GLOVERSVILLE - After quitting school at age 16, Art Semione of Gloversville wasn't sure what to do next. One of his friends told him about the Civilian Conservation Corps, and they went down to the Fulton County clerk's office, where Semione lied about his age to get in.
To celebrate the 80th anniversary of the CCC, the Fulton County Historical Society on Sunday hosted a reunion for its local alumni, family and friends at the Fulton County Museum.
"I get goosebumps thinking about the experiences these boys had," said writer and CCC historian Marty Podskoch, who attended the event and shared some of his research.
Civilian Conservation Corps alumnus Marcus Krueger wears one of the old uniforms from the CCC on Sunday at the Fulton County Museum.
Photo courtesy of Marty Podskoch
During the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt created the CCC as part of his New Deal. The corps was used to provide unskilled labor for public projects and put unemployed men to work.
Living in military-style camps, the men worked on conservation projects such as planting trees, building campsites and fighting forest fires.
"I had a great experience in the camp," said Marcus Krueger, an Amsterdam native who now lives in Tribes Hill.
The men were allowed to go home and visit family on the weekends. According to Krueger, some men would hide their cars in the woods near the camp or hitchhike home.
"It was easy to get rides wearing our green uniforms," Krueger said.
Coming from a family with 10 kids, Semione got homesick, so he was happy when he moved from the Speculator camp to one in Caroga to work on projects there.
At Caroga Lake, Semione helped fixed campsites and build fireplaces and bathroom stalls.
"I still remember the day we put up the flagpole by the shore," Semione said.
The friends he joined the corps with left two or three weeks into their enlistment, while Semione stayed for a full six months.
With New York state having the nation's largest population in 1933, the state had 61 CCC camps. Each camp had roughly 200 men, ages 17 to 28. Remains of the camps in Speculator and Fort Henry are still visible today.
The camps were run by the Army, and men could enlist for six months up to two years. They were paid a dollar a day; each month, $25 was sent home to their families. That's what attracted Semione to join the CCC, he said. At the time, Army recruits were only making $28 a month.
Many of the jobs in the CCC were doing conservation work, but there were other jobs, such as working in the offices or the infirmary. Krueger worked in the infirmary for a while and says he met a lot of juvenile delinquents from NYC.
After serving in the CCC, Krueger became a truck driver and helped build roads in the Southern Tier.
"I met some interesting characters." Krueger said of his service in the corps.
For more information about the Civilian Conservation Corps, see Podskoch's website www.cccstories.com.