[Please be sure to click on and read “comments” for information re: the October 15, 2012 reunion! ]

 

I’ve written previous entries about the Spanish Castle Youth Center, that ecumenically sponsored drop-in center that welcomed teenagers some 40 years ago in the Bon Air suburb of Richmond, Va. My first mention of the Castle and its “kids” was written with the hope that someone from those days would Google the place and find their way here. Then we could re-connect and maybe even plan a reunion of sorts in Richmond on some summer weekend.

So, I wrote and nothing happened. Sigh. Nice try.

Then Stan Kittrell, one of the teens who frequented the old house as the 1970s dawned, had something of the same hope, but used a Facebook group to gather the troops, and it’s worked! In fact, some 65 alums of the place are now in the group, catching up with one another after all these many, many years. That large and still-growing group offers evidence that the ministry (subtle as it was) was effective in 1) providing a safe and welcoming place for local teens, 2) building friendships among a diverse constituency of youth, 3) offering outlets for creative activities such as music, drama, and art, as well as recreation and conversation, and 4) providing opportunities for positive contact with adult volunteers who cared enough to listen, guide, and advise when asked.

I’ve scanned several pictures to share on the group site, a visual chronicle of the five or six years the Castle survived the suspicions of the neighborhood and the sabotage of some teens whose poor choices threatened the house on more than one occasion. As those former teens share their stories (most of them are in their early to mid-50s now), most are writing about how much the place meant to them in those years of fragile adolescence. Oh, there are some references to some of the things we adult advisors warned and worried about back then. But mostly the entries reflect on good memories, once and lasting friendships, some difficult times survived, and even lessons learned.

I’m assuming it’s more than nostalgia (though I admit I do take some comfort in that lap now and then). I think this cyber-reunion of Spanish Castle folk is a celebration of friendships, a way of keeping in touch with what shaped us all then and in intervening years, and maybe even the rekindling of hope that there is still something young yet to be discovered in us. Something exuberant. Something rebellious. Something playful.

The Castle concept may be over forty years old now, but there’s not a neighborhood that couldn’t use one now.

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