Sunday, October 2, 2011

The CCC in Vail, Arizona

The CCC worked at Camp SP-10-A at Colossal Cave in Vail, Arizona, from 1934 to 1937. They helped develop the cave as a tourist attraction, making enhancements so that more people could explore it. The buildings they constructed outside the cave entrance are still in use today.

A history of the Colossal Cave CCC camp, with photographs, can be found in my book, Vail and Colossal Cave Mountain Park, available from Arcadia Publishing and other online retailers.

The majority of the enrollees who ended up at the Colossal Cave camp came from the southwestern states of Arizona, Oklahoma, or Texas.  The Texans, also known as the “Texas Invasions,” hailed from south-central and southeastern Texas; the Oklahomans came west from the Tulsa area; and the Arizona enrollees hailed from southeastern Arizona towns, including Bisbee, Douglas, Nogales, Superior, and Tucson.

The CCC boys labored hard and long within the cave.They enlarged the cave entrance; excavated rocks and debris; tunneled their way through; installed lights, trails, and handrails; constructed limestone buildings at the mouth of the cave; and built picnic areas and roads in the surrounding area.

What would it have been like to spend a day working inside the cave? It would have been cool (approx. 70 degrees) but also dark (until lighting was installed), dusty, and likely smelling of bat guano (feces).  

Here's some excerpts from the camp newspaper that give an idea of life and work inside the cave:

— Cecil Wilson and his crew worked on a tunneling project in Colossal Cave. They took dirt and rock out a bucketful at a time. Albert Price is a human mole. He gets inside of holes someway and digs them from the inside out. Charley Hall directs the travel of the sand bucket along its cable and entertains the gang with songs and stories (you know the kind he tells). Vernon Clark, hoist boss, is continually crying out that he is tired of his life of ups and downs. Joe Martinez and Henry Schafer have, according to their estimation, dumped enough sand to salt all the spinach served in the CCC camps. They say that it takes a lot of grit to hold those tough jobs they have.

 —Cecil Wilson is pusher on the gang laying the pavement to the Bridal Chamber and says that Hades isn’t the only place that’s paved with good intentions.

—Mr. Shepherd is the boss of this adventurous gang. He sports an electric lantern, and, according to reports, is just perfecting a new technique of swinging over bottomless chasms by three fingernails. Great fun climbing around those crevices! This gang likes it. They can climb with a carbide light held in their teeth, a roll of wire in one hand, a pair of pliers in the other, and kicking a soldering iron along with their feet.

This blog presents information about the history of the CCC in Southern Arizona. Feel free to contact me with any comments or further questions! All information in this blog is copyrighted by the author.

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