Keith Sherman Hufford was born August 23, 1914, in Harrison Co., West Virginia, son of Arious VanBuren “Boo” HUFFORD and Emaline BRITTON. (Arious was of Solomon Preston, of Solomon, of Peter, of Christian II, of Christian b. 1716 Schwaigern.) The Great Depression hit the people of Harrison County extremely hard.
When he was 18 years old, he went into the Civilian Conservation Corps, a government program intended to deal with the massive unemployment of the young people surviving the economic disasters of those times.
Here are Keith’s words, after five years in the Corps, when he was 23:
In May, 1933, I was one of the many jobless disillusioned young men who trooped wearily and despondently into a CCC reconditioning camp, not knowing, and not particularly caring, about the future.
We, at least an overwhelming majority of us, were of a generation founded on nothing more than national economic instability, want, and hunger; with the inevitable result: Continuance of our education was impossible as well as a development of our natural talents, granting we possessed any, inasmuch as it became our duty to search for jobs–and none were available.
You must suffer the experience of tramping hot, smelly pavements day to day, going from one employment bureau to another, with the perpetual answer dinning in your ears until it becomes a satanic chorus of no!–No!–NO!!, let the hunger gnaw at your vitals until the head spins like a top and all the world becomes nothing but a whirling kaleidoscope of faces, places, streets, buildings, the sun simply a huge black disk, and some “Good Samaritan” has you thrown into the local jail for drunkenness and vagrancy. God forbid, but I repeat you must go through the actual experience before you can really understand the hopeless state of mind most of the prospective members of the CCC were in when we put on our “G.I.” clothing and tramped half-heartedly into the forests and fields to plant and cut trees, build dams, lime kilns, fire breaks and trails, control insect pests, tree diseases, and risk our lives on a current of wind while protecting the forests from the most efficient of destructive forces–Fire.
But our don’t-care-what-happens attitude didn’t last long. A great deal of credit must be given to the boys for their ability to adjust themselves to an entirely new environment, and for the enthusiasm and zest with which they attacked a new project, anxious to get it completed and note the results, and in the meantime, secure in their knowledge the folks “back home” had a small, but helpful income.
The educational system was not in effect during what I choose to call the “infancy” of the CCC. We worked the proper number of hours and after that it was up to us to entertain ourselves in any manner deemed practicable and safe by the Commanding Officer. Before long, we were having inter-camp musical entertainments, boxing bouts, impromptu spelling bees, and quite often, interesting plays and sketches. I recall one such meeting in a camp at the foot of Mr. Lassen, Cal., where we were swamped with 490 visitors in one single night.
As our organization overcame it’s “growing pains,” and more efficient methods were adopted for the benefit of the camps and personnel, a uniform program of education was put into effect. Young men who had of a necessity terminated their educational pursuits were in a position to take them up again, and illiterates were encouraged to learn the three “R’s.” Recognized correspondence schools cooperated with us by making special rates, local high schools and civic bodies offered their support, job training was given by the technical service, and even those of us who had a knowledge of some particular subject were enlisted to teach others who were interested, all we knew. It was loads of fun for everybody. A very close friend of mine, who, by saving every penny he could scrape together for four years, is now in his third year at Ohio State University, and well on his way to success.
As for me, I made my own bunk in various camps over the United States for five years. I was fortunate in obtaining a good job but finally came home. And now, I often become homesick for the noise and clamor of the mess hall were 150 ravenous boys troop in three times a day, the twang of guitars as a soft-voiced enrollee sings a plaintive mountain melody on the steps of the barrack in the soft, summer twilight, the smell of clean steaming bodies and the stinging crack of a turkish towel in the bathhouse after the day’s work is done. All of these things, and many more, I long for, but I must make way for some other young fellow who needs a bracer-upper for his moral and physical self and–his soul.
I still have not attained my goal but I am making my own way and that is sufficient for the present. What is probably more important is the fact that I am not the undernourished, furtive-eyed, scared kid that went into Fort Knox over five years ago. Instead, my eyes are clear and my mind is receptive to whatever the future has in store. In short, the CCC has equipped me with the weapons necessary to cope with the innumerable problems that are bound to obstruct my path through life and that must be surmounted before success can be attained.
Former CCC Enrollee
from Harrison County
After Keith wrote the above, he served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He became an accountant and worked for Standard Advertising Corporation for 30 years. Keith died in September 2003, in Clarksburg, Harrison County, West Virginia.
PAGE NOTE: Keith Hufford’s line is not in the 1909 HUFFORD FAMILY HISTORY. However, the brother of Keith’s two-greats-grandfather (Peter Hufford) is in the book at page 200.