In memory of my dad


I was able to honor my father a little last week in a place that time has pretty well forgotten. I found an old Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp deep among the towering pines of the national forest in the north woods of Wisconsin.

In 1941 my dad was the superintendent there, and we lived in a government-owned one-room log cabin five miles from the camp. Dad hiked to work and back every day.

The CCC was part of the Works Progress Authority (WPA) set up to put Americans back to work during the Great Depression. The WPA built a lot of the country’s roads, bridges and dams back then. The CCC boys fought forest fires and planted more than 10 million trees.

Once when I visited the camp Dad, asked me if I would like to plant a tree. He took me to a small tool shed and let me pick out a shovel, showed me where to dig and handed me a tiny pine seedling.

Last week I walked a mile-and-a-half through the forest down an overgrown dirt lane to the campsite. All that remains today are two long-neglected equipment garages and a couple of tool sheds. One of them may be where I got my shovel that day. I’d like to believe it is. All the other buildings are long gone. Not a trace remains.

Nor could I find the cabin where we lived. A new highway replaced the old one in a different place years ago, so it was probably torn down. The camp was closed when World War II started.

My dad died a dozen years ago, a month short of his 90th birthday. Still, standing in that quiet place where he once worked was a journey back in time, and I offered him a quiet and grateful salute.

Ward Degler lives in Zionsville with his wife and dog. He is author of “The Dark Ages of My Youth … and Times More Recent.” You can contact him at

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