As someone who enjoys weight training, and working out, I have trained at many gyms in my day, including the YMCA. To me, the YMCA is pretty much the same as any other gym. There's a weight room, a pool, that sort of thing. I have found Ys to be a good value, and family friendly. And other than that, and the song "YMCA" from the 1970s, that's about all it means to me. But there's more to the story than that. Let's go back to Phoenix in 1911, and work out at the YMCA.
The YMCA, or Young Men's Christian Association, in 1911 Phoenix was just for men. Women had their own place, the YWCA. These places were designed to help young men and women who may have, as the saying goes, "lost their way", and needed a place to go. These weren't just gyms, and swimming pools, they were places to stay.
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So, in my imagination, we're a couple of young men who have wandered into town, looking for a place to stay in Phoenix in 1911. We know that it's a cold, cruel world out there, and young people can be tempted into many terrible things, what we had always heard as "the road to perdition". So we're pleased to see the YMCA building.
|The Federal Park in Phoenix. You're looking northwest from 1st Avenue and Monroe. The YMCA is the building on the left.|
The YMCA is on the block called the Federal Park. There are three buildings there, including the Federal Building, and the Water Users Building. The block is between Van Buren and Monroe and 1st and 2nd Avenues. Let's go take a look, I know that our clothes are dirty and stained from travel, but we present well, and that's what this place is for. Take off your hat, and let's go inside.
The YMCA gives us a place to stay, a place to eat. We are reminded of the Christian values that we grew up with. We will not be spending time in saloons, we will be reading the Bible, and exercising. This is a good place for us to be. As we learned in school, mens sana in corpore sano (a healthy mind in a healthy body).
|YMCA Christmas Dinner in 1913, Phoenix, Arizona|