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Conserving Through Generations

By: Rachel Sicheneder

My grandfather, Marlin Sicheneder, lived from September 20, 1918 to  March 13, 2008. The oldest of four children he suffered through his father’s death when he was ten years old. His mother, my great-grandmother, remarried a few years later. The man she married was also a widower and already had four children of his own; thus with their marriage their family grew to eight children with another soon to follow. When the depression struck, my grandfather was living and working with his ever growing family on their farm in Waverly, MN.

Luckily for my grandfather, the Civilian Conservation Corps became his ticket off the farm to work and send money back to his family. The earliest picture I have of him in a CCC uniform is 1937, which appears to be close to the date he enlisted. He was stationed near the Gunflint Trail and worked with Co. 712.

My goal this year is to discover more about the time he spent with the Corps. He is no longer here to share his story but there are still people alive who know it and lived it with him. Throughout my next nine blog posts I will to connect my experience in the Corps with his. Fortunately, he left me with a wonderful photo album of his time spent in service. My hope is to juxtapose my current photographs with his portraits of the past.

Incidentally, this first post about my grandfather falls on a fortuitous date. On April 5, 1933 President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed a bill creating the CCC in America. Then called the Emergency Conservation Work Program, it conveyed a message of hope to the young men in America. The recession we are facing now is not as grave as it was then. Unlike my grandfather, most of my friends and family are currently employed, most Americans have no trouble putting food on the table and the wages I earn through the Corps don’t get sent to dependents back home. However, Conservation Corps still instills ethical values in and gives hope to its hardworking youth. For while time may run linearly, everything, even back breaking work and service to family and country, churns in circular patterns, connecting the past to the present and to the future.

 This blog may be a story about my grandfather and me but I welcome your interaction as well. My grandfather was only one of the 77,000 young men who served in in MN. If you have stories or relatives who have served in the CCC I would love your comments and insight. I believe that the richness of the past cannot be truly explored until it is shared. In the words of Edmund Burke, “People will not look forward to posterity, who have not looked at their ancestors.”