As part of the New Deal Program, to help lift the United States out of the Great Depression, Franklin D Roosevelt established the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1933. The CCC or Cs as it was sometimes known, allowed single men between the ages of 18 and 25 to enlist in work programs to improve America’s public lands, forests, and parks. (NPS)
President Roosevelt proposed that the CCC “be used in simple work, not interfering with normal employment, and confining itself to forestry, the prevention of soil erosion, flood control, and similar projects …”
… and argued that “this type of work is of definite, practical value, not only through the prevention of great present financial loss, but also as a means of creating future national wealth”.
On March 31, 1933, Congress passed a bill under the title “Emergency Conservation Work” (ECW) and on April 5, 1933, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 6101 which officially established the ECW Program, administered under the auspices of the CCC.
The CCC had two main objectives – to employ hundreds of thousands of unemployed young men in conservation work and to provide vocational training, and later education training, for enrollees. (PCSI, OMKM)
Enrollment periods lasted six months and enrollees could opt to re-enroll for additional six-month periods for up to two years. Four distinct enrollment categories existed – Junior enrollees; Local Experienced Men; World War I veterans; and American Indians and residents from US Territories.
Juniors comprised 85% of enrollees and were single men between the ages of 18 and 25, whose families were on relief aid. Two groups of older men, Local Experienced Men and Veterans of World War I each comprised 5% of enrollees.
Territorial enrollees comprised 1% of total CCC enrollment and were not subject to age or marital status restrictions and were permitted to live at home and work on nearby projects
For many, just the prospect of three meals and a bed were enough to get young men to enroll. As jobs and income were incredibly scarce, the CCC for a lot of these young men was their first job.
The CCC provided room, board, clothing, transportation, medical and dental care, and a monthly salary of $30 per enrollee, $25 of which would be sent straight to their families, while the other five was for the worker to keep. (NPS)
The CCC was officially inaugurated in 1933 in the Hawaiian Territory under the supervision of the Territorial Forestry Commission and the Hawaiian National Park, but the first Corps work projects were not begun until 1934. (PCSI, OMKM)
Frank Harrison Locey, the President of the Board of Commissioners of Agriculture and Forestry, wrote that: “It appears to me that the CCC camp is a kindergarten in a way.”
“They take young boys in, do not work them too hard but harden them for normal employment. That is why I call it a kindergarten or a stepping stone to future labor.”
The CCC aimed to supplement on-the-job training with a formal educational program. Approximately half of the CCC enrollees had less than an eighth-grade education and suffered from illiteracy. To remedy this situation, evening instruction in the camps taught remedial reading and writing skills, general education courses, and specialized vocational classes.
Acting Territorial Forester, Leicester Winthrop Bryan, reported that: “In addition to the good done to the youth of this Island through giving them an opportunity to earn money we have tried to teach them to live together, to work, to learn some useful trade, to continue their education, to improve their health and to become better citizens.”
“We feel that a large number of these boys have left our camps in a much better condition to go out in the world and earn their living and be better citizens.” (PCSI, OMKM)
The stone cabins at the present location of the mid-level astronomy facilities on the Mauna Kea Access Road (the Halepōhaku Rest Camp) were constructed by members of the CCC in Hawai`i in 1936 (Rest House 1) and 1939 (Rest House 2). (The Comfort Station was constructed by the Territory of Hawai‘i’s Division of Forestry in 1950.)
Hale Pohaku literally ”stone house,” refers to the two stone cabins constructed by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1936 and 1939 at an elevation of 9,220 feet on the southern slope of Maunakea. L. W. Bryan, who served as the Territorial Forestry Office and helped with the construction of the “stone houses,” also named them Hale Pohaku. (Cultural Surveys)
In the first entry of the Halepōhaku Register Log (1939) LW Bryan wrote that the “Halepohaku Rest Camp” was constructed by the CCC under the direction of the Territorial Division of Forestry by CCC Foreman Yoshinobu Hada. (The letters “Ha” and the date “1936” were inscribed into mortar near the doorway of Rest House 1 – presumably referring to Foreman Hada.)
In articles published in Paradise of the Pacific, Bryan described Rest House 1 and identifies its’ early usage, writing that: “Halepohaku is well named for the stone rest-house located there. This house is within the Mauna Kea Forest Reserve and is available for use by any one.”
“It is located in a sheltered spot, near 9,500 feet, at the upper edge of the timber line. Fire wood is plentiful and a 2,000 gallon water tank, fed by gutters from the house roof, furnishes a supply of good clean water.”
“A 3 x 5 foot built in stove furnishes ample warmth and a suitable place to cook and the size of the fire box is such that the cutting of fire wood is an easy matter. The house door is never locked and the only charge made is that each occupant is requested to leave the place clean, not to waste the water and to prepare a small supply of fire wood for the next fellow.”
“Aside from a stove, a table and benches, this building is unfurnished. … Halepohaku is only two miles from where the car is left and makes an excellent stopping place for the night.”
“The cabins replaced a complex of buildings near Ho‘okomo, at the 7,800 foot elevation, which had been used by Forestry personnel who were building and maintaining the Forest Reserve fence and by workers constructing the road to Hale Pohaku.”
“The cabins at Hale Pohaku were placed under the jurisdiction of the State Parks Division of the Department of Land and Natural Resources (DLNR) in 1962. Hale Pohaku was never officially designated as a State Park.” They later were included under the lease to the University of Hawai‘i.
Per the 1977 Mauna Kea Master Plan, “The Hale Pohaku facility will consist of mid-level facilities for necessary research personnel for the summit, a central point for management of the mountain, and a day-use destination point for visitors and primitive overnight camping facilities.” Master Plan 1977;7
While hunting on Mauna Kea as a kid, we overnighted at Halepōhaku (well before astronomy’s mid-level facilities were built (1983)), as well as in the Pu‘u La‘au cabin above the Kilohana Girl Schout Camp.