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A brief history of the SCV Boys and Girls Club

Posted: September 6, 2008 9:17 p.m.
Updated: November 8, 2008 5:00 a.m.
 
It started as a directive from Los Angeles County Sheriff Peter Pitchess. In 1968 the Santa Clarita Valley was more small town than sophisticated suburb, with few recreational opportunities for the growing population of latch-key children.

Valencia resident George Pederson at the time was a sergeant working out of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Newhall office. Sheriff's Capt. Joe Enger assigned Pederson the job of contacting Larry Margolis and Herb Oberman of the Department of Social Services to work on the problem of finding something for SCV youth to do after school, other than cause trouble. The trio were drafted to contact community leaders in the hope of founding a youth organization to provide supervised recreational activities for youngsters.

According to a history of the SCV Boys and Girls Club compiled by Tony Newhall and Pedersen in celebration of the club's 40th anniversary, the newly organized group quickly decided to affiliate with the Boys Clubs of America. The founding board of directors included school superintendent Dr. Jim Foster; businessmen Ed Bolden and Stan Dyer; restaurant owner Bill Kohlmeier; salesman Jack Boyer; Signal publisher Jon Newhall and Newhall Land and Farming's Larry Wade.

Named "The Boy's Club Newhall-Saugus," the group set up quarters in a tiny vacant church at the corner of 6th Street and Newhall Avenue across from Hart Park.

To obtain funding for their new venture the board applied for its first grant - $24,000 from the San Francisco-based Henry Mayo Newhall Foundation, payable at $8,000 per year for three years. Bill Kohlmeier (owner of BBQ Bill's restaurant) was elected the first board president and Al Vierra was hired as the first executive director.

The board held the first of many fundraisers to benefit the club in the summer of 1969 with a community luau held at River's End Recreational Park in Soledad Canyon. Chairman George Pederson helped dig a pit to roast the traditional luau pig. The Reverend Sam Dixon of Val Verde cooked gourmet side dishes. The affair raised nearly $1,000 from the 100 event guests.

The all-male board soon decided to invite the ladies of the SCV to help with the fundraising efforts. With the help of Signal editors Ruth and Scott Newhall, a 1970 luncheon was organized at the Piru Mansion. A select group of a dozen women were wined and dined, then challenged to organize a Women's Auxiliary of the Boys Club of Newhall-Saugus. Old Orchard resident Jacque Morse was named first president of the group with Linda Pedersen as vice president in charge of fundraising.

The club soon moved into slightly larger quarters, the Pardee House at Market and Walnut streets in Newhall (the historic 1890 home was moved to Heritage Junction in Hart Park in 1992.)

The Women's Auxiliary staged luaus and other fundraisers. In 1971 the officers of the Women's Auxiliary were invited to join the board of directors of the club.

On March 22, 1971 the board of directors set the annual membership dues at $1 per calendar year - and in a ground breaking move (not sanctioned by the national Boys Club organization) membership was opened up to girls.

However, the official name of the club didn't change until 1978 when the club became the Santa Clarita Valley Boys and Girls Club. It took the national organization a good time longer to react to the winds of change. It wasn't until 1990 that the national organization became the Boys and Girls Clubs of America.

Throughout the 1970s the club operated "satellite" playground programs at Emblem, Wiley Canyon, Skyblue Mesa and Valley View elementary schools, among others. The first Club building was a 3,000-square-foot modular erected at Emblem Elementary in 1980 followed by a 3,000-square-foot building at Sierra Vista Junior High School in 1981. The club expanded to Val Verde in 1981.

The club's 20,000-square-foot, $1.8 million "central facility" in Newhall was opened in 1992 after an extensive capital campaign spearheaded by Clyde Smyth, Tom Lee, Tom Veloz and Sam Garcia which began in 1988. The $6.2 million 27,000 sq. ft. Sierra Vista facility in Canyon Country, an innovative partnership with the city of Santa Clarita and the William S. Hart Union School district opened in 2003.

For many in the SCV, the Boys and Girls Club is synonymous with "auction." The club's famous and extravagant auction had humble beginnings. The first event - "The Auction of Thrills" as it was dubbed - was held in May, 1972 at the Ranch House Inn (off Magic Mountain Parkway at Interstate 5).

Tony Newhall was the first auction chairman and the committee included businessman Hal Carr and Sheriff's Deputy Bob Rollins, plus Linda Pedersen and Jacque Morse, among others. Among the auction items up for grabs were: A chance to drive a car in the Saugus Speedway Demolition Derby; quarterbacking a few scrimmage plays with the College of the Canyons' football team; a ride in the Goodyear Blimp; and lunch with L.A. County Supervisor Warren Dorn; and a street naming opportunity.

A large turnout (more than 300) raised $4,000 for the club. Bobbie Trueblood's ticket selling talents were credited with garnering the large number of attendees.

The Boys and Girls Club auction soon became the most highly anticipated "social event of the season" with SCV's "movers and shakers" eager to have their names attached to the auction as "event chairs." The list of auction chairs is impressive with Tony Newhall, Frank Kleeman, Tom Lee, Rick Stephens, Steve Hall, Daniel Hon, Dick Keysor, Sam Garcia, Arthur N. Briner, Ben Curtis, Bill Brawley, Craig Johansen, George Pederson, Joseph R. Schillaci, Glen and Loretta Rollins, Alan and Rise Barabakow, John Warren, Jane and Bert Boeckmann, John and Suzy Reardon, Del Holland, Don and Cheri Fleming, Bob Kellar and Kathy Keysor Smith and Chell and Greg Amsler, among those who've served.

After years of being held in the CalArts Main Gallery, then at empty warehouse venues, the auction is now housed in the outdoor park-like setting of Mann BioMedical Park in Valencia. Attendance regularly exceeds 1,200.

In 1976 the auction adopted a "Bicentennial" theme and raised $37,500. Every auction since has boasted a theme - ranging from "A Night on the Nile," "An Evening in Paris," "Hooray for Hollywood," "2000 Leagues Under the Sea," "Pirates Cove" to "Denim and Diamonds." In 1980, under the chairmanship of HR Textron's Sam Garcia, the "Showboat" auction was the first to net more than $100,000.

In 2006 the auction, with Don and Sherry Fleming as chairs and with a theme of "It's 5 o'clock Somewhere," raised $515,000.

The Club, which for years charged only $12 a year in dues, now charges only $24 a year, and serves more nearly 3,500 SCV youth.

In 2002 the SCV Boys and Girls Foundation was formed. The Foundation produces three major special events to benefit the Boys & Girls Club of SCV the benefit auction and dinner in June, the Keyes Lexus Club Classic golf tournament at Valencia Country Club in August and the Festival of Trees in late November.

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