Biography of Jack Lewis

CCC Man, Company 1295, Camp MC-54, Magnolia, DE & Co. 1224, Camp MC-51, Lewes, DE & Company 3221, Camp MC-55, Leipsic Delaware

US Army

     I was born in Baltimore, Maryland in 1912. I attended Rutgers University and obtained a Bachelor's degree. After I graduated from Rutgers I joined the Civilian Conservation Corps. Times were tough and this was a way to find work.

     I signed up for the CCCs, applying for the assignment as Artist in the Camps under Col. W.S. Corkran. I got the job as an Artist Enrollee through my College Art Teacher. It was a special case for a special job. The idea for the position was from the Corkrans. Both the Colonel and his wife were in the Arts. So they decided that the arts should be included in the camps. I was accepted and became a CCC worker with a special assignment from the Director of the Mosquito Control CCC Camps in Delaware to illustrate the work the camps were doing. That work was to control mosquito breeding in the salt water marshes there.

     I arrived with several enrollees in the Fall of 1936 in Dover, Delaware. We walked the 8 miles to our Camp in Magnolia as the train arrived at about three in the morning in Dover. I was assigned to the Magnolia Camp as an Artist. My work was to live in the barracks, recording in pencil on sketchpad and in paint on canvas the daily activities of the CCC Men. I would eventually do this work at three of the Delaware CCC camps involved in mosquito control. From 1936 to 1939, I traveled between the three camps located in Lewes, Magnolia and Leipsic, living in the barracks and going out into the marshes with the work crews to sketch and paint.

     The work of these camps was Mosquito Control under the overall command of Colonel Wilbur S. Corkran. Colonel Corkran was the owner of the Henlopen Acres near Rehobeth. He was a civil engineer from the University of Delaware. He had served with the Army Corps of Engineers in World War One and remained in service in the Delaware National Guard. Corkran also had been the State Engineer. This was a politcal job, and he had been promoted by Delaware Grand Dame Mrs. Henry B. Thompson for the job.

     His CCC related service began when he had been appointed by the State Governor, Clayton D. Buck, to open the first two camps and to run the fledgling Mosquito Control projects in Delaware. In addition to coordinating the efforts of the CCC camps, he would also direct my CCC artistic efforts. His interest in artwork may have founded from his marriage to Louise Chambers Corkran, the founder of the Rehobeth Art League.

     I  remember putting on shows at all the camps where I was assigned. These availed themselves of any talent at the camps. Although we also did normal plays, my specialty was marrionettes. These were made form clay ( blue ) found in the neighboring marshes.

     I also played a spot on the Radio at Wilmington for a group of boys. This was arranged by the Education Advisor at the Leipsic Camp with the radio station in Wilmington. My instrument was the accordion. I was thrown off my piece, which was Polish Wedding, when the station director stepped on my foot to prevent the disturbance caused by my tapping out the time!

     Another task which I was assigned was making some masks for the men. These masks were ordered by the Colonel. This was to advertise the CCC Mosquito Control with a CCC Parade at the State Fair. The CCC parade at the State Fair was arranged by the head CCC Office at Lewes, Col. W. S. Corkran. Using the themes such as Butcher, Baker and Candle Stick Maker, etc. about ten masks were made for the men to wear in the parade. The flour paste the masks were made from, however, had soured and several of the men became drunk from the fumes.

     The Mess Hall could be an interesting place when the food was served. In one incident at chow an enrollee was stabbed by a fork while reaching for a piece of bread, so much in a hurry was everyone.

     There was also opportunity to get away from camp at times. I sometimes bummed a ride to my home in Elizabeth, NJ from one of the civilian work chiefs,the Foreman at Lewes, who led us at work at camp. He lived in New Jersey and had a car. He lived in Patterson, New Jersey. Every 2 or 3 months he would dash up to Patterson. He would drop me off at my Home at Elizabeth.

     As I recall there was no way for the boys to spend the "dollar a day" pay and most of us saved a nice little fund by the end of out stint. My mother also out away $300 in a savings account for me from my pay that was sent home. Quite a little sum during the depression years.

     At the end of my three years I returned to the colorful area where our camps were located. This became the basis for my first book, "The Delaware Scene".

     I went on to serve in the military in the South Pacific. I was not in combat, and at times have regretted that I did not share the danger so many of our other boys did.

     Afterwards I continued my art career, becoming quite successful while teaching and living for many years in Bridgeville Some of this I owed to my time in the CCCs. When I arrived there I was a free style artist. The CCC required me to make realistic reports. It was good training, better than what I received in college.

     The CCCs were good for me and the other men. It gave us health and strength. It is too bad we don't have the CCCs today. It is obvious our youth need something like this which can give them a connection with nature and reality.

     The links below are to some images of drawings I did while in the CCCs in my spare time. These are copies of copies of some soft pencil drawings and black ink washes. I have no idea where the originals are. For more of my work you may wish to contact the Delaware State Museum, which has a collection of my CCC work.

----- Jack Lewis

Curator's Note: Jack Lewis is a world renowned artist. His works adorn many of the public buildings of his former home in Bridgeville, Delaware, many private homes where he had many students and admirers as well as public buildings throughout the State. Jack Lewis has also published nine books (one at Eleanor Roosevelt's request). He also added a masters in education to his Bachelors from Rutgers and taught at a local high school. He also earned a Fulbright Fellowship, a Governor's Award for Arts, a Delaware University Medal of Merit and other honors including one from the Rehobeth Art League where he instructed, the same league founded by the wife of his former commanding officer in the Civilian Conservation Corps. His thousands of artworks depicting Delmarva scenes have been appreciated and effected generations of Delawareans. It is possible, also, that he had some effect on the Curator's Father, James Justin, with whom he served in 1936. Later in Life James would begin to paint himself, and in Mr. Lewis's artwork I see much that was in my Father's. I can only wonder if he did not have unknowlingly have student among the workers in those CCC Barracks so very long ago.

LINKS

Company 1295 Drawings of Jack Lewis, Company Building, Company Street, Interior Barracks Leipsic, Jack Lewis, Company 1295, Camp MC-54, Magnolia, DE & Co. 1224, Camp MC-51, Lewes, DE & Company 3221, Camp MC-55, Leipsic Delaware

Playbill, for CCC Play held at Lewes, Cover, Page Two, Page Three, Back Page ( typical of ones held in all three of his companies), Jack Lewis, Company 1295, Camp MC-54, Magnolia, DE & Co. 1224, Camp MC-51, Lewes, DE & Company 3221, Camp MC-55, Leipsic Delaware

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