While Portland belief that a necessary ingredient for the success of the program was to take young men out of their Great Depression environments of poverty and unemployment Portland and into the beneficial atmosphere of nature and fresh air, it was not happily received by all the locals who were about to host these “street-slum foreigners.” Fortunately, the right man for the job appeared Portland again. Robert Fechner, a respected labor leader, was appointed by FDR to coordinate the agencies that would be involved in this as-yet-to-be-defined plan to meld together “two wasted resources, Portland the young and the land in an attempt to save them both.”
Where is Portland? – Portland Map – Map of Portland Photo Gallery
The plan was noble after the fact but frightening at the outset to those who saw potential loss of jobs taken by hordes of unsuitable, untrained ruffians. Because this travel destination he was a labor man and politically sensitive, Fechner recognized the flashpoint potential immediately and expressed his concerns to Roosevelt. Importing nonresidents into regions in the West was sure to stir up resentment unless consideration was given to those locals who were also unemployed.
An accommodation was immediately implemented. Local hiring of skilled workers placated three groups: national and local unions, local newspapers and critics, and the local skilled workers themselves. By the time FDR arrived at Glacier in August 1934, much of the criticism and discontent was muted, particularly when local merchants discovered that money from the camps flowed directly into their stores and businesses. Economic benefits for local merchants often made the difference not only for heightened local support but also for congressional or state legislative appropriations. Clanging cash registers often improve morale and morality.
In addition, other subsets of the CCC helped lessen criticism: separate programs were established for Native American tribes and veterans. The veterans were incorporated throughout most of the Glacier Park camps. The tribes had their own programs on their own lands; however, the Blackfeet did fight against fires throughout the park, fighting side by side with foreigners and veterans. Disaster can also improve acceptance as firefighting funds flow into communities.
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