Morris Clark, secretary of the “Y” and a member of the Rotary committee on boys work, was the speaker at Tuesday’s Rotary meeting, which brought out a hundred per cent attendance. Boys work is one of the important undertakings of Rotary and naturally Morris’ address was one of the most important topics under discussion.
Stanley Peck, a former Cranbrook business man and a brother-in-law of Harry McKowan, was a visitor at the luncheon and favored with a number of piano selections. Fred Scott and L.P. Sullivan worked the stunt end of the programme and escaped without any serious injuries, thanks to the generosity of the members. Bill Attridge also said his little piece with much solemnity and “grace.”
Morris Clark’s ten minute address was as follows:
Rotary and the Boy
Chairman Frank and Fellow Rotarians:
I have been asked to give a talk on Rotary and the Boy, and believe me I have a task that cannot be even started in the short time that I have at my disposal.
“Johnny,” said the mother, “when I tell your father what a naughty boy you have been today he will punish you severely.”
“Have you got to tell him, Ma?”
“Yes, and I shall tell him immediately after dinner.”
“Well, Ma, give him a better dinner than usual, won’t you? You might do that much for me.”
Johnnie knew the way to the heart – and I think our cook must have known that I was booked for a talk, and sympathizing with me provided an extra good meal.
You can bet I am glad you fellows are in a fairly contented mood, so I’ll proceed without any further waste of time and sincerely trust that what I say may be of some benefit.
I am glad that Rotary as an organization does not attempt any Boys Work but co-operates with organizations that are trying to put across the program. It is a mistake, and a very foolish one, for several organizations in a community to build up its own program unrelated and without joint comprehension. of community-wide needs. The lack of this in many places, has meant duplication and overlapping as well as entirely overlooking certain community requirements.
A program of activities is not sufficient. There must be a consistent, as well as a persistent effort to move the causes of evil affecting character, individually and collectively. Here is where Rotary comes in. Organizations like the “Y” and the Scouts may provide the activities through trained leadership. Rotarians can help remove the causes of evil which handicap the larger development of character.
The adolescent boy is not an isolated individual, but an inseparable part of the family and society. You cannot in any large way help or harm the one without helping or harming the other. The causes which operate produce unfavorable conditions surrounding human life and its development are many. Environment, parenthood, and childhood are all factors contributing to the boy’s physical, intellectual and moral life. Whenever we approach the boy or girl problem we touch the centre from which radiate all the threads that are woven into the social fabric.
Don’t let us Rotarians think only in terms of the program of activities. These are necessary of course but, to a great extent are being provided. Most of the tendencies and characteristics which we wish were not the boys are traceable to those early influences of environment and parenthood. We must not concentrate on activities to the neglect of a program which deals with causes.
We should be concerned over the kind of parents the boy has, his home, his church, his school, his play life, his mental and physical endowment. We, as Rotarians should become intelligent concerning conditions surrounding child life and the laws governing its development. Each Rotarian should become a student of the Social and Moral problems of our times. Almost every question involved grows out of the necessity of protecting birth and the boy’s development. The home, the church, the school and the municipality are the agencies which eventually must meet the needs of the boy life of a community.
Far too long have we safeguarded our Parks and Churches and School buildings against their wildest usages, setting them aside for a limited and prescribed activity as though the equipment were sacred rather than the individuals who are served. We should see that a wider use is made of our buildings or our new park and vacant lots for play purposes.
There are four facts that should command our thoughts for they belong to the boy:
1st. The child has a right to be born with a strong body. When we consider this, we face all the problems involved in making it possible. Unsanitary conditions of home, workshop, school and city. Ignorance of parenthood in discretion, willful dissipation and other causes which are due to social and economic conditions. Until we change the general mode of living, boys will come into the world handicapped. A healthy boy is the foundation of character. A child has the right to this foundation.
2nd. The boy has the right to an education. Do you know that in this country there are over half a million who cannot read or write. I believe that something like three thousand in the army and navy of Canada could not read or write, more than their own name.
A steady stream of boys keep dropping out of school before they have even laid elementary foundations for their future. These boys are flooding our communities as inefficient workers and poor citizens. Something should be done to check the stream of boys who are leaving school. We are proud of and grateful for our public schools, but more of them speedily should adapt their courses to meet present day needs; give greater attention to holding boys through the earlier years of preparation; provide vocational advice and in other ways attempt to prevent rather than try later, to cure this serious evil.
3rd. The boy has a right to normal play life during childhood. Play is for the boy an occupation as serious, as important, as study and work for the adult. Play is, in fact, his first means of development and expression.
Right here is involved the question of community recreation, proper playgrounds and right leadership. Rotary can take an active part in prohibiting these.
4th. The boy has a right to the opportunity to form and live a moral life. Permanent harm has often been inflicted by well meaning people who have tried to graft adult religion in the boy. Every boy must live out completely every stage of boyhood or he can never develop into complete manhood and express a normal life.
As Rotarians we should see that evil influences that drag down the boy or girl are removed or most strictly supervised by those who stand for law and order. Our laws are not better than we are; if we are indifferent our laws will not be enforced. Then co-operate with the agencies existing for the enforcement of laws effecting child life.
That which you expect to put into the boy you must put into his environment. Let us not forget while encouraging the community to express itself in better housing conditions, playgrounds, parks, etc., to encourage self expression on the part of the individual. While suppressing commercialized vice, we must in an increased degree be factors in increasing virtue in individuals. We should encourage wholesome recreation. Character is acquired by activities and amusements in shop, school, street, theatre as well as by controlling influences of church and home.
I would say that as Rotarians the ideal we should seek should be that of removing the causes of evil which handicap the development of character rather than providing reform schools and prisons.
Let me conclude by reading this little poem, which is applicable and in keeping with the subject under discussion:
Fence or Ambulance
‘Twas a dangerous cliff as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near the crest was so pleasant,
But over its terrible edge had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done
Though their projects did not at all tally:
Some, “Put a stout fence round the edge of the cliff”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”
But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,
And it spread through the neighboring city,
A fence may be useful or not, it is true
But each heart became brimful of pity
For those who slipped over the dangerous cliff
And dwellers in highway and alley
Gave pounds or gave pence, not to put up a fence,
But an ambulance down in the valley.
Then an old sage remarked, “Tis a marvel to me
That people give far more attention
To repairing results than to stopping the cause,
When they’d better much aim at prevention.
Let us stop at its source all this mischief,” he cried
“Come neighbors and friends, let us rally:
If the cliff we will fence, we might almost dispense
With the ambulance down in the valley.”
“Oh, he’s a fanatic,” the others rejoined.
“Dispense with the ambulance? Never.
He’d dispense with all charities too, if he could.
No! No! We’ll support them forever.
Aren’t we picking up folks just as fast as they fall?
And shall this man dictate to us? Shall he?
Why should people of sense stop to put up a fence
While the ambulance works in the valley?”
But a sensible few who are practical too,
Will not bear with such nonsense much longer
They believe that prevention is better than cure
And their party will soon be the stronger.
Encourage them, then, with your purse, voice and pen,
And (while philanthropists daily)
They will scorn all pretense and put up a stout fence
On the cliff that hangs over the valley.
Better guide well the young than claim them when old;
For the voice of true wisdom is calling:
“To rescue the fallen is good, but ‘tis best
To prevent other people from falling.”
Better put up a stout fence round the tion[?] and crime
Than deliver from dungeon or galley:
Better put up a stout cliff[?] round the top of the cliff
Than an ambulance down in the valley.