Columbia’s 1935 experiment in supervised playgrounds was so well received that
money was available for more supplies and a full summer’s program. Local young
people, experienced in crafts, athletics and chi~ldren’s activities, were
chosen to lead regardless of training. I had completed one MU class called
“Plays and Games,” but it wasn’t a lot of help in this job.
We were taught that playgrounds were fenced, that participants ~~were enrolled
by age groups, that funds were available and that play areas would be level
and well-marked for various games and sports. Not so, at Eugene ~Field,
Douglass, Grant, Lee or Ridgeway. We did what we could, with what we had,
where we were assigned. In 1936 I was a leader at Grant School where space was
limited. The following year I was assistant supervisor, with Johnny Cooper, an
all-time great MU athlete.
He was employed to coach elsewhere and had to leave early. I became supervisor
for the last few weeks of summer. The next year I continued in the top
position. I was not prepared to face a boy who had pulled a long knife,
threatening a play leader. But I faced him, stared intently as I approached
and I heard myself say, “Give me that knife!” To my surprise, he handed it
On another playground I confronted a young thief and arranged for him to have
professional help and also to continue in our recreation program.
I had part-time recreation jobs several other times. W.C. Harris was pool
manager when I taught swimming at the huge Water and Light Plant pool. We
produced public water shows and safety demonstrations, and I taught swimming
and lifesaving. A special evening class was for “adults who think they can
not be taught to swim.” Several students were more than 80 years old!
About the time World War II was revving up, recreation director Harris
arranged for young people to renovate and operate their own gathering place in
the basement of the vacant Methodist Church on the southeast corner of
Broadway and Short Street. With supervision, teens began a project that was to
have positive effects in Columbia and in many other towns across America.
Teen Town was in full swing in the ’40s, the day that Eleanor Roosevelt
visited Columbia. She was fascinated by the ingenuity and enthusiasm of these
young do-it-yourself kids and by the support they had from this entire
community. She wrote about it in her nationally syndicated column, “My Day.”
Cities and towns everywhere wanted information about this project and I
worked, part time, preparing a brochure to respond to hundreds of those
When Teen Town outgrew its basement location, it was moved across Broadway to
a two-story brick building where Sparks’ Orthopedic Clinic had been for many
years. A young married couple, the Williams’, were to be its leaders. I helped
them repair furniture and pingpong tables,~ get pop machines, assemble a
library and secure a jukebox. The new Teen Town opened during the time U.S.
Army soldiers were stationed in Columbia and teens really needed their own
recreation area. Thanks to Eleanor Roosevelt and her unscheduled visit, Teen
Towns dotted the nation and the term became a part of our language.
I was one of many volunteers who worked hard to convince voters that Columbia
needed a large indoor swimming pool. It took more than a year of speeches,
letters to the editor and advertising to successfully promote an indoor pool
to benefit both the recreation department and the public schools.
Comes now the resignation of Dick Green who has done so much for Colum~bia in
his many years here. His big shoes could be hard to fill!