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Education in the Civilian Conservation Corps

> Location: Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin- La Crosse
> Citation: Civilian Conservation Corps Camp Newsletters, 1934-1940.1934. Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse, La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Collection Summary

This Friendly Finding Aid is on the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) camp newspapers. (Did you know that CCC workers lived in camp settings and that these camps published their own newsletters?) This collection consists of thirteen folders covering camps in three different Western Wisconsin counties. This finding aid, however, will focus on only the newspapers in Jackson County. The Jackson County collection consists of five folders, covering the years from 1934-1937. They focus on three different CCC camps: North Bend, Lake Arbutus, and Irving. While there are only three camps, there are five newspapers listed for Jackson county. This is because the Lake Arbutus camp newspaper changed its name three times!

Beginning in 1929 the U.S. and the world fell into a deep economic depression, called the Great Depression. In 1933, unemployment was around 25 percent of the work force, or 13 to 16 million unemployed people! Desperate to help people out and keep American youth (men) out of the overcrowded labor market and also off the streets, President Franklin Roosevelt introduced the CCC. Approximately three million men would enroll by 1942. Schooling was an important part of CCC camps because, many young men at this time did not have a high school diploma and the CCC gave them a chance to learn and develop basic skills.

The folders in this collection are filled with camp newspapers that range from only a couple months to a couple years long. Since all the documents are printed newspapers, they’re much easier to read than handwritten primary sources. But be aware, because these newspapers are over eighty years old the print has faded in some spots! The newspapers cover a wide range of subjects in CCC camp life, from serious camp news, to lighthearted jokes and gossip, as well as sports news and scores. Almost every newspaper in this collection includes some sports news such as games and scores, but this finding aid will focus on education in the CCC camps.

Collection Description

The newspaper titles that make up this finding aid are:
Arbutus Bugle Call
The Bugle
Camp Irving Newsletters

This finding aid has the papers organized by title and date beginning with the earliest newspaper available for that title. (The date for each newspaper will be given when available, but not all newspapers have dates!) Please note that most of these newspapers include the date of publication on the title page, but not always! For example, the editor of 1606 usually put the date in the center of the title page underneath the title, but the editor of Arbutus Bugle Call and The Bugle put the date of publication on the bottom of the title page. The Camp Irving Newsletters editor is not consistent. For most Camp Irving Newsletters, the date of publication will be either typed or handwritten in the upper right-hand corner of the title page. Don’t worry, although it seems confusing you will figure it out! If a newspaper in the collection places the date in an unusual location it will be noted in this finding aid.
*A note about the Camp Irving Newsletters: Be aware that the Camp Irving Newsletters are much less complete, and much less organized than the other camp newspapers. Page numbers are often not included, so look for the titles.


The 1606 (June-December 1934) Folder 1

1 June 1934
Troop 1606 arrived at their new camp in North Bend, Jackson County just before this was published. The paper describes their new living conditions and states that the camp will soon be having educational lectures led by various professors and engineers. Look for the list of lecture topics to see what lessons the camp offered.

30 June 1934
Page through this edition and notice that the camp had an Education Advisor, a continuing lecture series, and a camp library with 300 volumes! Take a look at how the camp encouraged reading through a competition.

15 July 1934
Something to look for in this paper is the column that lists the number of men in company 1606. In addition, notice all the engineering lectures, a proposed debate team, and winter education program. Do you think these programs were popular?

30 July 1934
Read page one of this paper to see how the camp intended to use new technology such as slides and “moving pictures” into their schooling. Another column is about the arrival of new books in the camp library. Read to get a sense of how well the members of the camp knew each other. The newspaper is able to refer to people by last name and it expects that the entire camp knows who it is!

30 August 1934
Read the column on page one written by Educational Director, Edward Libowski. Take note of the emphasis being placed on getting a good education and working to achieve valuable skills while in the CCC. Page two gives the camp’s library hours and describes the new series of educational lectures.

15 September 1934
Read the column that focuses on “Education through reading.” It shows how hard the camp leaders tried to encourage reading and achieving an education. Page two lists a number of classes that will be available to the camp, including algebra, geometry, and many more! Do you think the men wanted to spend their spare time doing algebra?

15 October 1934
Page four lists new books in history, economics, and spelling available to the CCC members. This paper also states that spelling classes will be given, and encourages the camp members to attend. How popular do you think spelling class was?

30 November 1934 (Date can be found at the top of each page for this edition)
This is the second paper at their new location in Glidden, Wisconsin. The newspaper states that the Glidden camp has better living conditions than the camp at North Bend. Read all of page six. It gives great information about the debate team. It tries to encourage and convince the men that education and knowledge is power. What does this tell you about how motivated the men may have been toward schooling?

December 1934 (No day is given for this newspaper)
This is the last paper available for the 1606 company. Be sure to read page eight. Even though it is the last paper available it continues to endorse education among the company!


Arbutus Bugle Call (February 1935) Folder 3

7 February 1935
This is the earliest paper available for the CCC camp stationed at Lake Arbutus. This issue makes several references to education. It encourages the men to “get the reading habit.”


The Bugle (March- June 1935) Folder 4

20 April 1935
Notice that the Lake Arbutus newspaper had changed its name, but this is still the newspaper for the same company as the Arbutus Bugle Call. Page six offers information on educational news in camp and states that new books are arriving in the camp soon.


Camp Irving Newsletters (1935-1937) Folder 5

22 October 1935 (Look for the postage stamp on the title page that gives the date)
This is the first newspaper available for this camp. Right away on the second page(unnumbered) look for the column that describes the meeting about the class schedule.

31 January 1936
Notice on the first page(unnumbered) the column titled “Evening Classes to be Offered.” Once again the editor encourages participation and argues that these classes will make those who attend more employable. Do you agree?

15 February 1936
Pay close attention to the column titled “Classes Begin,” on page 106 (numbered at bottom of page). This section gives details on the classes being offered at Camp Irving. Are they similar to the other camps?

May 1936 (No day given)
This newspaper has some very interesting information on the courses being taught to CCC members. Such as “U.S. history in 20 lessons” and “World History in 12 lessons.” Be sure to read the column titled “The Classroom.” This column shows many other types of skills being taught to CCC members.

30 June 1936
This newspaper does not have a lot on education, however it includes some great information about the CCC and its function. A large part of this paper is a “Questions and Answers” section for beginner CCC members. Some of the topics covered include: wages, CCC history, and the work performed. How much did CCC members earn?

June 1937 (No day given)
Be aware that the camp has changed location to Black River Falls and that a year has passed since the last newspaper! Be sure to read the column on page nine titled “The Educated Man.” This column was written by the Educational Advisor of the camp and shows how much the camp leaders valued educational programs. What does the repeated push for classes and training tell us about education in CCC camps?


Reviewed by: Joshua Krings

Murphy’s Area Research Center (ARC)


> Location: Murphy Library, University of Wisconsin- La Crosse
> CITATION: William Koch, interviewed by Howard Fredricks, UW-L Oral History Program, UW-L Murphy Library Special Collections and Area Research Center, September 1971 – February 1972.

Collection Summary

William Koch was born in 1882 in La Crosse to a family that lived on the North Side. He left school at the age of fourteen to begin working and help support his family. Throughout his life, Koch worked many jobs in La Crosse, including at the lumber mills, the railroad, and the Pearl Button Factory. He was married in 1910 and had two children. This interview was done in 1971-1972, when Koch was about 90 years old, however, Koch speaks very clearly about his whole life and is never shy to give his opinion!

This interview touches on many many subjects, however, this finding aid focuses on two major topics discussed by Koch:

  1. Life in La Crosse during the late 1800s and early 1900s (relationships, working class family life, child labor, sickness, adventuring in La Crosse, industry, ethnic and racial groups)
  2. Being a factory worker for the Pearl Button Company in La Crosse

The whole transcript is typed and a total of 348-pages long! But never fear, this finding aid lists just the pages needed for the two topics above.

Collection Description

Life in La Crosse

Pages 2-14: In this opening section of the interview, Koch describes his German immigrant grandparents and other family background. He tells what his childhood was like growing up on the North Side of La Crosse in the late 1800s, including information on his education, all of the jobs he and his family members had—including his young sisters—and interactions he had with some nearby Ho-Chunk children. Koch started working when he was 14-years-old, and his early jobs included the Milwaukee Coal Chutes, the railroad, La Crosse Rubber Mills, Pearl Button Factory, Coleman Lumber Co., and even picking potatoes in South Dakota. Koch also remembered hunting with his Dad and seeing passenger pigeons (now extinct)!

On pages 75-82 Koch talks about lumber production at the sawmills.  Never one to shy away from expressing his opinion, Koch also shares is view on harvesting logs in Wisconsin, the building of a road through the La Crosse marsh, and the effect logging had on Native Americans in Wisconsin.

Pages 84-94 cover “river pirates”. These are people who stole logs right off the river from the lumber companies. In addition, Koch also brings up log jams, logging accidents, and his memories of the rowdy lumbermen in La Crosse. In this section Koch also discusses La Crosse’s Redlight district and other memories of downtown in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

On pages 95-100 Koch describes the rivalry between the North and South sides of La Crosse.  He discusses other La Crosse memories as well, including farm animals and community pastureland right in town! He gives his opinion about the Ho-Chunk in the area, and why many lived on “Indian Hill.” Koch eagerly shares his opinion on the sale of liquor to local Native Americans, and the role whites played in bringing liquor and disease to Native Americans. It is important to note that during this part of the interview, he makes anti-Native American racist remarks. In your notes, make sure to put all his questionable language in quotation marks.  That way, people won’t think his language is your language.

Page 122-142: In this section, Koch talks a lot about helping fight fires with the firemen as a kid—not unusual at the time. He had fond childhood memories of horses being used in town, which he describes, but he also recalled common diseases and dangers faced by La Crosse youth.  (Just a hint, some of the diseases and dangers were connected to the river.)


Pearl Button Factory Work

On pages 15-41 William Koch begins to talk about his job at the Pearl Button Factory.  (Most of this 348-page interview is about the Pearl Button Factory!) He describes exactly how the button factory worked: first how cutting buttons worked, then what the clam shell industry was like, then clamming along Wisconsin rivers and the Mississippi River.  He also uses great detail describing how pay worked at the factory for the various jobs. He remembers workers rioting because of their pay.

Pages 42-74 cover why Koch eventually left the Pearl Button Factory. He shares information about the people he worked with, including many female factory workers. He also describes the social life of the factory, like the breaks the workers were allowed to take, and other changes that made the workday more enjoyable. In this section Koch also describes further how the factory ran, including the machinery they used. Eventually, the topic turns to how the invention of plastic helped lead to the factory’s closure.

Pages A-Z: These pages are different. They are lettered, not numbered, and are inserted right between pages 74 and 75 of the transcript. (Weird) This section is a kind of “grab bag” of a whole bunch of topics, some new, and others touched on previously. Here is a highlights list:  Koch talks about how river pollution made it hard to find clams for the factory. He further describes some of the people he worked with, including his fellow female factory workers. In particular, he discuses their work roles and wages at the factory. He vividly remembers innovations made at the La Crosse factory and how these helped the button industry nation-wide. Finally, Koch also mentions attitudes towards Germans during WWI.

On pages 176-190 Koch remembers how the Pearl Button Factory ground up extra shells and sold them to be used as chicken feed. He again describes the machine he designed, his career at the factory, and manufacturing at the factory.

Pages 209-214 give more information about the making of buttons.

Pages 237b-242 address Koch’s memory about unions, strikes, and labor organizers at the Pearl Button Factory.

Pages 302-304 return to the subject of the Ho-Chunk.  This time Koch mentions their role digging shells for the Pearl Button Factory.


Reviewed by: Jennifer DeRocher


La Crosse Public Library Archives


> Location: La Crosse Public Library Archives, La Crosse, Wisconsin
> Citation: La Crosse Home for Children. Boxes 8-9. MSS 011, Micro 5 Family & Children’s Center Records, 1881-1994. La Crosse Public Library Archives, La Crosse, Wisconsin.

Collection Summary

Information about the La Crosse Home For Children is in the Family & Children’s Center Records. It spans from 1888-1983, and includes several neat and old documents, such as a hand written “log of inmates” that dates from 1888-1915, and a hundreds of photographs that show daily life in the earlier days of the Home.  This is a very large collection, but this finding aid focuses just on the materials found in boxes 8, 9, and 10. These boxes have the most primary source materials on how the home functioned and the children who lived there. The sources paint a great picture of the home’s organization and the day-to-day life of the children who lived in it.

The La Crosse Home for Children was just that, a home for children. (It was on 11th Street.)  Meaning it was run as a regular home for a limited number of children. It is important to understand that these children were not up for adoption and the Home was not a treatment center for naughty or sick kids. It was simply a place where children could go when their parents were unable to care for them properly. A good number of the children eventually went back to their parents when they were able to care for them again. The children that were lucky enough to live at the Home went to school and church, and had chores just like any child. There was a matron of the house. (This is just a fancy title for the woman that lived in the house and made sure everyone was fed, clothed, and cared for.  She managed the household, much like a mom.)  The purpose of the Home was not just to give these children the things they needed to live, but to give them a happy childhood and to make sure they became good citizens.

Collection Description

Many of the articles in this finding aid talk about Miss Josephine Fletcher the home’s matron from 1929 to 1953. Fletcher was remembered by many of the children as their only mother-figure in life. She was renowned in the community and respected by many. She was a strong female role model and community member.


Box 8

Folder 1 contains background information on the La Crosse Home for Children. These are mostly reports, programs, donation requests, and papers written about the La Crosse Home for Friendless Women and Children (the Home’s first name) and the La Crosse Home for Children. They are a good way to get a better understanding of the Home and its history.

Folder 2 contains many newspaper clippings from 1888-1977. There are many articles with photographs, but they are in no specific order. The articles cover information on events and people associated with the Home.  For example, there’s a 1932 article, “La Crosse Children’s Home Provides Comfort For Many Unfortunates” that does a great job explaining how the Home functioned and all the work that went into maintaining it. There are a lot of articles about Miss Fletcher and her impact on the kids at the Home and in the community.

Folder 3 contains a handwritten ledger book of guests’ comings and goings. The back few pages list the matrons or housekeeper hired from 1888-1904. The book was amended in 1969 and lists the children admitted and discharged though 1977.


Box 9

Folders 3-6 hold hundreds of photographs.  There are pictures of the Home and the staff and the children that lived there. There are photos of the children’s everyday life such as playing outdoors in the summer and winter, playing inside together, doing chores, and celebrating holidays. The photos really paint a picture of what it was like for these children: what their relationship with one another was like and what their relationship with Miss Fletcher and other staff members was like too. These four folders illustrate all of the information gathered in the other folders.


Box 10

Folder 3 This is a small folder of correspondence with board members in the 1950s. The highlight however, is a few letters and notes between a girl that lived in the home and a board member. This includes her 1954 graduation announcement, a thank you letter for a graduation present, an update letter a few years later, and a birth announcement for her daughter.  (Miss Fletcher had to have been so proud!)


Reviewed by: Danyelle Springer and Jennifer DeRocher