Today on CCC: Hard Corps, we get to see a little more of the vision that I have for the blog and podcast. I intend to explore all aspects of the CCC program, throughout its 40+ year history. I want to cover every center and every program that I can find Corpsmembers from.
Today’s focus will be on the Tehama Fire Center. I spoke with three former Corpsmembers who had been assigned to Tehama about what their time there was like. I also received helpful input from other former Corpsmembers at a couple of CCC alumni Facebook pages, CCC Alumni and California Conservation Corps former Corpsmembers .
Also included in today’s podcast are interviews with two Backcountry corpsmembers at last year’s debriefing at Camp Mather, California. Today we will be hearing from
- Christian Martinez, from the Trinity crew. Christian was a CCC Crewleader at Pomona Center before the Backcountry, and completed his second year with the Cs while in the Backcountry. Before the C’s, Christian had worked for the San Gabriel Valley Conservation Corps .
- Sam Fish, from Yosemite 2. Sam came to the Backcountry through AmeriCorps. He had been an Animated Illustration major at San Jose State University, and tried something different with the Backcountry.
This is how we can get your story told on CCC: Hard Corps. Just talk to me! Because every Corpsmember has a story that deserves to be told.
You can email me at email@example.com ,
You can call me at (530)410-4683,
Or you can send me a Facebook message through CCC: Hard Corps .
Meanwhile…on with the show!
Tehama Fire Center
The California Conservation Corps started in 1976 with a lot of enthusiasm and high ideals, but nobody really knew how long it would be around. It was not even a permanent program in 1976. Funding had to be renewed every year by the California legislature. It was started on a shoestring budget. Equipment was transferred from the Ecology Corps, which the CCC had replaced. The CCC lived in borrowed facilities. Centers that were residential programs moved into underutilized state buildings that could accommodate the housing, kitchen, workshop, and administrative program needs. Several of them set up on State Hospital grounds in places such as Stockton, Camarillo, and Santa Clara. Some of them set up in unused Army personnel housing on obsolete Nike missile bases, such as Bollinger Canyon (outside of San Ramon) and Oat Mountain (outside of Chatsworth).
The CCC also formed a partnership with the California Department of Forestry, commonly known as CDF (now called CalFire in 2019). Several centers were set up that were known as Fire Centers. The crews from these centers were all Corpsmembers of the CCC, the centers were administered by the CCC, but the crews were led by CDF Captains instead of CCC Conservationist 1s, or crew supervisors. For the most part, these centers moved onto already existing CDF facilities that had already been operating Department of Corrections inmate fire crews. The inmates moved out, and the CCC moved in. Some of the Fire Centers were outside of Magalia (Butte), Angels Camp (Calaveras), Klamath (Del Norte), and Weott (Humboldt).
Today we are talking about the Tehama Fire Center.
I had a chance to speak with three former Corpsmembers who were gracious enough to share their CCC memories of Tehama: Karen Brown Wilson, Penelope Johnstone, and John Leonard. Karen, Penelope, and John were all at Tehama around the same time, about the time it closed in 1981.
Tehama Fire Center was located outside of the tiny town of Paynes Creek, about twenty-five miles east of Red Bluff. It was adjacent to the Tehama Wildlife Area, a wide open space in the rolling foothills of Lassen Peak. The area has cool, wet winters, and notoriously hot, dry summers. Summer temperatures can typically top 110°F.
A person could have found their way into the CCC and Tehama Fire Center by all sorts of routes.