Weekender

Annual event at Poe Valley State Park adds a taste of history

Civilian Conservation Corps workers pour concrete for the Poe Valley dam. The CCC camps helped to build Poe Valley State Park during the Great Depression.
Civilian Conservation Corps workers pour concrete for the Poe Valley dam. The CCC camps helped to build Poe Valley State Park during the Great Depression. Photo provided

On Aug. 14, the Centre County Historical Society will join local historian Bill Marcum in hosting the annual commemoration of the Civilian Conservation Corps at the Poe Valley State Park. This year, the event will feature a free lunch in the style of the real menu items from the Depression-era CCC camps.

Marcum, whose grandfather worked in the CCC camp in the Poe Valley, explained that this is a great opportunity for people of the area to learn about the camps, and perhaps even find that members of their family worked in the military-style camp.

“The men lived the life of the military from a health and wealth standpoint. They wore uniforms that were Army surplus gear ... but they worked in the forest. Instead of carrying a rifle around, they learned how to manage and handle forestry-management needs,” Marcum said.

The CCC became active in the Poe Valley region starting in 1933 as part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal. According to Marcum, over the course of its eight years in operation, an estimated 2,800 Pennsylvanians were part of the camp. These people became involved in the CCC partly as a way to generate income during the Great Depression, but the camps were discontinued due to a decline in enrollment and the United States’ involvement in World War II.

The event will kick off at 10:30 a.m. with a welcome address by Poe Valley State Park manager Tracy Zupich and an introduction to camp veterans. Guests will have the opportunity to explore two of the camps used by CCC Company 1333 — the company stationed in the Poe Valley — receive a brief history of each from Marcum and get a chance to watch a motion picture of one of the camps from 1936 while it was still active.

“The primary thing we have today from that time is the state parks. Our state park system was created by the men in the Civilian Conservation Corps. That is how the Poe Valley State Park and Poe Paddy State Park came to be,” Marcum said.

At noon, guests will be given an opportunity to experience several lunch menu items that would have been served in August 1936. Marcum explained that the primary component of the menu items available would have been beef stew, fruit and vegetable dishes.

For Mary Sorensen, the executive director of the Centre County Historical Society, this event will give guests an opportunity to learn about the rich history of the county and serves as a continuation of a 2007 exhibit that showed the effects of the New Deal in the Poe Valley.

“Our hope is to promote our county’s history and the CCC certainly played a large role in the county’s history during the Depression era,” she said. Sorensen encourages guests and those interested to visit the historical society’s website for maps and other supplemental content of the CCC’s role in the valley.

IF YOU GO

  • What: It’s Chow Time: Legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps
  • When: 10:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. Aug. 14
  • Where: Poe Valley State Park
  • Info: CentreHistory.org
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