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June 11, 2013 > History: Athletic Clubs

History: Athletic Clubs

The first gymnasium in our area was built for physical training classes at Washington College. Curtner Seminary students were pictured in class in the gymnasium in 1898. Anderson Academy, which followed Curtner Seminary, featured a gymnasium in Irvington Hall.

Several meetings were held for the purpose of starting a Washington Township Athletic Club. Alvarado had a gymnastic Club in 1878 and was working toward establishing an athletic club in 1889.

W. W. Walton canvassed Centerville businessmen to determine interest in a club. He reported, after one hour of work, that at least $100 could be procured so a meeting was called for March 4, 1896 in the Centerville Town Hall. The men decided to start a club with dues of 25 cents per month and the Organization Committee presented a constitution and bylaws at the March 7 meeting.

Officers were elected: Fred Dusterberry, secretary; A. Leonhart, treasurer; H. C. Gregory, W. W. Walton, Howard Emerson, J. D. Norris, E. T. Hawes and J. B. Ritter, directors. Members agreed to incorporate and to prohibit liquor or gambling on the grounds.

The club rented 6 acres from Thomas Nelson just east of Washington Union High School and built a clubhouse, a grandstand to seat 200 people, a baseball diamond and a bicycle track, all with donated labor. At one time, 20 teams and 40 men were working there.

The grounds formally opened to the public May 10, 1896 and the club spent $125 fitting the gymnasium and installing traps for blue rock (clay pigeon) shooting. Later a 200-yard rifle range and shooting stand were put in. Club colors were blue and red; the monogram, a shield with the letters C. A. C. (Centerville Athletic Club).

Members won many honors in football, baseball and shooting. No team was able to score against the first football team that defeated the famous Reliance Club of Oakland.

Many exciting bicycle races were held here on the three-lap track. The club gave support and encouragement to teams of the adjoining high school and shared their clubhouse and track. The club disbanded in 1931.

An athletic club was organized at Niles in 1896 and a bicycle track prepared but never used. Athletic shows were sometimes given in the Niles Congregational Gym.

A club was organized at Mission San Jose in 1913. They kept their athletic equipment in the Ancient Order of United Workmen (A. O. U. W.) Hall next to the fire shed.

Enterprising Newark men rented the building opposite the office of the Newark Lumber Company in 1913 for a gymnasium. Plans were made to include a gymnasium for females. The club gave the community entertainment to encourage support.

Township residents voted in 1929 to build a $40,000 gym at Washington Union High School. The Township Register issued a special section to commemorate completion of the new gym, the price of which had doubled to $80,000. Copies were sold for five cents each. The gym was "made to stand for ages" with 8-inch reinforced concrete walls. The auditorium was 60 feet by 100 feet with long halls on either side that led to many rooms. The north side was for boys and south was for girls; each had a room for corrective training. Students were delighted because they could practice after dark and in rainy weather. Everyone had good feelings of pride and ownership. Some prophesied, "It's going to stand for centuries and will improve as time goes by."

The new gym opened with a mammoth celebration October 30, 1930. This is the gym that was recently demolished and replaced with a new facility.

There also were a few private gyms. A 1932 Niles paper advertised "Joes New Gym now open. Dues are $1.00 per month. Enjoy shower baths and other facilities." The Masonic Home near Decoto was dedicated in 1898. It was designed with a gymnasium in the basement.

Plans were made in the midst of great controversy to restore and preserve the old Washington College gym, part of the Giles estate, but it was destroyed by fire in 1975.

Roy Ramacciotti established the Fremont Health Studio in 1963 near where the railroad tracks cross Fremont Boulevard. Roy's studio employed "free weights" for body building. Dave Sines was his partner for a while. Roy sold his studio to Bob Perata who changed the name to Bob's Athletic Club. The sauna was one of the first in Fremont and Bob's Club revived the use of the term "athletic club."

James Jackson advertised under the category "Physical Therapy" in the late fifties and early sixties, replaced in 1963 by "Roy's Health Studio" under the category "Physical Culture." Recently the term "athletic club has been revived by the Mission Hills Athletic Club and several others.

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