“The CCC Camps, The Way We See It” Comes To The Pocahontas Opera House
Marlinton, WV – “I asked my grandmother to tell me a story “
That simple premise is what sparked a group of Pocahontas County students, along with the help of a couple of adult mentors, to explore the role of women in the CCC camps in the 1930’s. They’ll present the results of their research and discussions at a special presentation at the Pocahontas Opera House, Wednesday April 25th at 7:30pm.
The name of the show is “The CCC, The Way We See It”. Emily Newton and Brynn Kusic are the mentors working with a group of students from Marlinton Middle school. Newton explains how they got the students thinking of an idea for the show.
“About two months ago, Brynn and I started working with students to guide them through writing their own play,” she says. “The only rule that we started with them was that it had to be about something local. And there was one night that Brynn said well let’s just have them talk to their grandparents.”
Perhaps because most of the students involved are female, the story ideas tended to revolve around female characters. Kusic says after talking to family and neighbors, the students had a variety of stories, but one in particular caught the attention of the group.
“One the students great grandmothers had worked as a cook for the CCC camp,” says Kusic, “and at the end of that session when we asked them what did they want to know more about or what were things that they curious about from the different stories, all of the students had written on their own that they wanted to understand of what the CCC camp was.”
They also brought in Mike Smith, Superintendent of the Droop Mountain Battlefield and a wealth of knowledge about the Droop CCC camp, according to Kusic.
“He came into the school and brought a lot of pictures, and brought this newspaper that the camp had put out during the entire time that the camp was in operation,” she says. “And so it really brought the history into a different place for the students.”
Smith said the camp employed only men, but girls from the Hillsboro area would come to the camp to do laundry and other periphery jobs and thereby earn a little hard cash. And of course some romances blossomed between camp workers and local girls, with some leaving to go back to the home of their paramours, others enticing the men to stay on in Pocahontas after the camp job ended.
Newton and Kusic met with the students several times, and following each meeting challenged them to write a scene for a play based on what had discussed. Those scenes will be played out during the show, interspersed with narration.
“Throughout the play you will see a live action play that they have written,” says Newton. “And in between you will hear over the [house] speakers will be pre-recorded narration that is reminiscent of conversations we had along the way, where they are talking about what is a CCC camp?’ were there women on the CCC camp?’ they did the laundry oh yuck I wouldn’t want to do the laundry!”
“So you hear their voices throughout the play and then you see a live scene that they’ve written.”
[Voices from the show]
“You know, some of the girls of Hillsboro got to work with the CCC camps too; some of the girls were hired to do all the laundry for the camp boys.”
“What no way, that is not fair, yuck! Yeah, that is not fair, no way would I wash all those stinky boy clothes!”
The students were also greatly impressed by the self-sufficiency of the camp workers and the local women who worked for them. You can see for yourself how the students’ eyes have been opened to their family histories and maybe even learn a little more yourself by coming to the Pocahontas Opera House on Wednesday, April 25th at 7:30pm. Admission is free and includes refreshments and memorabilia of the Droop Mountain CCC camp.