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Depression-era CCC unearthed in Madison; workers known as ‘Roosevelt’s tree army


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Monique Faulkner
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« on: April 25, 2015, 06:01:16 pm »

Depression-era CCC unearthed in Madison; workers known as ‘Roosevelt’s tree army’

Published: Tuesday, April 21, 2015

By Sarah Page Kyrcz
suzipage1@aol.com


MADISON >> It’s like an archaeology dig, though not so glamorous. Shards of pottery, rusted cans, old bottles and once functional hardware, perched atop decaying building foundations, are all that remain of the once bustling Camp Hadley, off Copse Road.

From 1933 to 1942 Camp Hadley was one of the 23 Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camps in Connecticut. And, the Madison Land Conservation Trust is working to preserve this site that otherwise could be lost forever.

While Millennials may not know what the CCC was, in its day, the program was vital to keep young people working during the Great Depression. The CCC provided housing, food and income for nearly 3.5 million unemployed young men (and a few women), according to the land trust.

Somtimes called “Roosevelt’s Tree Army,” they built 125,000 miles of roads, 13,100 miles of foot trails, and planted more than 3 billion trees nationwide, according to the Madison Land Conservation (MLCT) newsletter, “Lay of the Land.”

For about a year the MLCT, along with many local volunteers and Daniel Hand High School students, has worked to unearth what remains of the historic site.

The public is invited to the CCC Camp Hadley Restoration Celebration, at 11 a.m., April 25 at the Daniel Hand High School Auditorium. Following a presentation, attendees are welcome to visit the site.

Mike Caruso, now 91 ½ years old, remembers leaving his family in the Hill section of New Haven to join his brother at Camp Hadley. While the minimum age for recruitment was 16 years old, Caruso used his brother, Joe’s, name and left home at 14 years of age.

“I came from a poor family,” says Caruso, of Killingworth. “My mother had eight kids, there was no money.

“The government…they took the kids in, and they gave us a dollar a day - $25 went home and $5 I got at the end of the month.”

The $5 came in the form of coupons for the PX, where Caruso could buy shaving cream, soda or other sundries.

The location of the camp is ¼ mile from Copse Road, intertwined with a red and blue MLCT hiking trail. If not for the inquiring mind of DHHS Junior Sam Wilson, the camp would have remained overgrown with moss and covered in mud and debris.

The crumbling remains of the camp buildings have been identified as a recreation hall/classroom, mess hall, cistern, infirmary, commissary, three probable barracks, the Chief Forester’s Cabin, an incinerator and the latrine/washroom.

As for the historical mementos that have been dug up during the cleanup, MLCT Board Member Joseph Oslander says they will be left at the site.

“We’re going to probably leave it here,” he says, “and trust that people aren’t going to find it to be something they want to have for their own.”

Wilson is credited for bringing this extraordinary piece of history to the attention of the MLCT.

“I used to run through there with my dad,” says Wilson, “and we found old foundations of buildings.”

The DHHS junior approached DHHS mathematics teacher Jason Engelhardt, a MLCT member and advisor for the school Woodsy Club, in the winter of 2013.

Subsequently, Wilson researched Camp Hadley and the CCC at the The Charlotte L. Evarts Memorial Archives, with his father. While he admits that he is not interested in all aspects of history, this subject caught his attention.

“The Great Depression is an interesting period,” says Wilson.

“Young kids left their house to go work and support their families, it was just an interesting thing for me.”

Wilson worked with the Woodsy Club, which has been instrumental in aiding in the camp cleanup, spending part of their April vacation, the last two years, working at the site.

“(It’s) exciting that we discovered something like that and we’re able to restore it and allow people to go visit it,” says Wilson.

On a recent Saturday, Madison resident Eric Alletzhauser, with his two daughters, 11-year-old Emily and 8-year-old Lucy, worked at the site with rakes and shovels in hand.

“I think it’s really cool that we can kind of be connected to the past here,” says fifth grader Emily. “There are so many things that we really don’t know what they were. I like trying to look at them and find all the different things that it could be.”

Many local people who have become involved with this project have embraced this thirst for knowledge and interest in history.

Engelhardt says he is impressed by the commitment and dedication of the Woodsy Club to clean up Camp Hadley.

“The student involvement has been inspiring and it is exciting to see young people out appreciating and improving a site that was originally built for young people not much older than they are,” says Engelhardt.

“So it’s carrying on a tradition.”

It is Oslander’s hope that Camp Hadley be used to teach local students about a very important time in the history of the country, as well as Madison.

Engelhardt agrees with this.

“It absolutely connects with their curriculum in U.S. History,” he explains. “Some of the teachers mention the Hadley site during instruction, when they are talking about the Great Depression, and often students will mention that to me.

“Now that we have this site, hopefully, teachers will be able to make that connection even more because it was forgotten, it was right down the road and people didn’t even know it was there.

“It’s nice to see these treasures preserved for historical and natural significance.”

CCC Camp Hadley Restoration Celebration, 11 a.m., April 25 at the Daniel Hand High School Auditorium, 286 Green Hill Road, Madison. Visit their website at http://www.madisonlandtrust.org/.

 http://www.shorelinetimes.com/articles/2015/04/21/news/doc5536a8846abdd127298652.txt?viewmode=fullstory
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