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.”
Promised Land State Park was established in 1905 and hosted three CCC camps between 1933 and 1941. The CCC is credited with substantially improving the layout and safety of the park, planting thousands of trees and developing many of the recreational facilities present today. Here, at what was known as Camp Pocono #S-139, the men built roads, the Promised Land Lake dam, the Bear Wallow cabins, the CCC Pavilion and more.
The first public CCC Festival featured talks, movies, educational booths, music, children’s activities, museum tours and the introduction of the new CCC GPS (Global Positioning System) Walking Tour. The tour allows users to follow coordinates for a behind-the-scenes tour of the CCC history at PLSP. It begins at the museum, which the CCC constructed in 1934 as officer’s quarters.
Other stops include the locations for buildings such as the boys’ barracks, medical buildings, the barbershop, the mess hall and the spud house (where thousands of potatoes were stored). The CCC Walking Tour is an official geocache site at www.Geocaching.com . A brochure with coordinates also can be obtained at the Park Office on Route 390. For more information, contact Longo at PromisedLandEnvEdSO@state.pa.us , or at 570/676-0567.