The first boys club in Oakland was founded in June of 1937 and was known as the West Oakland Boys Recreation Center. The headquarters was established in the basement of Cole School at Fifth and Grove Streets.

In December of 1938, the club was incorporated under the title of Oakland Boys Club. (The charter for the West Oakland Boys Recreation Center was issued in 1937 to Oakland Boys Club). Supervision of activities was under the federal government's Work Projects Administration. The Juvenile Welfare Committee of the Junior Chamber of Commerce sponsored the project until September of 1939, when the club was forced to close its doors due to lack of funds.

In April of the same year, 1939, the "20-30 Club" of East Oakland rented the old telephone building at Eighty-sixth   Avenue on East Fourteenth Street (now International Boulevard) for $25 per month and became the sponsor of an organization known as the East Oakland Boys Club, with Benjamin F. Morris as President. Rex Ballard was appointed supervising director in charge of activities and the club was officially opened on May 1, 1939. From Mr. Ballard's reports to the Board of Directors, we note that:

  • 206 boys joined the club during the first month of operation.
  • The estimated replacement value of the club's property and equipment on opening day was approximately $2,500.
  • A $25 gift was received and spent for one pair of boxing gloves, two head-gears, one punching bag, one pair of punching bag gloves, one gear bag, twelve darts, three dozen Ping Pong balls, and six baseballs.
  • By December of 1940, the average attendance at the club was 46 boys per day.

In September of 1939, a non-profit corporation was formed. The organization came to be known as the Filbert Street Boys Club, Inc., located at 26th and Filbert Streets in West Oakland, and housed in the girls' gymnasium at the old McClymonds High School. The governing board was selected from the Oakland Public Schools, the Police Department, the Recreation Department, and the Alameda County Juvenile Probation Office. Chester A. Fowler was elected President.

On September 22nd, the Club was dedicated to the boys of the community and activities were held on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights from 6:45 to 10:00 p.m., under the direction of Laurence A. Quayle, Executive Director. Mr. Quayle was an employee of the Oakland Recreation Department and worked part-time for the Boys Club.

Since the West Oakland Boys Recreation Center had not entirely ceased to function, the three boys’ clubs formed an incorporated body known as the Affiliated Boys Clubs. The Filbert Street Boys Club seemed to be the most likely to succeed because of its support from the public schools, the Police Department, and certain civic and fraternal organizations. Therefore, the Affiliated Boys Clubs asked financial support from the Community Chest for the Filbert Street Boys Club.

In February, 1940, the Board of Directors of the East Oakland Boys Club reached the conclusion that they could receive no further benefit from the Affiliated Boys Club and withdrew from participation in its activities. The East Oakland Boys Club expressed desire to cooperate with the Filbert Street Boys Club on many matters that would be for mutual advantage.

During 1940, work was started by Cliff Allen to form a Boys Club built on principles set forth by the national organization of Boys Clubs of America.

In December of 1940, Chester A. Fowler, president of the Filbert Street Boys Club, received word from the Community Chest that they were convinced of the value of the work being done and would allocate $2,400 to the Filbert Street Boys Club.

In early 1941, the Filbert Street Boys Club and the East Oakland Boys Club merged. The new organization became known as Oakland Boys Club, with Clifford D. Allen as its first President.

In May of 1942, Gilbert D. Eaton, Assistant Executive Director of Boys Clubs of Boston, was hired to serve as Executive Director of the new organization. The facilities of the Filbert Street Clubhouse, although not ideal, served the needs at the time. The East Oakland Clubhouse, badly in need of repair, was purchased from the Pacific Telephone Company for $25,000. During the years 1943 to 1946, additional land was purchased on the east, west, and north sides of the building to allow additional space to be added to the structure. A new gym was built in 1947.

The Filbert Street Clubhouse remained the property of the Oakland Public Schools and the time came when it was necessary for an expansion of school facilities. Thus the Boys Club was required to look for another location in the same area. In September of 1951, a new and completely modern Clubhouse was dedicated at 24th and Market Streets. Especially designed for Boys Club activities, it is known as the Leonard J. Meltzer Clubhouse.

Maxwell Reid, a director and local contractor, built the clubhouse at cost. Members of local unions of the various crafts donated labor and many firms contributed materials without charge or at cost.

In January of 1950, the Oakland Boys Club purchased camp property in Shasta County. 480 acres were purchased from Mrs. J. Volney Lewis to provide boys with a much needed and worthwhile summer activity away from the city. The camp-site was formerly the Blue and Gold Lair of the Bear, camp of the Alumni Association of the University of California.

In August of 1960, Mr. Gilbert D. Eaton retired from the field of Boys Club work and Mr. William A. Bishop, a former member of the staff, assumed the duties of Executive Director. In June, 1963, Mr. Bishop resigned and returned to Seattle to a Boys Club job he had previously held.

On June 7, 1963, Mr. A. M. Lusk became our Executive Director. He resigned August 1, 1965 and was replaced by Marion F. Sims on that date. Marion became a boy member at the old Filbert Street Club when he was 10 years old. As a boy member, he worked as a desk checker, and later as Assistant Physical Director until 1952, when he left to enter military service. He returned to Oakland Boys Club in June of 1955 as Physical Director. In February of 1964, Marion was promoted to Unit Director at the Meltzer Clubhouse. In 1965, Marion was the first boy member to become the Executive Director of his Club.

In June of 1980, with seed money from the Bingo Fund, a pilot Summer Outreach Program was established at Emerson Elementary School in the North Oakland Community. The program was so successful that first summer that it was continued through the fall and beyond, utilizing a portable building on the school grounds at Emerson. After two years, the number of boys and girls had increased to a level where the portable was too small for the programs being conducted.

At this time, an all out effort was made under the leadership of Monte Upshaw, past President and Long Range Planning Chairman, to find a permanent site within the community. A site was located on 48th Street at Shattuck Avenue. The small building was purchased for $152,500, with renovations and equipment adding $100,000 to the start up costs. The Club was opened to boys and girls in October of 1985 and is known as the Wallace W. Knox Clubhouse in memory of the late attorney whose estate established The Beaver Foundation.

Primary project supporters: The Beaver Foundation, S.H. Cowell Foundation, The Clorox Company Foundation, The Morris Stulsaft Foundation, and the Rotary Club of Oakland.

In September of 1989, by vote of the Board of Directors, the organization formally changed its name to Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland, signaling a new dedication to serving a greater number of the community’s youth, excluding none. 

On June 30, 1992, Marion F. Sims stepped down after 27 years of service as Executive Director. He served briefly as Development Director and retired from the field in March of 1993.

On July 1, 1992, Calvester R. “Cal” Stanley was promoted to Executive Director (now President and Chief Professional Officer). Cal, an alumnus of the East Oakland/Ossian E. Carr Clubhouse, earned a Junior Staff position at age 14, and worked until 1975 when he left the Club for the University of the Pacific in Stockton, California. He earned a bachelor’s degree en route to his career in the Movement. Upon graduating, he was hired to direct the West Fresno Boys Club in Fresno, California. He returned to Oakland in May of 1981 to direct the Outreach Program at Emerson Elementary School in North Oakland and help raise funds for the off-campus quarters that would become the Knox Clubhouse.

Cal was promoted to Assistant Executive Director in May of 1988, and appointed Executive Director by the board, effective July 1, 1992.

In January of 1993, with Eric Schmier serving as president, Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland entered into a partnership with the Oakland Housing Authority (OHA), Harold Davis, Ph.D., Executive Director.  The partnership resulted in The Gardens Branch.  Located in Central East Oakland, The Gardens Branch is our fourth service delivery site, and our first in public housing. Club alumnus and former staff member Norman Knowles was hired to direct the new Club’s activities.

In May of 1995, with Paul Grossberg serving as president, the OHA/Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland partnership produced a fifth service delivery site. The Peralta Branch is our second Clubhouse in public housing. Nathan Jackson was hired to direct the new Club’s activities.

In July of 1997, with Kurt Schoeneman serving as president, the OHA/Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland partnership produced a sixth service delivery site.  The Coliseum Branch is also our third Clubhouse in public housing. The Metropolitan Life Foundation provided principal funding via a three-year grant passed through Boys & Girls Clubs of America. Club alumnus and staff member Scedric Jackson was promoted to direct the new Club’s activities.

In June of 1998, Veronica Fauntleroy was installed as Boys & Girls Clubs Oakland’s first woman president. She served a 2-year term.

In November of 1999, with Veronica Fauntleroy serving as president, Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland dedicated the rebuilt Ossian E. Carr Clubhouse, at its original site to provide the East Oakland neighborhood with a safer, more functional youth development facility. The old building had been deemed seismically unsafe due to its Un-Reinforced Masonry construction.

The dedication concluded nearly 4 years of fund and friend raising and 9 months of construction that spanned the terms of board presidents Paul Grossberg, Kurt Schoeneman, and Veronica Fauntleroy. Director Kirk Hayes volunteered as Owner’s Representative during the construction.

The new $1.6 million facility opened on December 14, 1999 with 150 Club members attending. 1,000 Club members joined/rejoined during the first 6 months. Staff member Joel Spector was promoted to direct the activities of the renewed Clubhouse.

Primary project supporters:  Dan Whalen and Family, Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation, The Beaver Foundation, S.H. Cowell Foundation, The Thomas J. Long Foundation, Super Kmart, Y & H Soda Foundation, The Oakland Raiders, Nike, Walter & Elise Haas Fund, Taco Bell Franchise of Dolan Foster Enterprises, The Home Depot, Ronald McDonald House Children’s Charities, The Clorox Company Foundation, The Joe Morgan Youth Foundation, Western Door & Sash, Marianne Robison, Kirk Hayes, Al Lockwood, Kurt Schoeneman, and the California Youth Authority.

Many past board chairs/presidents of Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland have made unique contributions of time, talent, and treasure to the Clubs and the national Movement. Three deserve special recognition:

The late J. Morris Browning, former President of Mary Ellen Jams and Jellies, was the first contributor to our Pooled Income Fund for donors who wish to make deferred gifts to Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland. The Browning estate continues to support our Scholarship Fund.

Clarence J. Woodard, former Rucker Company Chairman, has been a "leader among leaders" in Boys & Girls Clubs of Oakland and the East Bay community, as a Trustee of Boys Clubs of America, and as a Director of Boys & Girls Clubs of America - Pacific Region.

The late Gerald A. Awes, former Lucky Stores Chairman initiated the concept and made the first gift to our Scholarship Fund for college bound Club members