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Jamerson performs songs, stories about Civilian Conservation Corps

 

Richard Jenkins/Daily Globe photo

HISTORIAN and song writer Bill Jamerson performed his "Dollar-a-Day Boys" show about life in the Civilian Conservation Corps at the historic Ironwood Theatre Saturday as part of the Smithsonian's "The Way We Worked" exhibition.

IRONWOOD - The audience at the historic Ironwood Theatre Saturday night were treated to an evening dedicated to the men who signed up for the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC, as Bill Jamerson presented his show "Dollar-a-Day Boys" as part of the "Way We Worked" exhibition presented by the Smithsonian.

The show featured a mix of stories and songs designed to entertain and illustrate what life in the CCC was like.

The CCC, which was started as part of the federal government's New Deal programs to provide employment during the Great Depression, took unemployed young men and put them to work on public works projects such as tree planting or building roads, according to Jamerson.

There were 37 CCC camps in the Upper Peninsula, Jamerson said, although because the camps were broken down and moved once a project was complete, the 37 camps were in approximately 60 locations.

One of the camps was set up in what is now Ironwood's Norrie Park - referred to at that time as Camp Norrie. The camp, which according to information found at the Ironwood Theatre, was organized during the CCC's expansion in 1935. Initially comprised of men between the ages of 17 and 23 years old, from both of Michigan's peninsulas as well as Illinois, the camp eventually was filled with locals, according to the theatre's information.

Among the projects completed by the workers who lived at Camp Norrie were "Norrie Park, Black River Park with its 90-foot suspension bridge, Little Girl's Point and Montreal Park," according to the information.

To join the CCC, a man was required to be unemployed, a citizen, in need, and not attending school. Workers were paid $1 a day, most of which was frequently sent back home, according to Jamerson.

"These guys were tough," Jamerson said, describing the hard physical labor they often did. "It was a tough experience but they stuck it out to help their families."

He also talked how many would get incredibly homesick and while tough, cry openly when getting letters from home.

Jamerson's performance consisted of stories or anecdotes he had heard when researching the CCC and then usually a song that he wrote after being inspired by the information.

Following intermission, Jamerson's performance centered on the recreational side of life in the CCC. In addition to having most of the weekends to themselves, where they would go into town and attended dances, the workers participated in a number of sports - often competing against other camps.

Jamerson first became interested in the CCC when he discovered some old footage about life in the program and wound up attending one of the camp's reunions. He said he received such a warm welcome that he kept returning and hearing more of the stories from participants. He found the information so compelling, that he created his concert.

Jamerson encouraged the audience to pass the information along to younger generations so they can learn the importance of hard work and caring for families.

Jamerson recommended ccclegacy.org for more information on the organization. More information on Jamerson can be found at billjamerson.com.

 
 

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