The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was created in early 1933 and was the most popular of all New Deal programs. It was dissolved in 1942. The three goals of the program were job training, conservation work and aid for families. It was administered by the Army and the Forest Service, and provided outdoor, wilderness-type jobs for young men between the ages of 17 and 24, who lived in 4,500 quasi-military camps with fairly regimented routines all across the country. Initially, corpsmen signed up for 6 months, but many re-enlisted for additional terms up to a maximum of two years. ( By the time the program ended more than two and a half million men had participated in the program.

Each participant was paid $30.00 per month, keeping $5 for himself and sending $25.00 back to his family. In addition, “CCC Boys” received three square meals a day, which was quite significant to them. There are few states or national parks that do not have trails, roads or cabins built by the CCC. Corpsmen also dug roads, canals and ditches, built over thirty thousand wildlife shelters, stocked rivers and lakes with nearly a billion fish, restored historic battlefields, repaired damage from natural disasters and cleared beaches and campgrounds. During the 9 years of operation, the CCC planted over three billion trees. (;; )

Bill Jamerson, an author, song writer and film maker, created a show about the CCC called “Dollar-a-Day Boys: A Musical Tribute to the Civilian Conservation Corps.” The following description of the benefits of the CCC is taken from his website:

Imagine, you’re 17 years old trying to survive during the Great Depression. Life is tough in Chicago. Food is scarce, jobs are non-existent and you’ve turned to petty crime to eke out a living. One day you hear about a new job works program created by the federal government that pays a “dollar-a-day.” You soon find yourself in the Wisconsin north woods spending long days planting trees and building roads. Over the next year, you put on 20 pounds, develop good work habits, gain confidence and make life-long friends. The job skills you learned help you find a job when you leave camp. Your experience in the CCC turns out to be the most important event in your life. It turned you from a boy into a man.


As with other New Deal programs, blacks were treated inequitably; a ten percent quota limited the number of colored youth admitted to the program. The CCC was racially segregated, particularly in the south; but, nationally, Blacks filled only five percent of the spots in the CCC. And in Mississippi, where they made up more than 50 percent of the population, Blacks had two percent of the jobs. (Lawson, Jim Crow’s Counterculture: The Blues and Black Southerners, p. 156.)

In “CCC Blues, Washboard Sam (1938) compares the CCC to the WPA. (

I’m going down, I’m going down, to the CCC
I’m going down, I’m going down, to the CCC
I know that the WPA won’t do a thing for me

I told her my name and the place I stay
She said she’d give me a piece of paper, come back some other day
I’m going down, I’m going down, to the CCC
I know that the WPA won’t do a thing for me

I told her I had no people and the shape I was in
She said she would help me, but she didn’t say when
I’m going down, I’m going down, going down to the CCC
I know that the WPA won’t do a thing for me

I told her I needed a job and no relief
On my rent day, she sent me a can of beef
I’m going down, I’m going down, to the CCC
I know that the WPA won’t do a thing for me

She said she’d give me a job, everything was nice and warm
Taking care of the dead in a funeral home
I’m going down, I’m going down, to the CCC
I know that the WPA won’t do a thing for me

“Boys in Green, written and sung by John McCutcheon (2003)   ( is based on a conversation he had with O’Neal Springer, a veteran of the CCC.

In Nineteen Hundred and Thirty Three
Off in Washington, DC
Roosevelt created the CCC
Like nothing we’d ever seen

He called on fellers across the land
To join together, lend a hand
To learn a skill, to take a stand
We were the boys in green

Hurrah for the love of the country
Hurrah for the patriot’s dream
With their brains and their backs, with a pick and an axe
Hurrah for the boys in green

When I was lad of just eighteen
We stocked the rivers, lakes and streams
Together fueled this nation’s dreams
We were the boys in green

We built the houses, cleared the land
Ran the fences, we built the dams
Made quite a home for Uncle Sam
We were the boys in green


We build the bridges, trails and roads
We dredged the lakes, we hauled the loads
No more the beach or dune erodes
We were the boys in green

We fought the fires, stemmed the floods
Gathered seeds and planted woods
That grew to be your neighborhoods
We were the boys in green


With shovel, trowel, hammer and a spade
We built this country, learned a trade
By God, it’s quite a world we made
We were the boys in green

Now as an old man I stand perplexed
In a world all paved and multiplexed
And wonder, who is coming next
Where are the boys in green?


“The C.C.C.,words and music by Charlie Maguire from his Wilderness Road album is based on an interview with CCC veteran Orville Kobberdahl, who vividly recalled his days at CCC Camp 1922. (

Eighty boys down at the courthouse
Nineteen and thirty-eight
Been awhile since a job of work
Feels like longer since you ate
Got to be “five-nine” or better
At least seventeen
For six months at a time on the dotted line
Make your mark for the C.C.C.

Refrain: Khaki will be your color, reveille your melody
You get a dollar a day, and brother say
Welcome to the C.C.C.

Flag waving over the campground
“Deer River,” “Cutfoot Sioux”
Barracks and a mess hall, and a forestry job to do
It’s the Great Depression, that’s got you and me
But we’re going to prune it down to size, here in the C.C.C.


Planting seedlings in the summer, or pulling saws that sing
Of log-wall-white-pine castles, in parks fit for a king
Work for the people, by the people
A working man’s army
In the hands of the veterans of the C.C.C.


I hear that lonesome whistle
It’s blowing long and low
Some poor boy out on the rods
The “3-C’s” he don’t know
When he gets to where he’s going
I hope he’ll plainly see
There is something better for the working stiff
Here in the C.C.C.