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Dedication of the first Job Corps Training Center on Catoctin Mountain. Courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Catoctin Mountain in Frederick County, Md., can boast a lot of interesting history from Camp David to the Blue Blazes Still raid. From an OSS training camp during World War II to Camp Misty for children.

 

“Also on the Government side is the ‘mother’ camp of President Johnson’s Poverty Program,” the Frederick Post reported in 1965.

President Johnson had been the Texas director of the National Youth Administration. It was a New Deal program under President Franklin D. Roosevelt similar in objective to the Job Corps. Johnson convinced Congress it could work again, according to Barbara Kirkconnell in Catoctin Mountain Park, An Administrative History.

The camp, called Camp Round Meadow, opened in January 1965 and served as the place to train people who would be sent out across the country to depressed areas to open and operate other similar camps.

At the camp, 75 people were hired and trained on how to run a poverty training camp. “While these people are being instructed, some 20 persons accepted as trainees by the new program, will be working in the area.

Consideration of using the park for such a site began in May 1964. Federal government officials visited the park and inspected possible sites for the camp. Within a month, the government began converting the 60-acre Central Garage Unit Area in the country’s first Job Corps Center, according to Kirkconnell.

Besides building the camp, officials met with residents of Thurmont, Hagerstown, and other communities where the camp attendees might spend their off hours. They wanted to make sure that there would be a good relationship between the camp and towns.

“Thurmont merchants were wooed by an expected $200,000 in revenue from supplies, equipment and food sold to the camp for the program,” Kirkconnell wrote.

Camp officials spoke at civic meetings and invited officials and organizations out to tour the camp.

“On January 15, 1965, 85 young men between the ages of 16 and 21 arrived at Catoctin MP to inaugurate the job Corps Program at a site “largely unimproved” since the CCC left in 1941,” Kirkconnell wrote.

The Jobs Corps Center was dedicated on February 27.

The center got off to a rocky start with staffing problems and too many visiting dignitaries not only from the federal government but also foreign governments, such as Japan, Canada, British Guinea, England, Israel, the Philippines and the Ivory Coast.

“Continual recruitment brought a total of 157 recruits into the program but 57 left before the end of June.  The bleak winter contributed to homesickness; stark conditions of the camp without indoor recreation facilities and high expectations added to the general ‘depressive atmosphere,” Kirkconnell wrote.

Camp Director C. A. Maxey blamed the high drop-out rate on the recruits who had “temperamental and emotional problems in boys who had known little but failure,” according to a Baltimore Sun article.

The boys had been recruited from families earning less than $3,000 a year (around $23,000 today) and had an average of a 9th grade education. At the camp, they earned $32 a month plus $50, which was put in a bank account for them. “If they made a family allotment of $25 from the $50, the government matched it with another $25,” Kirkconnell wrote.

The program included a half day of work and a half day of education in the winter. The work time increased and the education time decreased as the weather warmed up. The work consisted of park projects, such as building trails, picnic tables, and needed buildings. They also did work improving the Gettysburg Battlefield.

As they mastered basic skills, they were given more-complex work.

“A sign construction program teaching printing, mechanical drawing, hand routing, measurement skills, painting, and organizational skills produced 225 signs for Catoctin, Greenbelt, Cunningham Falls State Park and Antietam Parks in Fiscal Year 1965-1966,” Kirkconnell wrote.

They also performed work in the surrounding community such as building a ball field and picnic pavilion for Thurmont parks.

By 1966, things were running far more smoothly. By the end of 18 months of operation, 439 men had been recruited to the camp. And 102 had transferred out, 165 had resigned, 24 graduated, 16 went back to school or jobs, leaving 111 Corpsmen in camp at the end of June 1966, according to Kirkconnell.

By that time, it became an election year issue. Congress criticized the program and cut funding. Discipline was a problem and so were community relations.

The Job Corps Center finally closed in May 1969.

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869030-R1-32-32_033 On December 8, 1949, residents picked up The Republican to read: “Shallmar Residents Are Near Starvation, Urgent Appeal Made For Food, Clothing and Cash.” It was a front page story under the masthead of the newspaper.

Mine closings and poverty were nothing new to the region, but the fact that it was so bad that children were fainting from lack of food and others not able to attend school because they didn’t have warm clothing was more than anyone with a conscience could handle.

Charles Briner, the Garrett County director of employment security for Maryland, was inundated with telephone calls that spanned the gamut from pleas for him to do something to help Shallmar to accusations that he was killing the miners.

The Oakland American Legion Auxiliary was quick to announce that it was starting a collection of clothes and food.

A Cumberland Evening Times reporter arrived in Shallmar on the day The Republican article came out. He interviewed residents for his own article, which ran the following day.

As Shallmar’s story spread, more and more letters filled Paul’s mail slot at the company store until finally all Paul was getting was a note from the postmaster and store manager, Baxter Kimble, saying to ask him for the mail.

The other person who started getting calls and letters was mine superintendent Howard Marshall. Reporters tracked him down in a Cumberland hospital recovering from minor surgery.

Marshall told reporters that he didn’t know when the mine would reopen. He seemed to have little sympathy for the plight of his miners and their families.

“I ain’t seen anyone starving yet,” Howard told the reporters. His solution was that the county welfare system should take care of them. “They pay enough taxes,” he said.

However, he wasn’t totally unsympathetic. The company wasn’t trying to collect on its house rent or company store accounts. While the rent for the largest houses in town was only $12.60 a month, in some cases, rent hadn’t been paid for over a year.

 

Help Begins Image (2)

A few days after the Cumberland Evening Times appeared, a large truck rolled into town filled with fresh vegetables, meat packed on ice, canned goods, milk, dresses, pants and shirts. So many people had been calling the newspaper office asking where they could make donations that newspaper collected donations and used a company truck to make the delivery.

Seven-year-old sandy-haired Bob Hartman’s eyes bugged out at all the food. Then he saw a set of new Levi overalls that looked like they would fit someone his size.

He told one of the men, “I’d sure like to have them overalls.”

The truck driver looked at Bob and his threadbare clothes. “We’ll see if we can’t get them for you.”

The man walked away. When he came back a minute later, he had the overalls in his arms and handed them to Bob. He ran home and tried them on, pulling the stiff material over his worn pants and shirt. The overalls weren’t a perfect fit, but it was good enough. He felt warmer without any drafts whipping through the holes in his pants. Though Christmas was still two weeks away, Bob felt like it was already Christmas morning.

It looked like Christmas had come early to the town. Unshaven miners smiled behind their whiskers, mothers and wives laughed as children grabbed at the clothing separated into piles on tables in the union hall. Finding something they liked, many children hurried home to try on the clothes. Others couldn’t wait that long and began pulling on sweaters over their summer shirts and trying on shoes. It was the first time in weeks that some of them had been warm. Each family also got enough food to last them a week.

With the town’s sudden abundance, Andrick called for a community meeting in the school to decide how to distribute the food. He also told the gathered crowd that more would be coming. The townspeople formed the Shallmar Relief Committee with Andrick as the chairman.

Relief efforts for the town got a big boost when CBS broadcaster Edward R. Murrow saw the story on the news wires and told the country about Shallmar on his Dec. 13 broadcast. More reporters, including Murray Kempton from the New York Post, started arriving in town to follow-up on the story of the town on the verge of starvation.

Image (3)Hot meals

By the time The Republican article had come out, the Garrett County Commissioners had already decided to fund a hot lunch program for Shallmar School, a building without a kitchen or cafeteria.

The union hall in the school could be used as the dining hall, but there was no way to prepare the meals. The commissioners weren’t willing to pay for a school expansion and the kitchens in the houses in Shallmar were too small to prepare hot lunches for large groups. The solution was to cook the meals at Kitzmiller School, which was two miles away. The food was then dished out on plates that were covered and driven to Shallmar to be served while they were still hot.

With a plan in place, the commissioners allocated $1,200 to feed the students at Shallmar through the end of the school year. Andrick also allocated money that the town had been receiving to pay for the students’ portion of their lunches.

On Dec. 17, students sat down at two long wooden tables and had their first hot lunch in weeks, if not months.

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BETTY MAULEBetty Mae Maule was one of 60 students who attended the two-classroom Shallmar School in November 1949. When teaching principal J. Paul Andrick asked Betty Mae to write a problem at the board one day, the 10-year-old girl stood up at her desk and promptly fainted.

Betty Mae and her siblings hadn’t eaten anything all day. Their last meal had been the night before when the eight people in the family shared a couple apples.

This is how bad things had gotten in the little coal town on the North Branch Potomac River. What had once been the jewel of Western Maryland coal towns was dying.

Operating only 36 days in 1948, the Wolf Den Coal Corporation, which owned Shallmar, came into 1949 struggling in vain to stay open. The mine shut down in March, having operating only 12 days that year.

A town starvingImage

Shallmar’s houses had once been considered among the nicest homes for miners in the region. Now they needed a fresh coat of paint and more than a few were boarded up because they were no longer livable or needed.

The Maule family had six children. When Andrick explained to Walter Maule and his wife, Catherine, that he knew their children hadn’t eaten that day, Catherine’s explanation was simple: The mine had closed.

Miners had collected unemployment, but it hadn’t been much because the miners hadn’t worked much in recent years. Even that meager amount had stopped in August.

Albert Males, chairman of the United Mine Workers local relief committee, had then used the union treasury to issue small relief checks of $2 to $7 a week to families. He only had $1,000 to split among four dozen families so it hadn’t lasted long.

The Maules had been eating only apples that the children had found on the ground at a nearby orchard. Those had run out the day before, which is why the family hadn’t eaten that morning. It wasn’t the first time they had gone without breakfast lately either.

“My children have forgotten what milk tastes like,” Catherine later told a reporter for the Cumberland Evening Times. They hadn’t had any meat or milk for four months.

Catherine assured Paul that they had managed to find enough cabbage and potatoes to get them through the next day. She was proud of this because, “We sometimes don’t even have potatoes and cabbage,” she said.

With the mine closed there were no jobs in Shallmar. Only three people in town had cars and families couldn’t afford the move.

Taking action

J. PAUL ANDRICK, PRINCIPAL, SHALLMAR SCHOOLThat night, Andrick started writing letters to anyone he could think of who might be able to help from the board of education to his U.S. senators. He also wrote to the county newspaper, The Oakland Republican hoping to let people know about Shallmar’s plight.

The next morning, Andrick had his wife make extra sandwiches for his lunch. He gave the sandwiches to the students he saw with nothing to eat at lunchtime, according to his son, Jerry. He not only gave the extra sandwiches away but his own lunch as well.

The men in Shallmar had tried to feed their families. They hunted each day, but came home empty handed. Many deer in Western Maryland were dying from a disease in 1949 reducing their numbers. Shallmar hunters only managed to bag four deer. The meat was appreciated, though.

“I never cared much for venison, but it was the first fresh meat in this house for three months,” one woman told a reporter with the Portland Sunday Telegram and Sunday Press Herald.

John Crouse was one of the lucky hunters who bagged a deer in season, but it wasn’t enough to keep his family of six children fed for too long. The Crouse family ate one meal a day and on many days and that meal was potatoes and baked beans.

“It was the first time we had fresh meat in eight months,” John’s wife, Dolly, told the Baltimore Sun.

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