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Civilian Conservation Corps Founded 81 Years Ago

April 4, 2014

Editor’s Note: This blog post was researched and written by Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park archeologist, Jadelyn Moniz-Nakamura, Ph.D. To read more of her fascinating and important research about the history of the park, download the Centennial publication series on the park website. 

Eighty-one years ago, on April 5, 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6101 starting the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).  The CCC was a quasi-military outfit established during the Great Depression to employ unmarried males age 18-25.  Known as the “Tree Army,” the CCC provided young men with jobs in conservation on public lands.  On January 27, 1934, Superintendent Edward Wingate announced the establishment of Emergency Conservation Work and the CCC program at Hawai‘i National Park.  Each CCC camp, including Hawai‘i National Park’s, was designed to employ up to 200 enrollees.  At Hawai‘i National Park, the Kīlauea Summer Camp was used as the nucleus of its camp, accommodating between 150 and 175 “boys.”  The other 25 to 50 were housed at Haleakalā.

Attention!

CCC enrollees standing at attention. NPS Photo/Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park archives

Many CCC camps were located within national parks because of their conservation focus and ready infrastructure.  If a young man desired to join the CCC, he was required to fill out an application form.  If selected, he enrolled for six months and was required to sign a contract and take an oath.  In exchange for their participation, enrollees were housed, fed, and clothed at the camp.  They were also given medical care and hospitalization if necessary.  Payment was $30.00 a month, with the government requiring a substantial portion of their salary being sent to their families and/or dependents.

at work in the park

CCC enrollees working in the field. NPS Photo/Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park archives

At Hawai‘i National Park, the CCC boys built or reinforced much of the park’s infrastructure, including building roads, trails, and water systems.  Many of these facilities are still used by visitors and park staff today.  Projects included removal of fire hazard vegetation along trails, highways, and Makaopuhi Crater, landscaping in the park residential area, work on the Hilina Pali to Mauna Iki trail, trail construction at Kīpukapuaulu,  construction of Mauna Loa Road, and completion of a trail connecting the ‘Ainapo and Kona trails at the summit of Mauna Loa.   This last project required 12 boys to camp on Mauna Loa for four weeks in 1935.  Superintendent Wingate felt this was some kind of record, as no other CCC spur camp was known to have been built at 13,677  feet above sea level, on an active volcano, for that length of time.

It was not “all work and no play” for the CCC boys. They were allowed to participate in various forms of recreation, including games and hiking, and were treated to instructive talks.  An orchestra, or “band’ was formed by some of the boys, and they played at events such as park community dinners.  On July 11, 1934 they participated in the Kamehameha Day parade held in Hilo.  They practiced drills and learned to keep step so they could proudly march through the streets of Hilo in their khaki overseas caps displaying their white shield-shaped insignia on their left shoulders.  It was the first time many in the public saw a CCC boy, and the first time ever they had seen them as one unit.  Life and food must have been good.  In the first year, officials reported the boys gained an average of 9 3/4 pounds each.

Kamehameha Parade, Hilo, 1934

Kamehameha Day Parade in Hilo, 1934. NPS Photo/Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park archives

The CCC was especially important in the opening months of World War II.  They completed many of the emergency projects that were needed by the military as it established its headquarters in the park.  Although the CCC was a ready work force, the program was disbanded at the end of fiscal year 1942 and many of the boys entered the military.  The impact of the CCC went far beyond the work done in the park, and the legacy left behind in the park’s infrastructure.  “New money” was brought into the local community, and the CCC enrollees learned essential life lessons such as discipline, which helped build them up both morally and physically.  Most importantly, they were taught trades that would help them secure better employment as they prepared to enter the “real” job market. (To learn more about World War II impacted the national park, watch Jadelyn’s After Dark in the Park presentation, Up in Arms! The Struggle to Preserve the Legacy of the Park During Wartime on the park website.)

CCC Orchestra

CCC Orchestra

Kilauea Visitor Center

One of the many legacies built by the CCC boys, Kīlauea Visitor Center today

 

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. Meagan Healy permalink
    April 9, 2014 9:36 am

    Fascinating! Thanks for this post. I have been reading about the CCC in my area (Washington, DC). Am excited to learn about Hawaii’s CCC.

    • April 9, 2014 10:03 am

      Aloha Meagan,
      Mahalo for your positive note! We will be posting more historical articles about the park on this blog, so be sure to check back with us. Have a wonderful day, and mahalo for re-blogging this to your Minnie Moon Press site!
      HAVO Public Affairs Specialist

  2. Meagan Healy permalink
    April 9, 2014 9:36 am

    Reblogged this on Minnie Moon Press.

  3. April 10, 2014 10:44 am

    Thanks for the direct link!

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