Just what was the YAC? If I had to say, I would liken it to “It takes a village to raise a child.” YAC stood for ‘Youth Activity Council”. I’m not sure when exactly it started. I would say around 1956. I’m not an authority on it’s history and offer this as a simple explanation to those that have heard of it and wonder what it was. Some of the names that I remember associated with it are Art Garver, Tom and Marge Pounds, Chuck and Eleanor Schumaker, John and Florence Telling, Gus and Irene Firu, and Bernie and Kathleen Kores. I’m sure there are others and omit them only because of my ignorance not their importance. These were people that thought it was important to be involved in kids lives. I’m so thankful they did. I thought everyone lived in this kind of neighborhood when I was growing up there.
I believe it originally started as a youth baseball or softball league. I remember playing softball with the YAC. Each team got tee-shirts of a different color but all with the YAC logo on the front. I’m not sure of the boundaries for joining one of these teams. I have heard that it had to do with attending certain schools in the area. I know there was also a separate baseball league, “Bow Dad’s Club” at the time. I think the YAC covered roughly 7 Mile to 8 Mile and Southfield to Asbury Park.
On the 4th of July these same people organized a parade that came west on Cambridge, North on Harlow, then onto Oakfield North of Pembroke, ending at Fargo Park. At Fargo Park there were games of limited skill that gave lots of little prizes to all the kids. I don’t know where the money came from for all of this but it was a blast and great summer fun. They had these parades for quite a few years.
Around 1959 or 1960 they started to have ‘Street Dances’. The ones I remember were at Fargo Park. These were no easy task. The city required permits to close the streets. Neighbors had to sign a petition to agree to have the street closed and put up with the kids and the noise. Try that today. Shortly after these, there were weekly or bi-weekly dances at the John Monteith Hall. The hall was at a church on the street next to the Arnold Home on Seven Mile. These dances were open to any teenager regardless of where they lived. But they were sponsored by the YAC. Gus Firu was in charge of these dances. I don’t know how but somehow he knew Barry Gordy and there were sometimes Motown acts at these dances. I remember Stevie Wonder, Martha and the Vandellas, and other Motown acts at some of the dances.
As great as this organization was for us kids, I believe it was also very social for the adults that organized it. These same people started an adult YAC bowling league and friendships were strengthened. As time went on and kids grew up and moved on, these same people decided to have a YAC picnic once a year as a reason for families to get together and remember the “The good old days!”. This was about 25 years ago and continues today.
Many of those that started the YAC are no longer with us. Some of their children have taken over now. Others have just stepped up to the plate. None of this happened or happens without volunteer service. Like many things in life the good things happen because of good people. While you are enjoying yourself someone is working and has been working in the background. We were and are blessed to have that kind of people in our world and we need to acknowledge them and Thank them. Or perhaps even become one of them.
Footnote: Visit the YAC website.