Pathways Through Our Past
Some of the boys where among the lucky ones
You never can tell when you might live near a part of History. A few short miles from me lived a man named Bennie Brooks.
In the early 1930's farms in Minnesota were drying up and so were the jobs for men, young or old. Bennie came from a family of six brothers and sisters, his parents and grandparents. All trying to make enough from the farm just to keep the family together.Bennie was one of the lucky ones. At the age of 18 he found a job on a farm where he worked for 50 cents a day, working from 6 a.m. to 6p.m.. He had one Sunday off every two weeks. On that day he could rest.
But Bennie was again among the lucky ones because Congress had passed a New Deal bill establishing the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and Bennie was chosen along with 29 others from Kandiyohi County whose family was on relief.
He would receive $30 a month, twice what he was making on the farm and he could keep $5 of it .The rest would be sent home to his family so they could be taken off the relief rolls. All Bennie had to do was working a 40 hour week 5 days a week. Bennie couldn't believe his luck.
Your 18 and you have never been far from home, you know only the people around your home place and that is all. Now you are with 29 other boys from similar places and about to board a train for the first time in your life to travel to a place called Fort Snelling. The train stopped in Minneapolis where trucks met the boys to take them to their 2 stop of this new adventure.
At Fort Snelling the army had the men undress and they had a standard army physical, they the were issued standard World War I army shoes, socks, blankets, underwear, pants and shirts that didn't fit; a dress uniform and a heavy trench coat. The men who had traveled from Kandiyohi County now joined a stream of 84,000 unemployed young men from Minnesota. They flowed into a stream of nearly 3 million men around the country who would join the CCC in the nations first big effort to put back to work the one-fourth of it' workers who were out of jobs.
From Fort Snelling the boys began the 3rd step of their travels. They were loaded on another train and was taken to a temporary CCC camp at Bena Minn. In Itasca county near lake Winnibigoshish. Here they set up in a tent camp and went to work on the projects the CCC later became known for- restoration, construction of forestry stations and land reclamation Part Two next week
Look for some of the members of the History and Art center out on the lake taking part in the Fishing Tournament next Saturday dishing up great chili. Good luck to the Fishermen.