A Long 50 Years
Written by: Adam Fulford, Georgian College Student
It’s 1961. Barrie
Doug Long and some other boys from the high school could be found at the local YMCA on a typical afternoon or weekend. This branch of the YMCA, at the time located in downtown Barrie on Owen Street, was just a two story house with an outdoor pool. All the exercise equipment was scattered on both floors, with the weights originally being on the second floor, then moved down after the workers were worried the weights would be too heavy and crash through the floor. It was small but perfect for the boys.
In 1959, Doug had started going to the local Lion’s Club, which was located where the current Y sits now, off Bayfield Street on Grove. This was where he originally taught himself how to swim with his friends. This Lion’s Club only had a pool, which was where Doug’s passion started. But when he discovered that the YMCA was offering a pool and real exercise equipment, he started going there. He and his friends enjoyed it because of the small atmosphere, and it was an actual place for them to exercise, to work out and release their energy. This was the time when Doug grew his appreciation for the Y’s commitment to health and wellness, as well as the camaraderie between his friends and the new people he met. His parents never had much interest in attending the Y for its facilities, but Doug had a sort of new family: the patrons of the YMCA. To this day, Doug attends the Y with some of the people who he started with, and the friendships have lasted over 50 years.
In 1993, Doug started going to the Y every day, usually in the mornings, mainly to swim. Swimming had become his passion, the thing he was known for. It had become a routine for him. He had greatly improved from when he first started swimming and teaching himself. He was now able to stay in the water longer, hold his breath longer, and do more laps. This was when he started keeping track of his swimming stats; on calendars at home, he would mark down how many laps he had done and how fast he was. He still had old calendars so he can easily look up what he had accomplished certain days – like what his swimming stats were for a day he had a doctor’s appointment five years ago. When his three sons were of age, he brought them all to the Y and taught them how to swim, instilling the same values he had for the Y onto them. The three sons regularly attended the Y until they were older and went their own ways. One son who used to be a teacher at Georgian College in Orillia is now on the board of directors for the Barrie YMCA location.
Throughout his life, Doug had multiple jobs but always felt it was important to keep his connections with Y. Having not attended college, he went straight to work after high school, first part of the “curb gang” in Barrie. They installed curbs throughout the city. After that he worked in some pro shops and different garages, doing general work on cars and trucks, and then worked at Tompkins & Heels Monuments for a number of years. During these summers, he and some of his friends would go golfing at the nearby gold club, where he made more friends. One of these new golf buddies helped get him a job at a fuel company as a dispatcher, driving fuel to different places. He spent 43 years doing this and retired about six years ago. Today, he still goes golfing regularly with his friends and spends his days doing work around the house. He still makes time for the Y by following the routine of daily swimming and exercising. The idea behind this routine stems all the way back to 1961; staying active with regular exercise is important to healthy living. The Y provides the best service for it.
To this day, Doug is still a regular at the YMCA in Barrie. Every morning, sometime between 7 and 7:30, Doug goes over to the Y to swim and to exercise. He’s been coming to the Y long enough to remember that the current office building used to be the change rooms for the Lion’s Club, which is now a parking lot. But Doug, who has tried every recreational centre in Barrie, from Allandale to Holly, still prefers the Y, joking that he stays for the sauna and steam room access. He still makes regular monetary contributions because he still holds the belief that regular activity and having a safe place to meet and stay healthy is beneficial at a young age. Doug wants to helps provide these benefits and opportunities to kids, so they can have the same experiences with the Y that he had.