By Derek M. Otto
Now that the April rains have finally stopped, many children will begin to get ready for their favorite outdoor activities. Springville boasts many opportunities for children during the summer months: swimming lessons at SYI, baseball, soccer, tennis the programs provided by the Center for the Arts, vacation bible schools. There is a lot for kids to do for entertainment. It wasn’t always that way.
In 1940, the collective adults in Springville thought that an organization to benefit the youth of Springville was in order. A newspaper article from Sept. 12, 1940 announced the organizational meeting of all Springville citizens on Oct. 14, 1940 to form the by-laws that would be Springville Youth Incorporated. The 1940 article claimed that there were 150 people in the village raising funds for the youth of Springville. The money would be used to support athletic and social activities of the village youth. Leo Schlade and George Whitehead were the leaders of this group.
During the early years of SYI, children would meet at the town hall, or sometimes the old bowling alley below the A & P Grocery Store (now Anything Printed). Eventually, the old pump house from the village water works would become the main building for SYI.
An article from 1958 stated that the grounds of SYI were open weekdays from 10-12 and 1-4 and that activities included badminton, softball, trampoline, arts and crafts, book reading, checkers, ping-pong, shuffleboard, track and other organized activities. SYI also provided supervision of the wading pool. Interestingly enough, SYI made several trips to Letchworth and Allegany State Parks every summer. In 1958, 104 children were able to go to the parks.
In 1960, SYI began constructing the Community Pool on Buffalo Street and started a youth baseball league.
An article from May 12, 1960, stated, “The baseball program under Howard Blasdell for our youngsters is taking shape fast. Six ball clubs have been organized.”
The first year, the teams comprised the Rotary Club Team, Springville Pharmacy, Dash Dairy Bar, Morton’s Corners Concord Medical Group, and the American Legion. The following businesses donated funds for the purchase of bats, helmets and bases: Gray Milling company, Mahl Bros, Weismantles, Brown Shoe Store, Don’s Barber Shop, Pearson’s Insurance, JC Wheeler, and Norman Hartz. The teams would play a 10-game season and at the end of the season, there would be a champion and then players from the other teams would form an all star team and play against each other. In the first year, the Rotary Club team won both the championship and the all star trophy.
Today, SYI has more than just one baseball league— they offer tee ball, rookies and majors. There is even a Challenger league for disabled youth.
Believe it or not, at one time, soccer was more popular than baseball or football in our country. Modern football replaced the enthusiasm for soccer until 1975 when Pele arrived in New York City. Still not the most popular of sports, soccer made a comeback, not in 1975, but in 1980. In the SES Express, the newspaper for Springville Elementary School, there was an article, “Let’s get soccer going in Springville.” Laurel Ruch got the ball rolling and we still have soccer in Springville today. Rather than just one division, the youth soccer program has five divisions.
For more information on SYI’s programs today, visit www.syionline.org.