As an alumnus of Boys and Girls Clubs, you know what the experience of belonging is all about. Organizations like ours routinely list all of our programs, services, and activities in an effort to explain why we’ve relevant and important. But, you know our secret: those programs, services and activities are in fact, just the tools we use to build the strong relationships that help children and youth to feel good about and believe in themselves, build their confidence, and to support them to set their own goals and believe they’re achievable.
We’re celebrating 80 years of exactly that kind of magic, and you’re an important part of it. If you haven’t already done so, please respond and tell us your BGC story! And stay tune, for more reasons to celebrate why #BGCMatters.
Please read BGC Alumni Brian’s story below!
As kids we had no idea we were poor. We played on a street called Beach Avenue in Vancouver. Our family came from Ireland in 1947, where we had lived on a farm called Edenmore, above the village of Tempo, in Northern Ireland. My little brother and I for fun rolled old car tires down Hornby Street to try and hit cars travelling along Beach Avenue. We had heard a rumour about a club for boys across False Creek but we were never able to get across to find it. Years went by and after graduation from John Oliver Secondary I searched for work. In those days it was easy to find employment and I had many jobs in the 1950’s.
One day while working for National Trust a friend from school was passing by and I asked him in for coffee. He looked good, well-tanned and I fit, so as a joke I asked if he was unemployed. He said he worked just up Burrard at the YMCA. I asked how he got the job because I was not happy pushing a pencil. I watched the newspaper for months and one day came upon an ad from the Boy’s Club of Vancouver looking for an Assistant Director. I recall it as if it happened yesterday, but that was 1958. There were three people who interviewed me including John Ballam, Merv Ovesen and Bob Smith (the CBC radio personality). A week later I was the Assistant Director of the Kiview Boys Club, and totally lucky to have Merv as my boss.
After working the summer at Camp Potlatch and settling down to the work at Kiview I received a call that would forever change my life. A fellow from back East was in Vancouver and had borrowed an office in the Vancouver Block on Granville Street. I was called at home by John Ballam to say that I had been given a time for a very special interview with a fellow named Fraser Woodhouse on Saturday.
As it turned out Fraser was in town to inquire if there were any young staffers from the Clubs who would like to attend university under what was then called the “student work plan”. I did not qualify for university entrance as I took what was called the commercial program at high school and explained this to him, and in any event I could not afford the cost. “Not to worry” was his response; the only item was that I would agree to work for two years for the Clubs after university. He added that my tuition and books would be covered and I would work part-time in some social agency in Montreal.
Montreal, where was that? I thought it would be at U.B.C., but instead it was Sir George Williams University, later known as Concordia University. My placement was at the Negro Community Centre. I was the only white person employed there. I recall the day I was working at the NCC when President Kennedy was killed and later the FLQ were blowing up mail boxes.
Those of us who were on the Student Work Plan from the West Coast would work either at Camp Weredale in Quebec, or Camp Potlatch. If we worked at Potlatch we had the opportunity to work, after camp, at the Canadian Fishing Company and make some real money
To end this tale, after graduation I continued my studies part-time at U.B.C. I worked as the Director of the Gibbs Boys Club, got married, had three sons, and over the years worked with some wonderful club people, staff and volunteers. The opportunity to continue my education was very important to me and I am forever grateful. Some years later I became the Boys Clubs Executive Director. In 1970 I moved onto other challenges. We are so fortunate to see many families and children helped by what is now the Boys and Girls Clubs.
Brian Robinson, BA, BSW, MSW