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Civilian Conservation Corps Vets To Gather At Garner State Park
CONCAN, Texas — Dozens of surviving members of a unique American fraternity that planted billions of trees, stocked almost a billion fish and developed 800 state parks will kick up their heels and reminisce about their days in the Civilian Conservation Corps during a two-day reunion at Garner State Park.
Billed as “A Dance to Remember,” the CCC reunion will take place Sept. 16-17 on the banks of the Frio River at Texas’ most popular camping park. Garner State Park is renowned for its beautiful Texas Hill Country scenery and its nightly dances each summer at the rock concession building constructed by the young men of CCC Company 879 in the late 1930s.
“We’re the only state park with a CCC pavilion that still uses it for dancing,” park manager Craig VanBaarle.
Reunion festivities will begin at 1 p.m., Friday, Sept. 16 with registration and the recording of oral histories of the “CCC boys” whose average age is 86, followed by a bus tour of the 1,484-acre park. The day’s activities will conclude with a 6 p.m. program to honor the CCC veterans and a dance at the dance pavilion, which is built of native limestone and cypress. Highlighting Saturday’s schedule will be hayride tours of the park and 5 p.m. spaghetti supper with cowboy music and poetry.
“All CCC veterans, including those who’ve worked in any CCC camp in the nation, as well as their families and the general public, are invited to attend,” said TPWD’s Janelle Taylor, who is coordinating the event. “We who enjoy our parks today owe a debt of gratitude to these hard-working, talented men who built the backbone of our Texas state park system.”
One of the CCC alumni who will be attending the reunion is Henry Trees, who served at Garner in 1941. Trees served as a carpenter, helping to build cabins and other park structures. He also hung the iron chandelier still hanging in the concession building next to the famous dance floor.
Taylor suggests that those CCC veterans wishing to attend should contact her to receive an invitation that includes lodging options and other reunion details. She can be reached by calling (512) 389-4665 or via e-mail at Janelle.firstname.lastname@example.org.
New this year, Taylor said, will be a re-enactment to portray some of the skills training that took place at the more than 4,000 CCC camps in the United States. TPWD employees will portray the LEMs (Local Experienced Men), who were hired to teach the young CCC workers how to use various tools and do various kinds of construction. Young men and women from the AmeriCorps, a national volunteer service program, will play the roles of the CCC workers learning how to use such antique tools as the two-man band saw and an adz, an ax-like tool.
A total of 50 young men and women between the ages of 17 and 25 from American YouthWorks in Austin employed in the Environmental Corps and Casa Verde Builders service programs funded by through AmeriCorps will visit Garner State Park. Some of the AmeriCorps workers will participate in the CCC re-enactment, while others will arrive earlier in the week to work on hiking trails, park cabins and do general maintenance in preparation for the reunion.
At Garner State Park, the skilled craftsmanship of the CCC workers is evidenced not only in the rock concession stand, but also in the park manager’s residence, numerous rock culverts, more than 10 miles of trails cut through the lush Frio River valley and park cabins that feature ornamental metal hinges and latches.
Garner State Park is one of 31 CCC-built Texas state parks operated by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. It was named for Vice-President John Nance Garner, a Uvalde County native who was known as “Cactus Jack.” Other popular CCC state parks include Balmorhea, Bastrop, Caddo Lake, Davis Mountains, Inks Lake, Longhorn Cavern and Tyler.
From 1933-1945, thousands of young men between the ages of 17 and 25 worked in more than 150 CCC camps scattered throughout Texas. The CCC in Texas developed not only state parks, but also Big Bend National Park, two national forests, El Paso’s Franklin Canal System and dozens of city and county parks.
The Garner gathering follows a CCC reunion held last year at Caddo Lake State Park and one at Bastrop State Park in 2003 to mark the 70th anniversary of the CCC’s creation by President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide jobs to millions of young men during the Great Depression. The City of Dallas Parks and Recreation Department will host the 2006 National CCC Reunion next year.
Garner State Park is located 31 miles north of Uvalde on Ranch Road 1050, just off U.S. 83, halfway between Leakey and Concan. For more park information, call (830) 232-6132.
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