People, dedication are the cornerstones of success as local YMCA hits century mark today

Tim Allen (left), marketing director for the Parkview Huntington Family YMCA, takes a look at old newspapers with Youth Sports Coordinator Rob Miller that contain news about the ‘Y,’ shedding light on its history.
Tim Allen (left), marketing director for the Parkview Huntington Family YMCA, takes a look at old newspapers with Youth Sports Coordinator Rob Miller that contain news about the ‘Y,’ shedding light on its history. Photo by Steve Clark.

Originally published Jan. 10, 2013.

The Parkview Huntington Family YMCA celebrates its 100th anniversary today, Thursday, Jan. 10.

When asked what the highlights of the Y's century in operation have been, Marketing Director Tim Allen and Senior Program Director Don Cozad talk less about the highlights and more about the people associated with those highlights - which, in itself, might reveal the secret to the Y's success.

Allen and Cozad start with Ez Williams. The coordinator of the Midget Basketball League for the Y in the 1950s, Williams had polio that made the process of getting up the stairs to the gym at the old Y, located at the corner of Warren Street and Washington Street, in Huntington, and since demolished, a little difficult.

"He had these braces on his legs and his wheelchair would go up to the stairway," says Allen. "And then he would just brace a foot against one side and then take a step and brace his other foot on this side and just literally half-crawl up those 18-20 stairs to get up to the gymnasium where they'd have a chair for him... right around the corner is where they had the scorer's bench and he kept score for every game. He and his wife kept score for every game.

"That's just the kind of dedication that rubs off, honestly, on people. It impacted me and I was only a fourth-grader... and it wasn't until I was older, obviously, that you realize what a commitment that was and how important he was."

Today, the Y hands out an award named after Williams, which recognizes the Kim League basketball coach who draws out the best participation from their players and sees that they learn sportsmanship through competition.

"Those things are things that Ez was awfully good at instilling in kids," says Allen.

Williams further left his mark on youth basketball at the Y by renaming the Midget Basketball League the "Kim League" in honor of a fallen player.

"In 1964, Kim Howenstine played basketball for the (Midget Basketball League)," says Allen. "He was nine years old... He collapsed during a game during that season and then was diagnosed with brain cancer and died a few months later.

"And so, the following year, Ez renamed the basketball league the Kim League in honor of Kim Howenstine."

The Kim League is in its 48th year and over 450 children are participating in it, which is the biggest group yet at the Y, says Allen.

"We have a lot of people that were really impacted by the Kim League back when they were growing up now involved with their Kim League," says Allen. "Whether it's as a parent, parents that are now coaching or parents that have kids that now play."

In addition to being the place to play basketball, the Y used to be the place to go in the 1950s and 1960s once basketball games got over, too.

"Down in the basement at the old Y, after the games that were at Central Community Gym, (people) walked across the street to the Y and there was a dance," says Cozad. "It was called the ‘Swing Inn.'"

Despite its eight-foot ceiling, pipes hanging overhead and being generally difficult to get to, the basement was always crowded for the Swing Inn, says Allen.

"There's pictures from the stairway looking down into the Swing Inn and it's just wall-to-wall," he says. "I mean, there's probably 200 kids in the basement. It's just unbelievable."

"It went on for 10, 15, 20 years," adds Cozad. "It was the same adults that ran it, but all the high school kids would come to the Swing Inn."

One of those adults was the elderly Mamie Sunley.
"Mamie Sunley would stand on the stairs on your way down and if the girls' skirts were too short, they couldn't get in," says Cozad. "She'd stand there with a measuring stick and measure their skirts."

"And if the guys acted up, she tossed ‘em out," continues Allen. "If she thought there was any hijinks, you didn't come in. She was the Swing Inn police."
Sunley left such an impression on the dance's attendees that when the Y hosted a Swing Inn reunion, she was one of the main topics of conversation.

"They talked about her, about as much as anything else," Allen says. "In fact, they wished that there was a cardboard cutout of her that they could stand up to remember, because she was always in the same place, waiting for kids to show up."

If Sunley's domain at the old Y was the dance floor and Williams' was the gym, Glen Hummer's was the pool.

A coach at the Y for, Allen recollects, 30 to 40 years, Hummer coached 11 men's YMCA swimming and diving national championship teams, against big cities like Chicago and San Francisco.

"There's still coaches today that find it awfully difficult to believe that Glen Hummer trained people in a 25-yard, four-lane pool," says Allen.

Hummer coached a pair of Olympians - Gary Dilley, who won a silver medal at the 1964 Summer Olympics in Tokyo and Matt Vogel, who claimed two golds at the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal - as well as George Haines, who went on to become a prominent swimming coach in his own right.

"Maybe one of the best things that came out of the swimming program for Hummer was the fact that he was the one that coached George Haines," says Allen. "And George Haines then went on to start the Santa Clara Swim Club, which is the most famous swim club in the world and the most successful.

"He went to California and started it up and next thing you know Mark Spitz is swimming for him."

Allen says it's not hard to connect the dots between Hummer and some of the world's most famous swimmers, like Michael Phelps or Ryan Lochte.

"From Glen Hummer, the degree of separation to the greatest swimmers in the world, right now, is probably only two or three steps," he says. "From a guy that swam for Hummer or coached under Hummer, that then had someone coach or swim under him, that is now coaching the greatest swimmers in the world is a testament to what Hummer's influence was."

Allen and Cozad single out the Y's preschool program, which is entering its 41st year, and Camp Dick Runyan as additional highlights of the Y's long history.

Even though the Y decided to get out of the camp business, selling Camp Dick Runyan - which is now called Camp Crosley and run by the Muncie YMCA - Allen says it had a tremendous impact on thousands of children in its heyday.

"The real gauge of success is how many people come back, and kids would come back, year after year, and families would send the next generation of kids through," he says. "Kids that attended when they were young would then send their kids when they were old enough."

While the Y will observe its 100-year anniversary on Jan. 10 with a Chamber After Hours event at the Y from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m., it plans to celebrate the milestone throughout the year. An event in late summer and a dinner in September are two of the tentatively planned events.

"We'd like to make it a real happening," says Allen of the dinner. "Hoping to have a wonderful speaker and then maybe several speakers that have some history at the Y that help tell the story."

Even though Ez Williams is no longer sitting in the Y's gym, Mamie Sunley is no longer waiting at the entrance with her ruler and Glen Hummer is no longer watching over the pool, the Y is still around, and Allen says it's due to people in the community like them.

"It's because of the support of the community that we've had the success we've had, and I think that goes back 100 years," Allen says. "That's what's really special about the Y."

Complete caption: Tim Allen (left), marketing director for the Parkview Huntington Family YMCA, takes a look at old newspapers with Youth Sports Coordinator Rob Miller that contain news about the ‘Y,’ shedding light on its history. The YMCA is celebrating its 100th anniversary today, Thursday, Jan. 10, with a Chamber After Hours event at the ‘Y’ and with events scheduled throughout the year.