Author Archives: mhch7

Before Earth Day, There Was the CCC!

Chet Nolte, left, and Dick Henderson with Woodsy Owl at the Evergreen Earth Day Fair.

Chet Nolte, left, and Dick Henderson with Woodsy Owl at the Evergreen Earth Day Fair.

Among notable CCC alumni slogans in the 1980s and 1990s, “Before Earth Day, There Was the CCC” ranked high, along with “Bring Back the CCCs.” Connecting modern environmental awareness with the work of CCC companies in the 1930s made good sense, as many camp projects were aimed at improving our nation’s forests, fighting soil erosion, and building parks. For many, the Conservation Corps workers are best known for planting trees—21,848,085 of them in Colorado alone!


CCC exhibit on display at the Evergreen Earth Day Fair, 1997 or 1998.

CCC exhibit on display at the Evergreen Earth Day Fair, 1997 or 1998.

Allying Earth Day with CCC alumni was a natural idea, and in about 1997-98, Chapter 7 attended the Evergreen Earth Day Fair, with an educational exhibit promoting their activities and the accomplishments of the original CCC. Several Chapter 7 members enjoyed talking with guests throughout the day, as well as celebrating with Earth Day representatives Smokey Bear and Woodsy Owl.

Earth Day just isn’t the same without you! We miss our alumni friends!

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Meet the Boys: Belve Beasley

BELVE BEASLEY, (Pete), I grew up in Rusk, TX, one of 11 children. I attended Maydelle High School, I first joined the CCCs in November of 1936 and was sent to camp at Castle Rock, CO. There I worked on the Explosives Crew, blasting a rock quarry. I went home at the end of my term.

There was still no jobs there, so I re-enlisted for another term in the CCCs on April 5,1939, and was sent to Douglas, AZ to become a GI driver for the Army Dept, and held this job until February 1941.

My duties were to haul supplies for the camp, handle company mail, pick up canteen supplies, laundry, etc. I was also on 24 hour stand-by as Ambulance Driver. I also drove staff cars to trans¬port dentists, doctors, and officials to other camps in all parts of the state. I drove enrollees to Phoenix to attend GI Drivers School.

Later I went to Barber School in Douglas, AZ and became the Company barber. I also took a Sr. Life Guard course through the Red Cross. It was compulsory to have a first aid card and take a refresher course every 90 days. I assisted in saving one life in a lake in Monument.

I became an Assistant Leader in August 1939, and was assistant to the Company Commander.

In 1939 our Company changed from Co. 828, CNM-2-A to Co. 828, NP-9-A. On June 25,1940 our company was transferred to Monument, CO Co. 828, Camp F-60-C. There, in addition to the above duties, I participated in Army planning their recreation. I helped train enrollees and issued their clothing and supplies, I also played on the baseball team.

I received the State Safety Driver Award in Arizona for driving over 100,000 miles without an accident.

I gained valuable experience while in the CCCs and made many life long friends.

I met and married a girl from Monument, Evelyn Eckerson, and we have been married a little over 49 years. We have one son and two grandchildren. We have lived in Colorado Springs most of these years.

I was honorably discharged on Feb. 5, 1941. After leaving the CCCs, I was employed by Civil Service and retired from the Air Force Academy in 1966. After that I owned and operated a Trailer Hitch shop which I sold in 1974. Since then I have enjoyed traveling and fishing.

1 would like to hear from any of the fellows that were in the same company at the time I was. Please contact me at: Belve (Pete) Beasley, Colorado Springs, CO.


All personal accounts are from Civilian Conservation Corps: the Way We Remember It, Nolte, M. Chester (ed), 1990, unless otherwise noted.

Meet the Boys: Gene Battles

Hello, my name is Gene (for Eugene) Battles, a native of Salina, OK. I just missed being an Arkansan by 60. mi, but I’m proud to be called a “Sooner,” and don’t object to that.

Most guys got into the Army after they had been in the CCCs, but I reversed the process. In 1931 I enlisted in the 2d Army Div. in San Antonio, and attended Cook and Bakers School at Ft. Sam Houston. In 1935, when my hitch was about up, they sent me up here to Ft. Logan to instruct the cooks and bakers. A lieutenant there said that the CCCs were short of cooks and bakers, and he talked me into joining up. My first camp was Co. 1822 (SP-14-C), Golden CO, where I stayed a short time, transferring to the Ft. Collins, CO Camp (Co. 809, SCS-8-C) near Wellington. George Mauk was Project Superintendent, and Galen Emerine and Carl Kling of our Chapter 7 were also there at that time.

Talk about being out in the “boonies!” We were about 11 miles from nowhere, on Box Elder Creek; rattlesnakes were everywhere. The camp Co offered a carton of cigarettes to the enrollee who killed the most snakes in any one week. (One week the count was over 300 snakes!) You had to watch it when going to the latrine in the middle of the night! For pastime, Doc (Lt. Herbert) Bell, the camp surgeon, and I would take our forked sticks out after supper and have fun catching the critters. We had a cigar box full of rattles. We planted buffalo grass and trees, some of which are still standing there, although the camp is gone. I guess the thing that put an end to the snakes was when we poisoned the prairie dogs, and that eliminated their food supply. Anyway, that part of the country is now free of snakes.

I got “antsy” in the Cs and wanted to try my wings outside, so, in 1938, I found a job as a cook and baker in the Chicken Inn in Greeley, CO, only to quit that job and go back into the same camp in October 1938. During this time I was in the National Guard, each summer cooking for 30 days at Camp George West during the annual encampment. In October, Mary and I decided to get married, and, since you couldn’t be married and be in the Cs at the same time, I got mustered out in January 1939. Then came the war.

Since I was already an Army vet, I was drafted early and joined the 45th Div. at Ft. Sill, OK, making Staff Sgt. (Motor Pool) early in 1940. My job was training draftees, and I served in that capacity in Wisconsin, TX, and Georgia. In May 1943, I was assigned to desert training in the Mojave Desert (CA) in preparation for the North Africa Campaign. I was with Gen. Patton all across North Africa, then on to Sicily as a First Sgt. with the 53d Amphibious Engineers. We made the initial landings at Anzio and Salerno, and on up the ‘boot’. I was Jockying a “Duck,” a land-and-water craft that swam and ran like hell on land. At Anzio, I got a busted ear drum but no Purple Heart. I was a caterpillar mechanic in the Cs, so that helped me on into France, Germany, Austria; and I was with the 101st Airborne at Berchtesgaden.

All in all, I had put in 12 years in the Army and four years in the CCCs. After the war, I got into home construction, but quit that to go to work for Schwayder Bros., retiring from that company after 25 years in 1976. Somewhere I have seven Battle Stars and a Bronze Arrowhead, the latter indicating an initial landing. Our outfit got a special citation for fighting at Anzio, too. The lessons I learned in the Cs helped me to no end in the military. I like to get together with my buddies at Chapter 7 meeting and go over old times. Without the Cs, I doubt that we would have won the war, its that simple. At least, that’s the way I remembered it.


All personal accounts are from Civilian Conservation Corps: the Way We Remember It, Nolte, M. Chester (ed), 1990, unless otherwise noted.

Meet the Boys: William Hoy Askins

I was born in Oklahoma, and educated in Texas and Colorado.

A little over 50 years ago, on Mar. 1, 1938, I joined the CCCs at Florence, CO with five others. Two of the boys were from Florence and the others from Canyon City. On the second day we were picked up at 8:00 AM at the Fremont Bus Station by truck and taken to Colorado City. We arrived at ten, and had our lunch. We waited around until 1:45 in the afternoon and then we were taken to Pueblo. We had to sleep on the floor. To top that off, we had Chili for breakfast! That was a first! We boarded a train at Pueblo for Colorado Springs. Well, the train arrived on time—but the CCC bus was late. When it arrived, we piled in and went north. After about ten miles, we found the camp at Woodland Park. After a big supper (who said the CCCs didn’t feed well!) we got our bunk assignments which we had while at the camp at Woodland Park.

Next day we were issued our CCC clothes, and taken to the Rampart Range area, where we started to plant seedling trees. We did this for 3 to 4 months, then we went to de-bugging trees by Cheesman Dam. We also were to look out for horses — which we never found. That took a lot of walking.

I was in that camp for six months. I learned many valuable things. I found out that the CCC can play an important part in a young boy’s life, as it did in mine. At that time, jobs were very hard to find, and when you did get one, it paid very little. The CCC was very valuable to me.

At least, that’s the way I remember it.

All personal accounts are from Civilian Conservation Corps: the Way We Remember It, Nolte, M. Chester (ed), 1990, unless otherwise noted.

Demas Atencio, Version As Written

I was born and grew up in Walsenburg, CO, as were my parents, grandparents, and great grandparents. I signed up at Walsenburg to join the CCC, along with three other young boys whose names were Ted Barros, Tony Anselmo, and Pat Vigil. We were sent to Co. 1848, Camp 13 at Morrison, CO the summer of 1935. I was there until late in 1937.

I am proud of having been a member of Camp SP-13-C. We had a fine relationship that existed between the members of our Company and the citizens of Morrison.

I am especially proud of having had a part in building the Red Rocks Park Amphitheatre; a masterful monument that will be there for Centuries for people to enjoy. I’d say it’s the most beautiful monument ever built by CCC. I wish all America could see it.

All the work was done by Co. 1848*, Camp SP-13-C members, of which 95 percent were Colorado Natives, working with pick and shovel and jackhammers. I operated a jackhammer. Sometimes in carving out the side of a cliff I was suspended by a rope which was attached to my belt and held by three men. I once injured my foot and was unable to work for a month. I still have a snapshot of my foot in bandages. Sometimes it was dangerous, but mostly it was hard work and we Colorado boys loved it.

After dinner at 5 pm a GI Truck would take us to Denver, drop us off in front of the State Capitol and we all scattered out to movies, dances, meeting girl friends and having fun. The deadline for pick-up back to Camp was midnight. Well, one night I missed the truck by five minutes and needless to say, I walked all the way (every inch of it) to Morrison. It was 15 miles, pitch black out (it was dark!) In those days with no lights, just open country and farms. I got into camp at 6 am just in time for roll call and breakfast, and a hard days work. Later I solved that problem by buying myself a Model A Convertible which took me into Denver every night. We were not allowed a car at camp so we parked in Morrison.

Camp SP-13-C was a meticulous camp, a show place. Many Dignitaries, political and business people came to visit the camp, from Denver and elsewhere.

After I left the CCC I served as Constable in Walsenberg, CO until 1941 when I moved to California where I now live.

I scan the CCC [Alumni] Journal for names of our Company members. I have never found one, I remember them all—Where are they? I still have the Roster with all their names and the towns where they lived in Colorado.

In June 1989 I attended a Colorado State CCC Reunion at the Camp hosted by Mile-High Chapter 7 Denver who have preserved and beautifully maintained the camp. I was graciously welcomed by all — a swell bunch of old time CCC fellows. The old feeling of camaraderie and friendship was still there.

Thanks to CCC!

—Demas Atencio, Sutter Creek, CA

All personal accounts are from Civilian Conservation Corps: the Way We Remember It, Nolte, M. Chester (ed), 1990, unless otherwise noted.

*Co. 1848 left the Mt. Morrison Camp in June 1937; Co. 1860-V then occupied the camp and completed work on the amphitheatre (through 1941), along with Co. 1822-V, from Genesee Camp SP-14-C.

CCC Project Lists in Progress

Although we will probably never have a complete list of individual CCC efforts in Colorado, the agency kept a variety of statistics on projects at the time. Thanks to a request last week, we’re going to try to recap some of the more visible ones here, but that will be a work in progress! Meanwhile, here’s some general information. (Also see our Projects page.)

Summary of Colorado CCC work, 1933-1942 (NARA)

Summary of Colorado CCC work, 1933-1942 (NARA)

According to Director James J. McEntee’s final report, 35,495 Colorado men, out of 57,944 total, were employed here during the program’s 9.5-year duration. They received more than $63.7 million in pay, of which almost $7 million was sent home to benefit their families. Click image to enlarge this summary report, from the National Archives (NARA) at College Park, MD, via Bob Audretsch. An agency-by-agency overview of work in the first three years is here.

Listing camps, as with projects, is also complicated. Although some were stable for years, other camps moved locations or switched designations. Many camps set up “side” or “fly” camps, smaller groups of men settled away from the base temporarily to work on particular projects. Working through these challenges in his three years of research, historian Audretsch has arrived at a total of 125 camps in Colorado over the life of the CCCs. The summary report above estimates an average of 34 camps were active in Colorado at any given time.

In January 1934, the Steamboat Pilot newspaper provided a summary for the first season in 1933:

A total of 289,433 days were devoted to field work during the past summer at the 23 civilian conservation camps in Colorado. The maximum strength of these camps was 4600 men, of which 2800 were enrolled in Colorado, 1300 from Oklahoma, 460 from Texas and 40 from Wyoming. The fieldtime represents the work of 2000 men for a period of 100 days.

Our camp lists on this site are still incomplete. The U.S. Forest Service oversaw more CCC camps in-state and nationwide than any other technical service agency. Our coverage here has so far neglected the 52 forest camps, so we’ll try to get more posted about their work soon. These camps will be featured in Volume 1 of Audretsch’s book.

Colorado Book Coming Soon!

Audretsch, Robert W., “The Civilian Conservation Corps in Colorado, Volume 1” will be published by Dog Ear Publishing by July 2017 and available on Amazon.

Researching Colorado CCC

Good news! There’s going to be a book on the Colorado CCC!!

For two years, author Bob Audretsch has been researching here and across Colorado, collecting material for his book on the CCC efforts here in our state. And we’ve been helping as best we can. A lot has happened in the last two years, and I need to write a major update, but for now, let’s just settle for this announcement. We hope the book will be available in the next year or so.

Bob’s book will become the go-to source for information on CCC work projects statewide. Among other sources, he’s been reviewing local newspapers around the area. They often reported what the CCC boys were doing in the small towns and remote forests of our state, and Bob is uncovering a treasure trove of information there. Bob has been sharing information with us as he goes along (and vice versa)!

Bob has already published books on the CCC in Arizona, where he was a ranger and interpreter at Grand Canyon National Park for many years. He moved to Colorado in 2014. We’ll share more on Bob’s Colorado work and discoveries soon.

Books by Robert W. Audretsch:

Shaping the Park and Saving the Boys
The Civilian Conservation Corps at Grand Canyon, 1933-1942


From May 1933 to June 1941, the park’s infrastructure advanced as much as fifty years with the installation of trails, buildings, trail resthouses, roads, telephone lines, and many other improvements.
2011. 140 pages. 72 b&w photos. 1 map. Bib. Index. $19.95 paper.

Grand Canyon’s Phantom Ranch


Located at the bottom of Grand Canyon along the Colorado River, Phantom Ranch was designed by architect Mary Jane Colter in 1921 and can only be reached by hiking, mule ride or river trip.
2012. 128 pages. 206 b&w photos. $21.99 paper.

We Still Walk In Their Footprint
The Civilian Conservation Corps in Northern Arizona, 1933-1942


In northern Arizona, the CCC boys planted trees, built roads and buildings, strung telephone lines, erected fences, constructed trails and campgrounds, put out forest fires, and rescued hundreds of ranchers and their livestock during the terrible winter of 1936-1937.
2013. 212 pages. 53 b&w photos. Bib. Index. $21.95 paper.

The Civilian Conservation Corps in Arizona
Robert W. Audretsch and Sharon E. Hunt Foreword by Michael I. Smith


In Arizona the CCC battled soil erosion on grazing lands, developed state and national parks, and improved the state’s national forest lands.
2014. 128 pages. 188 b&w photos. 3 maps. $21.99 paper.


Meet the Colorado “Boys”: Lou Boyer

LOUIS BOYER

I joined the CCCs in January of 1935 and spent the first six months on erosion control work at Co. 752 Camp Thayer, Hebron, NE. A job opened up in surveying, and I applied and got it, mapping farms with a transit, ‘sight-alidade’ on a plane table, and two rods. We helped farmers run their furrows across the slope of the hills, not up and down where the soil would wash away. For the maps, I took the plane-table sheet to the office and drew the contour maps, complete with roads, houses, rivers, and the lot. In January 1937 I got a promotion to Asst. SCS Clerk, still doing maps and copy-drafting the engineering drawings for the farmers. This was my chief work until I was mustered out in August of 1937.

I started keeping a diary. Here are a couple of entries from 1936.

Mon Feb. 24
Clear and 40 degrees. Had the Harlem Globe Trotters as guests at chow tonight. One of the basketballers had been in the Cs and told us some of his experiences there. Another sang for us, and one danced (tap danced). The Capt. put up $10 of his own money for us so we could borrow a dime and go see them play at the gym. What a game! They clowned around and in the last quarter started playing football and baseball with the basketball. They had the Hebron guys going around in circles, and everybody has a good time. The score: Globetrotters 30; Hebron Hoboes 20.

Tues. June 5
Partly cloudy and cool. Got in about 4:15, got dressed and went down town to get my suit. I also bought two shirts, two pairs of sox, two ties, and a pair of shoes. They gave me my choice of a belt, tie, or sox with the suit. I took the belt. The whole thing came to only $27.49. I think I got a good deal for the money. After chow we started construction of a darkroom for the photography class. Ran off five reels for the Ed. Advisor, wrote a letter to pop and hit the sack. Tired but proud. I am making my own way.

Lou and Fleta Boyer, Chapter 7 member photos, 1990s.

Lou and Fleta Boyer, Chapter 7 member photos, 1990s.

My time in the CCCs gave me a direction that I did not have. The work habits formed then have been with me all of my life. I followed the cartographers trade (essentially mapping) as a career and worked for 25 years at the Denver Federal Center using stereo-photography in Photogrammetry. Without the early training in the CCCs, I’d never have found out how fascinating mapping could be.

To say that the Cs shaped our lives is putting it mildly.

Meet the Colorado “Boys”: Donald Bess

DONALD BESS, (CCC nickname: “Bessie”) most folks call me Don.

My parents homesteaded near Ballantine, MT and I was born in Billings. By rights, I suppose I should claim Montana as my state, but since we moved to Denver in 1922, I have a bumper sticker that says “Native” of Colorado. Things were tough, as all you CCCers remember, even in the Queen City of the Plains. My alma mater is the School of Hard Knocks (colors: black and blue) which I went to till about the 8th grade, then quit to go to work full time. I carried the Denver Post, worked at odd jobs and went up to sign up with the CCCs. They told me to come back in a month and they would let me in. I was 17 the day I went in.

Being from Denver I was inducted at Ft Logan, had my physical and got my shots, etc. The next day we took the train to Salida and then the narrow gauge to Telluride on the Galloping Goose to Placerville. I was one of the lucky ones as I got to ride in the cab while most of the guys had to ride in the box car. That should have been enough riding for one day, but we still had 30 to 35 rough miles to go in the back of a stake truck.

Finally, we reached our camp at Norwood (Co. 1842, F-48-C) about 35 miles from the Utah Line, elevation 7,017 feet. It was a drought relief camp, and since I did not have any special skills, I was assigned to the road building crew. We pushed the large boulders by hand and foot over the cliff and the grader kept uncovering more. I got muscles but also took sick and had to go to Ft. Logan hospital. After a few days I was OK and asked if I could do something to pass the time. They pointed to a mountain of potatoes—I guess I must have peeled a gillion. The cooks liked me and tried to get me a job as KP at $50 a month and room and board, but the job went to a war veteran.

Don Bess at the Chapman Dam he helped build, circa 1980s?

Don Bess at the Chapman Dam he helped build, circa 1980s?


I went back to duty at Co. 831 (F-51-C), Meredith, CO, one of the oldest companies in the nation. Our first job was tearing down an old ranger station, and starting a foundation for a new one. At work on the Chapman Dam, we had to shovel gravel, sand and cement into a cement mixer. The mixed cement then went into mining cars, wheeled on the tracks over a trestle, and then dumped into a chute. As the dam began to rise, so did my appetite. That dam is still there. And my appetite is just now beginning to abate.

When you go over to Glenwood and to the head waters of the Frying Pan River past Norrie, you can see the Chapman Dam and Campground built there by the CCC.

I’m proud of that little project. I know it will last because I helped build it.

My next job was interesting. Our crew put up forest service telephone lines. We dug the holes for the poles by hand, set the poles, with some of the poles having to have a guy wire hooked to a “dead man” (a pole buried longways in the ground). We forgot to creosote some of the poles before we had them up, so here we were up on the poles cutting the tops off to creosote them. One day I had climbed one of these poles stringing line when one of my climbers came loose, and there I was hanging by my safety belt upside down, hollering like a wild cat. My tools were all in the river, and to make matters worse, there was my foreman, Mr. Colter, laughing his head off at me. Try it sometime, it’s not the height that gets you, it’s the upside down stuff that hurts.

Lucy and Don Bess, Chapter 7 member photos, 1990s.

Lucy and Don Bess, Chapter 7 member photos, 1990s.


Our work in the Cs was hard for me, but it taught me to get along with all sorts of people. Your buddies’ lives depended on what you did.

In April 1944, the sweetheart you know as Lucy Bess became my wedded wife, making my life complete. I’ve been blessed with much in this life, and I am thankful to be an American living in the good old USA. My only wish is that we can keep it that way forever. At least, that’s the way I remember it all. (As told to Chet Nolte).


Chapter Eternal: Don Bess left us August 11, 2006, a few years after his beloved Lucy.

New page shares “Perspectives”

Every now and then, we run across material in our research that helps us latter-day Americans understand what it was like to serve in the Civilian Conservation Corps. Today, we created a new “Perspective” page to share quotes and writings from the 1930s that help us empathize with those who served and gain a better idea of their lives in the CCC.

We hope you like it!