“Behind us is the East Barre Dam,” Vermont Historical Society executive director Steve Perkins said. “It’s part of three major Civilian Conservation Corps projects along the Winooski River here to mitigate further flooding after, of course, the catastrophic floods of November 2, 1927.

“What happened right here was completely military, and so this is unique within the CCC. The flood control design was created by the Army Corps of Engineers, and all of the men who served building these flood controls were military veterans.”

“They had just been in the Bonus Army following World War I,” Mike Hoey noted.

“World War I vets were all promised a bonus, and they were given a certificate for that bonus, but the bonus didn’t mature until 1945,” Perkins continued. “Of course, the Depression hits, and all of these men are like, ‘we need to be paid; we put our lives, our health, everything on the line in Europe’.”

“Which led to mass demonstrations in Washington to try to obtain these things,” Hoey added.

“Yes, (in) 1932 they occupied the (National) Mall, the Capitol grounds, and they were dispersed by force,” Perkins noted. “And that was under the presidency of Herbert Hoover. Some say (it was) part of what led to his not being (re-)elected and Franklin Delano Roosevelt coming in.

“The Bonus Army came back again after Roosevelt was elected, in 1933. Roosevelt had an idea. He said, ‘we can’t pay the bonus, but I can employ all of you’. They were organized into CCC divisions, and those are the folks that came here to Vermont.

“Many of them were from the South, and so, getting used to Vermont winters was very difficult for these guys. They were quarrying the granite that was used as the riprap here in the middle of the winter and would ride up (to the quarry) in open-backed trucks. Of course, local kids threw snowballs at all the workers, but that was a universal experience.

“Another one was, for what they were paid, it was hard to get home. They kind of got lonely, but another big universal experience was that of camaraderie. It was bringing back how they had that experience when they were together in the Army.

“And it was great for the local economy because you had all these men here. Of course, when they got paid, they were looking for something to do, and so a lot of, especially, alcohol sellers and concert venues saw a lot of patronage.”

“It’s easy to understand how that would be, given that Prohibition had just been lifted at that time,” Hoey said.

“And what’s really interesting for Vermont at this time as well is, there were Black units,” Perkins observed. “Unfortunately, we’re talking about the 1930s, and so the 1930s military and the CCC was segregated.

“Here in East Barre, there were two white companies and two black companies. One of the black companies had members of the famed Harlem Hellfighters (in it), and that is the only unit from the United States that was awarded the French Croix de Guerre for gallantry in World War I.

“And there are reflections from some of the black soldiers saying they were fine with their experience, but felt that a lot of Vermonters maybe hadn’t seen black people before and were wary about them — but very (few) reports of negative Vermont interactions. More of the interactions, the negative interactions, were between black companies and white companies.

“Please come visit us at the Vermont History Center in Barre. We have a very extensive library and archives. We have a lot of information, especially, on this particular project, the Winooski valley flood control project of the Civilian Conservation Corps.”