Monday, May 20, 2013

A Public Relations Move Gone Awry

I was talking with my dear CCC friend Merle last night, and he told me a funny story about Thanksgiving Day 1939 at the camp in Nogales. The CCC camps strived to keep good relations with the people in the surrounding areas, and it was not unusual for the CCC to invite locals to camp for special dinners. Some of the boys from the Nogales camp marched in the Thanksgiving Day parade in Nogales, and the local dignitaries, including the mayor and his wife, were invited back to camp to share a Thanksgiving feast with the boys. The highlight of the meal was the ice cream served as dessert. Unfortunately, the ice cream had melted earlier that day and the cooks decided to refreeze it without telling anyone. The end result? Everyone in the camp, and the guests of honor from Nogales, came down with food poisoning!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Jack and Joe Kennedy in Arizona

I went to see my lovely, dear friend Elson on Saturday (a former CCC enrollee and LEM), and we got to talking about how he met Jack and Joe Kennedy at the J-6 Ranch near Benson in 1936 when his CCC crew was working there. I've heard the story before, but it's a fun one, so I wanted to share it. Joe Kennedy (the father) sent his sons Joe and Jack to the J-6 Ranch, owned by Jack Speiden, in the summer of 1936 to toughen them up.  According to Elson, they were "as white as a sheet" when they arrived in Arizona, but when they left they were "as brown as a nut." Speiden worked them really hard, apparently not giving them a soft ride due to who they were. Elson and his CCC buddies were making fun of their accents one day when Joe said to them, "Y'aaaaall are the ones who talk funny!"

Elson gave me a great article on the Kennedys in Arizona, "John F. Kennedy: His Days as an Arizona Cowboy," by Bob Thomas. I'm not sure where the article was published and haven't yet been able to track it down. I hope to be able to locate the publication information and give the publication, along with Mr. Thomas, their well-deserved credit.

I’ve been very busy with CCC work the past two months—so much so that I haven’t had time to write about my adventures! So, this lengthy blog entry will talk about a number of events, past and upcoming.

Fourth Annual Civilian Conservation Corps Recognition Day (CCCRD)

The Fourth Annual Civilian Conservation Corps Recognition Day (CCCRD) was held on April 13, 2013, at Saguaro National Park West, Tucson. The event was attended by more than 300 individuals.

We were extremely honored by the presence of six former enrollees. Plus, the son of a CCC camp commander, who spent some of his early years in a CCC camp, was there. He met up with one of the enrollees from his dad’s camp who used to cut his hair 75 years ago! Several families of former CCC personnel were there as well, including members of the Castillo and Griffin families.

I spoke about the CCC camp newspapers; Bob Audretsch talked about the work of the CCC in northern Arizona; Mike Smith talked about accidents and fatalities in the CCC; Phil Brown talked about the CCC in the Tucson Mountains; and Mary Nichols, USDA, talked about her research project to locate and map CCC erosion work sites.

Bob Audrestch had a table featuring his books on the history of the CCC at Grand Canyon and in northern Arizona; I had a table featuring my publications on the CCC in southern Arizona and on the CCC camp newspapers; William Ascarza had tables on his books dealing with the history of southern Arizona; Mary Nichols demonstrated her computer database of CCC soil erosion projects; and Saguaro National Park featured information on the CCC camp in their area.  

We showed videos on the CCC, including a video taken at the St. David camp in 1939 by an enrollee and one of the living history presentation the students from Centennial School will be presenting at the national competition for National History Day in Washington, D.C. in June.

I had a photo display on Company 3840, St. David and Patagonia; Phil Brown had a map of the CCC sites in all of Arizona; and the Murphy from the Patagonia Museum brought a photo display of CCC sites in Patagonia.

Here's a press release the park did on the event:

Civilian Conservation Corps Recognition Day, Flagstaff, AZ

On April 6, a Flagstaff CCCRD was held in Flagstaff, AZ, at the Coconino Public Library. I gave a talk, "The Boys Tell Their Stories: The Camp Newspapers of the CCC Enrollees," and Bob Audretsch gave a talk “We Still Walk in Their Footprint.” Over 50 people were in attendance.

Arizona-New Mexico Joint History Convention

The 2013 Arizona-New Mexico Joint History Convention was held in Las Cruces, New Mexico, April 18-21. One of the sessions was “The CCC in Arizona and New Mexico.” I gave a talk on the CCC camp newspapers, “In Their Own Words: The Camp Newspapers of the Civilian Conservation Corps Enrollees.” Here is the abstract from the program:  Each Civilian Conservation Corp camp published its own camp newspaper as part of their educational program. This paper will illustrate the importance of the camp newspapers in the Arizona camps by exploring jokes, illustrations, poetry, and stories found there. Sharon Hunt is a freelance editor and author from Tucson. She has written numerous books and articles on the CCC.

The session was ably moderated by Jim Steely. Bob Audretsch gave a talk on and
Richard Melzer, professor of history at the University of New Mexico, Valencia, talked about the impact of the CCC, both then and afterwards, on the boys who served in it and on the country as a whole: “The Personal Impact of the Civilian Conservation Corps on New Mexicans, 1942 to the Present.” Bob Audretsch gave a talk on the CCC in northern Arizona, “We Still Walk in Their Footprint: The Civilian Conservation Corps in Northern Arizona, 1933-1942.”

 Mary Nichols

Dr. Mary Nichols, USDA, Tucson, AZ, is working on a research project to locate and map soil erosion work projects of the CCC. If you know of a CCC soil erosion work project (a dam, stock tank, rock spreader, etc.), you can visit the website she has set up and identify the site on the map found there. She will then investigate any information she receives and add to her database of soil erosion projects. I’m excited about her project, as the location of many CCC work projects are unknown and should be identified. The work of the CCC lives on in the landscape of southern Arizona, influencing our environment and our lives today. Her website is and the specific page for marking points on the map is

CCC Legacy Annual Gathering

The CCC Legacy Annual Gathering will be held in Tucson, Arizona, October 24 - 27, 2013, “Celebrating the 80th Anniversary of the CCC.”  The event is co-hosted by the Southwest Conservation Corps, “Celebrating 15 years of service.” More information is available at

I’m part of the planning group for the event; please feel free to contact me with any questions or thoughts.

National History Day

The students from Centennial Elementary School are off to Washington, D.C., to give their living history presentation in the finals of National History Day! They secured a place in the nationals by succeeding in the state competitions on April 13. The girls gave a “Friends and Family” presentation on April 11, which I attended, and they did a truly outstanding job! One of the enrollees they interviewed for the presentation was present at the event, and he was filled with joy at their good work and at the knowledge that recognition and appreciation for the CCC will go on into the future.