Sharing Poetry at Kendall Elementary

Janet Oakley (l) shares some CCC history before Shannon Laws (r) starts her Introduction to Poetry presentation for the 4th-grade class at Kendall Elementary, Kendall, WA March 8, 2018

On March 8th historian and award-winning fiction author, Janet Oakley and I visited Kendall Elementary to share an introduction to poetry and encourage 4th graders to write their own poetry.

This project is inspired by the depression era Civilian Conservation Corps statue dedication.  On June 16, 2018, at the Glacier Ranger Station built by CCC workers, the statue will be dedicated.  Janet Oakley is working with Mike Impero and me to coordinate community events for all ages in celebration of the statue dedication. (Read more about the Corps below)

The CCC boys printed their own newspaper called “The Bulldozer”.  Copies of the paper still exist.  After Janet discovered that the boys wrote many poems for the newspaper, she recruited me to help spur a poetry contest with the local 4th-grade class.  The contest went well.  The Kendall kids are creative!  Select poems are on display at the ranger station and the Kendall Library.  Winners will be read at the dedication ceremony on June 16th.  Kendall is about 10 miles from Glacier and some of the students are direct descendants of CCC workers who stayed in Whatcom Country after the CCC was dissolved.

Yesterday Janet came over to my home and shared some of the Thank You notes from Kendall.  What a warm surprise!  I am so thankful for the experience!  These cards made my day.

“Raise your hand if you’ve written a poem.”

“Dear Ms. Laws and Ms. Oakley, Thank you for teaching poetry. Poetry it can be funny or sad. Mostly I like the rhymes. Still, thank you for coming to our school. Now I really like poetry instead of hating it. Thank you for coming. sincerely Tristian”

“Dear Mrs. Laws, Thank you for the time to write poetry. I have been writing ever since. Thank you for coming.” *wink*

 

Dear Ms. Laws and Ms. Oakley, the slide-show was great and thank you for teaching us poetry. Here is one of the poems I made. Mrs. Grats. Mrs. Grats had sixty rats, each one ate ninety-nine cats. I had a longer one but I forget it. This one isn’t my best when I made it I didn’t have that much time. from Caleb

Dear Ms. Laws and Ms. Oakley, Ms. Laws Thank you for teaching us poetry and spending your time with us. It was fun you having us. Ms. Oakley thank you for teaching us about the boys that made most of the buildings and the statue that is going to be at the ranger station because if you wouldn’t tell me I wouldn’t know, so, thank you.


About the Civilian Conservation Corps Statue

On June 12, 1933, a group of forty-three men from the Civilian Conservation Corps arrived in Shuksan in the Mount Baker National Forest. A week later they were joined by thirty enrollees from Illinois. By July 12, Company 2915 was at full complement of 200 men. During the summer and fall, the company worked on the construction of truck trails on Hannegan Pass and Twin Lakes, felled snags, and strung telephone lines. On November 2, the company moved to their permanent site on the Mount Baker Highway between Maple Falls and Glacier. Over the years, Company 2915 would build the Douglas Fir and Silver Fir campgrounds, the Glacier Ranger Station, the Austin Warming Hut, fire outlooks and hundreds of roads and trails

This June 16, 2018, nearly eighty-five years after the first group of CCC boys arrived at Camp Glacier, a statue will be erected at the Glacier Ranger Station to honor the Civilian Conservation Corps’ work. Though Mount Baker District is used heavily in winter and summer, few today know the history of the CCCs in our area. This statue will serve to tell their story.

A Little History Lesson

The Civilian Conservation Corps came out of the desperate days of the Great Depression. In 1933, only 30% of the population had jobs, mostly halftime. Banks, farms and businesses failed.  With 25% of all young men ages 16 to 30 unemployed, serious social problems arose. To meet this national crisis, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed the Emergency Conservation Act, soon known as the CCC. FDR was inaugurated on March 3, 1933. He proposed the bill on March 21. Both houses passed it on March 28. FDR signed it March 31.

Whatcom County’s first call for young men to sign up was in mid-April. A qualifying family had to be on the welfare rolls, their son between the ages of eighteen and twenty-five years old. The family received an allotment of twenty-five dollars a month. The enrollee would receive five dollars a month, but they were also fed, given shelter and soon training in a variety of things –from radio, auto mechanics to packing horses and setting up phone lines. Some finished their high school certificate.

The CCC Worker Statue

Sometime in the early 1970s, former CCC boys formed alumni chapters to get together, share their stories and support the preservation of their work in state and national. Today, most of the chapters are closed as members have passed away. The concept of the Civilian Conservation Corps, or CCC Worker Statue program was developed by the former Chapter #129 of Grayling, Michigan in 1995. Program coordinator Rev. William Fraser had the dream to have a statue in every state. The CCC Legacy, a national non-profit group, took on the task recently and now owns the CCC statue mold.

The Glacier statue will be created from a standard mold, and look just like this one from Montana.

For the past year, author and historian Janet Oakley and Mike Impero, North Fork historian worked to get a CCC worker statue for the Glacier Ranger Station. Oakley grew up on stories of the CCCs and wrote a novel, Tree Soldier, set in the Glacier area. For two years, she was a Washington Humanities speaker, going around the state talking about the CCC’s impact on the state’s treasured parks and soil conservation. Mike Impero has written books about the Glacier area. He has a personal reason for the statue: his father was one of the first CCC boys to serve at Camp Glacier. Last month CCC Legacy signed with the Mount Baker National Forest to allow such a statue. The statue will be the second in Washington State and seventy-second in the nation.

On June 16th at the Glacier Ranger Station built by CCC workers, the statue will be dedicated.  Janet Oakley is working with Mike Impero and local poet Shannon P. Laws to coordinate community events for all ages in celebration of the statue dedication.

A 4th grade Kendall poetry contest in March through April.  Poems will be displayed at the Kendall Library and at the Glacier Station.  On April 28th Janet and Mike will give a presentation at Village Books.  All the events are free and open to the public.  -press release

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