Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Youth organizations. Their Rise and (near) Fall, or is that a myth? And, did you join?

Granted, we may now have the single most confusing title for an entry on this site, but then this will be a scrambled and confusing thread. So there.

 Boy Scouts writing home from camp, Hunter's Island, New York.  The one guy behind them looks so old that he could have served in the Mexican War.

Recently, I posted this item:
Lex Anteinternet: Military preparedness and World War One. Training ...:  Bayonet Drill. At one time the concept of boys and girls "going to camp" was so common that it was kind of a running joke....
As I noted in that post, although it wasn't the main point of the post, at one time Scouting was huge.  Scouting, that is, in the Boy Scouts sense. Girl Scouts, or Girl Guides, too, although we'll get to those in a moment..

And not just the Boy Scouts and the Girl Scouts (Guides), but also a host of other similar uniformed, and non uniformed youth organizations, most of which came in during the very late 19th to mid 20th Centuries and most of which, we're told (but is it true?) are now in decline.

Well, we track trends and experiences where.  Let's look at this.  It's an interesting topic.

Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts

And let's start with the Scouts.

 A retired Lord Baden-Powell, dressed in a Scout uniform, with King George,

The Scouts originated due to Lieutenant General Robert Stephenson Smyth Baden-Powell, 1st Baron Baden-Powell, OM GCMG GCVO.  Powell was a never married British Army officer who rose to prominence in the British Army during the Second Matabele War.  In that war, as a cavalryman, he lead mounted reconnaissance operations and met American adventurer Frederick Russell Burnham DSO.  Burnham was, as noted, from the United States but he fit into a group of Americans who found the concept of adventure in the expanding British Empire to be a huge lure, so after an early life of adventure if the United States he decamped to Africa, ended up in the  British forces there, and ultimately rose to high rank in the British Army, a fairly unusual career.

Now, during that time Burnham met Baden-Powell and taught him a lot about what he'd learned about out back life to Baden-Powell, which the latter then employed in Africa.  It made a deep impression on the British cavalryman who soon came to believe, and deplore the lack of manly outdoor skills possessed by British youth.

The UK was a heavily urbanized country by that time, but we can't help but note that it was surely a bit more agricultural then, as compared to now.  Nonetheless, Baden-Powell was likely observing a real phenomenon.  British youth probably was pretty short on woodcraft and outdoor skills, and hence the Boy Scouts came into being as a means of introducing them to that.  It took off like wildfire, being introduced in the UK in 1908 and crossing the Atlantic in to the United States (1910) and Canada (1909).  As in the UK, there was a deep concern in the US that the country was becoming rapidly urbanized and that, as a result, American youth were loosing these skills.

 Baden Powell late in life.

It was really big.  Nearly any established church had a Boy Scout and Girl Scout "Troop", which made sense as originally Scouting emphasized what was (and is, if used correctly) "muscular Christianity".  That is, it was an organization that not only sought to introduce children to the outdoor life and teach them outdoor skills, but which was further premised on the concept that a vigorous outdoor life complimented the vigorous Christian life, although not in a completely overt and stated fashion.  An early version of the Boy Scout handbook proclaimed:
The Boy Scout Movement has become almost universal, and wherever organized its leaders are glad, as we are, to acknowledge the debt we all owe to Lieut.-Gen. Sir Robert S. S. Baden-Powell, who has done so much to make the movement of interest to boys of all nations.
* * *

In these pages and throughout our organization we have made it obligatory upon our scouts that they cultivate courage, loyalty, patriotism, brotherliness, self-control, courtesy, kindness to animals, usefulness, cheerfulness, cleanliness, thrift, purity and honor. No one can doubt that with such training added to his native gifts, the American boy will in the near future, as a man, be an efficient leader in the paths of civilization and peace.
It has been deemed wise to publish all material especially for the aid of scout masters in a separate volume to be known as "The Scout Masters' Manual."
We send out our "Official Handbook," therefore, with the earnest wish that many boys may find in it new methods for the proper use of their leisure time and fresh inspiration in their efforts to make their hours of recreation contribute to strong, noble manhood in the days to come.
The manual, when defining scouting, specifically related it to war (that is, acting as a scout in military service), and noted in that context:
Wherever there have been heroes, there have been scouts, and to be a scout means to be prepared to do the right thing at the right moment, no matter what the consequences may be.

The way for achievement in big things is the preparing of one's self for doing the big things--by going into training and doing the little things well. It was this characteristic of Livingstone, the great explorer, that made him what he was, and that has marked the career of all good scouts.
Lord Baden Powell himself stated on numerous occasions how he conceived of the movement as a Christian movement. In 1917 he declared in 1917 that:  "Scouting is nothing less than applied Christianity" in his book Scouting & Christianity.  Upon the foundation of the movement he had stated:
..We aim for the practice of Christianity in their everyday life and dealings, and not mearly the profession of theology on Sundays.... The co-operation of tiny sea insects has brought about the formation of coral islands. No enterprise is too big where there is goodwill and co-operation carrying it out. Every day we are turning away boys anxious to join the Movement, because we have no men or women to take them in hand. There is a vast reserve of loyal patriotism and Christian spirit lying dormant in our nation today, mainly because it sees no direct opportunity for expressing itself. Here in this joyous brotherhood there is a vast opportunity open to all in a happy work that shows the results under your hands and a work that is worth while because it gives every man his chance of service for his fellow-men and for God
A modern (there's no such thing  as "post modern, so get over that) might look at this in our current era with a degree of skepticism.  That is, it's unlikely that scouts of the very recently closed Frontier Era were universally "prepared to do the right thing".   That might be true, depending upon how a person looked at it,   Prepared to do the morally virtuous thing probably doesn't quite fit that definition in our view today, but at the time the recently closed Frontier Era wasn't looked at quite the same way.

 Boy Scout, 1918.  This particular scout is in a troop sponsored by the American Red Cross.

Anyhow, Scouting took off like wildfire and became huge in no time. We've seen photographs of early scouts put up here in the context of the Great War and we could do the same with World War Two quite easily.  I don't know what percentage of American boys joined the Boy Scouts, or its companions the Girl Scouts and the Camp Fire Girls but it was pretty big.

 Girl Scouts in camp, 1912.  These girls are dressed in a completely inappropriate fashion for what they are doing.

Oh, I keep mentioning the Girl Scouts, what was up with them?

Well, not long after the foundation of the Boy Scouts the Girl Guides, which became the Girl Scouts in most places, was founded.  Like the Boy Scouts, it focused on outdoorsy stuff but naturally it didn't focus on manly virtues.  Having said that, it's interesting in that it took a principal focus of scouting, the outdoor life, and took a "us too" approach to it in regards to girls.  

Princess Mary, in 1922, on the occasion of her nuptials, with the Girl Guides.

I know a lot less about the Girl Guides or the Girl Scouts than I do about the Boy Scouts simply because I've never been exposed to them, really, except annually during their famous cookie sales. But fairly clearly, they leaned heavily on the Boy Scouts in principal ways, but not in every way.  The founder, who hailed from Scotland, originally focused on female roles in farm families, but upon the arrival of World War One, they did drill, like Boy Scouts, a very military focus.

 Girl Scout garden during the big gardening push of World War One.  While the Girl Scouts also had an outdoor focus, many of its original aims also aimed at traditional female roles.

An odd thing about the Girl Scouts, however, is that it had a rival organization nearly immediately, or at least there were two expressions of the movement almost immediately.  In 1910, the United States, men who had boys in the Boy Scouts felt the need for a companion organization for girls and formed the Camp Fire Girls.  The organization attempted a merger with the Girl Scouts in 1912 but it was rejected by the organization as it was the bigger of the two.

 Camp Fire Girls in 1917.  These girls are all dressed in Indian fashion showing a then current fascination with Indian Tribes in an idealized fashion.

Joining these youth organizations wasn't universal, however, in spite of what some might like to think.  I know, for example, my father, born in 1929, was never  a Boy Scout and I don't think his younger brother ever was either.  My mother, however, was a Girl Guide in Quebec. 

The Scouts, both Girl and Boy, had competition right from the onset.  Sure proof that Lord Baden Powell had tapped into something is provided by the fact that copycat organizations sprung up right away.  Most of these  organizations rose and fell pretty quickly, and most of them were pretty much copies of the Scouts but without the large organization backing it up and the all that went with it. So its' not too surprising that they didn't last all that long.  Some were a little more militaristic than the Scouts, particularly early on, and emphasized things like shooting, although that was an aspect of the Scouts as well.  I won't, therefore, dwell much with them.  I will note, however, that oddly enough the Boy Scouts itself competed a bit against it self in this area when, in 1912, it organized the Sea Scouts, a youth organization that was focused on the sea and seafaring skills, but which very clearly modeled itself on the Navy in uniform and early appearance, showing how close to being a quasi private military training organization the Scouts really were.

Taking this forward the Scouts remained really strong for a really long time.  I don't know what percentage of American youth belonged to the Boy Scouts, the Girl Scouts, etc., but it seems to have been a fairly large percentage.  As recently as the 1950s it seems to me that there was sort of an assumption that boys and girls became Scouts.  Even as recently as the 1970s quite a few were, although I was only a Boy Scout myself for a few months (so few that I usually say I was never a Scout, too few to really count).

Moreover, only one of my close friends was a Scout. And that's remarkable given that of my close friends at least two had fathers who had been very involved in Scouting and all of us were very outdoorsy.  The one of my friends, moreover, who was very involved in Scouting was a Mormon and the LDS faith had a very close relationship with Scouting, fielding their own troops.

Indeed, that latter fact is remarkable as I've heard that in the 1930s and 1940s all the local churches had their own troops. This is no longer true at all.  The one I was very briefly in met in a church, but it had no obvious connection with it.  I've heard that our local Parish still retains a connection with a Boy Scout Troops, but I've never seen any evidence of that (perhaps its really more closely associated with the Parish's school).   Anyhow, I don't see much evidence of a Boy Scout Troop at church.

This would suggest that whatever has been going on with Scouting, at least in our local area, there's been a decline in youth involvement since at least the 1970s, which would be before any of the currently cited reasons for such a decline set in.

That there has been very much a decline in recent years seems very well established by statistics.  And some have analyzed it and claimed a variety of reasons for it.

If I had a more solid grasp on that, I'd take a look at more closely, but I don't.  The loss of closely connected Christian values is one cited source as the organization has undergone an assault from the "tolerance means acceptance" brigade and its Christian message has definitely occurred.  The concept that there must be no place whatsoever where men can gather in an official setting where women can't be let in has been cited as well, and I think there's a little to that.  The Boy Scouts opened up to girls some time ago and frankly a Boy Scout organization that's co-ed, no matter how little its co-ed, isn't going to quite be focusing on "manly virtues" in the same way, but rather will inevitably do it in a washed out meaningless fashion.  The Girl Scouts is also open to boys, but the nature of boys will largely preclude them from joining it very much anyhow.

Having said all of that, at least by way of my personal observation, I"m not so sure Scouting is in as much trouble as some think.    Going back to my own friends, one of my lifelong friends, whom I was in the Cub Scouts with, has two sons who will make Eagle Scout.  Neither of us were Boy Scouts.  Another friend of mine has a son who will make Eagle Scout.  He was never a Boy Scout.  One of my co-workers had two sons stop by here selling Boy Scout popcorn this year (apparently only one was supposed to).  So, at least by way of observation, Boy Scouts around here appear to be rebounding.

As we've seen from above, the early Boy Scouts recalled military scouting pretty strongly. Even the Girl Scouts did to a degree.  But they weren't the only youth organizations at the start of the 20th Century that looked to the military for inspiration.  Let's take a look at them.


Recently on this site we discussed JrROTC, which like Scouting, is now just over 100 years old.  Its about a decade younger than Scouting, having gotten rolling with World War One.  As I just posted on this, and I don't want to repeat what I already wrote there, I'm going to quote a fair amount from that recent entry here, which is the one that inspired this post.
The Great War sparked a huge national movement towards preparedness, and not just in the Boy Scout motto "Always Be Prepared" vein.  Republican elements urged the US to enter the war early on and when the US did not, those who backed entry into the war sponsored military training camps for young men.  Men in their 20s and 30s, that is.  These camps were staffed by Regular Officers of the U.S. Army and sought to train men to serve as Army officers should the need arise, which it was suspected that it might.  The most famous of these was at Plattsburg, New York, but it wasn't the only one by any means.  And they weren't limited to men.  Prior to the country's entry into the war there were also camps for women, teaching them field craft and some military skills, such as the use of semaphore flags, skills that would prove to be more militaristic than they'd actually need for service in the Great War given the roles they were given.
 Playing the dread, and stupid, mumbly peg knife game.  Note the hat cords on their M1911 Campaign hats.  I wish this was in color so we could get the branch designation.
And by 1916, the Preparedness Movement, having seen the war in Europe spread to Asia and having seen a semi war break out along the border with Mexico, spread to teenage boys.
The Reserve Officer Training Corps was established in 1916 under the National Defense Act of 1916.  With two expressions, ROTC and JrROTC it covered young men in their high school and college ages.  ROTC, the college aged version, sought to train college men to serve as officers should the need arise.  JrROTC, in contrast, sought to teach high school aged boys basic military skills that would give them a jump in serving as enlisted men in the Army, should that need arise.

 July.  Its hot.
The story of JrROTC has remained a confused one, and somewhat under addressed, for years.  One thing about it is that the 1916 start of it in some ways picked up what was already going on.  In some schools, including the one I graduated from in 1981, an organization like JrROTC was already in place.  You can find, for example, photographs of Natrona County High School boys drilling in uniform in 1915, a year prior to the creation of JrROTC, and the school now boast the oldest surviving JrROTC unit in the United States.  I note that here as I don't think the kids in these photographs are in JrROTC (some might have been, or would soon be), but rather a military organization run by the State of New York that was really darned close to it.  Indeed New York's Military Commission was given broad authority to organize the military instruction of youth during its brief existence (it ceased to exist in 1921).  It basically ran what was JrROTC in New York, which was so extensive that its authority extended to young men who were employed outside of schools, ie., who had dropped out.  In Wyoming JrROTC took off so fast that in 1916 there were state drill competitions between different JrROTC unis across the state.  It was a big deal.

Semaphore signals remained a necessary military skill at the time.
I'll pick up with another quote again in a second, but carrying on with this, what you'd expect to have been the case, that JrROTC would have died with the recoiling against the Great War that occurred in the United States after World War One, did not. Now, huge efforts to train every kid in an entire state, like that of New York did pass away. And lots of high schools that had JrROTC did in fact drop it. But it didn't disappear completely by any means.  Indeed, it didn't disappear locally and it remained a  mandatory class at our local high school.  As will be noted, it did until the 1970s.

We continue:
In our kinder and gentler age, JrROTC has undergone quite a century long evolution and so have events like this. When I was in high school JrROTC did have a summer encampment at the National Guard's Camp Guernsey.  Now, I was never in JrROTC and when I was in high school in the late 1970s and early 1980s "Rotcey" didn't have a lot of general student body respect.  The program had gone from being a mandatory one for boys, dating back to at least 1915, to an elective one in around 1976, and even those who had some concept of serving in the military were a bit leery about it.  It was classified as a physical education class, perhaps justifiably, but that meant it was filled with an odd combination of boys who knew that they were entering the service with certainty and those seeking to avoid PE.  Anyhow, the only time I ran across them in their summer camp was when I was a National Guardsmen working at the Armory who went to Guernsey about this time of year, after we'd already done our Annual Training.  We tended not to be impressed if, for no other reason, the uniform liberties they were given meant that they were sporting a lot of late Vietnam War type uniforms and berets and the like, prior to any of that being uniform gear in the Army itself.
Anyhow, over its century of existence JrROTC has undergone quite a transformation.  I guess all organizations for boys have.  In 1917, such as during the same period when these July 16, 1917 photographs were taken, it was real military training with real gear.  The boys doing bayonet drills up above aren't using weapons at all, but still, they're learning to kill in a pretty up close and personal way.  In the 1930s and 1940s I know that the local school drilled with M1917 Enfields and the rifle team, which was excellent, competed across state lines using M1903 Springfields.  In the 1970s it became an elective here but I can still recall their having a few M14 rifles for demonstration purposes and a collection of M1 Garands for the drill team.  Girls came in at some point (I'm not sure when) and now I'm told that the rifle team uses air rifles. When I was in high school the rifle team used .22 target rifles, which are at least a real rifle.  Not that air rifles don't have their virtues, they do.
Picking back up, if you had asked me in 1981, when I graduated from high school, if I would expect to see JrROTC still there nearly forty years later, I'd have said no. At the time, in the post Vietnan War wake, even here in Wyoming where the war was never unpopular, JrROTC seemed to be on its way out.  And during my time in the National Guard JrROTC certainly did nothing to endear itself to me and folks like me, as when were were down in Camp Guernsey after annual AT, and the JrROTC was there, they looked ridiculous, all decked out in Vietnam era camouflage uniforms and sporting, in some instances, berets when only the Special Forces, at that time, wore them.  But JrROTC is still there and, as with the Boy Scouts, I'm not too certain that something hasn't gone around the other way.  I've been really surprised by how many kids I somewhat know that are in it or have been recently.  It's obviously more broadly popular than it was in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

JrROTC isn't the only organization in this category, I'd note.  While the Boy Scouts started moving away from its more military features sometime after World War One (although you wouldn't have known that to look at the Sea Scouts) not only did JrROTC keep on keeping on, but it received a little competition from the Civil Air Patrol.  Here's one organization that I actually do have experience with.


The Civil Air Patrol got its start during World War Two when the United States Army Air Corps enlisted the service of the nations numerous private pilots.  For the most part, during the Second World War, the CAP is associated with quite successful coastal patrols for submarines where tehy proved to be a real irritant to the Kreigsmarine.  They did a little more than that, however, including some patrols on the border with Mexico.  By the end of World War Two the CAP had located 173 German U-boats, attacked 57 of those, hitting10 and sinking two.  Sixty four CAP pilots lost their lives during the war, no doubt mostly to accidents (if not all to accidents).

Following the war, surprisingly, the Air Force retained the CAP as an "auxiliary" organization, converting its mission to search and rescue.  However, seeing a good recruiting tool at hand, it also created a cadet wing which essentially amounted to a type of Air Force JrROTC.

Now some may note that the Air Force has a JrROTC branch, as does the navy (and even, albeit a very small one, the Marine Corps). But this wasn't the case originally.  At first every JrROTC unit in the country was an Army one. The Air Force apparently saw a way to branch into this and make use of a great inducement for youth, aircraft.  CAP, not surprisingly, is very aircraft centric.

 Civil Air Patrol poster, including a CAP cadet, from 1955.

I was in the Civil Air Patrol in the 1970s and at that time it was in fact very much like Air Force JrROTC.  Drill and Ceremony was a big deal with it, for example.  We wore Air Force uniforms and normally the fatigue version of that.  We focused on aircraft, of course, and on the CAP's mission of search and rescue.  Looking back it seems like I was in it for a long time, but in reality that simply reflects the concept of time possessed by youth.  I was in it while I was in junior high, three years.

Looking back, and I can recall it only dimly, I probably thought when I joined it in 7th Grade, after learning about it at the junior high, of staying in it until I was in high school and could join JrROTC.  However, I enjoyed it in its own right.  For reasons I can't really recall, once I was of high school age I dropped my membership entirely.  Once I walked in the door of NCHS, I didn't walk back in the door of the CAP Wing's building here.  I couldn't tell you why, I just didn't.

CAP still has a youth wing but I don't know anything about it.  It appears to be focused on aircraft still, of course, but also on "leadership", something a lot of youth organizations focus on.  If it resembles the old organization much, I wouldn't know.  It's still around, but how popular it is I don't know.  I don't know of any kids that I know being in it, but here the opposite is true as compared to the Scouts.  I'm often quite surprised by how many people I'll run into that were in the CAP as teens.  I know that two of my best friends were in it when was first in it, although they dropped out (just getting there was an ordeal for one who lived out in the country) and I know adults here and there that were.  Just the other day the Byzantine Catholic priest from the Catholic Stuff You Should Know podcast mentioned having been a CAP cadet.

Down on the farm, sort of.

Going from uniformed service, I suppose, to the field, there's long been a collection of youth organizations centered around rural life, and there still are.  We should look at them as well.

The biggest and most well known of these is 4H.  4H got its start in the late 19th Century at a time in which there was a great deal of interest in expanding education to rural communities and youth.  At the same time the nation's land grant colleges and high schools were being very much focused on and, while less than 50% of all Americans graduated from high school, there was a big emphasis on improving average lives through education.  4H came about as part of that.

 Boys at the 4H Fair in Cimarron Kansas, 1939.  County fairs were done away with in Kansas during the Depression, but 4H stepped in and filled the gap nearly entirely.

As this should perhaps indicate, 4H is a lot broader of program than some might imagine who aren't familiar iwth it.  Over time it's become one of the very rare Congressionally recognized special corporations and its quasi governmental in its organization, being under the United States Department of Agriculture and administered state by state by each state's university programs. Wyoming's is administered by the University of Wyoming, which is a land grant university.

Given this origin its not too surprising that 4H has a semi rural but semi vocational focus.  Many people are familiar with its farm related activities, which have been part of it since the very beginning, but its expanded out a lot and not only retains those but many other programs as well.  Locally, for example, it has many farm related programs but it also has sporting related programs, as it does in every state, and programs that might be called domestic.  It's amazingly broad.  Given that, its trajectory doesn't follow that of other youth organizations.  4H peaked out in membership, for example, in 1974.

 4H member with lamb at 4H fair in Kansas, 1939.  Animal raising and showing remains a big part of 4H, but it's not limited to livestock by any means.

Given that fact it's prehaps no surprise that when I was quite young I was in a 4H program locally, but only for about a year or so (I guess I'm not much of a joiner).  My father never was, even though he lived in a family growing up that was extremely closely associated with agriculture.  I suspect that was because he lived in town, even though associated with agriculture, and, at that time, most 4H members were likely living by farms and ranches.  I can recall, for example, him having a distinct memory of a young woman riding a prized bull into the packing house, which would surely have been a Fair Prize bull and likely a 4H bull.

By the time I was in it, in the early 1970s, it had expanded into town but not terribly effectively in our area.  Now, all that has changed.  The shooting sports program it runs in this county dwarfs that of any other organization by far.  Rifle competitors, for example, in this county alone probably outnumber all the JrROTC competitors for the entire state, and the 4H shooters are using firearms, not air rifles.

I've been associated with 4H as an adult as my kids were/are both in it.  Quite a few other people I know can tell similar stories. So here too, maybe what I expected to report here I can't honestly report.  4H seems to be doing just fine.

That takes me to FFA, the Future Farmers of America.  I can't say much about the FFA as I don't know anything about it at all.  It's also a youth centered farm organization but a more recent one than most of the ones I've written about here, coming about, apparently, in 1928.  Locally it was always very strongly associated with being in a farm or ranch family and when I a kid it was exclusively associated with that.  By the time my wife was in it, and she was, a decade later this was less true and kids from the edge of town were sometimes in it. This seems to still be the case today.

 FFA members, 1942.

Which brings up a peripheral point that's a bit interesting.  In the late 1970s when I was in high school to dress, shall we say, in an agricultural fashion was something truly limited to kids who lived on farms and ranches. When we saw a kid in the hall with a cowboy hat, we knew for sure he was really a cowboy. There were some there who dressed that way everyday, but that look was definitely honestly maintained.  Something here has changed too in that its pretty common now, meaning only that a person is associated with the agricultural class or perhaps aspires to it.  The membership of FFA, locally, has expanded in that direction a bit too, I believe.

I'm hindered in saying much else about the organization.  I know that they have a big annual convention back east and that livestock judging is part of its range of activities locally.  I also know that public speaking is part of what it requires.  It tended to focus on education and skills as 4H does, but in a more limited fashion, I think.  I'm always really surprised when I meet an adult out of context and find that he was in FFA as that tells me that he must have a more rural background that I'd suppose, something that people are often surprised to learn about me as well.

The other thing I can note about FFA is that when I was in high school FAA students had cool blue corduroy jackets with the big FFA symbol on the back of them. They still do.

Based on Faith

Before closing this out, I should note faith based organizations.

 Young Men's Christian Association magazine. The YMCA is not a youth organization, but it had a young focus originally, and its a partial inspiration for some true youth organizations.

In a way, by doing that, I"m circling back to where I started, albeit in an awkward way.

One of the thing we noted about the Boy Scouts is that they were originally Christian themed and remain somewhat so today.  Not surprisingly, therefore, organizations that are very strongly focused on faith and particular denominations came into being at about the same time, or in some cases a little later in the 20th Century.

Its hard to ignore the YMCA in this context, even though it is not a youth organization by any means.  It was, however, an expression of the Muscular Christianity movement which in part focused on the thought that giving an athletic expression to increasingly urban young men would help to keep them from falling into vice.  The YMCA is famous in these regards but it actually isn't unique.  Indeed, a prior Catholic organization in Germany was likewise focused on the plight of newly urban men, although without the athletic focus.

Anyhow, prior to the early 20th Century it would be my guess, and its just a guess, that the need for youth organizations based on Faith were few, as in that slower more localized world young people were more likely to be incorporated into the faith lives of their community and churches.  By the early 20th Century, however some things had begun to change.

 YMCA youth group, 1967, looking for all the world just like a youth group from 1967.

Here, as with some of the organizations noted above, I'm embarrassed to admit that I'm not all that personally familiar with these organizations.  I do recall that the Catholic one, the Catholic Youth Organization, was pretty active here in town.  What I recall about it is that it had a basketball league and that it sponsored dances.

Looking it up I find that the basketball league was natural, as the CYO had taken its inspiration in part from the YMCA.  In fact a quick search of CYO symbols reveals that a basketball and the basketball hoop are prominently incorporated in a lot of them. Basketball was the original urban indoor sport, so that's not too surprising.

This is one organization that I"m pretty sure has taken a hit in participation over the past thirty or so years and I don't think there is a CYO in this town anymore, which says something as this is the second largest city in the state.  I think Cheyenne may still have one.  I'm  not sure what occurred here but whatever did, this seems to have declined.  This may simply be because CYO organization shave to compete with a plethora of other activities, particularly sports activities, many, indeed most of which, are sponsored by the schools.  School sporting facilities have gotten so good, I'd note, that its hard to image parish basketball courts competing very well with them.

Of course, the local history of the CYO here might not mean much, so I probably can't comment too much, but I would note that there has been a small rise, over the past twenty or so years, in youth programs associated with various religions.  To at least some degree these stand apart  from organizations like the CYO as the CYO, and similar organizations, are informed more by the YMCA than they are by organizations like the Boy Scouts, and the opposite is otherwise true for these revived organizations.

For example, the Mormons had a massive participation in the Boy Scouts after initial hesitancy was overcome.  In recent years the LDS has been the biggest single faith in the Boy Scouts by participation.  However, with Scouting having felt forced to accommodate first girls and then, and more seriously, homosexuality, the LDS have withdrawn their participation in some Scouting activities and it seems pretty up in the air where this will lead.  here this will go is not currently all worked out.

Where's its partially lead is to a revival of Scouting inspired movements that are definitely strongly associated with certain religions, rather than just broadly Christian.  This trend might continue to develop, we'll see, and if it does it might pose a bit of a threat to Scouting in a way, although I think that threat would be simply to weaken it overall.  It also might lead to a bit of a revival of Christian youth organizations that are more local, more CYO like if you will

So, I don't really have a sweeping conclusion here.  Things have changed, but it's hard to define how.

So, were you a member of any youth organization?

And did you go to camp?

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