CCC Alumni attending the Annual Gathering in Connecticut.
2015 CCC Legacy Annual Gathering
East Windsor, Connecticut
September 24 – 26, 2015
Article contributed by: Ellen Baczek, Daughter of CCC Boy Edward Baczek Camp Walcott, Paugnut State Forest, Torrington, CT
Thursday, September 24 could not come quickly enough for me. The Civilian Conservation Corps Gathering was meeting in my quaint state of Connecticut and hosted by Marty Podskoch. I had heard Marty speak at a Derby Historical Society meeting years ago.
I was fascinated by all the CCC information Marty shared because I am the proud daughter of a CCC boy, Edward Baczek. My dad served from October 1933 to December 1934 in Camp Walcott, Paugnut State Forest in Torrington. Just this spring, I found out that I am the niece of another CCC boy. My mom’s brother, John Natowich, served at Camp White in Winsted, according to their youngest brother, Mike. So this Gathering from September 24-27 would be a way to learn about my family’s CCC history and visit the camps of my dad and uncle.
Our home base for the four days was at the Rodeway in East Windsor. A shuttle was provided from Bradley Airport to the hotel for those attendees who had flown in. We had approximately thirty-four people join the gathering. Quite a few states were represented with attendees from California, Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia, Vermont, South Carolina, New York, Delaware and Texas. Connecticut thankfully displayed its best weather for the four days—sunny with temperatures in the 70s with gentle breezes.
After registering in the ballroom with the beautiful chandeliers, we met fellow attendees, including our honored guests, several CCC boys. They were truly our rock stars! It was so nice to meet the people whose names I had seen in the CCC legacy newspaper and on the website, including our Legacy president, Joan Sharpe. We viewed the displays of CCC memorabilia, books about the 3Cs, including Marty’s books about the Adirondack area, photos of Connecticut and Vermont camps and much more. This evening we enjoyed wine, several kinds of cheese and various dips and vegetables. The food we were served for the four days was delicious and plentiful.
Marty gave a Power Point presentation of Connecticut CCC camp history and I was excited to see photos of Camp Walcott and Camp White. Next, Kathleen Duxbury spoke about CCC artists. President Franklin Roosevelt had been interested in having a visual history of the CCC camps. Artists had been commissioned to participate in this project, including Marshall Davis, the subject of Kathleen Duxbury’s book. I envied Kathleen as she related stories of traveling around the country with her husband in their RV, visiting state and national parks of former CCC camps.
Unfortunately, some art work had already been lost over the years but Kathleen’s efforts have saved some of the visual history of the 3Cs. We adjourned around 8:30 because we were definitely going to need a good night’s rest. Marty had a packed schedule of activities for us on Friday.
After breakfast the next day, we met in the ballroom and were welcomed by Connecticut DEEP Deputy Commissioner, Susan Whalen. Susan gave a very heartfelt speech and after Joan Sharpe’s comments, I felt ready and fired up for the busy day ahead.
We boarded our school bus and off we drove to our first stop, Uncle John’s camp. Camp White in the Peoples Forest. Mike Pixler drove two of the CCC boys comfortably in his van. I had not been in a school bus since taking my own classes of first graders on field trips, but our driver was great. The school bus was comfortable enough for me with its high leather seats.
At Peoples Forest, we were greeted by a Connecticut parks employee in the picturesque setting of the former Camp White. The Nature Museum was beautiful, a proud symbol of the CCC. There was so much to see in the museum with its exhibits and photographs of various animals, including my favorite, the bear. I wandered outside just to enjoy the tranquility. Several photos were taken of our entire group and a very poignant one of the five CCC boys.
Then, we had to board the bus for our next stop, my dad’s camp in the Burrville section of Torrington, one of Connecticut’s larger cities. Marty remembered my father was at this camp, so he passed the microphone to me. I spoke briefly about my dad and his enjoyment of his CCC days. Marty gave all family members a chance to share stories while we were traveling on the bus.
Needless to say, I was very excited visiting Burr Pond State Park. Once again, there was a beautiful stone building used as an officer’s quarters. There was a plaque in front of this building commemorating the work of the CCC boys. The setting was exquisite with a lovely lake and beach. We ate a hearty box lunch (enough for a lumberjack!) in the picnic area amidst the towering trees. Then we hiked down to the dam built by the CCCers. I truly felt my dad’s spirit here—I thought of the stone foundation he had built for his own home, using masonry skills he probably learned at Camp Walcott. My father used to enjoy going to the nearby Goshen Fair. I now wonder if Dad went back and visited his camp area on one of his trips to the fair. I did not want to leave Burr Pond. I could have happily spent my whole day here.
Our next stop was the Eric Sloan Museum in Kent. This museum featured art work by Eric Sloan, a reconstruction of his study and a collection of early American tools. Once again, we were warmly greeted and given a great tour of the museum.
We hopped back on the bus to visit the Macedonian Brook CCC Camp at Kent where we saw the stone walls and the road to nowhere built by the boys. Our bus driver did a super job maneuvering the bus on some very narrow roads. Finally, our last stop was Kent Falls to see the majestic park and trails also built by the Macedonia CCC boys. I was under strict orders by my college roommate Joan to take photos here. Joan had fond memories of visiting this park with her boyfriend (now husband of forty-three years) as members of the SCSU Biology Club.
We arrived back at the Rodeway, tired but happy. I could not believe all that we had seen and done. I had a new-found appreciation for my tiny home state and of course, the work of the CCC boys. We had a delicious buffet dinner of chicken, sausage and peppers, potatoes that melted in your mouth, ziti, salad, green beans with almonds and a scrumptious lemon dessert (we wanted the recipe!). The guests were all given raffle tickets and throughout the evening, Mike Pixler, who is definitely not shy, enjoyed calling out numbers and giving CCC related prizes. Everyone left with a prize—mine was a revised copy of the CCC handbook. I was glad to have this handbook because all I have from my dad’s CCC days is a reunion poster. Author Judy Edwards gave an informative talk about the CCC camps in Vermont and then a CCC meeting was held to conclude the day’s events.
On our second travel day, we were off on a short ride to Stafford Springs, the home of Connecticut’s CCC Museum. We toured the museum where one of my favorite exhibits was a CCC uniform. I also took a photo of a poster of a two man saw team. According to my youngest maternal uncle, this was his brother’s job at Camp White. There was also a large notebook with copies of discharge papers of CCC boys. It was quite interesting to read this material since I do not have my dad’s discharge papers. The tour had been split into two groups, so it was time to go outdoors and visualize how the CCC camp in Stafford Springs had looked. The Connecticut DEEP employee, Al, was terrific, blending his talk with information and humor. Areas had been roped off so we could picture where all the buildings had been located. We walked on the grounds and saw where the CCC boys had a baseball field, now a wooded area. But you could close your eyes and almost picture the boys running the bases.
Once again, we had to leave too soon for our final stop, Camp Roosevelt, the first CCC camp in Connecticut which is located at Chatfield Hollow State Park. Chatfield Hollow State Park was gorgeous and is the proposed site for the CCC Worker Statue. I was discovering another beautiful site in my home state. We ate our luncheon in the picnic area overlooking the lake. The CCC family and friends toured another impressive building, probably used as a canteen/recreation area which featured the CCC’s signature stonework–a massive chimney. Everyone was amazed at the dam built by the boys. We walked along the paths and boardwalk for about a quarter of a mile. It was good exercise for us after another hearty lunch. Quite a few people were enjoying the park, including several fishermen and a family celebrating a child’s birthday in a pavilion decorated with balloons. It was evident here and at the other parks that the CCC boys’ work had lasted through the years. This state park will also be the site of the CCC statue after funds are raised. Our travels drew to a close and we boarded the bus with our great driver for the last time. Evening festivities awaited us.
On our final evening together, we had another delicious dinner featuring a steamship round of roast beef. There were eleven CCC boys in attendance, escorted by their children or grandchildren. It was very moving to hear the boys speak about their experiences in the CCC and their military service. I think we all had a tear or two in our eyes. For me, it was as if I had my dad back for a while. These CCCers had all served in WWII like my dad a wounded Navy veteran. Their courage and resilience amazed me. The CCC boys were presented with several gifts including CCC tee shirts and the beautiful calendars compiled and donated by Naomi Shaw and her father, Richard Chrisinger, one of the proud CCC boys. Mike Pixel was busy again with his raffle prizes, including books written by and donated by Marty and the other authors. Tom Callinan, the CT State Troubadour and a “CCC kid” sang his songs, including some great original compositions honoring the CCC. Later, the Dukes of Hazardville entertained us with their music. It was a perfect evening, the finale to a great gathering in Connecticut of CCC family, friends and historians.
Thank you to Marty Podskoch for organizing this gathering–I enjoyed myself immensely and I have a new-found appreciation for the beauty of my state. Kudos to Joan Sharpe and all the CCC Legacy officers for their diligent work in keeping the CCC boys and their work in the public’s attention.. Finally, thank you Dad and Uncle John for your service in the CCC. My dad would have turned 100 in November—I know he would be so happy that I attended this Gathering!
Marty Podskoch, Host
Kathleen Duxbury, Author
Oak Lodge Nature Center – ChatfieldHollow State Park
Stafford Springs – Connecticut’s CCC Museum
Tom Callinan, Connecticut State Troubadour