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CCC celebrated at Promised Land State Park; New GPS tour launched, featuring CCC sites

August 28, 2012

Three hearty seniors, whose sense of humor hasn’t diminished with time, recently attended the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) Festival at Promised Land State Park (PLSP) in Greentown. The former “CCC boys” wasted no time in being useful once again as they grabbed shovels and got to work planting a commemorative serviceberry tree near the Masker Museum, which houses an interesting display of CCC artifacts and historical information.

With 13 million people out of work due to the Great Depression, the CCC was created in 1933 partly for “the relief of unemployment through the performance of useful public work.” Young men between the ages of 17 and 25 were recruited to join the “peacetime army.” Nearly 3,000,000 young men participated. Each received a cash allowance of $30, of which $25 was allotted to the family and five given to the CCC boy.

PLSP environmental education specialist Carissa Longo introduced CCC boys Frank Kutash, Dr. William Dewar and John Stopka to the crowd. “Not many people know what the CCC did for us as a nation,” she said. “In Pike County alone, they planted more than a million trees. They were very influential.”

Stopka spoke first. “I had just graduated from high school and we were in the midst of the Depression,” he said. “There were very few jobs, so I volunteered to go into the CCC. Most of my education that prepared me for life I learned in the CCC. It was a wonderful experience and also prepared me for my military service in the Air Force.”

Kutash served in the CCC in 1937. “Things were tough,” he said. ”It wasn’t much money. But you could get a pint of whiskey for 85 cents.” Despite being thrown from a tractor, Kutash wasn’t injured and called his time in the CCC “a great experience.”

“We learned an awful lot,” added Dewar, who credits his CCC experience with enabling him to find a job and attend medical school. During his service, Dewar was unexpectedly assigned to the kitchen. “My real thrill was layer cakes,” he said. “The mixing bowl was 30 inches across and as deep as my forearm, filled with 10 pounds of flour and two pounds of shortening.

You’d stir, and the sweat would drip in, so you didn’t have to add salt,” he joked. “We’d make 64 layer cakes, and some of the edges got burned. So, we just cut that off and put icing over it.”