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The story about the first Lakewood Youth Sports -up day, which took place on a Saturday in Mayhas become Lakewood lore. Instead of the hundred boys expected to up, 1, kids flocked to Mayfair Park. Jackie Rynerson recalled that day. We were a city with a small staff. Those recreation leaders got on the phone and called d and that became the beginning of the Lakewood recreational program.

Don Denessen was one of the first volunteers who supported Lakewood Youth Sports LYS through successive seasons of coaching baseball, flag football and basketball. Lakewood kids in needed places to play. The city provided the parks.

Volunteers provided the coaches. As Denessen noted, "Lakewood Youth Sports fosters strong relationships between coaches and athletes. The same group can stay together through football and basketball, and up again for another year of sports. Lakewood proudly maintains its tradition of free or low-cost recreation activities in which everyone can participate. Lakewood was named California's Sportstown by Sports Illustrated in Lakewood resident Brigitte Richard described the important role of recreation in her sense of place. In the early years, recreation programs were provided by the County of Los Angeles and between and by the Lakewood Park, Recreation and Parkway District.

While working towards the acquisition of park sites, the district organized weekend recreation programs at ten elementary school playgrounds in Lakewood. The need for more recreational opportunities was obvious to new residents. Out of a youth population estimated at 35, inonly about 4, were teenagers. Video: Growing up in early Lakewood. The district worked with the Lakewood Water and Power Company to develop water well sites as playgrounds in Dave Rodda, former Lakewood recreation director, noted the social function the tot lot program had for mothers.

Pumpkin Playground, the city's newest theme play area, was dedicated in November The cooperative approach has been so successful that the Lakewood Tot Lot program at city parks still offers safe, parent-supervised play for today's generation of Lakewood youth. Dennis Lander, whose family moved to Lakewood inrecalled that a favorite destination for the neighborhood kids was Bamboo Village along the bed of the San Gabriel River. It was very rural and the riverbed was still wild. There was no cement and there was a lot of bamboo, so a lot of kids would go over there and build these bamboo forts.

Until the city took over recreation programs inthe city's park sites were mostly undeveloped. Lakewood City Manager Howard Chambers, also an original kid, described park activities before the parks were fully developed. The ditch was unimproved and in rainy weather, there was always a trickle of water, and we used to go down there and catch tadpoles in the mason jars and bring them home. Occasionally some of the braver guys — not me — would try to ride their bicycle down from one side through the bottom and up the other side. Many original kids remember the excitement that built up as parks were developed.

It looked just like the pictures. Lakewood's parks became the place where many original kids spent childhood days. The neighborhood kids would hang out there all the time; there was hundreds and hundreds of 'em. Playgrounds and sports fields were built to give Lakewood's active youth a place to grow, learn, and have fun. There was always a park person there that would give you a ball to play basketball or there was a dance two or three times a week. Every park had after-school programs, so a lot of kids would go there and hang out for a couple of hours.

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Lakewood's parks had many deers. Among them was Garrett Eckbo, a nationally recognized landscape architect whose firm was responsible for the de of four Lakewood parks, including Del Valle Park. We sent a survey home through the schools to all the parents to find out what kind of recreational facilities they wanted for their children. We got something like a 79 to 80 percent return—just phenomenal! The city's Lakewood Youth Sports program grew phenomenally after and now includes dozens of teams and hundreds of girls and boys. Inthe Lakewood Park, Recreation and Parkway District, recognizing its limited powers, encouraged Lakewood residents to dissolve the district as an independent agency.

And we had new parks that had to be developed and so on We dissolved ourselves because that was the only way it could occur. The new Parks and Recreation Department oversaw the development of three park sites acquired from Los Angeles County and began to expand recreation programs.

As John Rae remembers, so many men wanted to be volunteer coaches, that sometimes a prospective coach had no team. Because there were so many kids there to play and just no way that our finances or our contract city concept could handle that, we were forced to use volunteer coaches, which as it turned out, once they got the momentum, to be a great decision.

InMary Denson became the first female volunteer coach. The volunteer coaching concept enabled the Parks and Recreation Department to offer these programs free or at a very low cost. That tradition also continues in Lakewood Youth Sports. Swim classes for youngsters are still among the most popular city-sponsored recreation programs. It was a social center. And everybody came to the parks and everybody participated in recreation. In season, the leagues play 75 boys' and 30 men's basketball teams, 77 football teams, all coached by volunteers, while other activities range through drama, dance and charm classes, bowling, dog-training classes, Slim 'n' Trim groups, roller skating, photography, woodcraft, and lessons in how to ice a cake.

Giganta arrived at Mae Boyar Park in and delighted a generation of Lakewood youngsters. Not only did the women play ball, they also socialized after the games with coffee-and-doughnut get-togethers and potluck luncheons hosted by the home team. Held in the morning and afternoon, these programs were extremely popular. Programs for adults, like women's fitness, became part of the city's recreation offerings in the s.

We were so far ahead of everyone else. And so we developed a complete program the same way. Whatever the guys got, the girls got.

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Maybe some of the sports were a little different, but the awards were the same, everything was the same: same amount of money was spent, same amount of everything. And this was in or But we were providing these kinds of services. These activities included day trips, beach parties, and play days. Beginning inthe park district organized and supervised monthly teen dances. Because the teenage population was still small in the mids, there were often more chaperons than dancers.

InLakewood began providing specialized recreation activities for disabled youngsters and young adults. Anne Pechin Emigh described her neighborhood, typical of the early s. And there were probably five kids my age, and then there were a lot of kids older and a whole bunch of kids a couple years younger. A summertime day for boys consisted of tag or hide-and-seek with other neighborhood kids, an expedition to one of the unfenced flood control ditches, and games at the neighborhood park.

We were allowed a lot of freedom, a lot of creativity, and a lot of craziness and games.

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Lakewood Youth Sports teams, coached by parent volunteers, taught teamwork and fair play. Dennis Lander noted that the neighborhood camaraderie between children was reinforced by the fact that they went to the same school. You went all the way to junior high with those. And we all stuck together. And what I remember most vividly is that in those days, in the s, there were a lot of card parties where families would get together and the adults would play bridge or pinochle and the kids would go play their games.

Everybody would come out after dinner. There was one young married couple that even played with us. It was just really a fun thing. Margie Lehner Armstrong remembered three-legged relay races, barbecues, and playing baseball in the street. As Lakewood youngsters grew to be teenagers, new concerns led to new community programs like the safe driving Road-E-O in Seeing everybody playing together, that was kind of neat.

I remember my mother saying that the kids all got along so well in the neighborhood, you know, there were hardly any fights. Armstrong also recalled that on the first day of school each year, the neighborhood kids, all wearing their brand-new school clothes and shoes, would gather in the street to have their photograph taken together by the next-door neighbor who owned a camera store. However, Lander and other original kids also recall examples of prejudice and the teasing of kids who were different, particularly Jewish youth, whose families formed a ificant part of the community in the mids.

The Teen Zone at Bloomfield Park in eastern Lakewood is another community center just for older youth. There were differences in socioeconomic class, as well, as Anne Pechin Emigh experienced when comparing her outfits to those of her best friend who lived in the neighborhood near the golf course. Her mom was quite the shopper and she would make forays into Beverly Hills and buy things and she would have the latest Bobbie Brooks outfits.

And I would go to Cal-Stores, which was sort of like Target. She looked fabulous, I looked fine. Many of original kids recounted that they began dating at an early age, sometimes as early as the fifth and sixth grades. Christopher medal to wear. Older Lakewood kids hung out at local hamburger stands. That fact made those places seem even more appealing. A lot of that American Graffiti-type thing was definitely happening in Lakewood. Lots of cars, lots of after-the-football game dances.

All kinds of different interest clubs — social clubs, school clubs, drama and art clubs. The Lakewood Youth Center, opened inprovided a place for the city's growing teen population. Popular destinations were drive-in theaters, beaches, and snack bars. I had a group of friends that were somewhat of the James Dean type. I would go to work in the evening umpiring and doing my thing.

Bud McCain described the teenage car culture. And back then, cruising was the main thing. My car was voted two years in a row the loudest car at Lakewood High School. I had inch Mitchells on there with Bellflowers hot rod exhaust system. Friday and Saturday nights, boy, it was nonstop.

Suzanne Henderson Shipp recalled that her mother took away her Thunderbird, a gift from her father, one month after she got it because she drove it too fast. Bud McCain recounted how the Lakewood High juvenile officer tried to stop teens from drag racing. And he tried to catch us with our race cars. That was so funny. Some teens grew up to be nostalgic about the hot rods of their youth, like these at the Chamber of Commerce car show. Lakewood High football games were especially popular. Anne Pechin Emigh described the school spirit and pep rallies.

We had such school pride, and oh my gosh we had pep rallies coming out our ears, you know, everybody was just really pumped, and it was fun. High school girls competed in the annual Lakewood Pan American ants, one of the featured activities of the Pan American Festival. Sandra Jenkins Janich described her star status in My coronation was just like you see in the movies.

I got a robe with the fur collar and then the crown. Being Pan Am Queen and everybody knowing it, it really gave you a status. You dressed up and they would have a dance and there were dignitaries there and that was interesting to meet them and you felt special. The community soon recognized the need for a separate recreational facility where teens could congregate under adult supervision.

The community rallied to build it, recalled Wayne Piercy. Fundraisers — teens supervised by 56 adults — walked door-to-door soliciting donations, and several other community organizations contributed to the project. Jim Knaub was the first Lakewood Athlete of the Year in A former Lakewood High School pole-vaulter turned wheelchair marathoner, he won the Boston Marathon five times, establishing four world records. When the Lakewood Youth Center was dedicated init became the place to go, sometimes featuring big-name performers, including Ike and Tina Turner, and the Righteous Brothers.

The youth center was governed by a teen board with adult advisors and an adult director.

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Lakewood, Washington