Everything looked hopeless! It was 1933. Nationwide employment was 25%, but for young men the rate was even higher. Many had quit school to try and support their families, but without work experience or suitable education they had enormous difficulties finding jobs. Many of these youths felt they had no hope. A lot of them left home, “riding the rails,” trying to find even the most measly employment. Some even turned to a life of crime.
Robert W. “Bob” Audretsch retired as a National Park Service ranger at Grand Canyon in 2009 after nearly 20 years of service. Since then, he has devoted himself full time to research and writing about the Civilian Conservations Corps (CCC). Bob grew up in Detroit, Michigan, and attended Wayne State University where he received a BA in history and a MS in library science.
IN CITIES ALL ACROSS AMERICA, people could feel the gloom. “Yes, we could smell the depression in the air,” said one writer.2 By March 1933, the U.S. stock market had lost more than 80% of its value. Less than half of U.S. wage earners were working full time. Unemployment reached over 25%. National income was down 54%. Over 40% of the nation’s mortgages were in default.3 In Chicago and other large cities, destitute families foraged through garbage dumps.4 Suicides increased. Marriages declined. The nation’s birth rate declined to the lowest rate in history.5 Industry was in turmoil. Auto production was down 80%. Steel production was down 88%.6 New housing starts were down 88%.7