Since 1886, the Middlesex Y has been a gathering place for people in Middletown and the surrounding areas. For 76 of those years, Leo Kania has been a member here at the Y.
“This has been like a second home to me for many, many years. I will always belong to the Y,” says Leo. He has seen the Y go through many changes over the years. He was around during the time when a bowling alley was a part of the facility and pin boys were paid a nickel by the bowlers to set up pins. Leo started coming to the Y to use the swimming pool after finishing grammar school. He talks about his early years at the Y, during the time of the great depression.
“Everybody was poor back then during the depression time. Mr. Hubbard helped us out, gave the Y a few dollars to pay for us kids that didn’t have money; kept us off the streets and we had a good time.” Leo and his peers formed the Hubbard club to show their appreciation of the prominent businessman. They would meet twice a month and hold raffles and other events.
When Leo graduated from high school and turned 18, he got a letter from Roosevelt to get a physical and join the army. He reminisces how over 5,000 people lined the streets to send off the 5 buses of local young men to the service.
“I still kept in touch with the Y while I was in the service. I would just drop a line…” Upon returning from the service, Leo continued his active lifestyle at the Y along with his young family. His three boys took swimming lessons here. His youngest son went on to become an All-American high school swimmer.
“I know when I have friends, I tell them to line their kids up for swim lessons,” exclaims Leo. He talks about the smile it puts on a parent’s face to see their kids swim, “and before you know it they’re on the freshman team in high school.”
Leo’s lifetime of exercise at the Y has had its benefits. “I can thank the YMCA because when I go for a physical the doctor says, ‘I have never seen anybody your age like you. Perfect Heartbeat.’ ” He mentions how walking in the pool was the best therapy when he had his new hip put in. Several of Leo’s good friends here at the Y enjoy our aquatics programs regularly and never miss a water exercise class.
The Middlesex Y is proud to have been a part of the local community for over 100 years and is proud to serve long-time members such as Leo Kania. We continue to dedicate ourselves to providing services in the areas of youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility.