Tuesday, January 6, 2015

January 6

Celebrity guest Tom (sans Dustin):

With a side of denim:

Iron Mike (Civilian Conservation Corps):

As part of Roosevelt's NEW DEAL during the height of the 1930s economic depression, young unmarried, unemployed males aged 18-25 from relief families were able to participate in a public works program that improved government owned land, most of it acreage that formed the core of our national parks system. When the Civilian Conservations Corps was established in 1933, 25% of the U.S. population was unemployed and hungry. The first such work camp was located in Luray, Virginia, in the Blue Ridge Mountain area west of Washington, DC. The youths were happy to be given a manual labor job that included medical care and "three hots and a cot." An emphasis was placed on job training and literacy. Pay was $30 a month, $25 of which had to be sent back to their homes. The workers built roads, bridges, planted trees, improved foot trails, managed erosion control, flood control, built fire lookout towers, etc. Three million young men participated in the CCC effort from 1933-1942. With the onset WW II and the subsequent draft, congress voted to discontinue the program in 1942, since the war effort reduced acute unemployment. To modern minds, it seems unfathomable that there was a time in which our government took action by caring so much for its poor and needy citizens. Instead of mailing unemployment checks, Uncle Sam provided jobs, job training and education in exchange for improvements in infrastructure and government lands.

Since 1995, sixty-two identical statues of "Iron Mike" (above), which honor the young men's labor, have been scattered throughout our national parks and recreation network. Each 6-foot tall bronze, shirtless (!) statue costs $22,600, weighs 460 pounds and ships from Michigan. The original 1935 art-deco concrete statue (quite different from the one shown above) that was called "Iron Mike" somehow disappeared from its location in Griffith Park (Los Angeles); although the proper name of the current statue first produced in 1995 (shown above) is the "CCC Worker Statue", its popular nickname is still "Iron Mike", much to the consternation of the CCC Legacy foundation. The statue's homoerotic appearance is prescient. Alert blog reader Ken R. sent me a link to a 2007 study paper titled "Camp Life: The Queer History in the CCC 1933-1937" by Colin R. Johnson. Details include reports of all-male beauty pageants, drag shows and talent nights in which much homoeroticism was evident. But don't take my word for it -- you may read it for yourself:

While clothing was provided for the young corpsmen, it appears there was an acute shortage of shirts:

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