SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

March 25, 2013

McAllister: A look into the past through the YMCA

This Thursday, the Salem YMCA is kicking off its annual fundraising campaign with a cocktail party reception and live entertainment at the Salem Five Savings Bank Community Room. Last year’s campaign generated tens of thousands of dollars so eligible families could take part in various programs and services offered by the Y.

Two weeks ago, I gave a lecture on life in Salem as seen through the eyes and diaries of longtime Salemite Frank Fabens. The following excerpts from his diaries from the years 1903-1917 (with occasional commentary) provide a unique glimpse at the broad spectrum of physical, cultural and education programs offered by the YMCA in its early years on upper Essex Street.

“In the evening I went to the Y.M.C.A. to watch a bowling match between our team and Beverly’s.” (April 24, 1914)

Earlier in the day, Fabens had been to the Y for gym class, handball and a dip in “the tank.” The diarist took swimming and lifesaving lessons at the Y when well into his 40s.

“Went to the gym in the afternoon. We had a baked bean supper in Ames Hall, followed by a talk by Mr. Alfred Putnam on the Thousand Islands and the Lower St. Lawrence. Very good pictures.” (March 26, 1913)

“I went to the Y.M.C.A. in the evening at Rob Mahoney’s invitation to see some wrestling matches between Technology and Y.M.C.A. teams. Y.M.C.A. won 4 out of 5 matches.” (Jan. 13, 1912)

The following day, Fabens was back at the Y for the philharmonic concert in Ames Hall. These concerts were held annually for many years in the winter months and featured members of Jean Missud’s Salem Cadet Band.

“Went to the Kneisel Quartette and Carmen Melis Concert at Ames Hall this evening. Great success. About 700 tickets sold at $2.00. Object was for the Boys’ Branch to raise money for the Memorial Fireplace for Mr. William Whipple, its founder.” (April 15, 1913)

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