Monday, October 10, 2011

A faded dream: Kerrville's J. M. Auld Youth Center

From time to time I get questions about the history of the J. M. Auld Youth Center, the little building at the corner of 2nd and College streets, behind what was Tivy Elementary School long ago.
I'm not old enough to remember the building being used as a youth center though it was in limited use as such during my youth; my earliest memories of the place come from my 6th grade year when we beginner band members practiced there, far away from other members of the community, probably because of our skill level. We rarely hit the right notes, but what we lacked in skill we made up with loudness.
A long-time friend let me borrow a scrapbook about the Auld Center, and in it was a short history of the place.
"The J. M. Auld Youth Center was organized in 1949. It is, undoubtedly, the oldest active youth center in Texas not privately or municipally owned and run. Its conception came from a group of high school students who felt they should have a place to congregate, play, and talk. This dream was made possible by [the J. M. Auld Family Foundation]  who gave $6,000 for the project.
"From the very beginning the school system cooperated although they wanted no part of running the youth center. However, teachers have often been on the board.
"The Foundation is set up with trustees and running the youth center is delegated to the youth center board. A director was hired early in its operation when it became apparent the students couldn't manage by themselves. The center has had its ups and downs and several directors, but has overcome many obstacles and seems in better shape now than in many years."
This particular history of the center was written in the mid 1970s. It continues with details of renovations done then, like a new roof and window repairs.
The scrapbook included many photographs -- some snapshots, and some professionally taken. In its heyday, the center was a very active part of the youth community.
There are photographs of boxing matches, of kids dancing, playing ping pong, pool, and shuffleboard. There are photographs of adults working on fundraisers for the center, of young people hard at work painting the building, of boy scouts and women sewing. I think most of the photos are from the mid-1950s, when the center was still pretty active.
In the old scrapbook, there are even some minutes from a 1979 meeting of the Kerr County United Way board of directors where several directors questioned the director's salary (which was, when figured on an hourly basis, a whopping $6.11/hour.)  They eventually agreed to fund $4,500 of the center's request that year.
What had started out as a dream of high school kids, and funded by a long-time Kerr County family, seemed to fade over time. At the beginning there were many enthusiastic volunteers; toward the end, few.
The building itself is now used by the Kerrville Independent School District's Adult and Community Education program, run by my friend Phil Houseal.
Until next week, all the best.
Joe Herring Jr. is a Kerrville native who is well past the Youth Center maximum age. This column originally appeared in the Kerrville Daily Times October 8, 2011


  1. As one of the original "Student Officers" you gave an accurate description of the how it all came about. I was there only for the first year of the Center and recall shooting pool "after school" on which I shouldn't elaborate further. Good story...

  2. I attended many, many dances at the youth center.

    A great time was had by all.


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