Last Sunday we took a day trip around central Missouri. In climate controlled comfort we tooled around a few winding back roads, stopped at some antique malls, read the historical markers along the way. All in all we covered a couple hundred miles, all paved, all sided with civilization and other cars. But it was a relaxing day.
Yet still how different from the Sunday afternoon in 1932 when my great-aunt Rose and Harry Suckstorf left Bloomfield to visit the Niobrara State Park.
Here’s what Harry wrote in scrapbook to accompany the photos here:
Harry, courtin’ his girl on a Sunday, the fall of 1932.
An auto ride in Adele’s 1927 Pontiac up to the Niobrara State Park.
64 Miles Round Trip.
By way of Center through Niobrara. Quite a long trip for us.
Memorable, a day we will never forget.
In 1932 Niobrara State Park had one building. That’s it in the photo.
It wouldn’t always be alone.
In The Boys of Bloomfield, Ramon D. Hansen writes about Niobrara State Park and the summer of 1935:
One of the topics that received regular discussion around our dinner table was the CCC program of FDR’s New Deal. It was discussed regularly because it was a new undertaking and my parents seemed to know all of the young men who were being picked to attend the camps at Niobrara, Ponca, Blair and elsewhere around the state. The men were all in their early twenties and jobless. Also, most of them came from large families who were in extremely difficult circumstances. I remember my mother saying she hoped one certain boy would be picked. They were neighbors and my mother knew they were having a difficult life because the father was partially handicapped. Their oldest son, was a strong, healthy young man could find no job at all. After he was selected for the CCC, he was paid twenty dollars a month, but he had to send half of that paycheck back to his parents in Bloomfield. My Mom said it gave his mother money to buy food that helped feed several small children. They were near neighbors and a younger boy was only a year behind me in school, so I knew the family well.
But I still didn’t understand what the “CCC” meant. I didn’t learn until a few years later when I was in Boy Scouts and we went to Niobrara State Park. There we stayed in facilities that had been built by the “CCC boys,” (Civilian Conservation Corps), ate in the mess hall erected by them, and swam in a pool where they had built the diving board and the simple quarters were we changed into our swim suits.
It seems to me that during their courtship in the ‘20s and ‘30s, Rose and Harry got in on the last few years of a magical, romantic period in American history. With the advance of technology and a world war looming on the horizon, the lazy Sunday afternoon drive lost ground to other pursuits.
No wonder it was a memorable day.