In 1935 the U.S. was in a great depression. President Franklin Roosevelt had a plan which would put young men ages 17 to 23 to work building state and national parks. The Program was called the Civilian Conservation Corps or the CCC. The government would pay the young men $1 a day. They would live in camps and food and clothing would be furnished. $25 a month would be sent home to their families and the worker could keep $5 a month. Many families survived the depression on money their sons made working in these CCC Camps.
The CCC was run like the Army, but they just did not march. Tents were set up for the boys to live in, underbrush was cleared, and ground leveled. The first building was called the mess hall. It is still in use today. We call it the Concession Building. All Original building were a product of the land itself. The tree Army cut cypress and other timber. They made all lumber with their own sawmill, shake shingles for roofs, heavy beams, doors and windows. There was also a blacksmith shop where the heavy wrought iron lanterns, door hinges, etc. were made in the park. Native stone was quarried under water in the fireplaces and buildings.
The camp at Garner housed about 200 men at a time. The enrollment was for a six-month tour of duty. Many reenlisted because it the best food, clothing and lodging they had in a long time. These men built most of the cabins, camp sites along the river, hiking trails and roads. If the young men had not completed their high school education, they were expected to attend night school. Teachers were provided at each camp. Billions of trees were planted across our nation during this time. Many young men learned to read and write while learning carpentry, auto mechanics, etc. a high school diploma and above all, self-confidence. Army reserve officers commanded the camps. Young men were so desperate for work that some used a scheme to be accepted for you see, they were paid $30 a month and $25 was sent home (that amount send home is equivalent to $2500 today) The statement was often asked “are you over 17?” To which the response was “yes, I am over 17” as they had the number 17 on paper planted in their shoes.
May of 1935 the Garner Project started.
Many of the men, named CCC Company 879, came by train from Alpine where they had just completed Indian Lodge at Fort Davis State Park.
The huge stone for the hearth at the Garner Pavillion was quarried under water in the Frio River where Cypress Creek and the Frio meet north of Leakey. Windowsills, thresh holds, and the wall around the dance pavilion were also taken from the river (10 or 12 men with large rock pry bars would find a crack under the water, the sergeant would count to three and at the same time they would all come down on their bars). They would then load the huge rocks on a wagon bring them back to the pavilion area and hand chisel them to fit the area where they were needed. They said it took about 6 weeks to make a windowsill.
1935 was also the year of the great floods. One day as they were eating in the mess hall, they looked out to see their boxing arena floating down the river. The mess sergeant had to go over the pass to Uvalde to get food and supplies because the roads were all under water. Highway 83 now divides the pass. It is documented that the average weight gain of these young men after one month in camp was 17 pounds. They were very hungry when many of them came. Their entertainment was boxing, wrestling, baseball, volleyball and dancing. They began to have dances as soon as the dance floor was completed. It froze the night after they poured part of the dance floor and it all had to be chipped out.
The park was completed in 1941 and dedicated. 50 people attended the dedication!!
No other government agency sponsored has ever achieved such good will and success as the CCC. It gave 3 million young men work, better health, training, hope and respect for Conservation practices. In return they labored hard and took great pride in helping preserve the good ole days in many ways for every future American. Many of these men went from the CCC into being GI’s in WWII. To them we owe much.
River Cleanup September 9th, 9am, Pavillion
Next Board Meeting Wednesday, October 11th, 5pm
The September meeting has been cancelled.
Highway Clean Up - October 7th, 9am, Park HQ