The advantages of a large social room for boys is well demonstrated in the boys' building at Duluth, Minn. The building occupied by the boys was originally built and used by the German Turners, but has been leased for a term of years by the Association. The chief room on the second floor is the auditorium, and beneath this are the gymnasium, baths, locker rooms and bowling alleys.
There is a large stage at one end of the auditorium, and a gallery at the other end. This gallery has been enclosed with a glass and wood partition/and the space is used for manual training. A large room under the stage is used for general social purposes, while various ante-rooms are used for committee and club purposes. The Association thought it wise to experiment with the large social room before going to the expense of dividing it up into the regulation reading room, game room, parlor, etc.
The floor space of the auditorium is about 35x50 or 40x60; one corner has been separated by a counter from the rest of the room and is used as an office. The reading tables and the game boards are placed about the room in a carefully arranged disorder, and this, with the decorations, helps to give the room a cozy appearance.
There has been something really funny about the tenacity with which Associations have clung to the idea that "boys wanted a quiet room in which to read." As a matter of fact, if there is one thing above all others which the boy does not seem to want it is a quiet room. Secretaries have found that boys would go into the quiet reading room, pick up a magazine or book, and go out into the noisy game room, sitting down where there was something going on to read it. When a boy is interested in a book, any amount of legitimate noise will not disturb him a particle.
One of the wisest and most successful men in North America in handling boys calls attention to the difference between noise and disorder, and shows how legitimate noise in a social room of this kind is better order than absolute quietness. He likens the noise of his game room to the steady hum of machinery, and says, with a twinkle in his eye, that the regular rhythm of the various sounds does not disturb him, but the minute the machinery begins to speed up or slow down he is immediately on the alert, for something is likely to happen.
The Duluth experiment has been satisfactory, and if they were to erect a new building for their boys, they would certainly have one large social room in which the reading matter and games should be placed.
This is in accord with the idea of the large reception lobby for men which is so marked a feature in the newer Association buildings. It should not be forgotten, however, that in addition to the large social room, a number of small class, club and committee rooms should be provided. A few years ago, very few Boys' Departments had more than two or three boys' Bible classes, but to-day it is not uncommon to find ten or fifteen such classes, and in some cases, already, certain Boys' Departments have upwards of twenty Bible classes, and it is found convenient for a number of these classes to meet Educational Activities for Boys simultaneously on the same afternoon or evening. The growth of the small club in the Boys' Department also calls for the simultaneous use of several small rooms.