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The Resident Youth Centers of the NYA
Lima Center Closes Its Doors
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Ironically, it was shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbour that I received notice from the Albany NYA Office to start making plans for the eventual shutting down of the Lima Center. It seemed inconceivable to me when faced with the prospect of closing the Lima Center, as well as the whole national resident center program being shut down, that a project of such demonstrated value and promise could be turned off like closing a faucet. I strongly felt, despite the urgent manpower needs of the war, that there were still many youth in the country who required what the centers had to offer let alone what needs could arise in the future. War conditions would not necessarily change this situation. There would continue to be many delinquents, for instance, despite growing prosperity that needed this type of experience and therapy. Others of the Center staff felt the same way.
NYA War Production Parade, New York City
A number of us made efforts to fight off the closing of the Center. We made several trips to the national headquarters of the NYA in Washington and in one of them talked with its Director, Aubrey Williams. I got in touch with Dorothy Canfield Fisher and Mrs. Harper Sibley, a leading citizen in Rochester, asking them to use their national influence to object to the winding down of the Lima Center as well as the entire national program. My files contain a letter from Mrs. Fisher as of July 1942, "Yours of the 4th., she wrote," brings me news which I still find it difficult to believe, that the Lima Resident Center is really closing. I had hope from your last letter that the manufacturers might be able to keep it (the Center) on as a vocational training school." She then went on say she just had a phone call from Aubrey Williams in which he wanted to meet with her on her next visit to New York City. Apparently she had written him earlier to protest the closing of the Lima Center. Whatever resulted from her meeting with Mr. Williams I never heard.
Among Dorothy Canfield Fisher's efforts to stem the shutting down of the Lima Center, as well as the balance of the national enterprise, was an article she published in a national magazine, the Christian Herald. "I'd like to lay before the readers of this magazine," she wrote, "a question suggested to me by the sudden appearance in our public school system of this new educational institution, for it is exactly that. It is this, shouldn't we plan to try to keep as a permanent part of our ways of preparing our young folks for usefulness in the modern industrial world, an institution which not only gives them definite specialized technical industrial training but also helps them become civilized members of a civilized societyand which, by its very nature does this inexpensively?.... Why isn't this a blue print worth the study of tax-paying citizens, parents, educators and young people?"
Rock Island Arsenal: NYA Worker with Munitions
The Lima Center was closed in the Summer of 1942. On September 7, 1943, the whole NYA was liquidated. The Center had operated only about a year and a half. Yet in this short period it demonstrated the quality and uniqueness of the program I have described. The closing period of the NYA was under the War Manpower Commission providing apprenticeship and work experience for many thousands of young people who later went into defense industries and the military forces. On its liquidation, the government sent a letter to Aubrey Williams on his resignation as Director. In part it said, "It would be difficult to evaluate the proportion of the resource which this training of young men and women has been to America in the war crisis...We know that through the NYA valuable a contribution has been made to our knowledge and experience in assisting young Americans to make the greatest use of their capacities for themselves and their country."
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