How the Civilian Conservation Corps Worked

Setting Up the Civilian Conservation Corps

Fresh CCC recruits receive their official uniforms.
Fresh CCC recruits receive their official uniforms.

The speed at which the government implemented the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was phenomenal. It took the cooperation of several departments and branches, but by the time of the first enrollment on April 7, 1933, it had been less than 40 days since Franklin Delano Roosevelt's inauguration. It helped that the CCC (originally known as the Emergency Conservation Work program, or ECW) didn't face much opposition. Among its few critics were those from organized labor, who worried that the CCC would steal jobs away at lower wages [source: Maher].

To ease labor unions' worries, FDR hand-picked Robert Fechner, the vice president of the American Federation of Labor, to be the national director of the program. FDR also established an advisory council made up of representatives from the cabinets of war, labor, interior and agriculture to oversee the program.

Recruitment wasn't difficult. Qualifying CCC candidates needed to be single males between the ages of 18 and 25 (the age range was later expanded between 17 and 28). Beyond that, they just had to be in good health and in need of a job. By July, more than 250,000 CCC boys (as they were known) were set up in 1,300 camps [source: Jackson]. Retaining these recruits proved to be more of a problem, however. The boys were kept on a volunteer basis. If they found that the work wasn't for them, some would just leave. The CCC lost 5 percent of its original 250,000 recruits through desertion within a few months, and desertion remained a persistent problem [source: Jackson].

Every month, the government required the CCC boys to send $22 to $25 -- a hefty chunk of their $30-per-month paycheck -- to their families. But this didn't put the boys out much, as life in the camps provided them with all the necessary amenities.