Thursday, September 10, 2009
Above we have a photo of Priscilla Lane pasted on the inside cover of a young man’s footlocker. The footlocker was part of his equipment as a member of the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. This particular footlocker is on exhibit at the Civilian Conservation Corps Museum in Stafford Springs, Connecticut. See my post on New England Travels for more on this museum.
It brings to mind something we discussed a month ago in this post about there being few old movies that dealt with the subject of polio. Not addressing the treatment of polio and the frantic search for a vaccine in the years in which it was so rampant and so frightening, to me is like cranking out a slew of movies during the early 1940s and hardly mentioning World War II.
Seeing the pretty young face of movie ingénue Priscilla Lane on the inside of this CCC boy’s footlocker brings another realization. I don’t believe I have seen the Civilian Conservation Corps even mentioned in a movie from the 1930s.
The film industry covered a lot that was topical back in the day, as we know, even if sometimes to gloss over issues. But to never bring up the CCC is amazing. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt initiated many programs during the Great Depression, and most were fairly controversial among Republicans in Congress, but we’ve all seen many films with the “blue eagle” logo of the NRA (National Recovery Act) plastered like an imprimatur on the end of the film. That the very controversial NRA was afterward nullified does not erase it from the history of American film of this period. Young people can still notice it, and ask what that meant.
Conversely, the CCC, though not supported by Republicans as much as by Democrats, nevertheless achieved a slight majority in favor even among Republicans. It was easily FDR’s most highly regarded program. If representing the CCC might seem too political for some studios, one would think that Warner Bros. at least would have a take on it, being more apt to present more gritty films during the Depression and stances supportive of the then current administration. They gave us “Wild Boys of the Road” (1933). There would have been a lot more wild boys of the road if not for the CCC.
The Civilian Conservation Corps put thousands of young men into thousands of outdoor camps to work in forestry, the establishing of state and national parks, conservation, public works projects, and even helped out communities during floods and fires. The money they earned that was sent home supported thousands of families during the bleakest years of the Depression and kept them from starving.
The boy who pasted Priscilla Lane’s picture in his footlocker is unknown to us. The only thing we know about him is he loved Priscilla Lane. He probably went to the movies on his pass to go to town. Maybe he went to see “Four Daughters” with Priscilla Lane, discussed here in this post.
If you know of any old movies where the CCC was depicted or even mentioned, please let us know. I’d love to know if there were any.