Memories of Community

Last night while trying to sleep, I thought about “Community.” I had an “aha moment” and realized I have been working on and building communities for 76 years. It seems “community” is a part of my nature. I can guess why this is so. I grew up during the Depression. Tight apartment living was all that I knew. I didn’t have my own bed until I was in the military at 18 years old. 

With five brothers and one sister, I was fifth down the line. I remember they fought each other constantly for the single bathroom, clothes, and everything else. As luck or personality would have it, they all liked and treated me well. I love them all, including my youngest brother, who was born a blue baby whom I always protected. Although I was treated by each of my siblings differently, they liked sharing time with me. I believe this made me the “peacemaker” in our family. I, in some way, somehow, wanted us to be a “community,” and as I remember, so did our parents. 

The Depression played a huge role in the lives of our family. I knew it, saw it, lived in its midst, and witnessed the challenge it presented to each of us. Because of this, my older brothers and sister knew they needed to work to contribute to Ma putting food on the table and paying the rent. Pa found work with the WPA. My corner newspaper sales put a few coins in my pockets. 

I believe that because my family was not the community I hoped for, my gang and the neighborhood club filled that role. The neighborhood club, called “Club A” (for America), was built and operated for the young and poor in the area. The Club and the school playground were my places. 

Generally, the adults operated the neighborhood club and ran the activities on the playground. It was where I fought Golden Gloves, played basketball, and literally grew up. I remember those adults clearly, and I am sure they played an enormous role in my sense of fairness, cooperation, and tenacity.  

The adult in charge of the club was handicapped. He was small in stature but huge in his position and what he gave to everyone. We called him “Jackie.” Another was “Joe,” who ran the playground with an iron fist. He was muscular, athletic, and fair in handling the massive number of kids that lived in and on the playground. When problems did arise, which was often, “Joe” was the umpire for right and wrong, and his word was sufficient to get on with the game.  

I have written about the director of the charity summer camp associated with the club. His name was “Chuckie,” and he was the director who set the high bar I followed when I created my camps. 

Some kids came to Camp Wooster for a week or the whole summer. For me, it was the entire summer. The charity camp was a godsend to our neighborhood. It was paid for by a Jewish Brotherhood made up of those that could give, and boy, did they!

After I left the service in 1947, I ran a small Day Camp for pocket money while attending a premed school. I still hear from one of the kids in that group who said, “Those were the happiest days in my life.” Community is why. 

Do we make our life?—We or serendipity—Both play their own part.


Author: Sy Ogulnick

Sy Ogulnick received a BA from UCLA, Teacher’s Credential from Los Angeles Board of Education and completed phase I (Master’s portion) in a Doctor of Behavioral Science program at California Coast University. Sy leased and operated a summer day camp in LA. He and his wife then purchased virgin wilderness land in Northern CA, where they built and operated a coed summer camp. They moved to Las Vegas, NV, and purchased, built and operated a community children’s program for families staying in a major resort casino in Las Vegas. They have created programs for children nationwide that employed many people and in the process developed successful training programs for personnel. This led Sy to lecture on how to train staff and the creating of community within the workplace. Sy was then invited to speak at professional conferences on how best to hire and train employees, which led to his becoming a consultant in the art of improving relationships in a work environment and eventually to his epiphany that “Leaders are the primary problem and the answer to the personnel issues that arise in the workplace.” Sy has written numerous papers on the subject of interpersonal relationships, leadership and power. He has lectured throughout the United States, has been interviewed by the media and has appeared on many radio and TV talk shows

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