The former Forestville Boys Club was once a mainstay for the young kids and youth in the area, providing programs and games to occupy their spare time in a positive and organized way.
What later would become the club were programs for kids starting in 1946, those put together through the PTAs from both Greene-Hills and the former Sarah Reynolds Schools.
The club later operated out of the old Welch Firehouse on Church Street before a newly-built facility was dedicated on Central Street in 1952. The club remained open until the late 1980s and those of us from those early years have only fond memories.
Carleton Bircher was the club’s director and his assistant was Fred Sellberg. When you joined the club, you went into Mr. Bircher’s office and he made out a club membership card for you. Mr. Bircher’s older son, Billy, often ran the front desk and there were games spread out in the first floor game area.
Tom Dickau, who was chosen as the club’s “Boy of the Year” in 1963, one of the most-prized honors he said he’s received in his life, enjoyed the open gym on Saturdays and the weeknight basketball leagues, those for different ages.
“That’s where I began my 50-year referee basketball career and ended up with college basketball,” Dickau said. “That’s where I learned. Bob and Bill McGuinn ran the basketball programs and both loved kids.
“They had the open gym on Saturday and anyone could form a pick-up team. It was 3-on-3 and the winners kept playing and the losers like me would have to wait our turn to play again. We’d have to sit on the stage and wait. We did it all, there was no Boys Club organizers. It taught us organization.”
For a large number pre-teen and teens, one of the highlights was the Friday night dances. These kids would get the back of their hands stamped so as to enter, exit and re-enter the dance. From my recollections, it was the boys walking around the gym and checking out the girls. Sometimes the girls would dance with each other, because of the shy boys who were inexperienced in approaching them.
Lorette (Nocera) Caouette, remembers the dances of the late 1960s.
“When I went they had live bands,” Caouette said. “I remember one was called, ‘The Swans,’ and they did Motown. At that time, we weren’t allowed to wear long pants, just dresses or skirts, not matter how cold it was. I remember when my sister, Marilyn (Egan Caouette) went there a couple of years before me and they had a jukebox.
“The bands were so loud that even if you were next to a friend, you had to yell for them to hear you. I used to think that the people in the neighborhood used to hate those dances because of the noise. We loved them, it didn’t bother us.”
And do you remember Huey who would walk the outer circles of the gym floor in eye-balling the “goings-on” while wearing his sports jacket noted bow tie? Then the evening would eventually end with the song, “Goodnight Sweetheart Goodnight.”
Saturday’s also provided movies and cartoons on the second floor, and popcorn to go along with the entertainment.
The club also had the support of it’s older members, those called Senior Members, a brother organization to that of the Bristol Boys Club Olders Members Association. Their call was to help support the club. Tom Maghini, a longtime OM at the Bristol Club, started out in Forestville with the Senior Members and served one year as its president.
“We were like the OMs, except we didn’t do an O.M. Show (like the Bristol Boys Club),” Maghini said. “We had a fundraiser and that was our Christmas Tree sale. After that, we got together with the O.M.s and ran the concession stand at Muzzy Field. After Forestville closed, some of us joined the O.M.s.”
All-in-all, the club had the support of a large number of adults and community leaders to enable any young lad wanting to keep himself busy and out-of-trouble for the entire day to do so. Well, sometimes one of two “imps” might get reprimanded by Mr. Bircher.
“The Forestville Boys club was a big part of our lives,” Dickau said. “It was the place. It was where you met your friends, and learned to organize and socialize. It was a development process to help boys develop into men.”
Contact Bob Montgomery at email@example.com or by calling 860-973-1808.