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Civilian Conservation Corps helped many families survive

August 21, 2010
By DEAN WELLS dwells@timesobserver.com
Charles Varro was a baseball player. That’s what he did in his spare time in his teens – hit the ball diamond. Unfortunately, playing ball didn’t pay the family bills in the early 1930s. And with a massive economic depression sweeping the country and no jobs to be found, Varro enlisted in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), a federal program designed to provide jobs for unemployed young men. “Do you know how much money we made?” Varro asked. “One dollar a day. I sent twenty-five of that home each month to my mother. That $25 a month held our family together. “What could you buy for $25 a month? Well, hot dogs were five cents back then. Hamburgers were a dime. It cost a nickel to go see a movie. So $25 was a lot.” Varro was stationed at Camp I at Marienville in the Allegheny National Forest, where he built roads. He used a hammer to break rocks, which were removed via a wheelbarrow and fed into a rock grinder. He did that for five months before being put to work by the Forestry Service to count trees. “I said, ‘Why the hell would I count trees?’” Varro said. “They told me, ‘We never had anyone to do it before.’” Varro said that Forestry rangers taught him and others how to identify trees and measure their height by using right angles. “The Forestry was in the business of selling lumber,” Varro said. “They wanted to know what the hell they had out there.” Varro spent three years in the CCC, working his way up to company clerk and the rank of first sergeant. The federal government ran the CCC in a fashion so similar to the U.S. Army that Varro was given the rank of first sergeant after joining the Army and going through basic training, returning to the familiar job of company clerk. “The forms we used, they were identical to what they were using in the Army,” Varro said. “Exactly the same.” Varro, who lives in Westlake, Ohio, now, has returned to the ANF for every reunion that has been held for the CCC, including the last three hosted by the CCC Statue Committee. “I’ve been back here at least 50 times,” Varro said.

Article Photos

Times Observer photo by Dean Wells
CCC alum
Charles Varro, of Westlake, Ohio, was on hand for a ceremony honoring Civilian Conservation Corp veterans Friday. Varro served at Camp I in Marienville in the early 1930s.

 
 

 

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