Musical tribute to the CCC at Lake Geneva
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Author and musician Bill Jamerson will perform songs from his CD, “Dollar a Day Boys,” during a library presentation Wednesday, Oct. 3. Photo submitted.
LAKE GENEVA--At 6:30 p.m., Wednesday, Oct. 3, Michigan-based author, songwriter and filmmaker Bill Jamerson will present a music and storytelling program about the Civilian Conservation Corps. The event will be at the Lake Geneva Public Library. A federal works program created by President Franklin Roosevelt in the heart of the Great Depression, the CCC provided employment to 3.5 million men.
As he takes his audience on a journey back to the days of the 1930s when Benny Goodman was the king of swing, Jamerson will perform original CCC songs from his CD, “Dollar a Day Boys.” He also will share true CCC stories about poverty, sacrifice and comradery and read excerpts from his book “Big Shoulders,” a historical novel about a CCC boy. Since 1992, Jamerson has interviewed hundreds of former CCC enrollees. He will talk about some of the enrollees he met over the years and CCC projects he has visited. He also will show a short clip of his PBS film about CCC, “Camp Forgotten.” A question and answer period and book signing will follow his presentation, which is sponsored by the Friends of the Lake Geneva Public Library.
More than 3 million 17- to 25-year-old men across America enlisted in the CCC during the Great Depression. They came from families on relief and were sent to work camps in America’s wilderness and rural areas.
“The CCC turned boys into men, teaching them good work habits and responsibility,” says Jamerson.
From 1933 to 1942, the Wisconsin Civilian Conservation Corps camps were home to 92,000 men. The enrollees planted 265 million trees, built 483 bridges, erected more than 4,000 miles of telephone poles, constructed 4,300 miles of truck trails, stocked half a billion fish, fought forest fires and built several state parks, including Devil’s Lake, Peninsula Park, Copper Falls and Wyalusing. The camps not only revitalized Wisconsin’s natural resources but turned the boys into men by giving them discipline and teaching them work skills. There was an average of 46 camps in operation over a nine-year run in Wisconsin.
Jamerson’s book, “Big Shoulders,” is a historical novel that follows a year in the life of a 17-year-old youth from Detroit who enlisted in the CCC in 1937. The enrollee joins 200 other young men at Camp Raco, a work camp in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula run by reserve Army officers. 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,” a fun look at CCC camp food; and “City Slicker,” which tells of the mischief the CCC boys find in the woods. The folk songs range from heartwarming ballads to foot-stomping jigs.
Everyone is welcome to attend this program at no charge, including former CCC’ers and their families. For more information, call the library at (262) 249-5299.
If you go
-- What: Library presentation covering the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression era
-- When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 3
-- Where: Lake Geneva Public Library, 918 W. Main St., Lake Geneva