April 18, 1995
Herewith the third installment on Perry's CCC Park story.
The first job undertaken by the Perry CCC men was building a boat dock on a small lake in the park. The date was May 1,1934, and the overall project was known as State Lake Park No. 10. Because of that formal name, city officials were hopeful that the state would take over maintenance when the initial construction was completed, but they soon learned that was not to be the case. The park belonged to Perry and the city was responsible for its upkeep.
After the boat dock was completed, the men tackled numerous projects to create a playground and recreational center. Native stone was used for picnic tables and benches, pavilions, picnic shelters, public rest rooms and other structures. Horseback trails, walking paths and roads for vehicles were built.
A bathhouse was built on the east shore of the lake, north of the boat house, and a raft was anchored in the water for swimmers. Hundreds of tons of sand were hauled to the site for an artificial beach. When the park was turned over to the public months later, no lifeguard was on duty. After a girl drowned, swimming was no longer allowed Mother Nature reclaimed the sand and only the foundation of the boathouse was left, but the beach was rebuilt a few years later.
By January 1935, good progress was being made in construction of the park. The boat house was nearing completion and the city was pumping water from the "Cow Creek Reservoir" into the CCC lake. Water had backed up to the new boat house and landing. The lake level was 5 to 6 feet from the top of the spillway. Work was continuing on roads, bridges, walks and bridal paths. Brush and trees were being cleared from all but the center area. Sixty new young men were enrolled in the local CCC camp to replace others who had completed their service. An average of 203 men were working each day at the new park.
In a related project, silt and sediment were being removed from the Cow Creek Reservoir by Federal Emergency Relief Administration workers under the direction of George Butler, Noble county's FERA administrator.
Announcement was made on June 12,1935, that the Perry CCC park project was virtually complete, and the camp would be moved to Ponca City on July 1 to build a similar park there. A news story in The Perry Daily Journal said landscaping and other work was underway to make the park one of the most beautiful recreation centers in this section of the state. The features included four separate picnic grounds, native stone tables, benches and seats, 12 grills, a large stone shelter house in the eastern part of the camp near the boat house, and another shelter house and observation stand on the southwest edge of the lake. Walks and stone steps were used to lead up to the two wells, one east of the boat house and one on the west side of the lake with a shelter over it.
Several hundred pine trees were set out along with other trees, shrubs, vines and grasses. Louis Hawkins was in charge of the landscaping. Decorative signs of heavy timber with letters burned into them directed visitors to the park facilities. The lake was full, holding an estimated 130 million gallons of water.
On June 26, 1935, officers and enlisted men in the Perry CCC detail were striking the camp and preparing to leave the following day for Ponca City. Their barracks were to be left here pending final disposition by the district supervisor of park service. Lt. Walter F. Berg, officer in charge, issued a statement expressing thanks to Perry citizens, city and county officials and local organizations for the manner in which the company had been received.
The CCC workers and their supervisors were in Perry just slightly more than one year, but they were warmly received here and the project they completed has been enjoyed by many young people and adults for the past six decades. The story of the nation's CCC camps is more than just a footnote in the history of this nation, and Perry still is appreciative of the imprint left here by those young men. Their work gave them a sense of dignity through honest labor, and the park they built remains as a memorial to their spirit and the difficult age they endured.
Employment in the U.S. is now at a record high of 125.1 million, but newspapers everywhere are filled with help wanted ads and 7 million are collecting unemployment pay. Paul Harvey tells us that sociologists believe much of today's juvenile crime and mischief is the result of boredom. A season in the CCC might cure that.
One more addition remains to complete the local CCC saga. Watch for the final installment soon.