Wes Hughes works as a volunteer for Batsto Citizens Committee and Batsto Mansion Volunteer Organization. It is through these groups and our mutual friend, author Barbara Solem, that Wes and I became acquainted. We have discussed, over the years, our mutual interest in the Civilian Conservation Corps, and in particular their work in South Jersey.
Nearly ten years ago Wes realized the cabins he slept in at Brendan Byrne were built by the CCC. That inspired an interest that grew.
He began to do research about the Civilian Conservation Corps and the W.P.A. Then he got really interested. He could relate to the young men and he was intrigued by the concept, help people who need help and help the country
So many people like Wes (and me) had no idea how the men and boys changed their lives by doing this work.
Wes said, "The interest grew and I began to dig around for things to read. At some point, Barbara Solem had invited a group of people to her house and I met another writer who was working on a book about the W.P.A., Jo Ann Wright."
There was a point that Wes was so impassioned about the program that he fantasized quitting his job and going full time into promoting the idea of a new CCC. He wrote to the President Obama, "I felt so strongly about it. But I didn't get a response." He said.
Wes continued, "I'm not sure when, but I attended a presentation at Friends Village sponsored by Bonnie Beth Elwell's organization, the Salem County Genealogy Society. Jo Ann was presenting on her book BLACK HORSE WHITE HORSE, and she announced she was retiring and I, Wes, was going to carry the torch.
Around that time, a few months later, John Morsa, historian at Batsto, was putting together a speaker series at Batsto, I volunteered to fill in if need and he called me. That was the first presentation I made. I did it because they needed to fill a spot. Then someone else approached me to do another presentation. I will be doing a presentation at Medford Historical Society, on June 8th.
I thought of all these things at the same time, the military style of how they lived, how hard they worked, what they accomplished and how it changed their lives.
So far most of the presentation have been to elder groups and the people know what the CCC is. I love sharing the story with them. They understand it and it is too good a thing not to share with them.
I have a desire before I leave the planet to write this story. Arcadia was one option I considered but after some research, I ran into a problem getting photos I was counting on so I put that on a back burner for the time being.
Every place we see in South Jersey, that is park or woods has the hand of the CCC in it.
In my presentation I have a short film piece from the PBS production on the Civilian Conservation Corps."