Monday, November 23, 2009

A Mystery From the Bookshelf: Who Was Wendell Young?

Understand from the outset that we may never know exactly who Wendell Young was, or is and in that fact there may be a lesson.

In the course of researching and reading about the Civilian Conservation Corps, I’ve managed to acquire a file cabinet or two full of histories and recollections about the New Deal era and especially the CCC. Some of the most intriguing stories are the ones that have a lot of loose ends to them.

Consider an old copy of the Dupont Blasters Handbook, Ninth Edition from 1938. The copy I have is nearly pristine and still in the box that it was shipped in from the advertising department at Dupont in Wilmington, Delaware. Carefully inked inside the front cover is the following:
Wendell J. Young
CCC Co# 1608
CCC-47257 Camp Tomahawk

The book doesn’t contain another mark of any kind. One wonders if young Wendell used the book for a class or if he simply put it in his footlocker and forgot about it.

The bookseller was evidently selling off lots of items related to Mr. Young’s life and in another group was a collection of photos, presumably of Wendell and family or friends. What I find especially interesting is the significant difference between the photo of Wendell at a family gathering (above) compared to the image of the rough and ready outdoorsman in another photo presumably taken at camp (below).

According to a newspaper clipping that was with the other items, the group eventually ended up in Washington State and it seems this might be where the second photo was taken, but unless someone steps forward with more information, it’s really anyone’s guess.

For now Wendell Young will remain just another of the 3 million or so young men who enrolled in the CCC and perhaps quickly forgot about the experience as they helped win a war, raise a family and toil in relative obscurity, all the while making ours the greatest nation on the face of the earth.

It’s easy enough to say that we’ll never, ever know all there is to know about the 3 million or so young men who enrolled in the CCC between 1933 and 1942 but somehow it’s difficult to reconcile ourselves to the fact that we may never know much about Wendell Young, except that he was once in the CCC, he once owned a Dupont Blaster’s Handbook and someone loved him very much.

You can see a US Government image from Camp Tomahawk HERE.