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Youth sports property is on the line; Chaffins club fields launched town programs.

Byline: Jean Laquidara Hill

HOLDEN - Tucked into a brown cardboard box at Charles H. Brewer's home are faded photographs and aged records from the early years of youth sports at the Chaffins Men's Club Recreation Association.

Now, in the latter years of life, Mr. Brewer and his friend, Daniel D. McCauley, are among the few original club members remaining.

But as they sat in Mr. Brewer's kitchen the other day explaining the beginnings of the sports programs - right down to describing the bulldozing of mounds of earth to make the ball fields back in 1951 and recalling the names of the individuals who did each phase of work on the field house - it was almost as if it was still 1956 and they had just held the field house dedication.

At tonight's annual town meeting, voters will have an opportunity to ensure the survival of the historic fields and field house by accepting the property for the town.

The Chaffins Men's Club was formed in 1947 after Mr. McCauley had returned from service in the U.S. Navy in World II and before Mr. Brewer served in Korea in the U.S. Army. The Mother's Club was looking for someone to build a skating pond near the Chaffins School and called on husbands and friends to get involved.

"It was for the kids," Mr. Brewer said matter-of-factly, recalling that a man came to get him to help out. One project led to another and soon the men formed the Chaffins Men's Club to do whatever they could to help the youth in town.

The club drafted bylaws committing efforts to "social enjoyment" and the "benevolent and athletic interests" of Holden.

Even then, said Mr. McCauley, sports were seen as way to help kids get into college. Members garnered every free and cut-rate source of labor and supplies they could, and borrowed $20,000 for the property purchase. By 1951, Little League baseball was being played on a Chaffins Men's Club field. By 1956, they had built the field house and held an all-out dedication.

For many years, the club held carnivals with donkey rides and games and prizes to raise money for youth leagues. Farm League, Little League, softball for girls, youth basketball and volleyball for adults were among the many activities held on the fields and in the field house.

And while some leagues still play on the fields and a basketball team recently practiced in the field house, Mr. McCauley said the accommodations are far from what they once were.

The cost of carnivals skyrocketed some years ago, making the fundraisers impractical and unproductive, said Mr. Brewer; and the club has lost its rhythm.

Now, the men said, they are hoping voters at the annual town meeting at 7 tonight at Wachusett Regional High School will relieve the Chaffins Men's Club of the building and fields and, over time, restore the birthplace of Holden youth sports, and of Holden's kindergarten, to full usefulness. The field house was where the town's first kindergarten was held before public kindergarten was mandated, Mr. Brewer noted, and Mr. McCauley recalled that the husband of one of the children's favorite teachers, Eileen MacLeod, was an original member of the Chaffins Men's Club.

The warrant article asks voters to "authorize the acquisition by gift, purchase or eminent domain ... for town recreation purposes ... some or all of the parcels of land located at or near 459 Main St., Holden, supposed to be owned by Chaffins Recreation Association Inc. and Chaffins Men's Club Inc."

The decision, Mr. Brewer said, will be up to voters, who of course will want to consider possible future costs. But what it would mean, he said, is that the efforts of people who worked so hard to provide youth with fields and a facility for sports, would be carried on.

Raised on sports at the Chaffins Men's Club facilities, Selectman James M. Jumonville brought the article forward for the town meeting. He said he was inspired to do so after he saw what Selectman David J. White did for the community by urging support for the replacement of old tennis courts at Mountview Middle School.

Mr. Jumonville said selectmen have not taken a public position on the article, but as an individual he supports it. "We need this for the children; the children need it for now and the future."

ART: PHOTO

CUTLINE: Daniel D. McCauley and Charles H. Brewer are original members of the Chaffins Men's Club Recreation Association. An article on tonight's town meeting asks voters to accept the property on Main Street.

PHOTOG: T&G Staff/MARK C. IDE
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Title Annotation:LOCAL NEWS
Publication:Telegram & Gazette (Worcester, MA)
Date:May 19, 2008
Words:771
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