A visit to Giant City Lodge offers more than just a fried chicken dinner.
The courtyard behind the sandstone and wood structure pays homage to the young men who built it and the work they performed in enhancing the natural beauty of the Giant City State Park.
A major part of Franklin D. Roosevelt's New Deal, the Civilian Conservation Corps was a public works relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942, providing employment for unmarried men ages 17 to 28. The program was unique at the time, providing employment coupled with conservation and development of natural resources.
Over the nine years of its existence, the CCC provided jobs for nearly 3 million young men, including more than a thousand from southern Illinois.
Lisa Hartness' father, Tom Palovic, formerly of Johnston City, was one of those men.
"My dad started working in the CCC camp in 1939," Hartness said. "Dad talked about the camp often. He liked being able to work, made lifelong friends, and the money he earned helped him support his family."
Hartness said her dad's first priority was taking care of his parents.
"I remember he told me once that he started out earning $30 a month," she said. "He would keep $5 for himself, and $25 would be sent to his mom and dad."
Palovic took advantage of extra earning opportunities, according to Hartness.
"To help earn extra money, he would wash and iron shirts for 10 cents each," she said, "and he'd throw in a starched collar for an extra nickel."
Never intended to be a permanent program, the CCC ended in 1942 when the United States entered World War II and initiated the draft, but the legacy left by those who resided in the camps can still be seen across the United States today.
Palovic and others like him are memorialized on bricks that surround the $18,000 statue paid for by the Kelley family that operates the Lodge. The men's work laces Giant City State Park in the trees planted, trails constructed and cabins built.
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