Tuesday’s edition looked back on the establishment of the Civilian Conservation Corps in April 1933 and the work CCC members completed in Allegany State Park. The CCC provided employment as well as food and lodging for younger men and veterans of World War I during the Great Depression.
The work was hard and, as one can imagine, the conditions were often difficult and luxuries were few. Perhaps this combination helped lead to what would be known as the “Pancake Mutiny” in February 1935, when a group of World War I veterans protested the mess hall fare they were being served.
“It started (on Feb. 7, 1935,) when approximately one-third of the workers refused to eat breakfast and left the mess hall,” Paul T. Lewis and Bob Schmid, authors of “The Legends and Lore of Allegany State Park,” wrote in their 2005 book. “When he became aware of this revolt, the commanding officer had the bugler sound the call for the work to begin. At that point one half of the workers assembled for work detail and the other half strolled to the recreation hall.”
The commanding officer — the CCC camps were organized and led in quasi-military fashion by Army officers — quickly identified eight supposed ringleaders and, along with another 14 men who supported the food protest, had them discharged from the camp.
“Those that lived in the surrounding area were then driven home while those from distant cities were taken to the railroad depot,” Lewis and Schmid wrote.
A subsequent investigation of the incident revealed that the food protest — the “Pancake Mutiny” — was more a symptom of overall low morale caused by poor management and friction between the two government agencies administering the camps, the War Department and the Department of the Interior. Later, the discharged men were reinstated to the CCC, although they were sent to other locations.
The improvements to Allegany State Park continued.
Of all the CCC camps in the park, No. 51, located on the Red House side, was the longest running, existing from Aug. 5, 1935, to Nov. 1, 1941. It was the last camp in active service in Allegany State Park.
Camp No. 51 had sports teams, educational classes and newspapers published by camp members. The men of this camp built the Ryan and Dowd trails, as well as spacious cabins on the Ryan Trail. They also built the old ski tow at the Bova ski slope as well as the Red House tent and trailer area.
The men were also assigned the task of removing dead chestnut trees, which had succumbed to blight. The trees were converted into lumber for cabins as well as poles for telephone and electric lines throughout the park.
“America’s entry into World War II brought an end to the Civilian Conservation Corps,” Lewis and Schmid wrote. “Many of the men who had once served in the CCC would switch uniforms to join one of the armed forces. Fate also interceded in a romantic way in the lives of several of the men of the CCC. For it would be during their CCC service that they would meet their future wives who had come to the park on a camping excursion or had met when the young men had visited one of the neighboring towns.”
The chapter closes with: “It has been suggested by more than one individual that that the Civilian Conservation Corps or a program very similar may be something our country could use again today.”