CATEGORY: Tishomingo County
HED:Reunion rife with memories
By Sandi Pullen
@sc: TISHOMINGO The Civilian Conservation Corps began in 1933 as one of the first of President Franklin Roosevelt's New Deal programs designed to pull the nation out of the Great Depression.
As James L. Walker would tell you, the military style and hard work involved with the program really paid off when the United States joined in World War II.
"It had thousands of men ready in 1942," said Walker, who joined the CCC in 1940 when he was 17. "The camp was like an Army camp. We had uniforms, barracks ... the same organization."
Milan Adams, who signed up for the CCC in 1939, spent a year in Oregon working as a rock crusher and later a baker. Although the work was hard, "I never regretted one minute of it," he said.
Nearly three million young men from all over the country participated in the CCC, doing work such as planting trees, digging canals and ditches, building wildlife shelters, stocking rivers and lakes with fish, restoring historic sites and clearing beaches and campgrounds.
Participants were housed in CCC camps, one of which was at the Tishomingo State Park.
The CCC workers built all the park's core structures, including all stone and metal work, and building a pool and swinging bridge, said Assistant Manager Donna Hollis.
"I was the first lifeguard at that pool," Walker said.
The fifth annual CCC reunion was held Saturday for the men who were stationed or had worked at Tishomingo State Park, and the meeting even drew a few "CC boys" who were stationed at other camps.
Adams, who was never stationed in Tishomingo, said he comes to the Tishomingo reunion with his wife, who is from Greenville.
"This is something people in Mississippi can really be proud of," he said.
Walker said that in the camps, there were commanding officers, and the men were required to do many of the same duties as soldiers, and were not allowed to own cars. "We were under military leaders," he said, "and taught different trades."
Also at the camps, the men learned other aspects of soldiery, including how to play pranks on each other. During the reunion, stories were told about short-sheeting beds and leaving water balloons in other men's beds.
"It was one of the best things that ever happened to me," said David Page, who signed up for the CCC in 1937 when he was 17. Page, who was stationed at Tishomingo, said his group put a water line to a group of cabins, cut wood for the cabins and did stone work.
"It taught me how to get along with a group of men," said Page. "I knew how to be a soldier for World War II."
The men were paid $30 a month for their work, and of that $30, $22-$25 would be sent home for other family members.
"I think it had a lot to do with winning World War II," said Bernie Evans, "I learned a lot from the CC (Consevation Corps)."
The CCC sent Evans to Ft. McClellan, Ala., Oregon, and Lawrence County. After the CCC, Evans said he joined the Air Force, and during World War II, worked with B29 fighter planes as CFC fire control.
"The CCC gave me a lot of experience on how to work together and how to stick together," Evans said.
Elvis Calhoun joined the CCC in 1935 and was sent to Trinidad, Colo. His mother cried when he left home, he said, but "my father said, 'Mother, if it don't kill him it will make a man out of him'."
"It was the grandest thing that ever happened to me," said Calhoun, who has come to the Tishomingo State Park reunions for the last three years. "It changed my life."