Salesian Boys Club Gym Activities

As in many boys clubs, it is difficult to sway kids away from basketball to introduce other gymnasium programs. At Salesian, when basketball leagues weren’t in action, practice times for all teams had to be schduled thus free time was a luxury. Nevertheless, for our cadet program (youngest members) there was kickball, relay races, wrestling, and floor hockey.

Kickball was the favorite of our younger members especailly seeing that we had an “upper deck” that being our running track. At certain points in our “upper deck” home runs were automatic. At all times an official was stationed in this area to retrieve the ball so as not to hold up the game.

Relay Races were also popular as a variety of events was always in play. Wrestling and floor hockey rounded out our cadet gymnasium program as well as the ever so popular basketball.

The Eagle Has NOT Landed

As the Salesian Boys Club members and I walked on Noreika Road during one of our camping trips to our property we were suddenly enveloped by what seemed to be the shadow of a small aircraft.  However as we glanced upward we observed the massive wing span of a wonderous eagle passing overhead.  The sheer magnificence of it all took our breat away.  One of the kids just couldn’t believe how large and imposing that shadow was.

I have seen many eagles flying over our property and somewhere on BBL and Beyond, in our video category, there is a short release of an eagle over Big Bass Lake.  However our eagle seemed much larger than the one in the video.  For that brief moment all else seemed to stand still as the boys and I took in that marvelous eagle in flight.  It was only a few seconds befofe it was out of sight and then we continud our hike toward our logging trail.  But that eagle was sure on the minds and thoughts of the boys for the rest of that hike.  It was really something to see!

Father Emile Dube?

1-DSC09314-e1338071140870-600x60 Father Emile Dube? That will take some getting used to. I knew him as brother Dube during my time at the salesian boys club in Columbus Ohio. We once visited and ice cream shop in German Village and saw Cesar Romero. Brother Emile also visited my Hoffman Estates Boys Club for a basketball tournament. Even more surprising for you I am now an evangelist and teach Bible studies. So we both have a surprise for each other. I miss our fellowship greatly. Father Dube? Yes that will take some getting used to!

Brother Gerald Warner

This is the man I served under in my role as Physical and Program Director at the Salesian Inner City Boys Club of Columbus, Ohio.  He is Brother Gerald Warner and he is a man  I still admire to this day.

Brother Gerald Warner, 77, has lived as a Salesian brother for 50 years. He was the founding executive director of the Salesian Boys & Girls Club of Columbus from 1969 to 1975. He was executive director also from 1986 to 1989, a staff member from 1998 to 2000, and treasurer of the Salesian Center (both the religious community and Club) in 1978-1979.

Brother Warner was born in Fargo,N.D., and raised in Lisbon N.D. After serving in the U.S. Army and then earning a B.S. in education from Moorhead(Minn.) State University in 1956, he came to Don Bosco Seminary in Newton, N.J., as a candidate. He entered the novitiate in 1958 and made his first profession of vows on Sept. 8, 1959.

Brother Warner earned an M.Ed. from Boston College in 1966 and is certified to teach English in three states. His ministry as a Salesian has been a mixture of high school teaching and boys and girls club administration. He has taught at St. Dominic Savio High School in East Boston (1959-1960), Salesian High School in Los Angeles (1960-1964), Don Bosco Tech in Boston (1964-1966), Salesian High School in New Rochelle (1966-1968), and Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey ,N.J.(1989-1998),  in addition to being treasurer at Salesian Junior Seminary in Goshen,N.Y.(1975-1978). He was executive director of the Salesian Boys & Girls Club in East Boston(1985-1986).

For six years, 1979-1985, Brother Warner was treasurer of the Salesians’ New Rochelle Province, residing in New Rochelle. From 2000 to 2007 he was on the staff of the Salesian novitiate at Mary Help of  Christians Church in Manhattan, where he also assisted with the parish’s youth ministry and hospital chaplaincy. Since 2007 he has been on the staff of Salesian Missions in New Rochelle with particular responsibility for ministry to men and women in prison.

Well done, Brother Gerald!

Bowling Alleys and Boys Club

l the salesian Boys Club of Columbus Ohio had 8 bowling alleys! It was located in an old Knights of Columbus building. In addition to the bowling alleys they had a full size pool, a gymnasium with overhead running track, 3 games rooms, and a large arts and crafts area. But the bowling alley made this club unique. The Bowling Center was in use often. The club also had a fully-equipped health center. The Club was located in downtown Columbus right next to Grant Hospital.

The “Wal-Mart” of the Manistee National Forest

In the small town of Dublin, Michigan, is the Dublin General Store and of all these kinds of stores in the area, this one is a classic.  On a trip to the Pine River Bridge near Wellston, the Salesian Boys Club kids and I stopped at this store to pick up supplies for our picnic.  However, Whitey Meier found the right size battery for his larger than life flashlight, Timmy Flannery purchased long shoelaces for his hiking boots, and Mike Myers found a particular brand of cookies that he had not found at other general stores in the area.

The Dublin General Store is a kind of Wal-Mart in the middle of the Manistee National Forest.  The Big Bass Lake Store, on the other hand, had limited items and often one had to go to Scottville for a full shopping trip.  At the Dublin General Store you could also have a full shopping experience and then even more than that with all the specialty items they carried. 

I know that the Salesian Boys Club kids appreciated them.  They came out of that general store beaming with their unique purchases.  And I got all the things I needed for a great cookout at the Pine River that day.  Don Clodfelter took a great picture of this store.

Pointe Camping

Camping at the Pointe of our wooded beach front was always special for our older members for a few nights on every trip. It separated them from the main camp by about sixty yards even though they shared the same latrine area. The Pointe gave one a fuller view of Big Bass Lake as the area seen was almost all the way to the narrows.

Plus the boys had their own beach with a rope swing into the lake plus a tire swing further back into the forest. I still watched them carefully but allowed two or three of the older boys to have a separate camping experience from the main camp each trip. It usually came during the middle of their stay. Whitey Meier and Mike Jones were the ones from the Salesian Boys Club that got to use the Pointe Tent for two days and they were from the Salesian Boys Club of Columbus, Ohio.

They still took their meals at the main camp but everything else for two days was basically on their own. They did their own fishing and swam in the lake by themselves and generally had a ball. They had the option of joining with the main camp for evening campfires. The Pointe Tent provided older boys the privacy they sometimes craved and gave them the appearance of being out on their own. The only other club to use the Pointe Tent was the Marion, Indiana, boys club.

Having Fun With Rope Swings at Big Bass Lake

Mike Jones from St. Ladislaus School, and a member of the Salesian Boys Club, offered advise when on a camping trip to our property from Columbus, Ohio, about rope swings.  He suggested that once you swing out over the lake that you let go of the rope or face the impending return trip to the tree from whence you came.  He said that when dressed only in a swimming suit, the return trip would not be as fun as the one where you swung out over the lake.

In other words, as George of the Jungle might say, “Watch out for that tree!”  The other boys took Mike’s advise to heart and always leaped off that rope swing without a return trip to that tree.  There were NO exceptions to that rule thank goodness.

Our rope swing was based at the Pointe and we had a secondary land swing that was an inner tube that you wanted to bounce off that particular tree to get the full impact of the fun.  Not so, though, with the rope swing over the lake.  Where the kids splashed down was in about six feet of water.  However, not all the boys opted for that swing as only a few of the kids on that trip made use of that swing.  Almost every kid used the inner tube land swing as that was great fun in the evening times especially.

Woodland Pathway

This woodland pathway completed the cycle of four on our property. Our logging trail was first just off Noreika Road. After one passed under the electrical wires, the creek pathway picked up and that joined with the Woodland pathway near the pond. The Salesian boys club on this particular trip hiked those trails often. The pond Trail led to Matson Road. The pond was rather spooky but the kids fished there often. Timothy Flannery said he didn’t mind fishing with others but would not have gone by himself. By the time the trip was over, the kids knew all those Pathways by heart.

The Hikers Dress Code.

These two boys would NEVER have been dressed like this on a hike had they been with any of my boys clubs. You’d never see any boys from the Marion, Hoffman Estates, or Salesian Boys Clubs look like that on a hike. Prior to going on any trip to our property I sent out a dress code to all parents of the kids that would be going with me to Michigan.

On that list were jeans or sweatpants, tennis shoes (one leather), two pullover long sleeved sweatshirts, three T-shirts, underwear, swimming suit, shorts, and work gloves, which were optional. On the Salesian trip boys also brought their dress shoes since they were going to church as I had a large group of Catholic boys. But it should be noted that just as those boys would not have worn their dress shoes without socks, the same would be true on hikes yet with their tennis shoes. Without socks parts of the shoes tend to wear on bare feet producing painful calluses. And, the same can be said in regard to hands when rowing a boat. Just as socks with shoes, bare hands are safer in gloves especially going down hill. One boy without them grabbed a tree and the bark of that tree tore the boys skin on his hands badly. The next time he was at the store he opted for work gloves over snacks.

Long pants or sweatsuits also protect the skin from poison ivy, nettles, or underbrush and bushes that can stretch the skin. Sweatshirts also protected the skin from those very things. Even around camp some boys wore their full sets of clothing for chopping wood, collecting it, or for cooking. If you’ve ever had an hot ember strike your bare skin near a fire you’ll have a whole new appreciation for sweatpants and shirts.

Close in to our campsite the boys either walked around in bare feet or in their canvas shoes with bare feet. Short walks were not likely to produce calluses. Even when rowing some boys wore shoes to project their feet from the hot metal rowboats. Those that opted for just bare feet were often denied entrance at the Big Bass Lake store so they learned from that experience fast.

At the end of each trip the boys had a whole new attitude about my dress code.


Salesian Boys Club Running Track

The Salesian Inner City Boys Club of Columbus, Ohio, has many curiosities regarding their building. Within that structure was an eight lane bowling alley, a swimming pool on the third floor, and a running track over the gymnasium. The latter I am addressing today. As the Program and Physical Director for that facility I found great usage for that running track. For one, if we had an overflow crowd for any of our basketball league games, I would direct them to our “upper deck” where they could really get a good view of a game.

For physical training the running track was superb. Runners could job around the perimeter of the gymnasium to their hearts content even while activities were taking place on the gymnasium floor. The track was open during all hours the gymnasium was in operation. There were some exceptions.

During kickball games, a volunteer staff member would place themselves on the running track to retrieve home run kicks. A certain portion of our “upper deck” was designated home run territory.

Our running track was well used during my tenure at that club when before it stood idle. I tried using every available area for programming usage and this track was no exception to that rule. All in all, the Salesian Boys Club was a superb facility.

Safety First at Big Bass Lake

On every Boys Club of America trip to our property on Big Bass Lake one thing was certain.  Every time the boys got into our two rowboats they were decked out in life preservers.  The lone exception was when we turned over our metallic boats to convert them temporarily into bathtubs.  On those days the constant companion of the boys was soap and shampoo.

This is Jesse from the Salesian Boys Club waiting by a van for a return trip to our wooded beach front after getting a few snacks.  He had just been to the Big Bass Lake Store.  Life preservers were needed due to the many large boats on the lake who took no pity with small rowboats.  Many of their wakes were enormous.  After getting by the bridge to the Big Island, the safest, albeit the longest, way to get back was to hug the shoreline all the way.

That mean for longer rowing excursions.  Yet at the same time, I could better instruct the boys how to row the boats and give several the opportunity to do so.  Jesse did quite well on his turn as his came as we neared the Public Landing and his task was to get us to my family dock on our northward jaunt back to our wooded beach front.

A mismatched rowing maneuver with the oars often sent water pouring into the boat to the amusement of all except for the ones most getting wet.  Best of all was that the boys didn’t mind using these vests to keep them safe. 

Evening with The Salesian Boys Club

As darkness permeated the night sky over Big Bass Lake, Whitey Meier stirred what was left of the ashes in our campfire. Mike Jones sat on the moss facing the lake and laughed as Mike Myers fell in while trying not to do that very thing. He was balancing on the end of our rowboat. So Myers ran toward what was left of the fire to warm himself.

The boys heard tiny droplets of rain strike the tree canopy above them.  They sighed as they knew more rain was forthcoming and thus the boys scrambled to the clothes line to get their dry clothes inside the tent.  It had not rained for nearly five hours that day on a trip that had been plagued with rain almost every day. 

Even so the boys had weathered the rain with a grain of delight as everything else was going as planned.  Unlike some sports where rain washes a game out, only lightening prevented the boys from pursuing their daily events and there had been little of that on this trip. 

Unless it was a downpour, the majority of rain was held back due to our canopy of trees around us.  The kids were laughing in regard to another bout of rain before them.  One boy said that if it had to rain better that it rained at night. 

The last boy into the tents that night was Timmy Flannery who was the last to visit the commode.  He briefly stopped by to say good night and then it was only me by the ebbing fire.  A few moments of silence before the morning din would return.  What serenity!