Ojai’s Juvenile Delinquency Problem–1926

Who Knows the Solution? 1926 Editorial in The Ojai

The following editorial appeared in The Ojai, December 31, 1926:

The City of Ojai stands very badly in need at the present time of some one who can solve this problem of boys on the streets at night. This band of young fellows that ranges up and down the town after dark, has become a public nuisance. They congregate outside the theater and in other places and make the place hideous with their noise. The curfew ordinance apparently has no effect. It does no good to chase them off the main streets unless they will go home, and home is apparently the one place that has no attraction. The cooperation of the parents seems to be entirely lacking. As a result, there is growing up in our midst a bunch of young hooligans. They have no respect for the rights of other people or for property. A number of minor depredations have already occurred. From this stage, the step into crime is a short one. Unless something can be done about it we are raising a crop of recruits for the State to take care of later on.

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And yet, it is not fair to condemn these boys out of hand. Lacking any home life worthy of the name, they seek a field of interest and an outlet for their energies on the streets. All normal boys pass through an age when their instincts are those of a savage. At such a time they need understanding and guidance. The whole course of their future lives may be decided by the influence under which they come at this critical stage. Cannot something be done to help these boys? Is there not some way to provide them with the conditions that will give them scope for their energies along constructive and useful lines? Three things seem to be absolutely essential. First the right kind of leadership and supervision; second, a place to spend their time; and third, some sort of equipment.

The first is the hardest of all to find. The right kind of leaders for boys of this sort are young men. Men who have not lost touch with the effervescence of youthful nature, who can join in and yet retain the authority of leadership. And they should be men who can do something well enough to command the respect of the boys. Talking does little or no good. We might get a small workshop started wherein the boys might learn to make things with their hands. There is nothing quite so thrilling to a real boy as to discover and develop the skill of his hands. Games are good if they can be controlled.

The second and third requirements go together. We need some sort of a boys’ club with a certain amount of equipment for shop work and games. It would not cost a great deal.

Is it not possible for us to start some sort of boys’ club here in the Ojai? The need is great and we can hardly go on much longer ignoring the present state of affairs. Of what use our community singing and our folk dancing and our other attempts to promote a community spirit so long as we have these young people running wild about the streets? Surely it is time we elders did something to assist these young scallywags across this difficult and dangerous period of their lives.

The Ojai, Friday, December 31, 1926

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