The Strip District: The Boys' Club of Pittsburgh
A brochure issued by The Boys' Club of Pittsburgh in 1927 or 1928.
The "Strip"--One of Pittsburgh's Gravest Social Problems
The population of a small city crammed into dirty, dilapidated hovels....tenements that defy description...too many children, too little money...unemployment...poverty...living pared to a point where even the common essentials are luxuries--that is what life is today for a large part of those who live in Pittsburgh's "Strip" District. It may be called, without exaggeration, one of Pittsburgh's gravest social problems.
2700 Boys Are Growing up in This District. Probably the most vital fact in connection with the "Strip" situation is that 2700 boys, between the ages of eight and eighteen, are growing to manhood in the region between Seventeenth and Fifty-second Streets. The living conditions during their formative years are far from being conducive to building the type of honest, industrious workers that Pittsburgh needs today and always will need. Instead, conditions in the "Strip" tend to make of its growing boys the same kind of fodder for our criminal courts and penal institutions that has come from this district in the past.
What Will They Become?
"Strip" District boys are basically the same as other boys. They are filled with the abundant energy of youth. If left to their own devices, with the streets and alleys as their playground, these under-privileged boys form themselves into gangs and their energy is expended in ways that prove harmful to society as well as to themselves. It is out of the boy gang that the criminal of later years develops.
If organized activities under proper supervision are offered to the boys, their energy is diverted into new channels where it tends to build honest workmen out of potential gangsters. This is not theory. For four years the Boys' Club of Pittsburgh has been proving it to be a thoroughly practical solution of the problem of the under-privileged boy.
One of many proofs of the Boys' Club influence over "Strip" District boys is afforded by the juvenile delinquency records. According to a statement by Judge A. D. Brandon the Pittsburgh Boys' Club has already been responsible for a 50% reduction in juvenile delinquency in the district where it operates.
Four years ago, members of the Rotary Club, seeing the deplorable conditions under which boys were growing up in the "Strip" district and being aware of the morally broken men that these conditions were producing, decided to contribute enough money to test out the idea of a Boys' Club, where organized play would be substituted for gang activities, where trained supervision would supplant aimless existence, and where the boys could absorb lessons in decent behavior, cleanliness, justice, and responsibility. Quarters were rented and a full-time director employed.
The response was almost instantaneous. Boys flocked to the Club. They were hungry for a chance to do the things other boys did, to learn, and to advance themselves generally. So many boys came that the quarters were soon jammed to capacity, equipment proved inadequate, and more supervision was needed. Before going to the public for help, the founders of the Boys' Club felt that they should work on as best they could until they could achieve results enough to prove that the Boys' Club was really worth while. For four years the Club has carried on. In spite of the struggle against the heavy odds of inadequate quarters, the Boys' Club has accomplished results that are little short of marvelous.
Facts about the Boys' Club
The Boys' Club of Pittsburgh is one of an international association of
328 similar clubs, operating entirely separately but bonded together for
the interchange of working methods. The association is financed entirely
by other means and draws no money from the local club.
Boys are taken into the Boys' Club without reference to race or creed. Each one pays a few cents for yearly membership, merely enough to give him a proprietary interest.
The membership has grown to 1040, far too many to be accommodated in the Club's present quarters when it is considered that the total attendance last year was 78,392.
A director experienced by many years of this kind of work is employed on a full-time basis, assisted by paid part-time supervisors. Medical and dental clinics are maintained and every boy is under constant supervision.
The main activity of the Club is centered around physical sports, basketball, gymnastics, and other forms of activity through which the boys can release their energy. Games more mental in character, such as checkers and chess, are encouraged. Semi-vocational training in printing, wood working, and basketry gives outlet to the boys' desire to work with their hands.
As far as is practical self-government prevails, teaching the boys the essential lessons of responsibility.
The Boys' Club maintains a summer camp at Valencia, Pa., and last year 506 boys were given one or two weeks in the great outdoors.
A 32-piece Symphony Orchestra and a 20-piece Drum and Bugle Corps, both composed entirely of Boys' Club members, reflect the artistic side of the Boys' Club work.
Briefly, the Boys' Club gives the under-privileged boy the moral stamina and the desire to lead a worthwhile life. In many ways it can be called an ideal social service because it treats the cause instead of the result.
Quarters Are Hopelessly Inadequate.
The Boys' Club now occupies the third floor of a building at 2813 Penn Avenue. These quarters are not only far too small, but are also poorly laid out for such work.
The floor space is only 6,000 square feet, less than six square feet per member! Practically all of the activities of the Club are crowded into the main room, where boys play basketball in the center, table games on one side, and other boys wait their chance, jammed into every available space.
The dressing and locker room will not accommodate over twenty boys--and on the average night two or three hundred boys are at the Club.
The shower room is far too small. Although it is the best that can be provided under present conditions, it is a poor makeshift, dark and unventilated.
The older club members, though they prefer the Boys' Club are forced out in the streets and pool halls, since the only room available for them will accommodate but ten or twelve of the seventy-five older boys. This means that boys slip away from the Club's influence at the most critical period in their lives.
The Boys' Club must have a building suited to its needs and adequate facilities not only to take care of molding the lives of the younger boys, but to follow them through until their mental habits are formed.
2700 Under-privileged Boys Need Your Help.
To give adequate quarters to the Boys' Club and to carry on its work of building men out of under-privileged boys, a new club house must be secured. Then, and only then, can all of the boys be cared for and the full benefits of this work be realized. It is the only practical means of relieving the conditions that lead to choked, perverted child life. $200,000.00 is needed.
The raising of this sum puts a responsibility on every Pittsburgher who can look to tomorrow, and who can see the value of hundreds of productive workers instead of predatory gangsters. Your Help is Needed!