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Statue honors CCC boys

Shrouded in a brown tarp and secured with rope, a bronze statue of a 1930s Civilian Conservation Corps boy stands hidden from the imminent rain and the curious eyes of CCC alumni and their families.

The CCC alumni, no longer boys themselves, but gentlemen in their eighties or so, have come to Deception Pass State Park to receive honor and recognition for the work that they put forth and the years they gave to the CCC service so many years ago.

This time of recognition took place on Saturday, Sept. 18, in the Bridging the Communities festivities day at Deception Pass. The affair ran all day at different park locations and beaches, from Cranberry Lake to Rosario.

The most defining event of the day was the unveiling of a bronze statue that embodied a CCC young man with his strength, his pride and his ax. The statue is meant as a memorial of what the CCC did for state parks and resource preservation, conservation and development during its nine years as a national project during the Great

Depression.

“I want people to know what all you fellows have done for us,” said Bernice Phelps, the president of the Seattle’s CCC Chapter No. 5, as she addressed the approximately 130 people attending the unveiling ceremony.

Walter Atwood, national president for the National Association of Civilian Conservation Corps Alumni, said Washington is the 28th state to receive a bronze statue in honor of the CCC’s work. But, he said he does not believe that this is enough. He said he and many others are working towards making the NACCCA into a foundation, a legacy.

“Our CCC membership is declining pretty rapidly these past few years,” Atwood said. “As alumni, many of us aren’t going to be here in a few years.”

Atwood suggested that the CCC alumni work together to get a foundation started within the next few years. He said he had already talked to several individuals in regards to getting museum space in the Smithsonian Institute, exhibit spaces in other museums and display spaces in universities. He said he is taking the CCC alumni’s motto, “Bring back the CCC,” seriously.

“We might be the forgotten generation,” Atwood said. “But we have earned our place in history, and our heritage is here to stay.”

Atwood said he would also like to see a resurrection of the CCC as a working organization today. He said it may be a way to get kids off the streets, fed, paid and doing something positive for their communities.

“The CCC was really a great life for us back in the 1930s. It gave us a place to live, something to eat and work to go with it,” he said. “At that time, President Roosevelt brought two greatly wasted resources together; the young men and the land. ... and I think we still need this today.”

As the time drew near to unveil the statue, prominent state representatives and directors gave brief words on their personal gratitude for the CCC’s work in the parks, as well as acting as voices for the state and more local communities in doing the same.

Washington State Parks Foundation Director Cleve Pinnix and Washington State Sen. Mary Margaret Haugen spoke briefly, and U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell had a letter of recognition read aloud.

Rex Derr, director of Washington State Parks, said that 3 million young men planted 3 billion trees, built 340 fire towers, 38,000 bridges, 180 drinking fountains, 97,000 miles of roads, 4,000 historic structures and 800 state parks during the CCC years.

“Nine remarkable years, almost a lifetime ago ... It’s hard to capture in a few words what you left for us,” Derr said to the CCC alumni. “If there is any contemporary, permanent, lasting and inspiring message that this statue is going to leave for us, for this generation, is there are no limits -- no limits to what you can do -- what we can do for America, for land, for our people in nine years. You proved that, and that statue is going to remind us of what you have proved.”

Applause and camera flashes greeted the newly unveiled CCC boy as the ceremony ended. And white haired gentlemen and ladies gathered around the feet of the bronze boy, who stands because of their labor, to get a photograph next to their legacy and memorial.

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