Imagine going back to where you worked where you were a teenager and having a crowd of people eternally grateful for the work that you had done in the Great Smoky Mountains national park 75 years latter.
Today at the Sugarlands visitor center at the Great Smoky Mountains national park that is exactly what happened after a morning filled with informative and educational lectures and musical entertainment all dedicated to the hard work performed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in this national park and other public parks programs around the country in the 1930s and into the 1940s.
The day started with a lecture with a lecture by Dr. Harley Jolley who was in the Civilian Conservation Corps himself. The lecture was amazingly entertaining but incredibly informative and included photos and a reading.
The next part of the program was a mostly musical tribute to the boys in the CCC which also had a multimedia presentation showing what the work camps were like along with some humorous antidotal stories about camp food, the dance halls and pranks.
After the morning programs everyone went outside to an area between the Sugarlands Visitors center and the National Park headquarters which was built by the CCC. Here there was a small ceremony when the 16 alumni who showed up to the park were given certificates and competitive patches in appreciation of their service.
Especially interesting was that CCC corpsman Clarence Allison pictured above to the left of Great Smoky Mountains national park superintendent Dale Ditmanson showed up in his original Civilian Conservation Corps uniform.
After the certificates were given out the alumni gathered around a rock along the path and along with Dale Ditmanson unveiled a plaque dedicated to the CCC.
It was a very emotional day for the families and well as the corpsmen some of which had not seen each other on more than 70 years.
The last CCC reunion on the par was for the 50th anniversary and it was attended by more than 1101 alumni. I hope those that are able to will attend next September's dedication to the 75th anniversary of the park.
After the dedication there was a guided hike to the Sugarlands CCC camp which I took as well as more lectures and a panel discussion.
The 3 mile guided hike to the CCC was lead by park volunteer Raymond Palmar. Along for the hike was an alumni's son as well as a man who had been taken to the Sugarlands CCC camp at age 7.
Our hike included a stop by an old quarry and along the old abandoned roadside where there were still utility poles standing in the woods. We then saw where a clock tower, rec hall and mess hall stood as well as a stone trash incinerator.
While many of these artifacts we saw I was already familiar with from hiking in the area so long, these were plenty of new facts I learned as well as the location of the officer quarters.
While I greatly appreciate what the CCC had done for the creation of the national park, I learned for more today and my appreciation has grown even more.