Established by the Emergency Conservation Work Act of 1933, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) comprised one of the popular and far-reaching public works operations established under Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. Implemented during Roosevelt’s first “Hundred Days” of office, the administration envisioned the CCC as a means to tackle the growing problems of poverty and unemployment in the United States. During the 1930s and 1940s, under the directorships of Robert Fechner and James McEntee, the program engaged over three million unemployed male volunteers in public works projects designed to conserve natural resources and improve recreational and communication infrastructure.
Roosevelt’s program required unprecedented peacetime mobilization of men and labor. The scope and scale of the CCC program was such that its Advisory Council included representatives from the Departments of War, Labor, Agriculture and Interior. The CCC worked in conjunction with government bodies such as the Bureau of Animal Industry, the National and State Forest Services, National and State Parks, and the Soil Conservation Service. Although CCC camps and projects were established across the United States, many enrollees served in locations far removed from their place or state of origin. The program sent large numbers of unemployed men from depressed areas on the east coast, for example, to training and work camps in the western United States, including Washington State. The government directed the U.S. military to mobilize and train CCC members, appointing officials from the Coast Guard, Navy, Marines and most frequently the Army as commanders of CCC companies, induction and work camps.
Vic Olsen and his wife Mae Olsen were instrumental in preserving the history of the CCC and their achievements in Washington State. In Washington, host to over 200 CCC camps, Roosevelt’s “tree army” was involved in forest and soil conservation, construction of roads, bridges, telephone lines, and park and recreational facilities. CCC members built some 21,788 miles of public trails, and planted 51,057 acres of trees and seedlings.* Camps included those based at Rosario on Fidalgo Island and at Coronet Bay on Whidbey Island. Vic Olsen himself enrolled in the CCC in Everett, Washington, in April 1933, attending training at Fort Worden and Fort Casey before transfer to Camp Easton (F-32), near Cle Elum. In November 1933, Vic was relocated with his company to Camp Louella (F-60) near Sequim, Washington, in the Olympic National Forest, until his later injury and honorable discharge. During his work with the CCC, he assisted with the construction of several facilities at Deception Pass, Washington.
Vic and Mae Olsen retained an active interest in the history of the CCC, founding the Everett Chapter (Chapter #78) of the CCC Alumni Association in March 1983. The Olsens worked as campground hosts at Deception Pass State Park in Bowman Bay for many years. During their tenure at Deception Pass State Park, they were instrumental in establishing an interpretive center devoted to the history of the CCC in the region. The interpretive center was created in 1987 through CCC alumni members’ renovation of an old park bathhouse. The center was dedicated on July 16, 1988, and remains open for visitors to Deception Pass State Park.
*cited in Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in the Pacific Northwest 1933-1942 by Gerald W. Williams. (U.S. Forest Service), Vic and Mae Olsen CCC Collection, CPNWS.