VALPARAISO | Michigan based author Bill Jamerson will present a music and storytelling program about the Civilian Conservation Corps at the Avalon Springs Health Campus on Saturday, October 12 at 12:30 pm. The program is free and open to the public. Jamerson's program includes stories, a short video, reading excerpts from his novel and playing original songs with his guitar. Jamerson has presented his program at CCC reunions, and at CCC built state and national parks around the country. He talks about people both ordinary and extraordinary; stories of wit, charm and strength. This year marks the 80th anniversary of the CCC.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was a federal works program created by President Franklin Roosevelt in the heart of The Great Depression. During its nine year run from 1933-1942, over two and half million young men between the ages of 17 and 25 years of age enlisted across the country. They were known as “Roosevelt’s Tree Army” because they planted over three billion trees nationwide. The enrollees lived in work camps located far from towns and were paid a dollar a day. Twenty-five dollars a month was sent home directly to their families.
Jamerson's novel BIG SHOULDERS follows a year in the life of a seventeen-year-old youth from Detroit who enlists in the CCC in 1937. The enrollee joins two hundred other young men at a work camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula run by army officers. It is a coming-of-age story of an angry teenager who faces the rigors of hard work, learning to get along with a difficult sergeant and coping with a bully.
Some of the songs Bill performs include Chowtime, a fun look at the camp food, City Slicker, which tells of the mischief the young men get into in the woods, Borrowed Mom, is the story of an orphan who finds a mother, and Tree Plantin’, Fire Fightin’ Blues tells of the hardships of work. The folk songs range from heartwarming ballads to foot stomping jigs. The stories and songs are as educational as they are entertaining, as honest as they are fun.
In Indiana, over 63,000, 17-25 year old men in the Civilian Conservation Corps planted millions of trees, fought forest fires, improved rivers and streams, built roads and bridges. They also built state parks including Turkey Run, Ouabache, Pokagon, Fort Harrison, McCormicks Creek, Versailles and Mounds. The CCC worked on many soil erosion programs for Indiana farmers, such as repairing gullies, terracing hills and introducing strip farming practices. The camps not only revitalized the state’s natural resources but also taught the young men job skills and encouraged discipline.
Jamerson has produced a dozen documentaries for Michigan Public Television, and recorded many songs on historical subjects. In his presentation, he shares stories he has picked up first hand from former CCC Boys he has met over the years. Audience members are encouraged to bring photo albums or other CCC memorabilia. For more information about the program please call the Avalon Springs at 462-1778 or visit billjamerson.com.