A summer camp that provided teens with hard work, fun times and memories to last a lifetime

This photo, titled “Crew 4,” is included in the 1978 Hay Hollow YCC camp yearbook. The photo was taken during the Hay Hollow camp’s eighth year. Camp director S.A. “Lee” Leonardi wrote these thoughts in the yearbook, perhaps reflecting the real purpose of the program: “In essence the success or failure of a YCC program is measured by what is done and what was learned. I feel we can all continue to grow in knowledge and wisdom so we can continue to develop perhaps the most important resource of all, ‘The Youth of the Nation.’ “

At the end of every summer session, the campers and camp personnel at the Hay Hollow YCC camp put together a yearbook that featured photos and information from the session. The yearbooks are now stored at the Ava office of the Mark Twain National Forest.

Editor’s note: This feature continues the series by Ozark County Times reporters Jessi Dreckman and Amelia Lamair describing a hidden-away bit of history in the Mark Twain National Forest just north of Ozark County in the community once known as Siloam Springs.

Just across the Ozark-Douglas County line near Highways 14 and 181 a few miles northeast of Dora, there’s a tiny drive you might never notice unless you know it’s there. With no noticeable road sign to mark it, drivers likely pass by believing the road to be nothing more than a private driveway or a path into the woods. But if you look closely, you’ll see a small brown marker just a couple of feet tall imprinted with “FS 759” in white lettering. Following the gravel roadway a mile or so into the woods will lead you to a circular parking area and a large sign describing Hay Hollow, a little-used trailhead that has quite an extensive history.
In Hay Hollow, many memories were created for area fisherman who visited there during its earlier years. Back then it was known as Braddock Lake Lodge, a fishing and hunting camp run by Walter and Ruby Braddock, who established it on Walter’s family’s land around 1952 (see “Ruins of farm and resort, hidden away in national forest, spark curiosity” in last week’s Times). However, the era of family deer hunts in the fall and lazy days spent fishing in the cool lake water at Braddock Lake Lodge came to an end when the resort closed in the late 1960s.
As the Braddock Lake Lodge neared its final days of existence, a movement was taking shape nationally that would ultimately provide the land with the context of its next chapter.

Establishing the YCC – and Hay Hollow Camp
A youth-centered environmentally focused work program, modeled after Franklin Roosevelt’s famed Civilian Conservation Corps of the 1930s and 1940s, was an idea that was introduced in the late 1950s. The idea was resurrected by different politicians through the years, but it took more than two decades for the concept to gain enough traction to materialize into the successful Youth Conservation Corps. Sen. Hubert Humphrey of Minnesota may have been the first to formally present the idea in 1959, trying to garner support for the program he said would kill three birds with one stone - saving trees, saving land and saving the country’s youth. The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 47-45, but according to the CCC Legacy website (ccclegacy.org), the House refused to consider it due to the opposition of the Eisenhower administration.
The idea resurfaced in 1960, when John Kennedy, while running for office, proposed a corps of 100,000 youth between the ages of 18 and 25 that would work to preserve forests, stock lakes and rivers, clear streams and protect America’s abundance of natural resources. However, several attempts at establishing the corps fell short during the Kennedy administration.
It wasn’t until 1965 that the first stages of the YCC finally materialized out of an effort by President Lyndon B. Johnson to help the rising number of teenage drop-outs and draft-rejects break the cycle of poverty. Johnson’s administration developed a new training program, known as the Job Corps, which was administered by federal land-managing agencies such as the National Park Service and the US Forest Service. However, the corps was limited to enrollees who had less than a fifth grade reading level. As a result, it was criticized for separating youth by educational level.
In 1964, Lloyd Meeds, a candidate for Congress from Washington, and Sen. Henry Jackson began the process that would create the YCC bill based off of Washington State’s Youth Development and Conservation Corps, which had begun in1960. Jackson introduced the bill in the Senate on Feb. 18, 1969, and stressed the educational impacts of the proposed program, explaining that young people “would acquire an appreciation for our natural resources which cannot be taught in schools. In addition, they would develop good work habits and attitudes which would persist for the remainder of their lives.”
Despite opposition from the Nixon administration, the YCC was approved, and in 1971 it began its pilot program,  including the first camp held at the former Braddock Lake Lodge, which was purchased by the US Forest Service in the late 1960s. After three summers of operation as a pilot program, the YCC was fully funded with strong congressional support in 1974, and the program continued to grow nationwide. During its peak year, 1978, the YCC enrolled 46,000 campers.

For Hay Hollow: a new chapter
With the YCC program established in the Braddock Lake area, the fishing and hunting memories surrounding the lakeside resort were soon joined by those of teenagers gathered around campfires, canoeing down the North Fork of the White River and spending sun- and sweat-drenched work days in the forest.
In its beginning years, the YCC camp was only open to teenage girls age 15 to 18. Girls from all over the state applied for the YCC program, and the Hay Hollow area accepted about 70 campers per summer. The group was split in half, with each subgroup attending during one of two separate sessions. Thirty-five Forest Service employees transitioned during the summer from their usual jobs to become camp counselors, work leaders and crew leaders for the group of teens.
The Braddock family’s former three-bedroom home and two stand-alone cabins on the property were converted to bunkhouses for the girls to sleep in. A separate office building, used to sell bait, ice cream and snacks during the Braddock Lake Lodge days, was also converted for the camp’s use, refitted with the addition of shower-houses built onto the back of the structure.
Campers were expected to be up for breakfast at 7 a.m. and then complete a full day of hard labor, returning to the camp around 5 p.m.
A camp “yearbook” from 1977 explains that work days included a variety of activities broken down into six main categories:
“1. Recreational area development and maintenance, including brushing, shoveling, digging, painting, cleaning picking up litter, maintaining grass and building things such as bulletin boards, picnic tables, benches and fire rings.
“2. Forest management work including thinning oak stands to allow for faster growth, preparing sites for pine tree planting, cleaning up dumps and litter and taking care of young walnut plantations.
“3. Habitat management to improve wildlife habitat by creation of mast orchards, prescribed burning of old fields, old field renovation, … and song bird area development.
“4. Cultural work including inventorying old cemeteries, restoring Wake Cabin and its environs, mapping Hortom Tram and interviewing old timers.
“5. Range management, including building barb wire fences, gates and developing springs for water sites.
“6. Construction and maintenance of the Ridge Runner Trail including brushing out, leveling the trail surface and trimming trees.”
Environmental education was also very important, with about 10 hours of each work week spent on the work sites with crew leaders discussing the need for and impact of the work they were completing. After putting in a full eight-hour workday, the evenings were then free for campers to spend canoeing, swimming, playing volleyball or badminton, camping out, playing instruments or just hanging out with the other campers.

Next week: A Hay Hollow crew leader remembers

Ozark County Times

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