Integrated Community Recreation

Union Seminary made an effort to extend a welcome to the local community, inviting everyone in the neighborhood to use the athletic fields and the basketball and tennis courts on the Seminary’s property. In the late 1950s, PSCE Prof. Wade Boggs encouraged a young African American to practice on the tennis courts, when segregated facilities were not open to him.  That young man was Arthur Ashe, who went on to become a U.S. and world champion tennis player.32

Also at PSCE at this time was Professor of Recreation and Outdoor Education Glenn Bannerman (faculty member 1957–1989). Living in Ginter Park in Richmond’s Northside, he was interested in how the mixed-race community could live together in harmony.  He believed firmly that the church should be a part of the community in which it was placed. People came and went in church structures, but the church membership did not necessarily live in the immediate area. The Bannermans and their four children lived two doors away from a large church that had frequent outdoor dinners on the grounds, but at no time were members of the local community invited to take part in the dinners.

Although mandated integration of schools and housing was taking place in the 1960s, social aspects of the change had not been addressed.  Those who were white and had money could join a private community center and enjoy sports, creative arts, and swimming, but the City Recreation Department had no plans to provide public recreation facilities in the Northside.  An approach was made to neighborhood churches to provide activities such as a basketball clinic or dances, but each church found reasons that would prevent them from participating.33

PSCE President Charles E.S. Kraemer was a man of compassion and dedication to the church.  When Bannerman talked to him about his concern for social interaction locally, they decided to develop a community recreation program.  The basement of Lingle Hall became a skating rink, pool and game parlor, and snack bar.  Every afternoon from 3:00 to 5:00 p.m. all children and youth, regardless of race or economic status, could come and enjoy recreation together.  Family skate nights were a big success.  The creative arts workshop in Virginia Hall was opened to the public. High school pupils could gather for live music, snacks, and hanging out on Saturday nights at a youth center called The Exit.

The program was so popular that the school began a summer session as well. Many children, youth, and adults from all walks of life reaped the benefits from PSCE students teaching courses in sewing, tumbling, pottery, wood carving, jewelry-making, leatherwork, puppetry, cooking, music, writing, dancing, and drama, and got to know one  another in the process.34

32. Sweetser, 361.
33. Glenn Bannerman, personal correspondence, June 26, 2018.
34. McComb, 63.