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Summertime and the Germantown Boys’ Club

June 13, 2013

Many people have heard of Boys & Girls Clubs, but did you know that the one in Germantown is the first of its kind in Philadelphia? That’s right! The Germantown Boys’ Club (GBC), originally known as “The Boys’ Parlors Association of Germantown” until its name change in 1907, was founded in 1887 and incorporated in 1894. The Germantown Boys’ Club was housed in 25 West Penn St just off of Germantown Ave, where the Germantown Boys & Girls Club stands today. The GBC’s stated objective was “to shield boys from the temptations of the street, especially at night.” They wanted to keep young boys off the streets by providing them a place to play, socialize, and learn, thereby becoming “positive forces in their homes, their schools, their businesses, and in any community where they may live.” The types of activities offered by the club in 1907 were: Industrial Training (vocational activities), Physical Training (athletics, gymnastics, swimming), Mental Training (library), Social Training (social events and later movie screenings), and Religious Teaching (Bible readings and religion classes). By 1924, the GBC had an organized athletics program which included football, baseball, gymnastics, and swimming.

The club was originally housed in only a portion of what stands today. The first segment of the building was built in 1898 for about $10,000. However, because of the GBC’s expansion in its early years, there was a massive fundraising effort in 1908 to expand the building. One 1908 fundraising pamphlet reads: “There are over 600 boys in a building planned for 200. We have come to the point where we must expand.” In these efforts to raise money to expand, the GBC pointed out the importance of the club to the well-being of Germantown. Pamphlets distributed to the community stated: “Did you know that many local merchants and tradesmen were once GBC boys?” and “It is the duty of citizens to give back.” There were also many letters written to wealthy Germantown families and former members of the club that asking for donations. Mr. Marriott C. Morris (1863-1948), who was involved with the club since its founding and is a descendent of the family of the Deshler-Morris house, wrote many of the fundraising letters to community members. Mr. Morris held the presidency of the GBC many times and was consistently on its Board of Managers. Mr. Morris won the Fifty Year Award in 1937 for his fifty years of service to the club and was also the recipient of their Annual Award in 1940.

OCEAN CITY VACATION HOUSE, circa 1932

OCEAN CITY VACATION HOUSE, circa 1932

Although originally open from October through May, the Germantown Boys’ Club eventually became a very popular place for the youth of Germantown over the summer. By 1917, the club’s busiest months were June, July, August, and September. Just as present day Philadelphians flock to the Jersey Shore, the GBC would do the same! Every summer from about 1912 through the 1930s, the GBC would retreat to a vacation house in Ocean City, NJ from July to September which afforded the “only opportunity for vacation for most of attenders.” The house pictured here was located on the bayside shore of Ocean City and today stands on Pleasure Ave. For years, the Germantown Boys’ Club played a significant role in the Germantown community, especially during the summer months.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. June 19, 2013 7:58 pm

    This blog is terrific. Who knew that Germantown’s history was so fascinating!?

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