Scott Len spoke to a large crowd at the January 18, 2016 meeting of the Federal Point Historic Preservation Society on the Civilian Conservation Corps, 1933-1942, with a special emphasis on the CCC’s Camp Sapona, located in Southport.
Scott grew up listening to his granddad talk about his days in the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Utah, and these conversations piqued his interest in knowing more. When Scott retired to Southport, he began researching the history of the CCC’s Camp Sapona, which had been built on and around Leonard Street, a stone’s throw from his new home.
The nation was reeling from the weight of the Great Depression when Franklin Roosevelt was elected President. One of his first acts as president was to introduce a bill for Emergency Conservation Work on March 27, 1933. The bill cleared both houses of Congress in four days and FDR signed it into law on March 31. The first enrollees signed up on April 7, and the first Civilian Conservation Corps camp opened on April 17.
Seventeen days after Roosevelt signed the legislation, the first camp opened. Imagine government moving that quickly now! Within three months, the CCC had 275,000 enrollees in 1300 camps.
Young single men between the ages of 18 and 26, who had dependents—parents, siblings, cousins, grandparents—were eligible to join the CCC. They could enroll for six month periods, and could re-enroll for up to a total of eighteen months. The men were given a place to live, a job, clothing, and $30 a month, $25 of which was sent home to family. And food. Food was a big deal for enrollees. Young men gained on average twelve pounds while they were part of the CCC. It was the first time many of them had had three meals a day in a very long time.
Camp Sapona, or Camp P-62, Company 427, operated from October 1934 to December 1937. The first enrollees lived in tents while clearing the surrounding pine woods to build camp buildings. Work then concentrated on building access to forest areas, and the enrollees built roads, bridges, fire breaks, as well as fire towers in Shallotte, Maco, and Bolivia. Wild fires were a big problem in the area and the Sapona enrollees spent 6,102 man-days fighting fires. (CCC kept very good records!)
Enrollees worked eight-hour days, five days a week. In off hours, there were plenty of opportunities for education, training, and recreation. The camp offered classes in literacy, math, carpentry and other vocational skills. Their large motor pool encouraged mechanic skills training. Camp Sapona had a wood shop and a blacksmith shop. Their big rec hall would hold dances open to Southport residents. The local Amuzu Theater provided entertainment for the enrollees.
The camp had organized sports teams and its own newspaper, the Sapona Sandspur. They had a series of canine mascots, including Soapy, considered by the newspaper to be the King Arthur of the Sapona Canine Round Table—“though he is not of royal blood and, so far as can be determined, is of the cur and hound breed.”
It’s not surprising that many enrollees would sign up for a second or even a third six month period, fulfilling the goal of training and rehabilitating young men.
Over 3,000,000 men served in the CCC throughout the country during its eleven years of operation.
President Roosevelt declared “a government worthy of its name must make a fitting response” to the unemployment of its citizens, and the Civilian Conservation Corps was part of that response. It was the most popular of the New Deal programs.
A government worthy of its name. We would do well today to follow FDR’s lead.
Interested in learning more about family members’ CCC service? The CCC kept excellent personnel records on enrollees. Start here for instructions on requesting these records:
CCC Legacy includes resources to continue CCC research and includes a complete state by state listing of all CCC camps.
The Federal Point Historic Preservation Society will hold its monthly meeting on Monday, February 15, 7:30 p.m. at the Federal Point History Center, 1121-A North Lake Park Blvd., adjacent to Carolina Beach Town Hall.
Our speaker this month will be Suzanne Dorsey, PhD, Executive Director of the Bald Head Island Conservancy.
She will talk about the Conservancy at Bald Head Island and her work as its director. She will also discuss barrier islands and the implications of the possible removal of The Rocks at Fort Fisher.
Dr. Suzanne E. Dorsey earned her doctorate in coastal oceanography and has been working in research and education for over 15 years. Communicating the importance of our coastal ecosystems, particularly Barrier Islands, is a primary focus for Dr. Dorsey.
She feels that the first step to promoting conservation and preservation of these critical coastal habitat is forging a connection between the people who live and visit our beaches and the sensitive habitats found here.
The Smith Island Complex encompasses so many examples of rare and sensitive habitats and the Bald Head Island Conservancy provides a perfect opportunity to not only educate people but to promote effective stewardship of these environments. Suzanne enjoys working with people and sharing her passion for nature. Her spare time is devoted to her husband and two children.
In the winter most of us are wishing for warmer days on the beach. This post card of beauties playing leapfrog was mailed in January, 1942 from Wilmington. It was written by a man named Floyd and sent to his friend, Fred, in Syracuse, New York. Floyd might have been stationed at nearby Camp Davis during the war and had come to Wilmington on a weekend pass for some R&R and maybe a visit to the USO at Second and Orange Streets downtown.
It is always fun to read what the writers say and it gives us a glimpse into their lives and the past. This one says:
Out wolfing around for a couple of days in this fair city. Got a heavy date with the blonde bomber on the front of this card. Don’t let this picture fool you. It’s been snowing down here and colder than H..E..!?..L. Floyd
Playing leapfrog on the beach like the girls in the post card might look staged. But beach games like leapfrog, tug of war and sack races were often in a lineup of beach activities especially during holidays and the opening of the beach season.
This photograph is from the Sunday Star News, June 15, 1941, the year before the post card was mailed.
The Other Side of the 50’s (Part 1)
by Assata Shakur
Excerpted from: Assata: An Autobiography, Lawrence Hill Books, 1987
Born JoAnne Deborah Byron, Assata Shakur is the granddaughter of Frank and Lulu Freeman Hill. She was born in Jamaica, NY. When she was 3, the family moved back to Wilmington, North Carolina. In a number of places she uses alternate spelling and capitalization as quoted here.
“We were, however, visited by real, life ghosts. They were the phantoms of the parking lot. It seems that the white citizens of Wilmington and Carolina Beach were not at all happy that my grandparents dared to build on the land and to start a ‘colored’ business. We were too close for their comfort. So they would visit us from time to time to express their disapproval. I don’t know for a fact that they were card-carrying members of the Klan, but, judging from their behavior, I think they were. But then, of course, they weren’t wearing their sheets. They could’ve just been red-blooded amerikan boys out for some good clean fun. The parking lot was made of dirt, and cars spinning around on it at breakneck speed would ruin it in no time. Two or three of them would ride around the parking lot, spinning and skidding, while they shouted curses and racist insults. One time they fired guns in the air. I remember seeing them and hearing them out there and wondering what they were gonna do next. More than once i saw my grandfather go to where he kept his gun and carry it quietly to where he had been sitting. Somehow this made me more afraid, because i knew that he, too, thought they were scary.
“When we were on the beach we shopped at Carolina Beach. It had an amusement park, but of course, Black people were not permitted to go in. Every time we passed it i looked at the merry-go-round and the Ferris wheel and the little cars and airplanes and my heart would just long to ride them. But my favorite forbidden ride had little boats in a pool of water, and every time i passed them i felt frustrated and deprived. Of course, persistent creature that i am, i always asked to be taken on the rides, knowing full well what the answer would be. One summer my mother and sister and I were walking down the boardwalk. My mother was spending part of her summer helping my grandparents in the business. As soon as we neared the rides, I wasn’t into my usual act. I continued, ad nauseam, until my mother, grinning, said. ‘All right now, I’m gonna try to get us in. When we get over there, I don’t want to hear one word out of you. Just let me do the talking. And if they ask you anything, don’t answer. Okay? Okay!’
“My mother went over to the ticket booth and began talking. I didn’t understand a word she was saying. The lady at the ticket window kept telling my mother that she couldn’t sell her any tickets. My mother kept talking, very fast, and waving her hands. The manager came over and told my mother she couldn’t buy any tickets and that we couldn’t go into the park. My mother kept talking and waving her hands and soon she was screaming this fording language. I didn’t know if she was speaking a play language or a real one. Several other men came over. They talked to my mother. She continued. After the men went to one side and had a conference, they returned and told the ticket seller to give my mother the tickets.
“I couldn’t believe it. All at once we were laughing and giggling and riding the rides. All the white people were staring at us, but we didn’t care. We were busy having a ball. When I got into one of those little boats, my mother practically had to drag me out. I was in my glory. When we finished the rides we went to the Dairy Queen for ice cream. We sang and laughed all the way home.
“When we got home my mother explained that she had been speaking Spanish and had told the managers that she was from a Spanish country and that if he didn’t let us in she would call the embassy and the United Nations and I don’t know who all else. We laughed and talked about it for days. But it was a lesson I never forgot. Anybody, no matter who they were, could come right off the boat and get more rights and respect than amerikan-born Blacks.”
The Carolina Beach Walk of Fame Committee inducted four citizens on January 30, 2016.
This program recognizes people who have made a tangible and lasting contribution to the Town of Carolina Beach through their outstanding leadership and service.
Photos by Elaine Henson and Island Gazette
By Darlene Bright, History Center Director
- The History Center recorded 70 visitors in January. We had 52 in attendance at the January meeting. The gift shop took in $65.98 in January. The History Center was used by Got-Em-On Live Bait Fishing Club and the United Daughters of the Confederacy for their monthly meetings.
- Battle of Fort Fisher 151st Reenactment: We had a great weekend, helped by great weather and great volunteers. Thanks go out to Cheri McNeill, Paul Slebodnik, Jim Dugan, Tony Phillips, Phil and Demetria Sapienza, Darlene and Leslie Bright, and Steve Arthur for spending the whole day at the hot dog stand.
Thanks also to our cookie bakers: Doris Bame, Jean Stewart, Jane Dugan, Nancy Gadzuk, Demetria Sapienza, Cheri McNeill, Jeannie Gordon, Elaine Henson Tony Phillips, and Juanita Winner. TOTAL PROFIT AFTER EXPENSES: $1,000 with a little help from an anonymous donor.
- There is lots of progress on taking care of ongoing maintenance issues with the History Center. The building has been pressure washed and is being prepped for a new paint job. A huge thanks to everyone who’s pitched in on the prep work: Skip Henson, Leslie Bright, Jim Dugan, Andre Blouin, Vic Alocci, and Nancy Gadzuk.
- WOW! Three new personal members, one new lifetime family member and one new Business member. Welcome to Eileen and Bill Shober of Rocky Pt. and Cindy Washington of Kure Beach. John Virgint of Kure Beach and Ohio has joined as a Lifetime Family member. Our new business member, Island Athletic Club that is located in Carolina Beach. A big thanks to Paul Laird who renewed as a Lifetime Family Member.
- At the January Board Meeting the Board voted that all members will receive a 10% discount on all items in the gift shop. Let the buying begin!