This is Living Stories, featuring voices from the collections of the Baylor University Institute for Oral History. I'm Louis Mazé.
Formed separately in the mid-1800s, the Young Men's Christian Association and the Young Women's Christian Association have since collectively been at the forefront of most major social movements, such as women's, civil, and human rights. The YMCA and YWCA are more commonly associated with promoting physical activity and education and offering safe lodging.
Gladys Casimir describes her mother's involvement with the Waco YWCA prior to Prohibition:
"When they went to their meetings they wore little white ribbon bows or rosettes, whatever you want to call it, on their left shoulders. They marched. The women were very active in trying to promote the abolition of liquor. City of Waco had a lot of saloons before they had to close down."
Tom Charlton, former director of the Baylor Institute for Oral History, recalls the Y in Beaumont in the 1940s and 50s:
"The YMCA played a—a big role in my life from the time I learned to swim at the YMCA when I was about nine. My mother and dad always made sure I had a membership at the downtown YMCA. And I would ride the bus from out Calder Avenue down to the YMCA, which was also on Calder near the downtown area. And so when I was in elementary school and early junior high school, I frequently was at the Y on weekends, whether it was Ping-Pong or playing tennis or swimming or basketball at the YMCA."
Dick Simpson, a YMCA leader and University of Texas student in the early 1960s, explains in a telephone interview how the Y took part in the Civil Rights Movement:
"The Y is the organization that housed the first planning meetings for the stand-in movement. And, in fact, at our first meeting at the Y, we were bombed, but the pipe bomb was ineffective. It just blew out a few bricks. The stand-in movement was an attempt to integrate the theaters that were on the street directly across from campus. We would form a line as if we were buying tickets, and let's say I was going as a white, and I would have an African American next to me. We would go up to the window, and I would say, 'I'd like to buy two tickets for this event,' or whatever. After a while, it—we didn't even get to quite that stage, but it looked like a line of theater-goers. But essentially it discouraged people from going to the theater because it was a protest in front of the theater.
"But the pattern was somewhat different than when you sit-in in a restaurant, but the principle was the same as the sit-in movement. It was to simply cut off enough business by making it known that the theaters were segregated, that there were protestors against it. As we cut the attendance, we obviously cut into their profits, which was the economic lever used in the Civil Rights Movement."
In response to a changing society, the YMCA of the USA began reappraising its role in the 1980s and decided to shift its focus to families, while the YWCA continues to promote empowerment for women. In keeping with tradition, both organizations continue to push for social justice and better communities.
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