EATON — Michigan based author Bill Jamerson will present a music and storytelling program about the Civilian Conservation Corps on Saturday, March 5, at 1 p.m. It will be held at the Preble County District Library meeting room at 450 S. Barron St. in Eaton. The program is free and open to the public and will include refreshments, including CCC cookies.
Jamerson’s program includes telling stories, reading excerpts from his book, showing a short video clip from his PBS film and singing original songs with his guitar. It’s a nostalgic program with lots of laughter. He has performed at CCC reunions around the country and at dozens of CCC-built state and national parks. His presentation is as entertaining as it is important; as honest as it is fun. It’s about people both ordinary and extraordinary, with stories of strength, wit and charm.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was a federal works program created by President Franklin Roosevelt in the heart of The Great Depression. During its nine year run beginning in 1933, over 139,000 young men in Ohio enrolled in the camps. The camps were run by the army with an average of 33 camps in operation for each year. The enrollees were paid $1 a day with $25 sent home to their families each month. The money kept many families from starving.
Locally, the first report of a CCC camp in Preble County came in the July 24, 1935 edition of The Register-Herald. Organizers chose a spot southeast of Eaton at Wayne-Trace Road and Consolidated Road, on Trunck Farm. Some 220 men moved to the camp on Sept. 11, 1935, and began work on prevention of soil erosion. The Oct. 16 issue reported the Preble CCC camp was swamped with work. At that time, work on two farms had been completed. The camp had over 150 applications, with four to six coming in per week.
Camp Preble, complete with four barracks, a mess hall, an administration building, office quarters, a bath house, and a tool shed, had its official dedication on Nov. 20, 1935. Outside of the work on soil erosion, many young men in the camp devoted time to education, learning commercial art, music, penmanship, and many other subjects. After six months, the camp had finished work on 22 Preble County farms. By May 12, 1937, the camp had planted 220,000 trees on 265 acres of land. The Preble Camp’s era came to an end in the middle of 1940, when the camp was moved to London, Ohio.
Along with a novel and CD of songs on the CCC, Jamerson has produced a PBS film, Camp Forgotten, which aired on Ohio Public Television in 1994. He has also authored several articles on the corps. In his talk, Bill will talk about many 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 CCC’ers and their families are encouraged to attend. People are invited to bring photo albums and CCC memorabilia. For more information please call the library at 937-456-4250 or visit Jamerson’s website at: billjamerson.com.