Editor’s note: In response to the story "McKinley Woods World War II Connection," the Forest Preserve received an e-mail from Luann Sage Nash, which read in part: “We lived in one of the old [Civilian Conservation Corp] camp homes (at McKinley) till 1973 when my father, Arthur Olin Sage, Custodian of the Will County Forest Preserve, retired at the age of 75.” We talked to Mrs. Nash, and this is what we learned.
The barracks at McKinley Woods had stood empty for more than a decade. They had once housed hundreds of workers, part of a huge national army, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Corps members were employed by the federal government to combat the Great Depression by construction improvements to America’s vast parklands. By 1942, the program had ended, but the buildings that housed the workers remained at McKinley.
In 1957 Arthur Olin Sage, who was a farmer in Channahon, was hired by the Forest Preserve District of Will County’s Superintendent John Jevitz to serve as custodian of McKinley Woods. He was also deputized as a Will County sheriff’s police officer in order to deal with any situations that might arise in the preserve. He was paid, his daughter Luann Sage Nash recalls, $60 a week, and the family would be provided housing in one of the CCC barracks.
Arthur and Lucille Sage had seven children. Two sisters had married and settled elsewhere, so five of them – Don, Marilyn, Arthur Jr., Nancy and Luann – moved into the wooden building with their parents. At age 3, Luann was the youngest, her sisters were ages 7 and 14, and brothers, 10 and 17.