Colleen from Fennville, Mich., sends along the following story from her childhood.
When I was a child, I spent two summers with my grandparents in the northern Michigan woods at a CCC camp. CCC stands for Civilian Conservation Corp. I believe President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created the CCC organization. The camp was located outside of Whitecloud. My Grandpa Earl was the manager of the camp. My Grandma Bertha cooked for the young men that made up the crew of the Corp. My mother’s brother, Tom, and another young man, Jack, who would eventually become my uncle too, when he married my aunt, were part of the crew.
I’m not sure what the crew did during the daytime, I know they worked very hard, but at night, after my grandpa had cooked a large evening meal, all the guys would sit around a campfire outside, pull out their guitars, banjos, and ukuleles and sing. I was allowed to stay up and sit on my uncle’s laps and listen to the wonderful music.
I could roam the lush, thick woods; my grandparents never feared that anything bad would happen to me as Tammy, my Grandpa’s bird dog, was at my side constantly. Tammy never let me get lost; she would always nudge me back toward camp and the trail if I wandered.
Sometimes at dusk, my Grandma would take me in the rowboat with her and we would go out on the lake and fish for bullheads. At that time of night, the lake was smooth as honey. The loons would call across the lake while the crickets kept up their rhythmic chatter.
The way Grandma fished for bullheads was to tie a piece of raw meat to a long string, throw it over the side of the boat and wait for a bite. Then she would flip the string into the boat with the fish attached. It would flap around the boat for a few seconds. I would get very excited when I caught a bullhead. When I flipped the line into the boat, sometimes my aim wasn’t so good and I’d throw the fish right back in the lake. My Grandma started tying me to the seat because she said if I jumped around the fish wouldn’t bite.
When my mother found out she said, “Mom, if the boat overturns, Cookie will drown! She can’t swim!”
My Grandma hadn’t thought of that so she stopped tying me to the seat.
One of the things that my Grandma told me and I’ve remembered my entire life, was: “Never damage a tree or plant in the woods. Never leave any trash behind. If you want to grow with trees you must take care of them.” Grandma Bertha was one of the original conservationists.
My grandparents, and parents, and both of my uncles are gone now. I have no way of finding the site of the CCC camp. But it will always remain alive in my memory.
Thanks, Colleen, for sharing that story.
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