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The Neligh Public Library is hosting a program, "Dollar-a-Day-Boys: A Musical Tribute to the Civilian Conservation Corps," at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 3.
Michigan based author Bill Jamerson will present a music and storytelling program about the Civilian Conservation Corps at the Neligh Public Library.The program is free and open to the public.
Jamerson’s presentation includes reading excerpts from his novel, showing a short video clip from his PBS film, telling stories and performing original songs with his guitar. The CCC helped farmers during the Great Depression by terracing hills, planting wind breaks, digging ponds, putting up fencing and educating them about soil erosion.
Jamerson has performed at CCC reunions around the country and at dozens of CCC built national and state parks. The presentation is as entertaining as it is important, as honest as it is fun. It’s about the people both ordinary and extraordinary, with stories of wit charm, and strength. There are many nostalgic stories and plenty of laughs. Former CCC enrollees are encouraged to attend and share their stories.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was a federal works program created by Franklin Roosevelt in the heart of the Great Depression. During its nine year run beginning in 1933, over 30,000 young men were employed in Nebraska. There was an average of 116 camps in operation for each year. The enrollees were paid $1 a day with $25 sent home to their families each month. The money put food on the table for the families back home. Over 34 million dollars was paid out in the state.
In Nebraska, the CCC was active in soil erosion control projects, building check dams, creating diversion ditches, building outhouses and educating farmers about crop rotation, strip farming and new planting and fertilizer methods. The CCC built over 2000 miles of roads, erected 1800 miles of telephone poles, planted the Nebraska National Forest, developed wildlife facilities and built half a dozen state parks. The two greatest destination parks were Scottsbluff National Monument in the far west and also Ponce State Park in the northeast corner of the state. The park is a gateway to the Missouri National Recreational River. The camps not only revitalized Nebraska’s natural resources but also turned the boys into men by giving them discipline and teaching them work skills.
Jamerson’s book, Big Shoulders is a historical novel that follows a year in the life of a seventeen-year-old youth from Detroit who enlisted in the CCC in 1937. He joins the two hundred other young men at work camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. It is a coming-of-age story of an angry teenager who faces the rigors of hard work, learning to cope with a difficult sergeant and fending off a bully.
Some of the songs Jamerson performs with his guitar include Franklin D. written by an appreciative CCC boy. Chowtime is a fun look at the camp food, City Slicker tells of the mischief the men find in the woods and Tree Plantin’, Fire Fightin’ Blues tells of the hardships of working out in the woods. Borrowed Mom is about an orphan who finds a mother and Livin’ in a Tent in Winter tells how the men adapted to the cold. The folk songs range from heartwarming ballads to foot stomping jigs.
Along with a novel and CD of songs, Jamerson has produced a PBS film, Camp Forgotten, which aired on 58 Public Television stations in 1994. He has also authored several articles on the corps. In his talk, he will discuss his research methods, interesting enrollees he has met over the years and CCC projects he has visited. A question and answer period and book signing will follow his presentation. Former CCCer’s and their families are encouraged to attend and asked to bring photo albums and CCC memorabilia. For more information please call the library at 887-5140 or visit Jamerson’s website at billjamerson.com.