KINGS MOUNTAIN STATE PARK -- Jimmy Crocker, Marshall Wells and Cecil B. Ramsey have roots at Kings Mountain State Park.
More than six decades ago, the three served as members of the Civilian Conservation Corps. The group helped build the park's roads, rock bridges and cabins. Over the decades, now-retired state park employees worked to maintain the park.
On Saturday, more than 50 people gathered at the park amid its towering trees, trails, rock bridges and cabins to honor the "CCC boys" and other retired state park employees.
"This is a real important day to us," Park Ranger Shea Joyner said. "We brought y'all here just to say thanks for the commitment, dedication and service over the years."
Park officials also announced that the park has been listed on the National Register of Historic Places since March. Saturday's event was one of many planned to celebrate the park's 75th anniversary next year, a benchmark earned through the work of the CCC boys and the retired state employees, Joyner said.
The park of 6,885 acres was built by the CCC, a group that existed from 1934 to 1942. The countrywide initiative put in place by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, sought to conserve land. It put men to work at a time when jobs were scarce. The CCC built most of Kings Mountain State Park and the neighboring national military park.
"It's amazing that so many generations later, this park is still here," Joyner said. "I hope that we can live up to the legacy that the CCC boys and retired state park employees have left us."
'Good 'ole days'
Three surviving CCC boys reminiscenced about the "good 'ole days."
"I was stationed here," said Crocker, whose age is "well past 88."
The Rock Hill man grew up on a farm and in 1938 when he was 18 started working at the park, where he stayed until 1939. Nearly 70 years later, he could do little to mask his park pride.
"We made $30 a month," he said. "I was the No. 1 guide. People would come here, and we had to take them around and tell them about the battles. We had congressmen, senators and everybody. That was their way of politicking."
Remembering evoked laughter, then seriousness.
"It's like going back home," Crocker said of being at the park. "This was the making of me. It made me realize that the world was bigger than the farm. Meeting all these people gave me a better scope on life."
Marshall Wells, 88, also couldn't hide his excitement about being at the park.
"I come three to four times a year to ride the road to remember the old times," Wells said.
During Wells' stint in 1941 and 1942, he worked as a laborer and truck driver.
"All the boys would go on a recreation trip every Friday night," Wells recalled. "I'd drive them. We'd go to York. The next time, we'd go to Kings Mountain."
Sometimes, the boys planted trees, and other times they cut up, he said.
"If there was a beer joint, we cut up," he said, evoking laughter.
Steve Wells' recalled his father's CCC tales.
"After all these years, I'm still hearing stories I hadn't heard before," he said. "This morning while driving through (the park), he said, 'Look at the flagpole. If that's the original one, I helped put it up.'"
Saturday's reunion was a belated birthday of sorts for Ramsey, who turned 92 last Wednesday.
"I could be anywhere, but I ain't," quipped Ramsey, who once worked as a leader with the CCC before joining the Army. "I helped build the trails near the state monument."
Ramsey's eyes aren't what they used to be; he's essentially blind in both eyes, his family said.
"He can't see the rock bridges and the roads he built, but he can tell you where they're at," son-in-law Jim Belt said.
Susan Dover said her grandfather always held family celebrations at the park.
"He always brought us here for our birthdays," Dover said. "He'd drive us through. He was just so proud of the park.
Brandon and Cody Rackley sat behind Ramsey. The Gaffney 8-year-old twins are park rangers in training and proudly wore their junior park ranger badges.
Joyner said the twins will help continue the CCC boys' legacy.
"They are the next generation," Joyner said. "Hopefully, one day they will be park rangers and take care of this park."