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Times Q&A: Man, 93, on a mission to promote Civilian Conservation Corps through his books, website


WHO: Marion Francis Shean, 93, of Perch Lake Road, town of Pamelia.

WHAT: He has written and self-published two books in the past six years on the history of the Civilian Conservation Corps, established by President Franklin D. Roosevelt during the Great Depression to put hundreds of thousands of the unemployed to work on projects in government parks and land preserves. The program operated from 1933 to 1942.

Mr. Shean served in the Boonville CCC camp.

He also created and maintains a website on the history of the CCC camps at

Over the years, Mr. Shean worked 15 years in sheet metal operations, five years as operator of a gas station, owner of a TV service center and owner and operator of a hobby farm in Cape Vincent.

His wife, Florence P., died in 2004. They had two sons and four daughters and were foster parents to more than 35 children.

When were you in the CCC program?

In 1938. I wasn’t in it for very long. I got a job, so I left to go to work.”

That’s not a very long time. What is the interest in the CCC now for you?

“I’m just trying to get the information out to people. Nobody knows what it is.”

Why did you join?

“I was kind of footloose and getting into a little bit of trouble. It was during the Depression.”

Did you give joining a lot of thought?

“One day at noontime, I walked out of school (in Harrisville) and my grandfather’s trucks were going to Lowville with a load of logs, so I jumped on, went down to Lowville and signed up. I took the truck back home.”

What was your job in the CCC?

“A truck driver. As a truck driver, you’re in charge of a crew. You’d take about 20 guys in back to the side camps.”

(At those “side camps,” workers would focus on such tasks as planting trees, preventing soil erosion, creating fire stops and building bridges and fire towers).

“I would also cook. I would get a campfire going in the wintertime. I used to make coffee in a pail. When it was pretty brewed, I’d break an egg and put it in. The eggs sticked to the grounds. When you poured it out, you didn’t have any more grounds. I don’t know where I learned that from.”

Did being in the CCC shape you as a person?

“I learned to take orders and raise myself.”

Do you think the nation would benefit from a program similar to the CCC today?

“Yes, it would. There were about 400 camps in the United States. In New York state, I think there was 140. They built fire towers, planted trees and fought forest fires. They put a lot of boys to work — took them off the streets. In Chicago alone, the mayor said that the crime rate dropped 55 percent with the boys in camp. A lot of boys were illiterate. They learned how to read and write. They learned skills and how to do things.”

What were you paid?

“Thirty dollars a week. Twenty five of that went to my family. It was required. I didn’t send it. The government sent it.”

Was $5 hard to live on?

“No. We were fed, clothed and everything. We’d buy a candy bar or soda.”

Did you miss the CCC once you got a job?

“No, I never even thought about it or even talked about it, until I got interested in the books.”

What sparked that interest?

“I had someone send me an email who wanted some pictures of the Mannsville camp. From then on, I got kind of interested.”

Why is your book effort called Last Chance Publishing?

“I had triple bypass in 1986. A month or so afterward, I was home with nothing to do so I thought I’d just write a few pages for my kids, like where I was born and a little background. But then it grew into a book.” (“The Sheans, The Stowells and Harrisville, N.Y.”)

Did you have a background in writing?

“No, I went to four years of high school in Harrisville but couldn’t pass my English. Of course, now with the computer, you have your spelling taken care of.”

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Mr. Shean’s second book about the CCC is “CCCs Recalling the Past.” He also has written “Self Publishing Soft Cover Books.” He manufactured some of his books himself by using a small book press he created.

All of his books are available on his website,

They also can be ordered by check. “The Sheans, The Stowells ...” and “Life in The Civilian Conservation Corps” are $14.50. “CCCs Recalling The Past” is $15.95. Add $1.75 for shipping for the first two titles and $1.50 for the latter. Send payment to: Last Chance Publishing, 26464 Perch Lake Road, Watertown, N.Y., 13601.

Mr. Shean and his daughter created a PowerPoint presentation about the CCC for a teacher’s group after it heard about Mr. Shean’s project. They gave a presentation and would show it again if there’s any interest. Contact Mr. Shean at

If you have an idea for a Times Q&A, contact Times features writer Chris Brock at

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