CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- As a kid reared in modest circumstances in Elk Garden and Keyser, Jack Canfield could not have envisioned the rewarding career that awaited him.
A marketing and communications specialist, he worked for a congressman and three West Virginia governors, served two terms in the House of Delegates and spent 15 years at CAMC where he started the corporation's first marketing department. He eventually opened a PR firm of his own.
Along the way, he met lots of important people and observed lots of important things. The entertaining anecdotes, told in his personable and candid manner, go on and on. A newspaper column can't begin to hold them all.
He credits his remarkable success and rich experience to the mentors who showed him how things should be done.
At 72, he still works daily in his downtown office.
"My parents divorced when I was 2. My father was a dance band singer, and a pretty good one. I only remember seeing him twice. I heard from him one time. He called me right before he died.
"After the divorce, my brother Dave and I lived in Elk Garden with my grandparents until I was in the sixth grade. Elk Garden was a small town of 310 people with no paved streets. We had to haul in water. Granddaddy was on welfare. He worked part time as a meat cutter.
"Mother worked at a garment factory and visited us on the mountain on weekends. After Granddaddy died, we moved to Keyser.
"When I was a kid, I wanted to be a bus driver because I wanted to see the country. In high school, I wanted to be Walter Cronkite. There is ink in the veins, journalism in our family.
"I was elected class president from seventh grade through high school. I sang in high school and college and played trombone. We had a small band.
"June and I married at the end of my sophomore year at Potomac State when I transferred to WVU. She quit college to work so we could pay rent.
"My first real mentor was Dr. Elizabeth Atwater at Potomac State. She taught us everything -- how to walk, make a speech, shake hands, how to sit on a stage, how to write a declarative English sentence.
"Charlie Ryan was one of her students. He was one year ahead of me at Keyser High. We were both teenage disc jockeys and journalism majors. My degree from WVU is in broadcast journalism.
"When Charlie left Keyser for Morgantown, I got his job at WKYR. He left WCLG in Morgantown the year I was transferring, so I landed that job. He went to Charleston to WCHS-TV. When he left for WSAZ, I got his job at WCHS-TV. So I have piggybacked his career.
"Jack Johns at WCLG in Morgantown taught me more about journalism than any school could. I was the morning disc jockey, but wrote and read the news. I can type faster than anybody because we had to rewrite stories every hour. Great training.
"I was on the air during the Cuban Missile Crisis. My brother was in the Army, stationed in Florida, ready to enforce the blockade if necessary. We went to bed at night not knowing if a nuclear bomb had been dropped.
"The crisis ended on a Sunday morning during a live religious program. I did one of those, 'We interrupt this program to bring you a special news bulletin.'
"My admiration for President Kennedy started in 1960 during the West Virginia campaign when I was at Potomac State. I was such an admirer of Hubert Humphrey, but I thought Kennedy could articulate the vision of America better than anyone.
"I tried to enter the Air Force after graduation, but I was disqualified for 'third-degree bulging flat feet' -- a memorable phrase.
"Ed Rabel held Charlie's old spot for me at WCHS-TV. Ed was news director before he went on to CBS and NBC. My first assignment was to hold the umbrella over Ed as he covered President Kennedy's speech at the state's 100th birthday in 1963.
"Congressman Harley O. Staggers from my hometown offered me a job on Capitol Hill. No man ever wrote more speeches for a congressman that were never used. He used the same speech he'd used since 1949 everywhere he went.
"I reported to work on Tuesday. On Friday, Jack Kennedy was assassinated. I was commuting to Washington and had returned to Keyser that day. I was listening to the radio when the announcer said, 'We interrupt this program to bring you a bulletin: President Kennedy has been shot in Dallas. Now, we return to the music of Ray Anthony.'
"Congressman Staggers was up at his farm on the tractor. I found him in the field to tell him the president had been assassinated. He went to Washington for the funeral. I'll always regret that I didn't go.