Civilian Conservation Corps Memories

Pennsylvania Memories is a special series marking the turn of the millennium featuring readers' memories of events, experiences, incidents, individuals, innovations or inventions that profoundly affected them or gave them a deep appreciation of personal history.

On Sunday, October 29, 1933, three years after graduating from McKeesport High School, I found myself on a B&O train heading from Pittsburgh to Fort Meade, Maryland, with several hundred others my age. We as a group had been sworn into the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) at the North Side Post Office in Pittsburgh. We were given a thirty-five-cent meal ticket for our evening meal, which we spent at a nearby diner before boarding the train.

The CCC was one of the first New Deal programs organized by the newly elected Democratic President Franklin D. Roo­sevelt to pull the country out of the Great Depression of the thirties. The CCC was formed to give the young men in the eighteen to twenty-five year-old bracket useful employment doing conservation work in the forests and national parks of the country. They were also helping to conserve and strengthen their own lives and character by this wholesome work that they were doing under army discipline.

The pay was thirty dollars a month, with twenty-five dollars automatically sent home to my family (my mother), and I got five dollars for spending money. Food, clothing, shelter, and medical needs were furnished by the army.

After about three weeks at Fort Meade for conditioning and getting assorted inoculations, I was among a group of about sixty enrollees sent by troop train to North Bend in central Pennsylvania to replace some of the original CCC members at a camp known as Shinglebranch. The camp was established six months earlier by men from the streets of Philadelphia. Our group was from the Pittsburgh and Scranton areas.

It did not take me long to adapt the army discipline of barracks life and the work ethic of the forestry department. In fact, I liked it. The meals suited me fine, mainly because they included three a day. The clothes were also okay, even if they were surplus World War I khakis and smelled of mothballs after laying in storage in warehouses since 1918. Best of all, I liked the sports program, especially baseball.

Because of that I reenlisted for another six months, then another, and another. An enlistment was of a six-month duration, but an enrollee could reenlist for a total of fifteen months. I somehow lasted thirty-one months because of the sports program and other programs in which the army deemed me “indispensable.”

I finally left after the thirty-one months to marry a local girl, and I stayed right here in the mountains, never returning to McKeesport. Now, after some sixty-five years, I am still here, occasionally checking out the roads and a few trails that I worked on back in 1933, 1934, 1935, and 1936. Many are still intact. When I meet a former camp member from those faraway years who can’t seem to find the place since it is overgrown with trees, I – with my few faded old photos – try to show him the location of the different barracks.

At the sixty-fifth high school reunion that I attended in 1995, unrecognized by the very few in attendance, I overheard someone ask, “Whatever became of Len Parucha?” Another replied, “He joined the CCC back in 1933 and hasn’t been heard of since.”


Leonard F. Parucha of Lock Haven, Clinton County, is a retired professional painter and decorator. In May 1986, at the age of seventy­-three, he received his bachelor of arts degree from Lock Haven University of Pennsylvania. A paper he completed under the direction of Charles R. Kent, university archivist, appeared as an article entitled “Bitumen: All Gone With The Wind” in the Fall 1986 edition of Pennsylvania Heritage.