August 4, 2011


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


Unknown 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 said...

I was #189 and it started in 1946. I spent al my after school hours there until dinner time. I remember Oren Taylor gym instructor, Fred Rosengarden main counselor, and a host of others. The summer Camp was Winona Lake, Warsaw Ind. great fun working up to the different camp sites there until you were old enough to go to "Wilderness." It wasa horse drawn wagon with tents, cooking gear, et al. We would go to different lakes in the area and spend a few days at each site. Great fun. The site in Williams Bay was a later addition. It was an estate and we would go as a work crew to maintain it and enjoy the facility gratis. Very fond memories of those years.

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Anonymous said...

I was one of only 20 girls that belonged to this club in the 1950's. It was a godsend for me every afternoon and weekends. I was 12 years old and one summer they made me a counselor. Since I was too young to get paid, they sent me to resident camp for a week. I'm now in my late 7o's and still have fond memories and am grateful for all the counselors that made my life at the time sooooo much better.


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