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for us to eat. These were some of the main foods. We did not have much to eat.
Paul Taff, a boy from Waldron was moved into the hospital with me for nights only. He would goout with the work crew during the day.
The people in the kitchen worked all night making sandwiches for the men that worked in the field. One night we had a pillow fight in the Barracks. We were called to the Commanders Office and was given a good talking. We had no more pillow fights.
Dr. Seasongood wanted me to re-enlist at that camp and spend Christmas with him and his family at their home in Des Moines, IA. Just before I was discharged a church group started coming out on Sunday evening to sing to us.
My time was up and I was discharged 23 December 1941.
by Jerry Schatzer, Life Member
John Selesky (left) president and Bob Fyvie (right) vice president of CCC Legacy Chapter #129 unveil the 54th CCC Worker Statue at Hartwick Pines State Park north of Grayling, Michigan on Saturday, June 20, 2009. The statue commemorating the CCC has been placed in the area of the state park’s logging museum.
In the mid-30s CCC boys constructed buildings at the park to preserve artifacts from the lumbering era in Michigan. Additionally, CCC enrollees built trails and other park features.
The unveiling of the CCC Worker Statue was a part of the celebration of the 90th anniversary of Michigan State Parks. Rob Burg, Site Historian recounted the history and accomplishments of the CCC. John Selesky spoke of his days in the Cs and a State Department of Natural Resources official spoke of the quality of the work done by the CCC in the State of Michigan. A crowd of about 100 was on hand for the event.
The CCC Worker Statue program is an example of the concept that good ideas can speak for themselves.
Under the nurturing effort of Rev. William Frasier, Chapter #129 Grayling Michigan, the seed was planted to have a statue in every state. Although there are still 16 states that do not have a statue to their credit, 54 statues have now been purchased.
This is the third statue for Michigan.
CCC advocates should be proud of their contribution to the statue program and what it signifies to the American public. A rough estimate for the cost of 54 statues and the associated installation cost is well over $1,000,000. Thanks to Chapter #129 for their unfaltering support of Rev. Frasier’s dream.___________________________________________________________________________________________________
CCC Legacy Journal: Vol. 33, Issue 5 - September October 2009
Contributed by: Betty Seacord
Howard Eggleston Seacord - 10/17/15 – 7/17/09
Born Cortland, NY and moved to San Jose, CA at age eight. After graduating from San Jose High School, Howard went into the CCC’s where he learned to be a heavy equipment operator, a skill which became his lifelong occupation. He spent WWII working as an independent contractor for the US Army in Central America, Adak, and the Aleutian Islands. As the war was ending Howard moved to Hawaii to work on reconstruction projects throughout the Islands and married his wife, Betty in Honolulu in 1948. They returned to the mainland and settled in Santa Rosa in 1951, purchasing acreage off a rural country road called Parker Hill where he built his own home and raised his family. Also known to many as Captain Hal, Howard sailed his Chinese Junk, the Four Seas on the San Francisco Bay and Delta for 20 years. After selling their boat, he and Betty then spent the next 20 years seeing over 190,000 miles of the US in their RV. Howard’s family roots are deep. He comes from Scottish descendents named More who were the first European settlers in Delaware County NY. The Clan is now over thirteen thousand strong and the family is celebrated every five years with a reunion attended by hundreds of cousins, including Howard and his family. As an active member of Operating Engineers - Local #3 for 65 years, Howard worked on the union’s election and grievance committees as well as an equipment instructor for apprentices. He also enjoyed teaching boating safety for the Coast Guard Auxiliary. While living in Oakmont he participated in many activities including lawn bowling, petanque and the Rovers. Howard leaves Betty, his wife of 62 years, daughters, Nancy Lynn Frost (Mike) and Carol More Fitzpatrick (Matt) and two grandsons Brian (Julie) and Christopher (Teri) Frost.
Internment was at Cortland, NY and a celebration of his good life will be held at a later date. Desired donations in his memory can be made to Memorial Hospice, Council on Aging in Santa Rosa, the Oakmont Community Fund or a charity of your choice.
CCC Legacy Journal: September-October 2009, Vol. 33 Issue 5
By: Donna Burkheart Campbell
My dad Junior Layman Burkheart, “G.L.”, was in the CCC after his father and mother died. He was the oldest of nine children. Their mother died and three months later their father passed away. Dad would send money back home to help with raising his brothers and sisters.
He once told me that when he and a friend joined the CCC he told them he wanted to go as far away as he could. They sent him from Boydsville Arkansas to Bend and Franks Glen Oregon. He worked with the fish and game, and also cleaned land.
He had many good things to say about CCC camps, and so many stories to tell me and my brothers and sisters. He had a work ethic like no on else and I’m sure was due to the structure of being in CCC camps. He passed that work ethic on to his children, and would always tell us to have dreams and goals and to work toward them, and not depend on someone else or the government to do what you should be doing for yourself. He was a great example and a dad I was so proud of and loved very, very much. He was and always will be my HERO.
J.L. lived in Clay County Arkansas all his life, and was residing in Corning at the time of his death. Dad passed away July 29, 2008.
Dad lived in a nursing home the last couple of years he was alive. Before he passed away, they did an interview with him and his statement from this interview was,” Advice to the younger generation is to be appreciative of what you have and always try hard to accomplish your dreams.”
I would love to hear from anyone who has connections with the camps in Bend and Franks Glen Oregon.
CCC Legacy Journal: Vol. 33, Issue 5 - September October 2009
Contributed by Jeffery L. Schatzer - a national award-winning children’s author and the son of a CCC boy.
“My father was a private man and never talked much about his past,” Schatzer said. “I knew he was in the Civilian Conservation Corps and that he served in the Army during WWII, but I didn’t know any of the details. After he passed away, I was going through some papers he left behind and found his discharge from the Civilian Conservation Corps. That’s when my quest to learn about the CCC began.”
The discharge indicated that his father, Byron L. Schatzer, had served at Camp Cusino in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and was discharged in July of 1935. Schatzer started reading every book and historical article he could find about the C’s and Cusino. The facts started falling into place like puzzle pieces.
“Camp Cusino, located near Shingleton in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, was unique in the CCC because it focused much of its work on animal studies. They literally trapped and transported moose and other large animals on Isle Royale in Lake Superior. The critters were then taken by boat to the camp for the studies. Enrollees were responsible for building pens and caring for the animals,” Schatzer noted. “One year, a winter storm dumped a huge amount of snow in the area. The boys had to dig through the deep snow in order to provide browse for the animals.”
Stories about Camp Cusino and the CCC sparked a growing interest in the history of the Great Depression. In 2006, Schatzer approached his publisher with the idea of writing a chapter book for children on the CCC.
“The idea was simple,” Schatzer commented. “I wanted to write a book that would give both young and old a sense of pride in the CCC. My hope was to create a work that would tell a small slice of the story, a snapshot of an early phase of the CCC in Michigan. I also wanted it to be easy to read. My plan, if the book is successful, is to create a series of books that follow the main character through four enrollment periods followed by a stint as a LEM. Overall, I’d like to see five or six books come out in this series. That would allow readers to get a broader picture of the work projects done by the CCC, a perspective that can’t really be captured in a single book.
“More importantly, I wanted the book to be suitable for use in schools so that young people could discover this amazing era of history for themselves. I wanted the book to have a positive theme and to deliver positive messages about the enrollees who formed this wonderful organization,” Schatzer said. “I did as much reading as I could. Then I set out to find some CCC boys in order to learn from them”
One day Schatzer was running errands when he saw a camper with a bumper sticker that read: I AM A CCC BOY. Though he was low on gas, he chased the van through the streets of Midland, Michigan.
“I caught up with the van when it stopped at a red light on a busy intersection,” Schatzer laughed. “Then I jumped out of my car and ran up to the van to introduce myself before the light changed. That’s when I first met John Gilmour.”
Over the next several years, the author met with John Gilmour, his brother-in-law, Al Hubbard, and other alumni. He joined Chapter 129 of the CCC Legacy, visited the Michigan CCC Museum and several CCC sites around Michigan. In his journeys to learn about the CCC, he attended a Michigan reunion and visited the NACCCA Headquarters in St. Louis.
“During my travels, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting many wonderful people,” Schatzer noted. “The CCC boys I’ve spent time with have shared their stories and memories. Everyone I’ve met and everyone I’ve talked to has been an inspiration to me. It’s been fascinating and fun.
“I’ve taken many of the stories that have been told to me and blended them into a work of historical fiction. So, the book contains actual experiences and real elements of history alongside a fictional story about some Polish kids from Grand Rapids, Michigan.”
After years of research and a year in the writing process, Schatzer’s book finally saw the light of day. “Fires in the Wilderness: A Story of the Civilian Conservation Corps Boys” was released by Mitten Press in October of 2008.
“One of the goals of the CCC Legacy is to spread the word about the CCC and encourage people to join, contribute to, and be active in keeping the story of the CCC alive,” Schatzer concluded. “I truly hope this book helps keep the Spirit of the CCC alive. God willing, I will be given the opportunity to write more books on the CCC. It has been a wonderful experience.
So, how’s the book going?
“So far, so good,” said Schatzer. “I’ll find out more in March when the publisher reports results to me. I’ve had young people tell me that they love the story and have learned a great deal from it. More seasoned readers have also offered their praise for the book. Armchair Interviews (www.armchairinterviews.com) gave the book a very positive review as did Grand Rapids Press, Midland Daily News, and other publications.
Schatzer’s website is www.BigBellyBooks.com. “Fires in the Wilderness: A Story of the Civilian Conservation Corps Boys” can be ordered from Amazon.com: BarnesandNoble.com; Borders.com and through most booksellers around the U.S.
CCC Legacy Journal: September - October 2009, Vol. 33, Issue 5
I enlisted in the program in June 1939. Place of enlistment, Lebanon, Ohio. My stay there was less than 2 weeks—getting uniforms, khakis and undergoing medical exams—shots x-rays, etc. Also indoctrination of missions of the C’s.
July 10—Loaded on a troop train destination unknown. Train was made up of three day coaches and one kitchen coach. Train originated in Cincinnati. Four days later myself and two other enlistee’s detrained in Corvallis, Oregon. While still in route we were informed that we had started three brush fires from throwing cigarette butts from the open windows of the day coaches (we had been given free cigarettes).
I was assigned to Camp 3503 Corvallis. There we were issued work clothing, blue denims, rain gear and calk boots, since this was a “lumber camp”. We were formed into work units—six men and one foreman.
Our prime duties were to make a “truck trail” through McDonald State Forest in conjunction with Oregon State University. My first duty was with tree stump removal. First to undermine tree stumps to place dynamite for quick destruction—then fill in the holes. Later removed from that duty due to getting headaches from exposure to the fumes.
Then assigned to cutting up the fallen fir trees. My first experience with a double bladed axe to trim off limbs. From that to “cross cut” 2 man saws. Being a city grown boy I knew nothing
these tools. Soon graduated to two single man cross cut saw cutting the trimmed fir trees into three foot lengths. These were later split, stacked, and dried for fire wood.
Our second mission was to maintain fire trails through sections of the forest and ground of the country sides. Hazel Hoe duty—a heavy headed 3 inch blade one side and a 2 inch blade ax on one handle.
Our third mission to fight forest fires. During my five months in Oregon, I was included on three minor one-day fires, and one five-day fire in Oregon American Forest. The only good thing on a multi-day fire was after three days the food furnished by the US Forest Service was so much better than that furnished by the C’s food service.
I did learn some wood working shop work while convaling from an axe cut on my foot from hitting a knot while slitting dry wood for mess hall cook stoves. Also, to make “shakes” for roofing. And, as part of my learning, I found out that you don’t eat green English walnuts. A fast and almost continuous trip to the latrine results.
I was offered a foreman position ($10 increase in pay) if I would reenlist for another six months but I turned it down. From that experience, I enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps. Stayed in service 28 years. It was an easy transition from the C’s to the Army.______________