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Reflections by Sammy Way: Recreation centers opened for young people in the 1940s

By SAMMY WAY
Sumter Item archivist and historian
Posted 6/20/20

This issue of Reflections revisits the opening of two centers dedicated to the youth of Sumter. These two wood-framed facilities provided the young people of Sumter with the opportunity to gather and socially interact in a supervised manner. Both …

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Reflections by Sammy Way: Recreation centers opened for young people in the 1940s

Posted

This issue of Reflections revisits the opening of two centers dedicated to the youth of Sumter. These two wood-framed facilities provided the young people of Sumter with the opportunity to gather and socially interact in a supervised manner. Both buildings were financed by the residents of Sumter with a number of individuals donating both furniture and refreshments for use by those who attended the centers. The research data and photos were taken from The Sumter Item archives.

"The Teenager Canteen (formerly known as The Hangout) consisted of frame construction 30 x 90 feet situated on a 55 x 290 foot lot purchased by the city. Cost of the project will be in excess of $10,000 according to J. A. Raffield, city manager. Besides a large assembly room and dance floor, the building is equipped with offices, snack bar, locker rooms and rest rooms. The teenage group was formerly located on North Main Street in a building owned by E. B. Boyle. When the old location was needed for other purposes, Mr. A. T. Heath Sr. proposed to city council that if the city would supply the necessary building, he would furnish it."

Teenagers by the scores - 200 or 300 of them - thronged to take possession of their new recreation building on North Salem at the gala opening dance.

The Council Street Recreational Center

The City of Sumter was able to obtain federal approval to renovate and equip a frame dwelling on Council Street for use as a recreation center for black residents. Mayor F. B. Creech, who was advised of the approval by Sen. Burnet R. Maybank and Rep. H. B. Fulmer, made the announcement. Estimated cost of the project was $10,500.

"Mayor F. B. Creech presented the beautiful recreation center at 42 Council St. on Feb. 3, 1944. This new facility was to be used by black soldiers and citizens of the Sumter community. Several hundred persons were present for the re-opening of the recently renovated and modernized community house. It was the ambition of our churches, schools and people to provide wholesome recreation for the youth of the community."

The first center to be used by black youth was initially opened on Washington Street.