It’s fun to stay at the YMCA!

On October 2, 2010, in Latest News, by The Somerville Times

On The Silly Side by Jimmy Del Ponte

(The opinions and views expressed in the commentaries of The Somerville News belong solely to the authors of those commentaries and do not reflect the views or opinions of The Somerville News, its staff or publishers.)

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!


11 Responses to “It’s fun to stay at the YMCA!”

  1. Kristin Kelson Chalifour says:

    Hi Jimmy – Thanks for bringing back so many great memories. I, too, attended day camp at the Y as a kid. I went in the early-mid 70’s and remember going to many of the same places you mention (unfortunately, Pleasure Island was gone by then, but I do remember going to Paragon Park). Also, those bus rides… kids today don’t know how good they have it with seat belts and AC, but I’d be willing to bet they don’t have nearly as much fun on their bus rides, being able to stick your arms out the open windows, singing at the top of your lungs, and the wise-ass kids at the back of the bus making faces (and occasionally flipping the bird) at the poor guy stuck driving behind the bus.

    As for the Y itself, I ran that oval track many a time, and learned to swim in that pool. I also remember Brownie, though after an incident where a kid jumped in the pool and landed on me, which resulted in my having a large goose egg on my head, I thought Brownie was mean. He was in charge of swim time and just dismissed me and my injury, not even offering an ice pack. Oh well. :)

    But like you said, every time I smell the chlorine of a swimming pool, I think of the Y pool with its lion head “fountain” at the shallow end that dispensed the filtered water back into the pool.

  2. Mike B says:

    I never used the Y much, I went to the Arlington Boys Club alot with Norman. However, imagine taking the Boy out of Somerville and moving to the Northwoods oh N.h. where we see moose, cows eagles and hawks, what a big difference, no buses, no street lights and no noise.

  3. Joe Magee says:

    Hi, Jimmy. I spent several years going to the “Y” from 1963-1967 and summer camp at Sanbornville, NH. I understand the “Y” sold the camp ( Robert W.Young) to a real estate outfit back in the 70s. I remember Brownie very well as he “counseled” me several times but I always looked to him with respect and devotion. A great man! Also, I remeber the Curtin brothers , Don and I honestly can not remember the other one, but both class acts all the way around. I remember Cecil, as well. He worked in the locker area and assigned those little black baskets for your clothes, very nice man but I think all of us 9-13 year old boys got on his last nerve. He was great, though. Someday I will come back and see the old place. Thanks for the memories!! I try to give my grandkids the same memories as I had, although times have changed, everyone has to have that one thing in their life that they cherish forever…..a memory.

  4. Gorio says:

    Hey Jimmy. Nice article. I learned How to swim at the Somerville Y on Highland too. Went to the Robert W Young Camp in 68 and 69.
    Cant find any info about this camp. Great memories. I believe it was sponsored by the somerville Y….

  5. Graham says:

    Worked at RWY in 1969 as assisstant director. Happy memories.

  6. Graham says:

    Worked at RWY in 1969. Happy memories

  7. Gorio says:

    Hi Graham,
    I was at The Robert W Young Ymca Camp in 1969…do you have any pics??
    I remember the dining hall, and the cabins. I also remember there was a swimming instructor who was a woman that was in the 68 olympics….

  8. Ron G says:

    I don’t recall the summer camp being called the Robert W Young camp way back in ’55 or ’56 when I spent 8 weeks as a very young camper in Cabin #1. Matheson was the Camp Director then and who could forget the cook knitting on her small deck after the evening meals.

  9. Neil Gillis says:

    I do remember Camp Copithorn believe it was sponcered by the Lions Club

  10. Bill Kirk says:

    I was at Camp Copithorne sometime in the mid 40’s and it was supposed to be for Somerville residents only. I was from

    Charlestown but my uncle Charlie Sullivan, who lived in Somerville on

    Putnam Road, managed to get me sent to the camp.

  11. steve crocker says:

    I lived in malden and went to this camp for at least 4 years and wax a junior counselor for a few. Great times! I am vacationing in the area and trying to remember the location. I remember the name ” tucker”as counselors . Think they played football back then. Lot of memories.

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