By Lance Nixon
PIERRE, S.D. (AP) – It wasn’t that there was no future in farming back in 1938 and 1939; it’s more that there was none present.
“We didn’t do much at all because the drought was just ending. Farm prices were low. It was a tough time,” said Elwood “Whitey” Iverson, who was growing up at the time on a farm near Meckling, S.D., in the far southeastern part of the state.
“Everywhere you went you hitchhiked so that you didn’t have to pay a bus fare.”
So Iverson was on the lookout for something else to turn up; and something did.
“They had advertised in the paper that they were taking sign-up for the CCC camps,” recalled Iverson, now a retired teacher from Hawarden, Iowa.
Iverson signed up for the Civilian Conservation Corps and before long he found himself in the Black Hills, cutting down lodge pole pine and building a scaffold for history at one of the great American achievements of the age – Mount Rushmore.
But the historical significance of that was lost on the teenager.
“I never thought of the historical significance of it whatsoever. It was just a job. It wasn’t anything glamorous, it was just work for a 17-year-old boy. It was a job – dollar a day and your board and room,” said Iverson, who turned 93 in February. “That was connected with the CCC camp. Every day they’d load you up in an Army truck, maybe 15 to 20 gentlemen, and take you to the job site, maybe Harney Peak or Mount Rushmore or some other place in the Black Hills. We worked on fire trails. Just about anything.”
But much of the work involved helping out at Mount Rushmore, and as he grew older, Iverson said, he realized the significance of what he’d had a part in. Over the years he brought many of his students to visit the Black Hills to explain his little footnote to that chapter in history.1 2 next >>