…broken on the same site for the present YWCA building on May 22, 1951. Because of the Korean War, construction costs soared; and it became necessary to conduct another fund drive among a select list of donors. Again the money was raised.
The beautiful brick structure – complete with swimming pool – was dedicated on May 18, 1952. It has been in constant and increasing use since, not only by the women of Chemung County, but by many community groups.
From the beginning, the YWCA has been all-inclusive and integrated. On the occasion of its Golden Anniversary, The Sunday Telegram reported that the YWCA was used weekly by as many as 1,500 people, more than 70,000 in a year.
From the early Bible classes, YWCA activities have been broadened to include household arts and crafts, clubs and classes for girls in business and industry, the Newcomers Club (the first such club in any YWCA in the United States), extensive physical education classes with emphasis on slimming; USO parties, servicemen’s wives clubs, an International Club and two clubs that pay particular attention to the needs of black girls and women – the Nannie Burroughs club and the CFM Club.
The YWCA has made swimming instruction available to all ages. It also has a “Children’s Gym” and a nursery for mothers who wish to participate in recreational programs.
Although hard-hit by the flood of 1972, the YW has rebounded. Miss Betsy Boland, named in July 1973, is the current director. Long active in YWCA work here, she is a former president of the association.
The history of Boy Scouting in Chemung County goes back to Sept. 27, 1910, when Troop A was organized under the sponsorship of the Central YMCA of Elmira, of which John H. Irons was general secretary.
Some 60 boys were enrolled and the first troop committee included Mr. Irons, the Rev. Lew Williams, Robert York, Capt. William A. Turnbull, John T. Smith and Walter H. Messimer.
Troops 1 and 7 came along in 1914. It was then that a group of Elmira men began to build the movement. In this group were Judge Walter Lloyd-Smith, M. Doyle Marks, the Rev. A. G. Cornwell, Dr. S. D. Harrison, Edward J. Dunn, Atty. Richard H. Thurston, Harry C. Romayne, Rufus Stanley and Frederick C. Tomlinson.
This group carried on until March, 1916, when the Elmira Area Council of Boy Scouts was organized and received its charger from the growing Boy Scouts of America. Officers of that first council were: President, R. T. Lewis; vice presidents, Edward J. Dunn, Francis R. Parker, M. Doyle Marks, Benjamin F. Levy and the Rev. Rudolph Viewig; secretary, William R. chalice, and treasurer, E. O. Eldridge. The first scout commissioner was Frederick C. Tomlinson.
The new council's first event was a gathering held on Memorial Day that year (1916) at Clark's Glen. So successful was it that the first annual Field Day was arranged for Oct. 12 of that same year on land maintained by Mr. Tomlinson at the foot of Warner Ave. One hundred fifty boys participated.
The first Court of Honor included Dr. Frank W. Ross, Judge Charles B. Swartwood, Recorder Otis H. Gardner and Levi. W. Herrick.
Many other adult leaders helped build Boy Scouting in Elmira.
Early in 1917, Clarence L. Drumm was employed as the council's first paid executive and, about the same time, the Elmira Area Council was incorporated. In June, 1920, I. Edward Holsinger came to Elmira as scout executive and the movement continued to grow. At the time of Mr. Holsinger's unexpected death in 1928, the Elmira Area council boasted 867 Scouts and nearly 300 adult volunteer workers. There were 34 troops, of which eight were in Schuyler County, which had become a part of the Elmira Area Council in 1926.
Arthur F. Baker was hired in November, 1928, as Elmira scout executive. Robert P. McDowell then was scout commissioner. Herman Griswold was president.
Mr. Baker served as executive for six years (1928-34), and was followed by Carl F. Northrup, who held the post for 15 years (1935-1949). He, in turn, was succeeded by Kenneth O. Frasier, who was scout executive for 23 years, from October, 1949, until his retirement in May, 1972. the present scout executive is Joseph G. DeCanio. Mrs. Ruth Rigdon has been the office manager and the right hand to the scout executives for years and has played an active role in progress of the movement.
Permanent scout camps began to be discussed by the Elmira Area Council as early as 1916. Scout Field on Warner Ave., donated by Commissioner Tomlinson, was used for many years, and another contribution to scouting was made in the use of Stanley Farm, where Camp Ge-Ha-Da was held in 1921 and 1922.
In 1923, the council leased a camp site on the east side of Seneca Lake between Lodi and North Hector and, after several successful summer camps, the board purchased the 25 acres of woodland in 1928 and named it Camp Seneca. That camp's facilities have been expanded many times over the years and still is ranked high as a Boy Scout camp.
Meanwhile, the Boy Scouts had been using the Roricks Glen Reservation for overnight camping [File: byrne533.jpg inserted here] and special events. In 1944, a 95-acre Roricks Glen plot was purchased for $4,500 by a group of five Elmira businessmen deeply interested in the scout movement. They were Harold Varn, Richard G. Raitt, James R. Beecher, John E. Sullivan and Verner A. Bovik, and they deeded the woodland area to the Boy Scouts. A few weeks later a campaign was launched to raise $21,000 to cover the price of purchase and cost of rehabilitating the site for use by the scouts. The fund-raising campaign was sponsored by the Rotary and Exchange Clubs and the Scout Council. At dedication ceremonies conducted at the bridge spanning the Chemung Rive, Frank E. Tripp was master of ceremonies and he told the 1,000 scouts and leaders present that they were "falling heir to one of the most lovely spots there is."
In November, 1956, the newly-built Frank Tripp Training and Administrative Center was dedicated at Roricks and was named in honor of the Elmira newspaper publisher for his long association with Roricks Glen and the Boy Scouts. Garth A. Shoemaker, long-time Scouts' booster, was then president of the council.
The Boy Scout offices, located for years in the Federation Bldg., took up new quarters in the Roricks Glen center, and it became a popular as well as a beautiful site for scout activities. However, the flood of 1972 washed out the Chemung River Bridge and a road leading to the Center, making it inaccessible. For a period, vandals caused some damage to the building. Meanwhile, the Boy Scouts set up temporary headquarters in the former Knights of Columbus Bldg. on East church St. while a new road to the Roricks Glen center was being constructed.
The Elmira Area Boy Scout Council became the Sullivan Trail Council in October, 1947. It has had four districts since its early days - the Kanaweola District, comprising the Elmira area north of the Chemung River; the Big Horn District, including the area south of he river; the Big Hi Horse District, of Big Flats, Elmira Heights and Horseheads, and the Seneca Drums District, representing scouts of Schuyler County.
The Sullivan Trail Council now boasts 104 units, including Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Explorer Posts. The three units include 3,227 boys and there are 1,227 adult leaders. Among the top events the boys participate in are the annual Camporee and Scout-O-Ramas, in which the boys demonstrate their skills before large spectator crowds.
The Eagle Scout award, the highest honor the boys can attain, has been awarded to innumerable boys, while the council also has presented Silver Beaver awards, the highest honor for adults, to many area persons for outstanding work.
The dean of Boy Scout council commissioners was Robert P. McDowell, who served with great honor for 22 years. Second in longevity, and with many accomplishments, too, was Howard Stage, who served 13 years. From 1918 when the first commissioner was elected, there have been nine men who have held that post.
The commissioners and the years they served have been:
And here is my father, Frank Heath having a solo picnic on the stones in 1923.
There must be a more comfortable place?