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The CCC California Conservation Corps: low pay, hard work; Stories of success and failure in corps

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The Bollinger Canyon Fire Center of the California Conservation Corps is housed in what once were residences for Army personnel manning a Nike missile site.

Since there is room for only 60 people, director John Oubre says, Bollinger is one of the smallest of the 26 CCC centers strategically placed from Siskiyou in the far north to San Diego in the south.

The primary mission of the C's at Bollinger is helping control brush, grass, and forest fires. Lately, they've been fighting water, not fire - sandbagging levees in the San Joaquin Delta.

The C's here also perform community projects: They recently built a baseball field and stands in nearby Oakland and a trail and viewing platform for the handicapped in Mt. Diablo State Park.

On this morning Mr. Oubre is pensive; he has just said goodbye to Archie, a corps member from Los Angeles who could not get up enough self-motivation to work on his GED certificate.

Archie was a good worker who got along well with his crewmates, but after many attempts to get him to fulfill his educational obligation, Oubre finally had to dismiss him.

He's concerned about what lies ahead for Archie. He says he hopes the young man will decide to take one final option available in the CCC: Under a second-chance policy, Archie can write to the corps director, Robert J. Shelbe, requesting reinstatement.

Up to 45 percent of the people who join the corps give up, or get ''fired,'' before fulfilling their one-year contract. But though their cups of success are not running over, Oubre and other CCC leaders obviously consider them more than half full. There are a lot of successes. For example:

Lisa Sargent had finished high school and was drifting from one minimum-wage job to another when she applied for the CCC at the urging of a friend who had already joined. After four months, she is in charge of the Bollinger Center's warehouse.

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