Albuquerque Journal (Albuquerque, NM)

A monumental Force.(Trends)

Byline: Rick Nathanson Journal Staff Writer

The Civilian Conservation Corps brought together an army of men to work in forests, parks and range lands and to fight the Great Depression

In New Mexico, the CCC built Bosque del Apache wildlife preserve, the National Park Service building in Santa Fe, the main steps into the Carlsbad Caverns, the main visitor center at Bandelier National Monument, Elephant Butte State Park and the Kiwanis cabin between Sandia Peak and Sandia Crest.

They were a rag-tag group of young men, many suffering from malnutrition, miserable yesterdays and hopeless tomorrows. The stock market collapse of 1929 and the Great Depression brought them together in the Civilian Conservation Corps. They ultimately helped America get moving again, and in the process became an important chapter in history.

Sixty-eight years ago next Saturday, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed into law the Emergency Conservation Work Act of 1933, which created the Civilian Conservation Corps.

Roosevelt's plan was to put at least 500,000 unemployed single young men, age 18-25, to work in forests, parks and range lands around the country. The men would be based out of camps run by the U.S. Army.

The United States entered World War II in late 1941, effectively killing the CCC through attrition. But by that time, more than 3.5 million people had served in its ranks, including some 225,000 World War I veterans who were given special work dispensation despite their age, said Roy Lemons, the unofficial historian for Albuquerque Chapter 141 of the National Association of CCC Alumni.

New Mexico was home to about 140 of the 5,000 CCC camps that operated around the nation, Lemons said. To learn more about the CCC's work in New Mexico, the Journal interviewed a hardy group of Lemons' peers, including Al Abbott, Vicente Ximenes, Felix Cabrera and Cliff Hammond.

There were, on average, 32 camps in operation in New Mexico at any given time, each with about 200 workers. …

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