Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Civilian Conservation Corps

"My dad was for it 100 per cent, I’ll tell ya," remembered Vic Martinac. 'This will tame you down,' he said.'" Martinac had graduated from Annunciation High School in June, 1940, but as the Great Depression lingered, was having a hard time finding a job. Afraid he'd get into trouble, Martinac's dad urged him to sign up for the Civilian Conservation Corps, a New Deal Program for unmarried young men ages 18 - 25 who were unable to find jobs. "I had to go downtown, next to the courthouse, to sign up. I took an oath and became part of the government."
One of the most popular of President Roosevelt's programs, the CCC operated from 1933 to 1942, providing work for 3 million men while implementing needed conservation and construction projects in every state.
Martinac remembered, "They transported us to different camps along the mountainside west of Colorado Springs, near the Garden of the Gods. We built barrier walls, walking paths and a pretty good-sized dam. We got a lot done in six months.
"It was pretty programmed - the projects were all lined up - where we were going and how we were going to do the work.We got up at 5 o’clock and we were on the terrain at 7 am. It gave you time to get breakfast, go scrub your teeth and go again.
"We lived in quonset huts, got three meals a day and all our shots for typhoid and smallpox. That was a lot more food and medical care than a lot of guys were used to getting. I got paid a dollar a day, but I could only keep five dollars. The rest went home to my mother."
Martinac wasn't the only Globeville resident who benefited from the program. Joseph Shaball Sr., a veteran of World War I, was laid off from his job with the city of Denver at the beginning of the Depression. His son, Joe Shaball Jr., talked about his dad's experience, "It was terrible. My dad hadn’t worked for three years when he got a job with the CCC as a foreman building Red Rocks Amphitheater."
Experience gained in the CCC helped men find work after the Depression. Shaball recounted,"After my dad worked for the Cs for several years, he got a job with the mint until he retired."
Martinac also benefitted from the experience."I went to work for the Union Pacific Railroad when I got out of the Cs as a pipe fitter apprentice. Being in the CCC helped me get the job because it showed I wasn’t a lackluster personality, that I had responsibility. Responsibility was a key word in those days."

Vic Martinac 1940
Photo used with written permission of Virginia Steele

Company 184 in 1936. Left to Right: Foreman Eugene Streich, Foreman William S. Nelson, Foreman J. E. Cummins, Engineer Andrew J. Collins, Engineer Joseph Shaball, Foreman Herschel J. Wright, and Camp Commander, James Solan.
photo from History of the Civilian Conservation Corps in Colorado, Summer 1936; Littleton District and Grand Junction District. Compiled by L.A. Gleyre and C.N. Allerger, Denver, Colorado. Western Newspaper Union.

Private Joseph Shaball in his World War I uniform