Memories

  1. The demolition of the old YMCA with no consideration to sell it for others use is an economic, environmental and cultural loss that reflects badly upon the YMCA leadership. Making another vacant lot in downtown Springfield and giving the property to the state of Illinois and taking it off the property tax roles is another fault of this program. An empty vision by the YMCA.

  2. The downtown YMCA was where I had started my first swim lessons and also where my now 4-yr old started his. I love being able to share that memory with him. And I love the family atmosphere of the dt Y and hope that carries to the new Y.

  3. Dear Y MCA
    Thank you for providing a wonderful swim pool to swim at either as lap swim or back in the day with SPY. and for Nice workout rooms to lift weights at. I hope the building is preserved as a museum.

  4. My husband and went to Y fitness class at 6 am. Frank Mercardo was the leader I will always remember the music that Frank played Mr Tambourine Man is a song that I cry when I hear Sammy Davis jr sing it . I still have friends from that early morning group. Farewell Downtown Y Elizabeth Simpson , Harry Simpson was my late husband

  5. I played in my first church league in 1971. The pastor of Douglas Avenue United Methodist church used to open the church basement gym on Saturday mornings and he was completely non-exclusionary; though I was Catholic and so was my friend tommy, he saw that we could make baskets and asked us to play for his church in the Y league and we were happy to do so. I didn’t go much in the 70s and 80s, but in the 90s I remember Joe bonefeste singing all the mob hits while on the treadmill……..al Martino, jerry vale, Louis prima, etc. Also remember the time I tried to change the channel during final jeopardy and bill rathbone about died on the spot. He for all the world reminded me of a barnyard rooster kinda hopping around and angrily squawking, he thought I plumb lost my mind, what’re ya doing? Its FINAL jeopardy!!!! I miss them both and all the others may they rest in peace

  6. Also remember Sam Dorman running the track like a madman wow was he fit for an old guy. Also Francis O’Brien used to scare the bejeesus outta me; he still lifted weights when he was in his high90s. every time I heard weights crashing in there I thought it was the end of him. RIP to both of those guys, too. I’m pretty sure Mr O’Brien in large part financed the lobby renovation. Sam used to give out candy bars on his birthday. Good guys both.

  7. I lived in Springfield from 1974 to 1985, working for the Board of Higher Education. The Y was a source of exercise, (racquet-ball, running the track, weight room) and friendship during all those years. Beyond the building, the Y’s soccer program got both our sons involved in playing the game and me involved in coaching. Thanks to the community for its contributions to me and to future generations!

  8. I remember back in the mid 70s when the wrestling circuit stopped in Springfield, I and many others were treated to the sight of Superstar Billy Graham lifting weights and really putting on a show in the basement. That name probably doesn’t mean much to most on this site; billy was the hulkster before there was a Hulkster. Dude was buffed like nobody’s business, just huge and he owned those weights, just threw around massive weights. Ahead of his time. Very impressive physique. Not the evangelist, the wrestler! Google him, he was awesome. Very much the showman, didn’t mind the gawkers at all.

  9. My y experience started with working with Alan as my personal trainer. I had to take a break when I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. Alan helped me continue my strength training and helped me as I recovered from a stem cell transplant. I really like the atmosphere at the downtown y. Thanks so much to Alan

  10. I am thankful for all the wonderful folks I have been blessed to meet, some of them dear friends now. I started coming in the 1980’s to aquacise programs, fell in love with the method of exercising in the water. Linda Pfeiffer was in charge of the pool during those years; she later hired me to lead the water classes and I have enjoyed doing that and adding the water “yoga/balancing” class also. I look forward to classes in the new Y, but will miss the old Y with so many wonderful memories. Thank you for allowing me to enjoy these classes.

  11. The 4th street YMCA building was a big part of our lives in the late 70’s and into the 80’s. I remember running around and around and around that basement track! I learned to swim as an adult in the pool and took our kids there too. So thankful for the adult TOW(terrified of water) class, changed my life! So many good memories, sounds and smells! The Y will always be an asset to our community. Anxious to see what the future holds!

  12. The present YMCA bldg. was not even one year old when our family came to Springfield in Aug. 1963. I was going on ten years old and about ready to start the fourth grade at DuBois school. I have many, many fond memories of learning to swim and countless activities and several summers at Camp Wa-Kon-Ta on Lake Spfld. and Camp Anokejig in Sheboygan Co., WI. Of major importance, this is also the place where I interacted with and made friends with Afro. American boys, many of whom we’re under privileged and from the east central section of town (most all of that was decent back than, also) for the first time in my life as we came from a small town 60 miles W. of Chicago. The YW was also a beautiful place, had a formal air about it. How sad it will be to see this fine facility turned into another parking lot in the center of town. Thanks for the memories, will try to make a few new ones at the new facility!

  13. I live in Seattle but for some reason felt compelled to leave an email with someone about how much the Y meant to my dad Buck. What a surprise to see the tribute wall! Dad started going to the Y in the 1970’s after my mom died. Not sure why as he never exercised before. I remember dropping him off every morning and how much it meant to him. He had a swim teacher that changed his outlook on life by encouraging him with positivity rather than the criticism he was brought up with. He moved from Springfield many years ago but continued to play tennis into his 90’s and was well and strong until his death at 98. I’m sure it was because of the values of physical activity and encouragement he learned at the Y. I’m in my 60’s now and hope to follow in his footsteps. Looking forward to when I can go back to the Seattle Y!

  14. My dad,Walt McDonald,sister and brother-in-law Laurie and Cress Maddox were all past Ymca roundup bosses for the annual membership drives, the y on 4th street has been our family tradition for generations,thank you!

  15. My father loved to play handball at the YMCA. As kids, we would look at the trophies he won there. He worked out there everyday, and was one of their original members. My mother remembers him being involved with fund raising, etc… during the original build. In January 1984, he passed away while jogging there. Despite this, our family has nothing but good feelings for this place he enjoyed so much.

  16. The Y hosted my high school after-prom lock-in, and I used the workout facilities as a teenager and young adult to prepare for my basketball seasons. All of my sons have taken their first swim lessons at the Downtown Y. Thank you to the aquatics, member services, youth development, and administrative staff for welcoming my boys and sharing in their growth. Wonderful memories and looking forward to many more in the new facility!

  17. We met in November 1978 at Frank Mercado’s 6 am exercise class held in the large gym M – F mornings. Randy is a morning person and wanted to talk. Karen isn’t a morning person and didn’t want to talk. Randy tracked down Karen through the person who talked her into going to an early am exercise class. A year later we were married and will celebrate our 41st anniversary in Dec. 2020. 42 years of memories exercising at the Y, making wonderful friends, and taking our kids to the Y.
    Karen and Randy Witter

  18. 40+ years ago, on the luckiest day of my life, I met my wife at the Y. Our romance bloomed in the same building where our children learned to swim. The Y will always have a special place in my heart.c

  19. My competitive swimming life began at the YWCA in 1964, and when my Dad merged the boys team with the girls in the early 70s, we started working out at the YMCA. The team became known as SPY a short time later. I know every tile in that pool and also in the ceiling! I remember serving as a “Rangerette” during the YM Roundups. So many memories and such an important part of my life, I will cherish that place always. I shed a tear when the YW was demolished and I’m sure the same will happen when our old friend goes next year. Thanks for the memories!

  20. I just turned 60 and remember the sign out front reading Fallout Shelter instead of Kid Safe Zone. It certainly has been a pleasure being a part of something so good that’s lasted so long!

    Two things my parents did for me that I will never forget and always be Thankful for. The first was signing me up for a library card and the second was enrolling me in swimming lessons at the YMCA. The latter saved my life. Thanks for all the good times, memories and friends from the corner of 4th and Cook. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and a Great Grand Opening at the new Downtown facility. Cheers!

  21. In the mid 1970’s two YMCA Board members(Wes Brown and Floyd Dean) came to my office. I was certain they came to ask me to take part in the “Roundup”.
    Instead, I was overwhelmed when they asked me if I would consider being the FIRST woman board member at the Y. They were hopeful that I would be interested in helping
    start a [program for young people with disabilities. They also wanted someone who would help promote the Women’s Health Club and other activities for women. My answer was yes and I still remain active at the Y as a member of the Board of Trustees. I treasure my years of involvement which included walking across the Y soccer fields at UIS to attend countless youth soccer games as a mother and then a grandmother. Mary Frisk Loken

  22. Bruce Finne. Yes. Sam Dorman, OB, Diamond, Bill Oswald, Bill Maseka and Andy, Denis Wilson, Ron Chisim, Frank and Virginia Mercado, Charley Davis, Rudy Davenport, Al Bernardi. The list goes on and on. I saw George Bush running around the track one time. The health club was a real social gathering for sure.

Do you have a special memory of the downtown Y you would like to share?

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