Saturday, June 2, 2012

Iron Mike and the CCC

Ever have one of those weekends where you run into the same person in two different places, even though you didn't share your agenda with him, or, for that matter, even have plans set beforehand?

Memorial Day weekend was that way for us. Granted, it was three days instead of two, but still, it was kind of wild, especially considering the guy we ran into was Iron Mike.

We first met Mike on the grounds of the Montclair State School of Conservation, deep within Stokes State Forest. As you'll see, he really lives up to his nickname.

Iron Mike CCC Stokes New Jersey
Mike in Stokes State Forest
Considering how firmly planted he seemed to be in Sussex County, we were surprised to run into him two days later at Roosevelt Park in Edison.

Iron Mike CCC Edison New Jersey
Mike in Edison
Both statues were accompanied by a plaque marking the statue as a representative of the thousands of Americans who participated in the Civilian Conservation Corps during the Great Depression. From 1933 to 1942, the CCC employed young urban men to plant millions of trees to restore the nation's depleted forests and prevent soil erosion. Besides providing good jobs to reduce the unemployment rate, the program enabled participants to help support their families, many of whom were living in poverty. Eventually, every state in the nation hosted at least one CCC camp, and the Corps' work extended to other wilderness activities like building roads, stocking rivers and lakes, and creating drainage systems to preserve valuable farmland. Many of their projects, including a litany of county, state and national parks, continue to make a positive impact to this day.

As I discovered through a little research, Iron Mike is the product of the effort of CCC alumni to increase awareness of the Corps and its impact. They're aiming to place at least one Mike in every state, and remarkably, Ivan and I found both New Jersey Mikes without knowing anything about the statue project. Stokes Mike has been there since 1996, while Edison Mike has gazed over Route 1 since 2003.

Not to quibble, but I found slight differences between the two iterations, explained perhaps by the seven year gap between their respective births. The Edison Mike is, shall we say, a bit more sinewy than his Stokes brother. Maybe they're cast from different molds, or perhaps the Middlesex County incarnation spent a little more time at the gym, but the variations make for a fun little game of observation. Go check them out and let me know what you think.

1 comment:

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