Historians remember the CCC

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The desperate times of the Great Depression called for desperate measures -- or at least measures that had never been tried before as means to boost the country from its economic malaise.

President Franklin Roosevelt in 1933 pushed Congress to establish several "alphabet agencies" designed to put people to work as part of his New Deal. Some worked, some were derided, some failed and some were eliminated.

The legacy of the Civilian Conservation Corps, Works Progress Administration, Public Works Administration even the short-lived Civil Works Administration still can be seen around Springfield in the form of Lake Springfield recreation areas and the lake's filtration plant, what is now Lincoln's New Salem State Historic Site, the State Archives Building and Lanphier High School.

Those programs, like President Obama's current economic stimulus proposals, drew criticism from various sectors, although the majority of Americans finally came around to their worth.

"The CCC gave people, especially the young, an opportunity for employment," said David Maurer, emeritus history professor at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston and an expert on the New Deal. "It brought money into the community and provided employment and income for years."

"The situation is a little different now than it was back in the 1930s," he said. "For one, we have unemployment insurance, and our savings are probably a little better."

He said the current stimulus plan is under fire in some quarters as being full of pork-barrel projects.

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