American Experience: Season 22, Episode 1

Civilian Conservation Corps (2 Nov. 2009)

TV Episode  |   |  Documentary, History
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American Experience celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Founded by Roosevelt during the Great Depression, the CCC put over 3 million men to work improving the countries infrastructure and national parks.



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Episode credited cast:
Himself - Writer
Robert Fechner ...
Himself - Vice President, American Federation of Labor (archive footage)
Muggs Maloney (archive footage)
Clifford Hammond ...
Himself (archive footage)
Herbert Hoover ...
Himself (archive footage)
Harley Jolley ...
Huey Long ...
Himself (archive footage)
Frances Perkins ...
Herself - Secretary of Labor (archive footage)
Houston Pritchett ...
Himself (archive footage) (as Franklin Delano Roosevelt)
John Phillips (archive footage)
Vicente Ximenes ...


American Experience celebrates the 75th anniversary of the Civilian Conservation Corps. Founded by Roosevelt during the Great Depression, the CCC put over 3 million men to work improving the countries infrastructure and national parks.

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2 November 2009 (USA)  »

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Covers a lot of ground without getting bogged down
3 January 2013 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

If you aren't familiar with the CCC and FDR's programs during the Great Depression, this will be an eye opener.

I had heard about the basics in a political science course, that FDR's New Deal really saved capitalism in America from possible revolution, so this wasn't all new. But here it was, in old film footage, the Hoover camps in D.C., the marchers with signs demanding "food, clothes, shelter" (the nerve!). And there were images of the soil erosion from poor farming and timber harvesting. And the hobos riding the rails, the soup kitchens, the despair. My prof was a great teacher and person, but there's something about seeing the people's faces, hearing their voices, seeing the work they did, that goes beyond political theory.

You look at the good being done by the CCC, instead of just handing out unemployment or welfare checks, and you wonder why we aren't doing something like this today? Are there no projects that need building? No people who can't find work? After the economic collapse of 2008, and the election of Obama and a Democratic Congress later that year, they could have, during that window.

But then you hear the ignorant remarks by Repubicans like Romney, about how the lazy 47 percent think they are entitled to food, clothing and housing, who only want to mooch off the government, and you realize how much of a disconnect with reality and history many of our politicians suffer from. Is this the "other side" of the issue that some think should have been included in this film? Yes, there's more that could have been covered. I would have liked to see a nut graf on the variety of New Deal programs, like the WPA, and where the CCC fit in. I know the Sky Line Drive in the Blue Ridge Mountains was one of those projects, but I had associated it with the WPA, though perhaps both the CCC and WPA were involved? Nevertheless, this film covers a lot of ground and is a good introduction to the subject. It is just one piece of the picture. To understand the larger context and political discussion you need to keep studying.

A good complement to this film is Ken Burns' new documentary on The Dust Bowl. The opening of this CCC film starts with this, but goes on to show the larger situation of environmental problems across the nation, and gives you more economic context.

I wish it would have shown some stronger images of projects built, then and now, with names and places. But I guess there were so many, it was hard to know where to begin.

As I watched this, I couldn't help but think about some of the parallels with Nazi Germany during the 1930s, which had programs to get youth out into nature to build strong adults,and to put people to work. This film makes a brief, general reference to this. Ironically, the CCC helped prepare our young men for the military when war did break out, in part because the Army helped establish the program, but it was not intentional. War brought an end to the CCC. Too bad. We lost a fine tradition.

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