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Oklahoma Journeys

The End of the CCC in Oklahoma, March 7, 1942


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The CCC says "see-ya" this week on Oklahoma Journeys. President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs helped many Oklahomans out of a difficult situation during the Dustbowl and Depression era of the 1930s. The Civilian Conservation Corp was one such program, and that's the topic of this week's Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

The Civilian Conservation Corp was one of the most successful of Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs in the 1930s. As the United States fell further and further into depression during the early years of the `30s, many were predicting the complete collapse of the country. The economy was already, for all intents and purposes, gone with more than 1,500 bank failures in 1932 alone and an unemployment rate that reached 25% nationally with some cities reporting up to 80% of their workforce unable to find jobs. Roosevelt realized that he must first take care of the most basic needs of the people, and the CCC was one way of doing this. The Civilian Conservation Corps enlisted young men usually from urban environments, who would otherwise be out of work, and put them to work on various projects usually of an ecological nature.

The CCC was divided into nine corps areas, Oklahoma along with Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Wyoming was in the eighth corps area. Within each state CCC camps were set up and run on a military-style basis. Oklahoma had at least sixteen camps scattered from the Panhandle to McCurtain County. The young men in these camps followed a strict regimen of work that included maintaining forest areas, building facilities and structures at public parks, digging and maintaining irrigation ditches and canals, as well as a seemingly limitless array of other work. For a month's worth of work each boy was given thirty dollars, the great majority of which was automatically sent home to his family. Each camp had showers, latrines, mess halls, bunk houses, and recreation areas. Off time was spent with sports, reading, or writing letters home.

Accounts from those enrolled in the Oklahoma camps mostly report a very positive atmosphere with many of the kids recalling that the CCC was the only place that they could receive hot meals on a regular basis and have a safe place to sleep. The physical requirements were hard and usually involved working with a shovel or a pick but given the alternative, complaints it seems were relatively few among the thousands of young men that cycled through the state's program. The arrival of World War Two lifted the economy enough to make such programs unnecessary, and it was in this week of 1942 on March 7th that the state's CCC program was officially terminated.

Many of the Oklahoma CCC projects are still in use today including facilities at Roman Nose, Beavers Bend, Robber's Cave, Sulphur, and Osage Hills just to name a few. The Oklahoma History Center features a statue of a CCC worker, Melvin Grant, near the front entrance. The Oklahoma History Center is located in Oklahoma City, just east of the State Capitol on NE 23rd Street. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation and sharing of our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.