Two men who worked for the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression and helped clean pottery shards unearthed in the nation’s largest archaeological dig at the time were on hand Saturday to celebrate Ocmulgee National Monument’s 75th Anniversary.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt established Ocmulgee National Monument by presidential proclamation on Dec. 23, 1936. But the anniversary was marked Saturday because monument Superintendent Jim David said a celebration two days before Christmas might be a little harder to draw a crowd.
More than 70 people came out for the celebration, including Clovis A. Wood, 89, who now lives in Jacksonville, Fla., and William C. Wilson, 88, who lives in Musella in Crawford County.
Both recalled carefully washing pottery shards in what was once a square building that’s now the visitor’s center and museum at Ocmulgee Mounds.
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“I never thought I’d be living this long,” Wood said with a laugh when asked about the celebration and having been a part of what is now the Ocmulgee National Monument,
Joking aside, Wood, who was 17 when he joined the CCC, said he’d encourage young people to work toward “trying to make everything better.”
Wilson also “storied” his way into the CCC -- joining at age 16, which was two years below the minimum age requirement of 18, said his niece, Libby Jones.
“He still remembers all of it,” said Jones, who took a tour of the grounds with her uncle, who is her late mother’s brother, before the celebration and reception.
Jones said she enjoyed having Wilson point out the barracks where he lived during that time and hearing him talk about all the changes that had taken place. Like many who worked in the CCC, Wilson next served in the military during World War II. He served with the U.S. Army, Jones said.
For his part, Wilson said he was enjoying the celebration. “I like what I’m seeing,” he said with a smile. “There’s been a whole lot of remembering going on.”
He spent a lot of time remembering with Danny Dominy, the son of a CCC member.
Thomas Winchester Jr., 90, of Macon, joined those filling in for family members honored. His father, Thomas Winchester Sr., was also a CCC member.
“It’s great that it’s still here and it’s still going,” he said.
Those honored received commemorative certificates and words of gratefulness from dignitaries such as David Vela, southeast regional director for the National Park Service.
Vela thanked them for their part in preserving Macon’s rich heritage.
David noted that artifacts found at the site date back 17,000 years. He also noted that more than 6.8 million people have visited the Ocmulgee National Monument.
During and after the reception, there was much picture taking. Someone asked Wood for his autograph. Another had given him a hug.
His sister, Elnora Benford of Griffin, stood nearby taking it all in. She was smiling.
For more information about Ocmulgee National Monument at 1207 Emery Highway, Macon, call (478) 752-8257, or visit http://www.nps.gov/ocmu/index.htm.
Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report. To contact writer Becky Purser, call 256-9559.