CCC+Comes+Alive+Again


Photo from Hartwick Pines by Brian H.; inset photo Michael Daren
Article by Janet I. Martineau

From 1933 to 1942, some 3.4 million American men went to work for President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the nation as members of the Civilian Conservation Corps. At 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 4, one of them will visit the Green Point Environmental Learning Center, 3010 Maple in Saginaw, for a program titled CCC Enrollee 1941. — Well, sort of.

Michael Deren of Ann Arbor recreates, through music and stories, American history and his ” CCC Enrollee 1941 program is presented as a part of the Nurturing Nature series sponsored by the Friends of the Shiawassee National Wildlife Refuge. Admission is free to Friends members. Others pay $2 at the door. During the program, Deren’s CCC character will play the bugle, concertina and washboard and talk about life in the CCC camps. “I do not present programs ‘for’ people,” says Deren. “I present programs ‘with’ people as the audience is a full participant. The Green Point audience will be developing their character, joining the CCC, planting trees, and experiencing six months of life in a CCC camp.”

CCC was a public relief program for unemployed and single men during the Great Depression and was one of the most popular of all the New Deal programs. The men, ages 18-25, were paid $30 a month -- of which $25 sent to their parents. During its years, the men planted nearly 3 billion trees to help reforest America, constructed more than 800 parks nationwide that initiated the development of most state parks, updated forest fire fighting methods, built a network of thousands of miles of public roadways, and constructed buildings connecting the nation's public lands. “We as citizens of Michigan and the United States are still enjoying the fruits of their labor in the trees which were planted, in the development and improvements in parks, wildlife refuges and national forests,” says Deren.

“The 103,000 men serving in Michigan built the lumber camp at Hartwick Pines State Park, the Seney Wildlife Refuge in the U.P., planted 484 million trees in Michigan, fought fires and much, much more,” he adds.

Enrollee is not based on a life of a single CCC worker, he says, but is a compilation of numerous CCC alumni he interviewed. He also in a unique way, he says, brings three CCC alumni veterans with him to every presentation. And he also encourages any CCC alumni in the area to share their experiences at the end of his program. Deren calls his series of programs about the common people whose labor built America The Past in Person. Others tell the stories of an 1870 lumberjack, an 1865 Civil War musician, an 1880 Upper Peninsula iron worker, an 1875 Great Lakes schooner captain, an 1870 Transcontinental Railroad engineer and an 1840 Erie Canal boat captain.

Deren has a bachelor’s degree in music education and a master’s degree in woodwind instruments, and for 15 years he taught instrumental and general music in grades 4 through 12 and college. An avid hiker, outdoorsman and amateur historian, Deren has presented his The Past in Person programs since 1985 in schools, libraries, state parks, museums and for historical groups.The Friends of Shiawassee is also sponsoring a presentation by Deren for the students at the Saginaw Arts and Sciences Academy.

Deren says he continues to meet CCC alumni and that they are “consistently positive and glowingly complimentary about what the CCC gave them and did for them. All said it was a beginning and a future." He adds,  “Almost all of them have expressed the wish that the organization would continue today for America's youth and give them the tools for adulthood and success that the CCC gave them from 1933-1942.”

© Janet I. Martineau, 2011