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Y Stories | Richard Robertson

Read Y Member, Richard Robertson’s, story below how about how the Y has impacted his life and provided a space for community, growth, and well-being:


Some 2 ½ years ago, we joined the TownLake YMCA mainly to participate in the three times a week Senior Exercise Class. It has been a good experience to give the old bod a good tune up every week.


The YMCA over the years has provided a center for a “Healthy Spirit, Mind, and Body.”

Looking back, it is interesting to remember the connections of my family and myself to various

Y’s. Growing up in Dallas, I was well aware of my father’s interest in the Y. He was a member of the Downtown Y and as a youngster I would often go swimming with him after work. It was a manly thing to do because we went in the buff. However, there was a family night swim each Friday night and my sister and I with my parents would often go – but with bathing suits of course. Strangely, one of my memories of those occasions was the small bar of soap we were given to shower with. My dad showed me the art of making the best use of it.


I didn’t realize my dad’s many other connections to the Y until my later years. At that same downtown Y, he received his law degree when I was two years old. I am told that I attended his graduation. The Y over the years sponsored various accredited night schools and law was one of the subjects in Y’s all over the country. I also learned later in life that he lived in the Y in Washington, D.C. in the early 1920's. He lived there with two gentlemen who later became well-known public servants –Brooks Hays who became a Congressman from Arkansas, and Bo Turner who became a Federal Judge in Washington, DC. Later in the ‘20s when he worked for the Treasury Department out of San Antonio, he lived for a time in the Corsicana, Texas Y.


The downtown Y also operated Camp Crockett, at Granbury, Texas. I went to camp there for two summers before it was closed because of the polio epidemic. Our camp director was Grady Spruce, a wonderful gentleman who was like a daddy to all the campers. He was a rather portly person and we always sang about him at meal times.


One of the songs went:


“Oh the dummy line, oh the dummy line, rain or shine I’ll pay my fine. Rain or shine I’ll pay my fine. Ridin’ Ridin’ on the Dummy Dummy Line. Some little old ladies all dressed in brown Got on the dummy in the little old town. Seats were all taken but one with a frown. Mr. Spruce got up and they all sat down.”


When the Y built a new camp at Possum Kingdom near Mineral Wells, they named it Camp Grady Spruce. My 9 year old grandson went to camp there this past summer.


I have written about the University Y in Austin in the past. It was a different kind of Y. The Y programs for UT students began in 1885 and the building was built in 1912. It was an important center for student and community activity for many years. It was located on Guadalupe and 22nd across from the University campus and I lived there for three years. The downstairs was used for student programs and fellowship. Marian and I were both very active and I served one term as president. Her parents served on the YM and YW boards. One summer I represented our Student Program at the National Y Convention in Columbus Ohio and I was able to ride on a charter plane with none other than my old friend, Grady Spruce.


In the summer of 1950 I was accepted to the Washington Student Citizenship Seminar sponsored by the National YMCA. Over 100 of us spent the summer in Washington, visiting important places, meeting President Truman, having speakers four nights a week, and everyone but me had a job with an agency (I gathered material for my Master’s Thesis). We arrived the day the Korean War began, saw the terrible McCarthy witch hunt, attended congressional hearings and sessions, and gained firsthand knowledge that we could not have received anywhere else. It was a life changing experience.


And we can’t forget the YW. My mother and my sister, June, worked for the Dallas Downtown YWCA for a number of years, and her daughter, my niece, Dee Dee both volunteered and worked in the neighborhood YW in Oak Cliff for fifteen years.


We’ve come a long way with the Y, certainly in different phases of its program. I am currently enjoying my present connection in exercise class and cherish the memories of all my lifetime connections.



Richard Robertson

September 2008

Memoirs/Some Y’s Connections