PAL’s mission remains unchanged — to keep young people out of trouble by channeling their energies into recreational and athletic programs.For more than 90 years, PAL programs have expanded to meet the new challenges faced by Central Florida’s youth.
CREATION OF PLAYSTREETS
In 1914, Police Commissioner Arthur Woods began a social movement that would eventually be known as the Police Athletic League. Commissioner Woods, a well-known advocate of New York City’s poor, worked closely with the Commissioner of Charities, John Kingsbury. Commissioner Woods instructed police officers to seek out the needy in their precincts and bring these people to charitable persons or organizations for help. Commissioner Woods had a special concern for the poor children who lived in the congested tenements of New York City with no safe places to play. In reaction to this problem, the police commissioner organized a city-wide search for vacant lots which could be converted into playgrounds. In addition, he set aside 29 blocks as playground blocks, where traffic was prohibited in the afternoons every day except Sunday.
In 1914, The New York Times articulated the need for these playstreets: “Children must play, and children, if they live in the cities, must play in the streets.” The objective of these playground blocks, according to The New York Times, was to “reduce the temptations of wrongdoings by keeping children off the streets and by giving them a chance for wholesome play under proper supervision.”
A separate goal of the playstreet program was to reduce tensions between police officers and youth. Ruth Robinson of the People’s Institute remarked, “One or two of the policemen have entered into the spirit of the games going on at their end of the block,thus creating a necessity for the small boy to take a new stock of policemen generally…It bids fair to decrease antagonism to the police.”
The public reaction to the development of playstreets in New York City was overwhelmingly favorable. When Commissioner Woods inspected playstreets, mothers rushed to thank him and children cheered his efforts.
Crime Prevention Bureau:
In 1929, Police Commissioner Grover A. Whalen appointed an advisory committee on crime prevention to address growing concerns about juvenile delinquency. It was believed that the trouble-making boy of today would become the hardened criminal of tomorrow. In an effort to prevent future crime, the Police Department began to focus on the youth of the city, and took a leadership role in providing positive recreation. In 1931, Mayor James J. Walker signed a bill to make the Crime Prevention Bureau, later known as the Juvenile Aid Bureau, a permanent part of the Police Department.
Twilight Athletic League:
In 1931, a Crime Prevention Officer took an interest in a group of boys and organized a Twilight Baseball League comprised of eight baseball teams. The whole community pitched in donating materials and labor to build a baseball field complete with bleachers. The popularity of the Twilight League grew, and when basketball and football were added to the program, it became the Twilight Athletic League.
Junior Police Athletic League:
The 1932 Annual Report of the Police Department stated, “During a Depression, it is the children who stand in the greatest danger of permanent injury.” In response to this concern, the Crime Prevention Bureau formed the Junior Police Athletic League in 1932. A committee to oversee the new organization was headed by baseball legend Babe Ruth and included Police Commissioner Edward Mulrooney and Deputy Commissioner of the Crime Prevention Bureau, Henrietta Additon. The Junior Police Athletic League was an out growth of the Twilight Athletic League. Although still focused on baseball,boys received boxing instruction and played football. In addition,in the early 1930s, the first girls basketball teams were formed.
In 1933, Police Commissioner Mulrooney issued membership cards to the Junior Police Athletic League. That year, the PAL All Stars baseball team traveled to Baltimore to play Saint Mary’s School, PAL’s rival throughout the early Thirties. The team’s trip was highlighted by a tour of Washington, D.C., and a meeting with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt.
Police Athletic League:
The Police Athletic League was reorganized in 1936. Junior membership was available at $.10, and adults were solicited as associate members at $1.00 each. Working with the Board of Education, Police Commissioner Lewis J. Valentine obtained a list of 5,000 truants in an effort to enroll the children in PAL programs.
In celebration of the new organization, the first week in August,1936, was declared “PAL Week.” To kick off the week,a carnival was held in Union Square, where children skated in teams to win prizes of jack knives, belts, and flashlights. Other promotions included former Governor Alfred E. Smith and boxer Jack Dempsey releasing 5,000 balloons from the Empire State Building,each balloon carrying a coupon redeemable for junior membership in the Police Athletic League. A boxing bout in Staten Island marked the beginning of PAL activities in the borough of Richmond. President Franklin D. Roosevelt sent a letter to Deputy Commissioner Byrnes MacDonald of PAL stating, “I hope (PAL Week) will serve to focus attention…on the constructive character building program of the Crime Prevention Bureau.”