Capital Region Scrapbook: A welcoming hangout

The Boys’ Club in Schenectady and ones across the nation offered kids more than just diversions duri

A guy always had a place to go — and something to do — when the Schenectady Boys’ Club was open.

Paul S. Young was running the show in 1951. He was around when kids wanted to develop photos in the small darkroom, fire up the electric kiln for ceramics, play a little basketball. Or checkers and Ping-Pong.

The Boys’ Club in Schenectady and ones across the nation offered kids more than just diversions during the early 1950s.

“They offer help in finding part-time jobs,” said David W. Armstrong, national director of Boys’ Clubs of America, in 1951. “They offer a place to go, a place where a boy is always welcome. Boys’ Club boys have no need to hang out on street corners and get into trouble.”

That was the whole idea when the first Boys’ Club, known as the Dashaway Club, opened in Hartford, Conn., in 1860. According to history reference sources, other communities copied the idea. By 1906, more than 50 clubs were in operation. Boys’ Clubs of America was chartered by Congress in 1956. In 1990, to reflect increased service to young women, the organization became Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Becoming good citizens

Armstrong added that boys were never forced to do anything, once inside the club doors. They chose their own activities.

“Even more important than all this is the way Boys’ Club boys learn citizenship,” Armstrong added. “Through the club activities, they learn to love democracy, fair play, clean competition.”

There were no lectures. Armstrong said guys saw fundamentals of the American way of life in action. They decided to stick with that way of life into adulthood.

“Every boy whom you send out with an understanding of what living in a free country means to him and with a love for America will not only stand fast for what he has been taught to believe in, but he will also be an influence with all with whom he comes into contact,” Armstrong said.

There are currently 4,300 Boys & Girls Clubs open in America, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, used by 4.8 million young people. There are six clubs located in Schenectady County.

Categories: Life and Arts

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