The Farmingdale Youth Council (FYC), the local community's most well-known youth recreation program, is marking its 50th anniversary this year. In celebration of that anniversary, the organization's president, Frank Garofalo, has written the following history of the FYC, which also serves as an installment in this year's Minute of Farmingdale History lectures at the Village Pops summer concert series.
The Council is a community organization, and seeks active representation and support from all residents and organizations of the Farmingdale area. Its operating funds are derived from appropriations in its Annual Budget request to the community. Initially, almost all of its equipment had been obtained through volunteered labor, material and services as well as some privately raised funds.
Perhaps the best asset of the Farmingdale Youth Council is its being able to channel community resources to meet demonstrated youth recreation needs. To do this effectively requires continuing interest and participation on the part of many individuals and all groups.
The Youth Council started in November 1950. The Halloween parade that year had got largely out of hand and many people felt it should be sponsored and supervised by a youth organization. Bob Callahan, the then president of the Library Board of Trustees, drew up the incorporation papers and was later to serve as the Council's second president. The incorporators included the following: Martha Sansom, John Finnessy, Jessie Christie, Joseph Holzman, Audrey Lucas, Joseph Stern, William Van Arnam, Edna Tilgner, Sophie Hencken, Frank Duffy, and Frank Manker.
These people and almost all community organizations and many other individuals combined to raise almost $7,000 by raffling off a car which was contributed at cost by the local Chrysler-Plymouth dealer, the late Mike Frieman. The chances for the car were distributed in the classrooms of the one Main Street School by Ernest Gilson who was the board president, and the Reverend Rieth of the Methodist Church accused the Council, Ernest and all of the directors of making bookies out of the children. The school board appropriated $2,000 as part of the 1951-1952 school budget and our first summer program cost $4,560. The budget for the 1968 summer program was $53,000. The budget for the 2000 summer program is $151,810.
In the Spring of 1951 there was a large field behind the Main Street School with absolutely no playground apparatus such as swings, slides, rings and horizontal bars. The sisters at St. Rose has a very elaborate apparatus which was no longer used and they offered to sell it to the Youth Council for $500. The cost of a new outfit installed was over $5,000. The directors voted to buy the St. Rose apparatus and to Shanghai local volunteer labor to dig it out of the ground and install it behind the Main Street School. A local tinsmith replaced all the hardware and John Petre reinforced the swing clamps by welding and installed them by himself one Saturday afternoon using Limey Van Nostrand's 14-foot aluminum stepladder. John lost his balance and fell on his back and was laid up for six weeks afterwards, having to close his own automotive and machine shop during this period. Despite all this John was just as proud as he knew how to be when the mayor visited him to present a leather toilet kit for him to use on his hunting trips as a tribute from other members of the Youth Council.
Over 90 people contributed their services working afternoons and sometimes after dark by the light of the Fire Department floodlight truck. Limey Van Nostrand contributed beverages and hot dog rolls and Frank Duffy who then owned the Paramount Diner brought huge cans of coffee. Perhaps the most faithful group of volunteers were the friends and colleagues of a Grumman worker who came to help each night properly equipped with a fifth of Irish whiskey. This enthusiastic worker had liberated so much equipment from Grumman for the project that Youth Council called Bill Schwendler to get official permission with the express understanding that our volunteer wouldn't know it was authorized so he would still have fun bringing it. Liberty provided a brand new bottom for the slide. Triwood Lumber gave and cut new oak sides for the slide and then gave heavy 2x8s for picnic-type benches which were used for our first arts and crafts classes outdoors.
At the dedication of this playground to which so many people had contributed hours, days and weeks of their time, we held the drawing for the new Plymouth. The Reverend Rieth had been invited to ask the invocation and Father Hampshire to give the benediction. Jessie Christie wasn't about to let any chances go unsold; she was busy selling them right up to the last minute that Sunday afternoon, and the Reverend Rieth was heard to mutter that we were profaning the Sabbath. When we told him that our understanding was that Christ was tremendously interested in youth, he looked at us with consummate scorn and said, "I have seen you profaning the Sabbath working every Sunday on this apparatus." He was finally prevailed upon to keep the peace and to give an invocation.
The presidents of the Farmingdale Youth Council from its inception down through the beginning current year were:
1950-1953 Fred Hackett
1953-1954 Robert M. Callahan
1954-1955 Gene Leyendecker
1956 Edna Tilgner
1957-1967 Jack Goor
1968-1970 Frank Gelish
1971 Roy Jones
1972-1974 Carl A. Dittmeier
1975-1985 Lucille Meyreson
1986-1991 Marty Nadler
1992 Geoffrey Mattocks
1993-1994 Wayne Muchmore
1995-1997 Frank Kubelka
1997-present Frank Garofalo
During all of these terms of office the Youth Council and its program grew. The Little League was organized with Gene Leyendecker as first commissioner in 1952. Under Edna Tilgner we had our first planned winter recreation program and started our first such program for handicapped children in New York State and probably the entire country. Under Jack Goor's term, the council and its activities grew, adding two part-time winter recreation directors and keeping on the two full-time summer program directors. Ours has been a model youth recreation organizational program for Long Island and much of New York State.
The Youth Council has had an invaluable record of community support. It involves every local community organization concerned with youth; its programs involve more volunteers than any comparable recreation program I know. Probably for these reasons the Youth Council budget has almost always had more yes votes than either the school budget or the library budget.
If there is a consummate artist capable of fielding every conceivable kind of community complaint and turning it into constructive community service, that man was Jack Goor. While he served as Youth Council President he converted more gripers to givers and volunteers for youth than you and I can count. Occasionally someone would question how the Youth Council money was spent; the questioner always went on the budget committee and he heard the requests and saw how they were handled and finally he would turn into a staunch advocate of more and better funds for Youth Council.
Before 1950, Farmingdale's one school and its grounds were locked up from Friday afternoons to Monday morning; now on all six of the school sites there is some sort of recreational use and most of it is supervised and coordinated by the Farmingdale Youth Council. It was no longer a committee project, but a town project. While the committee supervised the general directions of the plan, the brains, ingenuity and labor came right from the people, parents and children alike. Specialists donated their talents, and an artist drew posters and wrote publicity. The merchants, not to be outdone, offered materials and supplies. Firemen, on their time off, drew their fire trucks up to the area that was under construction and played their spotlights so the mechanics and workmen could continue after dark. It became almost daily ritual to go down to the working area after dinner, and pick up a hammer and go to work along side of your next door neighbor.
To manage the program and administer this community property the committee had organized the Farmingdale Youth Council. They renovated an outdoor swimming pool, on school grounds and operated it throughout the summer. A playground equipped with apparatus and an outdoor basketball court were added, and then a regular summer recreational program for children went into operation. Saturday night was always a big evening, and in recognition of this, the council set up a Saturday Night Canteen and our own Village Pop's director was part of it, Brad DeMilo. Holiday time was the time for the Youth Council to show their stuff. While Halloween ushers in a dread for all the storekeepers and merchants in the area-Farmingdale looks eagerly forward to it. The council had started a Halloween program that was both the envy and model for neighboring towns. The children were encouraged to paint their murals on the store windows, with a prize going to the one chosen most original. It has proven an excellent outlet for talent, and initiative, while the merchants long lost their dread of the malicious mischief that had heretofore plagued them each year.
By 1952, the registered children totaled 526 but last year's figure rose to over 12,500 in all member organizations. This immense recreational program is available to all the children of Farmingdale. A program as full and rewarding as the counselors can conceivably make it. It has earned the enthusiastic commendation of the New York State Youth Commission because of its unique appeal to all school age groups. These include costume parties, carnivals, talent shows and hobby and craft shows.
Directing Youth Council activities and responsible for this planned growth is a group of residents who give generously of their time and services for our children. To obtain maximum state aid they work out with both the school district and the village the channeling of recreation funds. They raise the funds for major capital equipment; only operating funds are tax paid. To keep expenses down and supervision adequate, they recruit volunteers where needed. They tend to the endless detail of securing needed facilities and preparing budgets and reports. They work with youth groups to help fill the needs that youth themselves point out. Truly, theirs is a real community service.
Youth is our community's greatest asset. These men and women are giving of their best.
On Friday, Oct. 20, we will hold a 50th Anniversary party. If you are interested, please call the Youth Council Office for more details.
Editor's Note: Minute of Farmingdale History is a series of lectures about local history being presented at the Farmingdale Village Pops concert series on the Village Green, on Wednesday evenings, throughout the summer. This installment was featured at the July 26 concert.