At the top of this post is a page from the August 29, 1925 Lorain Times-Herald, containing articles related to the dedication of the new structure.
One article notes that the opening of the steel mill hastened the need for a YMCA in Lorain. The selection of South Lorain for the YMCA's location enabled it initially to serve the needs of Lorain and Elyria.
Another article describes the new building as "one of the finest of its kind in the middle west.”
“Built of brick and sandstone, the new “Y” replaces the former structure which was all but destroyed by fire. It is four stories high and is modern in every respect.
“The basement, or first floor contains the auxiliary gymnasium, the swimming pool, bowling alleys, check and locker rooms, “Dug Out” showers, pool and billiard tables, heating system and water filters.
“The pool is 20 by 60 – regulation for aquatic needs. White tile was used in the pool proper with racing lines on the bottom painted in blue. The border is lined with brown Flemish non-slip tile and the sides are of salt-glazed brick.
“Four regulation bowling alleys illuminated with 3 flood lights are one of the recreational features. Automatic pin setters are part of the equipment.
“Separate locker rooms have been provided for the mens and boys and the check room has 800 compartments.
“The auxiliary gymnasium, which was the only portion of the old building which was not raised, will be used for banquets, meetings and for gym work when the regular gymnasium on the second floor is in use.”
****I never went to the YMCA on W. 28th Street, but I know someone who took swimming lessons there in the late 1960s: my brother Ken. Unfortunately, by the time he was going there, the facility was in decline, and kind of scary to a kid.
Ken described what he saw when he entered the building through the outside door on the left. “It was like a large sitting room type lobby, with down-on-their-luck guys sitting around, “ he recalled. "I think it was the old kind of YMCA, that rented cheap rooms. Nobody was too friendly,” said Ken.
Getting to the pool area was an adventure.
"The door to the pool area was like a closet door to the right. They had to buzz you in. It opened on stairs leading down into dark dinginess. Once you got down to the pool level, it stayed dark and dingy. There was nothing fun-looking about it.
"You had to walk the length of the pool to get to the locker room, which was labyrinthine and dilapidated. I was used to going into big old dark buildings in Lorain; for the dentist, for example, and to Mr. Visci’s for trumpet lessons, of course, but the Y locker room was extra-creepy."
So how was the pool, some forty-odd years after the facility opened?
"I remember the swimming teacher didn’t think the water was clean enough, so he poured in a couple bottles of bleach and had us get in, hold onto the side and kick our legs to mix it up, “ laughed Ken. "I remember it burning my skin, which must have made everyone kick harder."
So did Ken learn how to swim?
"What I learned,” answered Ken, "was that I wasn’t much of a swimmer. The instructor was just some grumpy Dad. I don’t think he was much of a teacher, either, since I almost drowned in his class. But at least he knew how to pump me out."
Ken explained how it happened. Apparently the instructor was getting impatient with how the class was doing and decided to try an experiment.
"We lined up, and I was second or third in line. The first one or two survived. Not me. I can remember my feet touching bottom a couple times, thrashing around, catching glimpses of people at the side of the pool. Then I was waking up, flat on my back, coughing up water, with the teacher kneeling next to me and all the kids standing around.
"So endeth the lesson. He went back to teaching the normal way."
Ken never did learn how to swim. "Avoiding deep water seemed the way to go,” stated Ken. "And it’s served me well in the fifty-odd years since.
"For me, the old Y is best left forgotten... a childhood memory where you’re glad you made it out alive!”
****But the Bradys weren’t quite done with the YMCA on E. 28th Street yet.
My mother later worked in that building. You see, after the Y was replaced by the new one on Tower Boulevard, U. S. Steel used part of the building for offices, including the Employment Office. That's where Mom worked.
"U.S. Steel had the front half of the building,” recalled Mom recently. “ I used to go down to the basement because that’s where the oldest records were kept. It was very dark. I think I saw the pool once.”
Speaking of that pool, Mom had her own memories of taking swimming lessons at that Y when she was a kid. Her memories aren’t much better than Ken’s.
“The guy who was the instructor liked to pick the kids up and toss’em in the water – whether they could swim or not!” said Mom.
Ironically, when Ken got a job at the mill in the late 1970s, he had to go into the offices at the former YMCA a few times. Mom offered to take Ken on a tour of the building, including the basement, so he could see the pool again.
"No, thanks," was Ken's answer.
****Here’s what the former YMCA on E. 28th Street looks like today.