Plan to visit the April 15 celebration commemorating the valuable contributions of America's Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Payson's Julia Randall Elementary School multipurpose room, 902 W. Main St.
The sponsor for this event is the Northern Gila County Historical Society, which owns and operates the Rim Country Museum and the Zane Grey Cabin located adjacent to the school at Green Valley Park.
Admission is free to this celebration and attendees will have an opportunity to meet and talk with members of Phoenix Chapter 44 of the National Association of Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni (NACCCA) and other CCC alumni who may attend for a day of reunion. Features throughout the day will include CCC films, photographs, exhibits, artifacts, educational presentations, oral histories and 1930s music.
Organizers welcome sharing of CCC stories, letters, photos and other memorabilia for this celebration. CCC enrollees and others with items or information to share may contact George Spears at (928) 474-1541, or Tom McGuigan at (928) 474-3483, or bring information to the event Saturday.
The CCC was established in 1933 as part of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's "New Deal." It created jobs to conserve the nation's parks and forests during the Great Depression years.
Unmarried men between 18 and 25 years of age signed up for six-month stints up to a maximum of two years, receiving $30 per month in exchange for putting in 40 hours of work per week. They kept $5 and the $25 balance went home to help their families survive the economically hard times.
The government provided food, lodging, clothing and medical care in addition to technical skills training and educational opportunities.
Famous CCC boys include entertainers Frank Sinatra, Walter Matthau, Robert Mitchum and Marlon Brando.
Of nine assigned corps areas throughout the country, Arizona belonged to the Eighth Corps along with Texas, Oklahoma, Colorado, New Mexico and Wyoming. The camps were organized and run by the Army in a military manner. World War I veterans often served as camp leaders.
Of approximately 5,000 camps set up across the country, about 115 of them were located in Arizona's national monuments and forests, as well as a number of city, state and national parks. Up to 200 men per camp fought fires, planted trees, and built roads, fences, telephone lines, buildings, fire lookout towers and check dams. More than 2.5 million people were part of the CCC during its nine-year history that ended in 1942. Many former CCC enrollees joined a branch of the military, well prepared to serve during WWII.
A number of camps were located in the Tonto National Forest near Payson. The closest one was Company 807, Indian Gardens Camp, F-23-A. It was established in 1933 in a large meadow near Kohl's Ranch about 15 miles northeast of Payson. Bettie Lou Kohl Adams says her grandmother, Necie Kohl, and some of her friends watched while the 3Cs worked to improve the road from Kohl's Ranch to Payson. She also reports Necie would let in just two or three CCCs at a time for the dances held at the old Cowboy Barn in those days. The camp flagpole monument constructed of stone still stands on the old campsite today, showing some wear after 73 years.
Other CCC camps that were located in the Tonto National Forest surrounding Payson include the Bar X Ranch Camp, F-24-A, in Young; the Sunflower Camp, F-25-A, in Tonto Basin; the A-Cross Camp, F-29-A, in Globe; the Tonto Creek Camp, F-38-A, in Tonto Basin. Projects completed by these camps include fire lookout towers, firefighting, planting trees, enhancing streambeds, constructing buildings and telephone lines, and building trails and fire control roads.
The top portion of the Mt. Ord lookout tower built by the Sunflower Camp in 1937 (replaced in the 1980s with a taller tower) now stands on the Rim Country Museum grounds.
Other CCC work and structures still evident in Rim Country today include forest roads and trails, the old CCC dam and roadway at Oat Flat Campground near Superior, Chevelon Crossing Campground northeast of Payson along the Mogollon Rim, and the Pleasant Valley Ranger Station, also known as the Young Ranger Station, which is on the National Register of Historical Places.