For Gar Baybrook, joining the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1934 is a memorable experience that got him through the Great Depression. For two years, he typed love letters for fellow workers for the small fee of 25 cents.
Now at 91, he only hopes he remembers to show up for the celebration ceremony marking the CCCs 75th anniversary.
"If someone reminds me, I might show up for a bit," Baybrook said.
To honor the men who helped shape the nation's parks and roads, a CCC appreciation day is planned Aug. 29, at the Payson Public Library.
Baybrook, who owns and operates the Leaves of Autumn Books on Main Street, joined the CCC when he was 17.
"Back then nobody had work, unemployment was rampant," Baybrook said. "I got out of high school and there was no work, so I joined."
President Franklin D. Roosevelt organized the CCC in the March of 1933, during the Great Depression, to get men off the streets and working for the country. Men were paid $30 a month, with $25 going back their families.
"Roosevelt did a wonderful thing with the CCCs," Baybrook said. "It took thousands of kids off the streets and put them to work completing things we still enjoy today."
The CCC put Baybrook to work as an office assistant in New Tazewell, Tenn.
There were 200 men in the camp and most could not write, Baybrook said.
Baybrook purchased a typewriter for $25 and charged 25 cents to type up letters to girlfriends and parents back home.
"On payday, I stood in line and collected from those I had written for and was running $3 to $4 per month, which was more than I paid for my typewriter payment," he said.
Eventually Baybrook worked his way up to head office clerk and earned $45 a month.
"If you make up your mind to do it, you can get ahead and leave the lazy ones behind," he said.
Baybrook ended his stint with the CCC in Panama, N.Y. as an office clerk.
Most CCC workers were placed in the nation's forests and parks fighting forest fires, planting trees, building roads, telephone lines, fences, buildings and dams, said writer, educator and event organizer Gail Hearne.
For nine years, until 1942, more than 2.5 million people joined the CCC.
In Arizona, there were 115 CCC camps, with some in Gila County and along the Mogollon Rim.
"They contributed an important legacy to the country," she said. "They were the first conservationist and obviously their contribution is still visible today."
In 2006, Hearne organized a celebration commemorating local CCC workers at Payson's elementary school. Eleven former workers showed up.
For the 75th anniversary, she thought it was appropriate to celebrate the remaining workers left in the area.
"It's a dying breed," she said. "There are hardly any left." This year Hearne is expecting eight alumni, because three passed away since 2006. "This is one of the last opportunities to hear these people speak," she said.
The town of Payson is officially recognizing Aug. 29 as CCC Appreciation Day.
To hear stories from CCC alumni and learn more about the CCC head to the Payson Public Library between from 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Aug. 29.
There is a $10 fee for the luncheon at 11:30 a.m. and reservations are required.
For more information and reservations call, (928) 472-7132 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
CCC Appreciation Day Schedule
Payson Public Library, 328 N. McLane Road
9:15 a.m. Robert Audretsch, "Saving the Park and Saving the Boys: The CCC at Grand Canyon"
10:15 a.m. "CCC Alumni: Living History," alumni speak
11:30 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Luncheon
1:15 p.m. Robert Moore, "Payson, the Rim and the CCC"
2.15 p.m. Jeffery Davis and Attila Boros, "Conservation Corps: Carrying on the CCC Legacy"
3:15 p.m. J.J. Lamb, "Spelunking for the Corps: The CCC at Colossal Cave"
3:45 p.m. Film: "Roosevelt's Tree Army"
3-5:30 p.m. Tour Rim Country Museum and Zane Grey Cabin - receive $1 off admission price; tour remnants of CCC East Verde camp with Tonto National Forest archeologist Scott Wood