MARK E. RONDEAU
County News Editor
SHAFTSBURY -- The author of two youth novels about the Civilian Conservation Corps will give a multi-faceted presentation at the historic Governor Galusha Homestead on Route 7A on Sunday, Aug. 19.
Judith Edwards, of Springfield, is the author of "Invasion on the Mountain," and "Trouble on the Mountain," published by Bennington publisher Images From the Past.
The books feature young Will Ryan, an orphan growing up on a farm near, and exploring on, Mount Ascutney, who makes friends with recruits and staff of Civilian Conservation Corps Camp 129 on the mountain.
The first book is set in 1933, the second is set in 1934-35. The first book features photos from Sharlene McEachern, out of an album compiled by her father, John Randolph McEachern, who was in Camp 129 at Ascutney. The second book contains photos provided by the CCC Legacy, which is based in Virginia.
Edwards said she will be talking about the CCCs, mostly in Vermont, as she introduces Mount Ascutney and the books. She will show a story board with historic pictures and have a table filled with 1930s artifacts.
"I sing a couple of Depression songs and play a CD of other songs at the beginning and the end," she said in an email interview. "I use anecdotes from many camps, including those out West, and I emphasize facts and the great humanitarian effort that was the CCC."
Her presentation will include a question-and-answer period. "I learn from people's questions and replies because many of them had an uncle or a father or grandfather in the CCC," she said.
Edwards' presentation will begin at 2 p.m., with the Shaftsbury Historical Society's annual chicken barbecue dinner to follow at 4 p.m. The presentation is free, but reservations are required for the dinner, which will cost $12.
In the book, Will Ryan clearly loves Mount Ascutney. "I live very near Ascutney, which looms on many parts of the landscape around Springfield," Edwards said. "I have hiked it many times and fell in love with ‘my' mountain, as Will did."
Edwards decided to write the books after she "became fascinated by all the work done by the CCC in Mount Ascutney State Park. I like to write about organizations, and individuals, who work with courage and persistence toward a larger goal."
She has written four books on the Lewis and Clark expedition.
Both books in the Civilian Conservation Corps series -- aimed for readers 9 to at least 17, though Edwards said both adults and younger readers have enjoyed them -- contain factual sections about the CCCs. These note that the organization was the brainchild of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who became president in 1932 at the height of the Great Depression.
"The economy was in chaos, unemployment was widespread, and desperation had hit the populace. Families all over the country could barely feed their children, and young men who ordinarily would have been beginning their work life in a trade or occupation were unable to find work or self-respect," Edwards writes in the first book. Roosevelt designed a plan to put these unemployed men to work renewing the nation's forests. Congress passed the legislation on March 31, 1933.
"Before this vastly popular program ended in 1942, over three million young men had planted over three billion trees, built roads and trails, shored up dams, created lakes, and constructed stone buildings in both state and national parks and forests nationwide," Edwards writes.
The young men earned $30 per month, $25 of which was sent home to their families. The CCC in Vermont employed more than 40,000 men, more than 11,000 of these Vermonters, building up the state's parks, according to the first book.
"Many of the camps in Vermont were started by cadres from Massachusetts and Rhode Island, as well as Vermont," Edwards said.
In researching her books, Edwards has learned the stories of people all over the U.S. from that period and met some of the few remaining veterans of the CCC.
"After the first book came out I went to as many Vermont camps as I could, and I talk about the camp in a particular area when I present there," she said. "I even went to the CCC Legacy annual meeting in St. George, Utah. Met some veterans and saw the marvelous work the CCC did in that area of the country."
Does she think a program like the Civilian Conservation Corps would make sense today?
"There are several youth conservation groups, including one in Vermont. The Southwest Conservation Corps is very active in Utah and Arizona and Nevada," Edwards said. "It certainly wouldn't work in the same way as in the 30's, not just because the young people would not want to part with their cell phones, but because we have heavy machinery to do much of the work that was done by men with sledge hammers and shovels."
Edwards plans a third book in the series, "Top of the Mountain," taking Will Ryan and CCC Camp 129's story forward to 1936-37.
"I'm researching it now and will start writing it at the end of August," she said. "Some of the adventures will occur in Camp Plymouth, which was a stellar camp."
For more information about the reading and to make reservations for dinner, contact Mitch Race at 802-375-2776 or email@example.com.
Contact Mark Rondeau at firstname.lastname@example.org.