August 4, 2011

THE UPTOWN CHICAGO BOYS CLUB

Bill Matteson
Uptown Chicago History Correspondent

Some where around 1947/48 The Uptown Chicago Boys Club was started.
It Was on Broadway, right where Clifton Ave. junctions in just south of Lawrence Ave. . It was on the east side of the street in the basement right next to Klaenners Undertakers and Funeral Parlor, (I am sure I have spelled this wrong)

The Boys Club was a welcome sight and all boys in the area flocked to join. the first 500 members would get their name on a plaque, My friend Lionel did, I was number 522.
The Club itself had a good size gym for basket ball (1/2 court) tumbling, boxing, judo and wrestling every manly art a kid could think of.
Now Boxing was my game, I wasn't big, nor was I strong, but I was fast and I had a skill that most kids didn't have.
My Dad who was in WWI, was an amateur boxer from Kansas, My grandfather was a pro Lightweight, who at one time fought Sammy Mandella a World Lightweight Champion
so between Granddad and Dad I was going to be the next champ.
Now starting in third grade my Dad would send me to Johnny Coulons Gym on the south side
I remember taking three street cars and it took over an hour to get there from Uptown

Today I wouldn't think of sending a 9 year old kid that far by himself.
For those who don't know, Johnny Coulon was a bantom weight champion.
I met him a few times, but mainly I worked with his trainers.

I was at the Boy's Club one day and they just put up a punching bag. low enough for me to strike without standing on a crate, like I had to at Coulons gym.
I had that bag singing, when an instructor saw me and the next thing I knew, he had me in a city wide boxing tournament. I won that one and a few other ones until one day I fought this Philippino kid, who was a little smaller than me.. I had no experience boxing any one smaller than me so I figured an easy win.
Well in about 45 second he just beat the living Bejuesus out of me. about that time a Cuban Boxer named Kid Gavailan, who had a "bolo punch" which was an overhand punch. no jab, no hook, and no uppercut The kid hit me overhand I figured , I'll get you on the next one, he threw it again, I blocked it and he popped me with his other hand, The Ref. stopped the fight because I was bleeding from the nose. I had no defense for an overhand punch.

The gloves we used were 16 ounces and pillow fighting was more dangerous, but there i was, bleeding.

That was It I was through with boxing.
I might add that a lot of bouts I won. I was boxing in a younger age bracket because I looked so young.


The Club had one or Two pool tables and I had found a new sport, that, plus Photography.
My friend Lionel was a good photographer, mainly because he had a camera.
The Boys Club set up a darkroom with equipment and an instructor came in every so often ,
Then either Lionel or I became the instructors and would show everyone how to develop film and prints .


I don't know when I drifted away from the Boy's club or why maybe they closed it down. maybe I got older , maybe I found Girls.

I think it was girls
Bill "The Boxer" Matteson

3 comments:

Fred Olin said...

I went to that Boy's Club also, and remember going to a summer camp somewhere sponsored by the Club. I haven't a clue where it was any more.

Anonymous said...

It was probably Camp Kemah in William's Bay Wisconsin. My brother and I also went to the Uptown Boys Club in the basement on Broadway. In addition to the pool tables and the underground gym, they had ping pong tables, a woodshop and a few arts and crafts areas.

bill Matteson said...

thanks for posting,where did you and your brother live and what school did you go to.
Bill

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