ASSOCIATION OF RETIRED CONSERVATION SERVICE EMPLOYEES (ARCSE)

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Written by John S. Moore retired from NRCS in December 2004 as National Hydrogeologist, Washington, DC; recently re-employed by the NRCS as National Geologist, Washington, DC.

 

Harold J. Moore in the Civilian Conservation Corps, Vermont, 1930’s

 

Harold James Moore, my dad, was born the first of 10 kids in 1907 in St. Johnsbury, Vermont.  He graduated from St. Johnsbury Academy in 1928.  He attended Northeastern University, Boston, MA to study mechanical engineering, but the Great Depression forced him to drop out after 3 semesters.  In 1930 he and a friend, Raymond Belville, completed construction of a Winthrop glider, using plans they had ordered from the company.  The 32-ft wingspan glider was launched on a hilly field from the rear of a Model T Ford using a giant rubber band.  The one seat craft was steered with a joy stick.  The flying events drew spectators from around the county who brought picnic lunches to watch the young men fly.  By 1940 he was a member of the Vermont Civil Air Patrol and flew single engine, open cockpit planes from the dirt runway at St. Jay Airport.

 

From 1930 to 1931, Dad was employed as a surveyor on a large construction project, the Frank D. Comerford Hydroelectric Dam on the Connecticut River between East Barnet, Vermont and Monroe, New Hampshire.  A work camp was constructed in East Barnet in 1928 for 1500 workers.  The camp contained its own housing, commissary, theater (which substituted as a church on Sunday), and a hospital.  Some 1300 men worked the day shift and 300 men worked the night shift.  At the time of its construction, it was the largest "retaining wall" in the United States, representing more than 90,000 cubic yards of concrete.  The project was completed in 1931.

 

In the 1930s, the Depression was making it tough to find any kind of work.  So when the Civilian Conservation Corps started up several work camps in Vermont to construct state parks, Dad signed up.  He did several stints with the outfit.  He worked in the Essex Junction office for a few months in 1933 as a draftsman.  Later he was on the work crews at Lake Elmore State Park near Morrisville, VT where he worked as a surveyor.  He made $30 a month, but the best part of the deal included room and board, three hearty meals a day!   At the beginning of the project the men lived in large tents.  At one time, there were over 20 buildings there to house the men.  Most of the enrollees were young unmarried men.  The CCC members built Elmore State Park’s beach house, trails, original campsites and fireplaces, and even a sugarhouse (now gone).  They built numerous dams, roads, campgrounds, fire towers, and many other forestry activities in numerous Vermont State Parks.  Dad kept notes and diaries of what he did and what he spent his money on.  He sent most of his money home to help his parents’ large family survive.  His dad, Leon John Moore, was a blacksmith who eventually transitioned to a mechanic who worked on the first automobiles in St. Johnsbury.

 

By the early 1940s Dad was making his living as a musician playing bass fiddle in a country-western band at local barn dances.  His group was called "Dave White’s Texas Ramblers."   They played 6 nights a week and did a live radio broadcast every Friday at Waterbury, Vermont on WDEV radio.  He married my mom, Madeline Steele, in 1941 and they often went back to Elmore State Park to enjoy picnics at the beach with friends.  By 1943 WWII was in full swing, and my father and four of his brothers were in uniform.  Dad applied for and received 2nd Class Petty Officer rating in the US Navy Sea Bee’s where he served in a construction battalion that was part of the invasion of Guam in the Pacific Theater.  He credits his rating to his considerable experience as a surveyor at the Comerford Dam Project and all his CCC field work in the 1930s.  He always spoke with fond recollections of that period of his life.  He took a lot of photos, some of which are shown below.

 

When I worked in Wyoming as Soil Conservation Service State Geologist in 1984, my dad took the bus from Vermont to visit me for a couple weeks.  The day he arrived, after 60 hours on the bus, he insisted on going with me to an earth dam construction site deep in the Laramie Mountains, about 2 or 3 hours south of Casper.  He seemed to be in his element, with hard hat on, dust blowing around and all the heavy equipment roaring in action.  He took his ever-present pipe from his mouth and gestured with it, "this is the kind of job you want, John, it’s a good life."   He never lost his yearning for "the field," and saw it as productive, meaningful, and satisfying.

 

 

Harold James Moore, at CCC Camp Elmore, Vermont, in winter with his wooden cross country skis.

 

CCC Camp Elmore, Vermont.

 

CCC Camp Elmore, Vermont - survey truck.

 

CCC Camp Elmore, Vermont, 1930s, living quarters in the first construction season.

 

CCC Camp Elmore 1930s, rest time, Harold Moore smoking pipe with a friend playing mandolin. Lake Elmore is in background.

 

CCC Camp Elmore, Vermont - one of the work crews

 

CCC Camp Elmore, Vermont - Some of the team leaders of Company 1209.

 

CCC Camp Elmore, Vermont - work crew constructing a beach at Lake Elmore State Park, 1930s

 

CCC Camp Elmore, Vermont - view of Mount Elmore in the background, 1930s

 

CCC Camp Elmore, Vermont - work crew in truck, 1930s

 

CCC Camp Elmore, Vermont - view of the camp, 1930s

 

CCC Camp Elmore, Vermont - around camp, 1930s

 

Post Card of cars at gate to Elmore State Park, Vermont, about 1935.

 

Post card of bathing beach, constructed by CCC’s at Lake Elmore, Elmore State Park, VT, dated 26 July 1935.