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Salvation Army Boys Club


The Salvation Army and old bowling pins made the news on this date in 1955.

The previous year, Bismarck's Salvation Army created a boys' club as a means of keeping adolescent boys out of trouble. Lt. Kristian Andersen started the project after a local businessman donated money to purchase three wood lathes, a drill press, a circular saw, a jig saw and assorted hand tools.

Andersen wanted to create a place for boys to gather and focus their energy. Unlike a school shop class, there were no assignments; boys would make objects of their own choosing.

A year later, the club had 35 members from varying economic backgrounds. "Underprivileged boys will have to live in society with those who are more fortunate, and vice versa," Andersen said. "There's no point in creating a false situation. Our purpose is to maintain a creative activity, not just a means of entertainment."

The club met on Friday nights. Each boy paid five cents per session, with the money going toward purchasing doweling, paint and brushes. All other material, including a lot of scrap lumber, was donated by local businesses. The boys' only requirements were to remain focused on their projects, clean up after themselves, and refrain from using profane language.

Beginners often started out by refinishing and strengthening discarded furniture. As they gained experience, they tackled bigger projects, like building bookcases and coffee tables.

The activities were not limited to woodworking, however. Many made objects from plaster of Paris. Vernon Biers, 14, created a model of a coal mine, which he'd been studying in school.

One of the more popular projects came about after a local bowling alley donated their old wooden bowling pins. Some boys refinished the pins and made lamps from them. Others first refashioned them by turning them on lathes.

The club was so popular, the boys wanted more sessions per week. They also considered selling their creations to raise money to create a camp for themselves. Andersen was seeking volunteer supervisors, so the boys' wishes could be fulfilled.

Ultimately, Andersen hoped to split the boys into two groups - one for 10 and 11 year-olds and one for 12 to 15 year-olds. Eventually, he hoped older boys could start working with the younger boys in leadership roles.

By Merry Helm

Source: Hartley, James A. The Bismarck Tribune. 15 Apr 1955:2.