The Hill District: Kay Boys' Club


The Kay Boys' Club: A Social Center for The Hill District

From the Program of Dedication, 10-17 September 1944, New Kay Boys' Club Building, Wylie Ave. and Green St., Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Essay by Wm. S. Howell, Director, Kay Boys' Club.

During 1930, when our country was struggling through its greatest economic dislocation, a small group of well-known citizens became alarmed over conditions in The Hill District affecting young people.
At that time, it was generally known that citizens in The Hill were suffering from almost wholesale unemployment and its resultant evils. Delinquency, both juvenile and adult, was rampant. Health and social conditions were far below normal. Wholesome leisure time activities, under proper supervision, were almost non-existent; and the insecurity of family life tended to aggravate these and other home and community problems.

In this atmosphere, Mrs. Charles Longenecker and George L. Hailman, representatives of the Board of Managers of the Pittsburgh Newsboys' Home, and Homer S. Brown and Harry K. Craft, representatives of the Centre Avenue Branch Young Men's Christian Association, met in a series of meetings to discuss the problem of combating these anti-social forces.
As a result of these deliberations, the Kay Boys' Club was established in the early part of 1931 at 2038 Bedford Avenue, in a three-story building formerly used for factory purposes. The club was named in honor of James I. Kay, a prominent Pittsburgh attorney, who served for many years as president of the Pittsburgh Newsboys' Home and was especially devoted to the problem of under-privileged boys.

In the Bedford Avenue building a program was instituted, consisting of general recreation, physical activities, and vocational training for boys under 18 years of age. It is needless to mention here that the program was exceedingly popular with boys from its inception.
From its establishment to the present time the Kay Boys' Club has been financed entirely by the Pittsburgh Newsboys' Home. This non-profit corporation was chartered in 1888 to render assistance to homeless newsboys and in 1929 its charter was amended to extend its work to underprivileged boys.

Responsibility for the administrative development of the agency was placed in the capable hands of C. W. Hawkins, who labored untiringly to improve the facilities and provide a professional basis for the program. Mr. Hawkins resigned in 1936 and was succeeded by E. E. Utterback, who further expanded the activities of the club and worked toward alleviating those community conditions to which juvenile delinquency could be traced. In 1939 Mr. Utterback resigned and was succeeded by your present director, William S. Howell.
The year 1939 might be catalogued as the pivotal period in the history of the Kay Boys' Club, for during this year changes occurred both in activities and facilities that presaged a growing institution. The membership increased to over 800 boys, thus seriously overcrowding all available space. But this condition existed only temporarily for through the vision of the Board of Managers, a three-story apartment building adjoining the club was taken over. This additional space provided club and class rooms for membership and community use. A children's health clinic was established and a pre-school playroom was opened.

Also during 1939 the Kay Boys' Club extended its interest to problems of wider community nature. Although handicapped by a limited staff, a definite interest was taken in camping for children, community recreation and health needs, community gardening, better neighborhood efforts, a limited program for girls, juvenile delinquency and inter-racial goodwill.
This new policy of neighborhood activities included a larger group of citizens in the Kay Club's program and acquainted them with the agency's functions. A test of this community interest came in 1942 when the first membership campaign was launched. Under the leadership of Samuel Scott, a local businessman, some 75 volunteer workers secured more than 1,200 members to reach their goal. In 1943, more than 1,600 members were enrolled.

The success of these membership campaigns accomplished more than widen the scope of the agency. Primarily, they focused public attention on the problem of growing boys and the need for an understanding treatment of their social ills. Too, they disclosed the community's willingness to aid in solving these particular and perplexing problems. But, by and large, the major accomplishment of these campaigns consisted of demonstrating to the Board of Mangers of the Kay Boys' Club that the agency had outgrown its now limited facilities. This universal community interest inspired the board to acquire this larger edifice to meet the needs of the community.
This brochure is published in conjunction with the official opening of the NEW KAY BOYS' CLUB BUILDING. Situated at the corner of Wylie Avenue and Green Street, this modern three-floor structure, 114 feet by 60 feet, was erected in 1915 at a cost of $115,000.
The negotiations and purchase of the building was successfully concluded by Maurice B. Cohill, Wilson S. McClintock, G. Dixon Shrum, and George L. Hailman, who served as an appointed committee of the Board of Managers.

Development of Program Aided by Adult Units. Prominent in the development of the Kay Boys' Club has been the faithful service of the Kay Women's Auxiliary Units. The first of these units was organized in 1931 under the leadership of Mrs. Adrena J. Allen who has held this office to date. Many of the women who established this unit are still active members. In the latter part of 1943 the second unit was organized under the leadership of Mrs. Rosa L. Hand and the third established in 1944 with Mrs. Margaret Lampkin as president. Also active in the adult support of the agency is the Kay Men's Club, organized under the leadership of Mr. Lucius Jones. Mr. Jones served as president of this group until recently and was succeeded by Mr. Junie Wayts.

In this thirteenth year of the history of the Kay Boys' Club, it is appropriate and fitting that tribute be paid to all those who have had a part in making this social center a more effective force in the community. However, space will not permit a proper acknowledgement of those who pioneered, or the many friends, who, during the past years have given unselfishly of their time and means to its continued development and expansion. We can never forget a philanthropic friend, who desires that her name be withheld, whose large contribution made the purchase of this building a reality. We also wish to express our humble appreciation to two other philanthropic organizations and a large number of friends for special grants made to augment this expansion.
We cannot elaborate on the activities and programs of the past or those anticipated for the future but it may be stated, however, that the challenge offered through these increased facilities and an enlarged experienced staff is indeed inspiring.

The Kay Boys' Club is a social center with a definite purpose for meeting needs in this neighborhood. As such a center, it strives to provide opportunities for wholesome living for adults and children, with particular emphasis on boy life. Such an agency should strive to maintain high levels of character, culture, and citizenship and provide priceless opportunities for constructive activities--activities designed to develop those aptitudes and appreciations that make for health, character, and good citizenship.


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