The Extra - San Francisco Tenderloin Newspaper

    By Marjorie Beggs

It was hard to resist the nail-in-a-coffin metaphor when workers removed the Central YMCA sign from the institution's temporary location at 387 Golden Gate Avenue and put it into storage, the symbolic end of an era in the Tenderloin.

The Central YMCA had spent more than 100 years a block away at 220 Golden Gate Avenue. Then, in 2009, underused but still beloved, it shut those doors and operated for four years in tight quarters on the ground level of Hastings Law School garage – expected to be a stop-gap measure until plans for a new Y to serve the central city materialized.

It hasn’t. And while service and staff reductions followed the Y to Hastings like a deep winter shadow, the sign shone on at the temp site. So when the sign came down December 22, it removed what was the neighborhood fixture for more than a century. Watching it come down blew away any hope of restoring the Central Y to its former stature.

“The sign’s history is important” says Carmela Gold, former Central Y executive director for 18 years. “It’s a reproduction of an old sign that I had found from one of the Central Y’s photo archives. It was redone in 2002 when Theresa Stone Pan gave $5 million to the capital campaign for a new Y in her father’s honor,” thus adding the Shih Yu-Lang to the Y name.

The removal of the sign was “a very sad and unfortunate indication of the YMCA’s reduced commitment to the people of the Tenderloin which began with the sale of 220 Golden Gate,” Pam emailed The Extra newspaper through her lawyer.

A meeting last fall with Chuck Collins, president and CEO of SFYMCA, left Pan, “very frustrated with an understanding that the Y had no plans to rebuild. Instead the Y will focus on a reduced service-based program which will be under constant threats of budget cuts while the funds from the sale of the building (including a large contribution from me specifically for the Tenderloin) are being reallocated to supporting Y’s in other parts of the City.

“The administration told us in 2010 that the interim site was just that, and they showed us plans for a permanent YMCA with Hastings. We believed that the need for a true community center for people of all ages is greater than ever in the Tenderloin. It is sad that a charitable contribution of this magnitude to an organization of this caliber can turn into the worst business decision I have ever made.”

One senior who hasn’t come out for Y programs is Charles Buntjer. For years he was a Central Y regular, taking classes at the original Y and then at the temp location, representing seniors on the Y’s coordinating board and voicing his concerns at meetings to discuss the Ys future. He quit it all, right around the time the park programs started.

At meetings, he wrote in an e-mail to The Extra, the talk was all about campaign fundraising. “For what, I asked? I said, “There isn’t a Y (at Boeddeker Park).’ I was told I had a bad attitude because I wasn’t going to the park. So I quit.”

He's relenteed a little and checked out the park in January. His evaluation: "The building (clubhouse) is nice but kind of a lousy layout. There was enough room to pout in at least four seperate rooms with doors to close off. Would have been much better than one bigger all-glass room, but it does clean up the area."

In time, he believes, more people will come, while the park is beter than he expected, it left him "depressed."

"I guess I think about the original Y and the temp Y -- everyone knew everyone and it was like family.

Note: It now is October of 2015 and I visited Boeddeker Park and the senior center and it was sad. On Thursday they have a light lunch. About eight or 10 people attend but the senior center is only opened from 9:00 a.m. until noon. At noon an exercise class starts and the music is so loud everyone has to leave. The only thing going for the so called Y programs is the youth program. Seniors are a lost cause!

I was Chairperson of the Senior Advisory Council and also joined the Central YMCA Board of Directors and worked with four other Central Y members to start a Grass Roots project to get the new Central YMCA built.

We met with Hastings management but the Y managment refused to attend our meetings! But after all I and others did for four years to ensure we did get a state of the art YMCA, we gave up due to the lies and back room deals to stop us from building a new central YMCA. One time we were going to hold a meeting in the senior center of the Y and we were told by management we were not allowed to meet in the Y building. We had to meet outside of the building. We were so irritated. I said, "What will they do to us, call the police and arrest us for meeting in the building we pay to use?"

If you want to know how things were done over 100 years ago, just look at the following photo and the verbiage. A new YMCA had just been built and President Roosevelt came to burn the mortgage in 1903. In just a few years the 1906 earthquake burned the new Y to the ground. Guess what, in a few years another Y was built just a block away and was paid for by people with money who believed in the Central YMCA. Things certainly have changed!

President Theodore Roosevelt and J.H. McCoy, Secretary of the YMCA burning the mortgage and notes as the final payment of the new building was made in 1903.

From left to right in the photo:

  1. Eugene E. Schmitz Mayor of San Francisco
  2. President Theodore Roosevelt
  3. Rolla V. Watts S.F. Association
  4. M.H. de Young Chronicle Newspaper
  5. J.H. McCoy Secretary General & President of the YMCA

Sadly, this was our last Senior Advisory Council meeting at the Central YMCA on October 11th, 2014.

I have added a few photos of happenings at the Central YMCA over the years. I first was introduced to the Central YMCA in 1983 when I decided to get my Scuba Diving license. I also was a member of the Embarcedero YMCA and the Stone's Town YMCA over the years. I first joined the Embarcedero YMCA in 1965 after leaving the Army.

1983 -Scuba Diving Classes

Chuck Buntjer took his Scuba Diving Classes in the basement of the Central YMCA. I took the classes for a month and dove in Monterey and up north at Salt Point. I received my NAUI Openwater Scuba Divers certificate when the classes and diving were completed. This was the first time I went to the Central YMCA and was so inpressed I decided to join this Y over the many others in the City!

2008 - Central YMCA Cafe

Originally the Central YMCA had a hotel and a cafe. Jo Ann worked there for years and we loved her. We got to meet people from all over the world who traveled to San Francisco and stayed at the Y. Many times they also took classes and when I was teaching yoga, we might have had someone from Germany, Isreal or Africa. We had breakfast and lunch there but the Y closed the hotel and then the cafe. We knew things were going downhill from that point on!

2009 - Exercise Classes

Chuck and John celebrating how we used to keep track of our exercise routines. Every month a report would come out with the number of hours and the total amount of time spent on each exercise plus how much weight was lifted during the sessions. After the Y closed and we moved to the temporary YMCA, we lost the abiltiy to have our exercise results posted.

2010 - Volunteer Luncheon

We held a luncheon each year to celebrate all the people who volunteered their time to help the YMCA. We worked in the Kitchen, help run the exercise classes when there wasn't a teacher, and also worked as members on various boards.

2011 - New Years Party

Every year we had a huge New Years party for the Tenderloin neighborhood. Many of us volunteered to set up bags of goodies and a full service dinner for 250 people. Many in the Tenderloin who had no where to go or nothing to do to celebrate the holidays, loved the Central YMCA as we treated them to a wonderful time. Food, entertainment, dancing and gifts, what isn't there to like!

2012 - Healthy Hearts Classes

In the 1970s the YMCA had classes for people who had heart problems. They even had a nurse to monitor members as they exercised. Times have changed but we continued to have exercise classes for seniors and each year we have a photo shoot of the Healthy Hearts members. This was also lost when the Central YMCA was closed.

2013 - Free Circus Venue

Mavis, Chuck and Bob enjoying another free venue provided by the Central YMCA. Since this feature of the Y has been discontinued, many low income and seniors are very unhappy as it is so costly to attend the theatre or any other type of venue in the City!

2015 - Alcatraz Cruise

Trish, Daniel, Helen and Chuck going to Alcatraz! We used to get free tickets to Broadway Plays and other various venues. We went to the circus, symphonies, Broadway Plays and other venues as we did over the last 50 years. All this has vanished as the Central YMCA and the seniors were left high and dry.

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  Charles Walter Buntjer

San Francisco California
Created on: 2015.10.25  

Updated on: 2015.10.29