On The Silly Side by Jimmy Del Ponte
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The YMCA on Highland Avenue has been a great place for the citizens of Somerville to play, swim, workout and make friends. How many of you ran around that suspended oval track above the gym? When I was a kid, my parents sent me to the YMCA day camp. That is the bulk of this week’s story.
We would go up to the building on Highland Avenue, go inside for a while, and then board a bus. There weren’t any hip looking back packs back then. We all had some sort of draw string sack, that was more like the school bags we used at St Clements. These “tote bags” held our towels and lunches.
My favorite sandwich was baloney and cheese. Today, we have those plastic ice cube things to keep food cold. Back then, we just ate the sandwich, hopefully before it went bad in the summer heat.
One of the more popular and frequent day trips I remember was to Hood’s Cherry Hill Farm, in North Beverly. It is now the Cherry Hill Industrial Park. It was so cool for city kids to see real cows. Before that, I was only familiar with the Powder House squirrel, The McGrath Highway pigeon, the Revere Beach seagull, and Shep, the German shepherd across the street.
I remember the huge salt licks, and the great big eyes of those lovable cows. I don’t recall much else bout the trip to the farm except that there was a big silo, and you had to be careful where you stepped. Watching men in white coats milk the cows was cool too. The farm ceased operations in 1965.
The bus rides we took during those day camp days were memorable. Even though there were no seat belts, and we suffered in sweltering heat, all I remember was singing and having fun.
During the school year, we went swimming at the “Y.” We all have our various swimming tales from those days. There was a lovable guy there that ran things whose nickname was “ Brownie.” (I actually mentioned him in a previous article about nicknames.)
Everyone who ever went to the YMCS remembers Brownie. I seem to have always recalled that his name was Knowlton Brown. He was strong as an ox and just a nice guy to all the kids. He was also a little league coach. I did a Google search on his name and it had him living in a Massachusetts city and being in his late 80’s to early 90’s. Then again, it may have been the wrong name altogether!
Some of my co-campers remember day trips to Nahant Beach, Whalom Park, Salisbury Beach, Georges’s Island and the Tufts Children’s Theatre. I know we went to the Museum of Science several times. My friend Lloyd and I would giggle at the invisible woman exhibit.
Papa Ed tells us that one of the day camp trips was to Pleasure Island in Wakefield. Pleasure Island was like a mini-Disney World right here in Massachusetts. The Three Stooges actually appeared there to open season number two in 1960s. Pleasure Island Road is still an exit off route 93. Pleasure Island was in operation from 1959 to 1969.
We also took to Edaville Railroad in Carver. That was a great trip for sure. Ed also recalls a guy named Cecil who worked at the Y. Today there is a fellow named Mike that seems to be involved with all aspects of today’s YMCA activities.
The YMCA on Highland Ave continues to be an excellent resource for a vast array of athletic programs, and an endless source of great memories. I think just about every kid in Somerville learned to swim at the Y. To this day, how many of you think of the YMCA whenever you smell chlorine?
Jimmy is at Amelia’s Kitchen Thursday from 7 to 9 pm. PLUS !!!
Don’t forget Dapper Dan’s Restaurant reunion, Saturday October 16 at The Somerville Holiday Inn starting at 7 pm. No cover charge! Bring your old Dapper’s photos. Event will be filmed for a cable show!