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Short History of The Redding Boys and Girls Club
From Article Written By Bernard Frazier, Redding Times 1958

On a chilly March day in 1938, there was no Boys Club in Redding. The town judge and grand juror or prosecutor had disposed of the latest in a number of cases of breaking and entering in which adolescent boys had been involved. The number of such cases was growing and becoming a matter of concern in town.

The judge was Jesse P. Sanford and the grand juror was L.S. Warner. At the time Jesse Sanford was very active in local semi-pro baseball. There were teams in West Redding, Georgetown and Redding as well as teams from Easton, Weston, Westport, Norwalk and Fairfield. The teams were made up of men who worked for a living and played what was known as twilight league baseball after their days work was done. The only boys involved were the bat boys, one to a team.

Mr. Warner, thinking of the growing problem of youth misbehavior in town, asked Mr. Sanford a question:

"Why don't you devote your time to doing something for boys in town instead of to these local baseball teams all over the lot?"

It was a good question. Jesse thought it over and the Redding Boys Club was born.

The first membership roster was very small. It contained exactly seven boys: Donald Taylor, Dean Adams, Charles Swan, Robert Gardner, Sherman Briscoe, William Rosenau and Robert Sanford. Needless to say, they were the nucleus of the club and not the behavior problems whose activities had been the reason for the club's formation. It was felt that if a Boys Club existed, it would attract boys who needed it.

Although it has always been non-sectarian, its first meetings were held in the Parish Room of the Christ Episcopal Church in Redding Ridge. It was the feeling of a number of men who took an interest in the Boys Club from the beginning that what the boy needed was "constructive activity". In line with that thinking, men who were carpenters came to the meetings to teach the boys a little carpentry, men who were electricians came to the meetings to teach the boys a little bit about electricity.

It is only truthful to report that this approach went over with the seven original members like a lead balloon. In fact, after a few months of it six of the seven members signed a letter to Jesse Sanford, executive director, threatening to resign en masses unless the Boys Club program were devoted entirely to athletics. That is what they wanted at the time, and they were determined to get it.

Incidentally, the fact that one boy did not sign the letter of protest was not to be interpreted as lack of unanimity of opinion. The non-signer was Robert Sanford, Jesse's son, and he just figured it was smart for him not to sign the letter to his father, no matter how strongly he agreed with his companions.

After overcoming this minor crisis in the first six months of its existence, the Club went on to grow steadily in membership and expand the scope of its program. Following the first full year of operation, it had nearly 30 members. During the war years, it continued to operate pretty much informally. Jesse Sanford pulled things together but he always had a group of coaches like Ray Platt or Milt Reinhardsen who'd give generously of their time, and he never lacked the advice and counsel of leading citizens in town.

One point of interest about the years between 1941 and 1945 is that the Boys Club members did a great deal to run the Redding Ridge Fire Company, covering the Ridge and the Center, because so many able-bodied men were in active military service. This community service instilled in the boys was a basic part of the Boys Club approach.

In 1945 the Redding Boys Club was formally incorporated. The first president was Leonard Pinover. Mr. Pinover's interest in the club continued through the years as a member of the board of directors and his pool was the scene of the summer swimming program. It was about the time of the incorporation that the Club began a year-round program. In addition to baseball and football, there was basketball, swimming, skating, camping and several social activities.

Baseball and football were played mostly on the athletic field of the Redding Ridge School, which was run by Kenneth Bonner. The field was the exact one the Boys Club now has, having purchased its 8 1/2 acres in 1954. Some games were also held on a field in West Redding bounded by Route 53 and Umpawaug on the property of Edward Grafmueller.

Beyond the usual run of athletic activities, the Club also had programs such as those that appear in the 1946-47 report:

Television. Andrew Eland gave the boys an opportunity of watching of watching the double-header basketball games at Madison Square Garden on his television set on three different occasions which was enjoyed by all.

Bowling. Gerald Loeb opened his bowling alleys to the Club for six weekly meetings at which the boys enjoyed bowling, movies, music and a jeep ride.

Camping. Overnight camping for junior members was held at Putnam Park with Bill Crosby and Jesse Sanford in charge. Everybody had a good time but not too much sleep.

The Redding Boys Club continued to make progress in the years following its incorporation as it had in the 7 years before. In addition to the regular athletic programs, there were social activities such as: dances held twice a year with the Girls Club, skating parties, whist parties, the annual field day, and the annual trip to Yankee Stadium or the Yale Bowl. Of this latter event, the annual report for 1953 commented:

"The boys enjoyed a game at the Yale Bowl even though the leaders didn't. The reason: we lost two boys." As always, they were eventually found.

The spacious and functional athletic field that is now possessed by the Club on Cross Highway was not always that way. At the time is was purchased in 1954, only a small part of it was cleared and ready for use. The additional acres were cleared by the willing arms and strong backs of many Boys Club members. The adult membership of the Boys Club felt that such projects as clearing their own fields instilled a sense of responsibility and accomplishment in the boys knowing both are valuable in the formation of character.

There were also projects to raise money which the boys carried on themselves. In 1957, a thousand Christmas trees were planted by the boys to be sold later on land adjoining the athletic field. Scrap paper drives were held regularly.

At the heart of the Boys Club and its accomplishments was Jesse Sanford, the first and only executive director the Club had known in it's 20 year history. His service to the Club had made it successful. Its surest mark of success was the eagerness with which the boys in town participated in its activities. Backing up Jesse with practical help, overall planning and advice were the officers and board of directors composed of representative citizens from all sections of town. They were, in effect, the power station of the Boys Club from which energy was transmitted to translate plans into realities.

The president in 1958 was Cheston Paddock, with William Prindle as Vice President, Dudley Sanford as Secretary and Harry Colley as Treasurer. In addition to the members of the board, a number of interested parents and others provided leadership and supervision for Club activities. The board of directors also administered the Club's scholarship program. Depending on the funds available, one or more members of the club received a $250 scholarship each year to help defray college expenses. There was also a loan fund through which members could borrow money on approval of the board, with no interest charged while the boy was in college. After the member graduated, a small amount of interest was levied and he was encouraged to begin a regular repayment program within his financial capabilities. This scholarship program and loan enabled many Redding boys to attend college when otherwise, due to personal and family circumstances beyond their control , would have been unable to do so.

Another major activity of the board of directors in 1958 was the planning and running of a large scale fund raising campaign, the first in the Club's history. The purpose: a clubhouse. The goal: $28,000. The chairman: Marcel Arrouet. Although the athletic program was the core of Boys Club activities, there was a thoughtful realization among the board of directors that arts, crafts, and other non-athletic pursuits should also be provided. And when the clubhouse became a reality, there was a hope that the Boys Club could expand its horizons and play a bigger part in helping to develop the whole boy, his intellect, and his skills as well as his athletic abilities. The object was to provide a center of activities for all boys, whether they were interested in organized athletics or not.

"Across the fields of yesterday
He sometimes comes to me,
A little lad just back from play-
The lad I used to be.
And yet he smiles so wistfully
Once he has crept within,
I wonder if he hopes to see
The man I might have been."

Thomas S. Jones, Jr. 1900


More Boys Club History will be added in the future.

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