• U.S.

The Administration: Hope for Hucklebuck

3 minute read

Charles (“Hucklebuck”) Logan, a 17-year-old Baltimore Negro, dropped out of school last year because he had flunked the same class twice. His parents are separated. He lives in roach-infested rooms with his grandmother, makes a little walking-around money by washing cars at $1 apiece. His social life is pretty rugged: at a party last year one of his friends was shot dead at Hucklebuck’s feet; shortly after that Hucklebuck himself was knifed at another party. He is on probation for receiving stolen goods.

One day last week Hucklebuck Logan arose at 5 a.m., bussed to Baltimore’s grimy city hall. When the offices opened at 8:30 he signed up as the U.S.’s first volunteer for Poverty Czar Sargent Shriver’s brand-new Job Corps. Behind Hucklebuck, to the delight of Job Corps officials who had feared that the corps’ first recruiting campaign would draw an embarrassingly puny turnout, came well over 400 more kids from Baltimore. Almost all were school dropouts, few had steady jobs, and about one-third had had trouble with the police.

Idea & Idealism. There was no guarantee that Hucklebuck or any of the other volunteers would actually be accepted; the Job Corps says it will not, for example, sign up serious criminal offenders or narcotics addicts. Endowed with $150 million of the $784,200,000 first-year appropriation for President Johnson’s war on poverty, the corps is essentially geared for boys and girls aged 16 to 21 who have not finished high school, have no decent job, and whose academic skills are hopelessly stuck at fourth-to seventh-grade levels. Shriver hopes to get 40,000 such youngsters enlisted this year, another 100,000 next year.

The idea-and the idealism-behind the Job Corps stems from the old CCC camps of the ’30s. The kids will sign on for one-or two-year stints, move into rural “camps” (to be built in U.S.-owned parks or forests) or urban “centers” (mostly abandoned military barracks near cities). Forty-one sites in 21 states have been picked, about 130 are projected for completion by next June. Governors can veto Job Corps installations in their states if they wish, but so far none have. Still, Shriver has had his problems with local folks. In Yorktown, Va., last September, residents set up a howl about plans for a corps camp near by because they feared an influx of “Negro hoodlums from Harlem.” Shriver postponed plans for the Yorktown camp.

“No More Trouble.” Once enrolled, Job Corpsmen will be paid $50 a month, to be banked until they leave the corps, plus $30 a month pocket money, along with room, board, clothing and medical care. They will attend classes in subjects ranging from bulldozer driving to personal grooming—all aimed at making them potentially useful citizens. Says Shriver: “The head of one of the biggest oil companies in the U.S. told me that in the state of New Jersey alone they could employ 8,000 gasoline station attendants tomorrow morning if they could get them. And in Chicago, the Yellow Cab Co. had a 60% turnover per annum in cab drivers. Now there are thousands, literally thousands of those jobs now open if people would take them and keep them. Those are the kinds of jobs that we are going to begin to try to prepare these boys and girls for.”

For people like Hucklebuck Logan, the Job Corps thus offers at least a hope for the future and an escape from the present. When he was asked why he wanted to join, Hucklebuck said: “I just don’t want no more trouble.”

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