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Caddo Lake State Park To Host Reunion of CCC Veterans
KARNACK, Texas — The men whose hands built the backbone of the Texas State Park System will gather at Caddo Lake State Park this fall to renew old acquaintances and provide oral histories of their labor experiences in the federal Civilian Conservation Corps during the height of the Great Depression in the 1930s. The theme of the Sept. 24-25 CCC reunion is: "We get it done."
CCC veterans from Texas and elsewhere, their family members, researchers and others are invited to attend the gathering and meet these remarkable men who average 86 years of age.
"The stories of the CCC veterans will touch your heartstrings," said the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department’s Carl Orbison, who is helping organize this year’s reunion. "It is extremely important to record their stories because they represent one of the more significant periods of American history. We want young people especially to understand the contribution these men, most of whom were in their teens when they joined the CCC, made to our state and nation."
The reunion kicks off Friday afternoon, Sept. 24, with registration, the recording of oral histories and sharing of memorabilia in the Recreation Hall, just one of many structures erected by the CCC boys at Caddo Lake State Park. A fish fry will be held from 5-6 p.m. Those wishing to attend, should call Carl Orbison at (903) 566-0535, ext. 235 or Janelle Taylor at (512) 389-4665.
Reunion activities continue Saturday morning with a group photo, more storytelling and the grand opening of the totally updated exhibit hall at park headquarters that artfully interprets Caddo Lake’s natural and cultural history. The swampy, bald cypress-studded lake holds the distinction of being the only naturally formed lake in Texas and has been designated a "Wetland of International Importance."
Caddo Lake in 1933 was the first Texas state park to host a CCC company. The workers’ handiwork is in evidence throughout the park, beginning with stone pylons at the park entrance. The men of CCC Company 889 began construction of the park’s trails and firebreaks, but after a month were moved out to Palo Duro Canyon to work on the Texas Panhandle park. The CCC later returned to Caddo Lake to build roads, log cabins, a concession building and much of the park’s infrastructure.
Last year marked the 70th anniversary of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s creation of the Great Depression-era public works program that put 3.5 million young men to work on conservation and park projects from 1933-42. The Texas Legislature proclaimed March 31 "Texas CCC Day" to honor the CCC alumni and acknowledge their role in constructing parks in Texas, 31 of which operate today as state parks. One of those parks, Bastrop State Park, is one of only five CCC-constructed state parks in the U. S. to be designated a National Historic Landmark.
By the end of the CCC's first six-month enrollment in September 1933*, more than 3,000 men lived in 16 camps throughout Texas building the foundation of what would become an enviable state park system. The CCC in Texas created two national forests and built Big Bend National Park, the Franklin Canal System in El Paso County and dozens of city, county and state parks.
Two years later, 27 CCC companies were at work in Texas state parks, building a first-class park system whose legacy includes forest roads, swimming pools, dams, bridges and hundreds of finely crafted rock-and-timber structures. The young craftsmen’s durable, hand-carved furniture, too, decorates guest rooms and cabins at places such as Bastrop and Indian Lodge in Davis Mountains State Park in west Texas.
For more information about the CCC, access the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Web site (http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/historic_sites/ccc/).
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