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
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.
Warner, thinking of the growing problem of youth misbehavior
in town, asked Mr. Sanford a question:
don't you devote your time to doing something for boys in
town instead of to these local baseball teams all over the
was a good question. Jesse thought it over and the Redding
Boys Club was born.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
the usual run of athletic activities, the Club also had programs
such as those that appear in the 1946-47 report:
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
the fields of yesterday
He sometimes comes
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
Boys Club History will be added in the future.
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