From the Editors 29 (2011)Engineer and Editor Juan Hart Moved El Paso Forward 29 (2011)Elizabeth Garrett: Songbird of the Southwest 29 (2011)A Passionate Life: Josephine Clardy Fox 29 (2011)Forgotten No More: Korean War POW Tells Story of Survival 29 (2011)Janice Woods Windle Treasures Family History 29 (2011)Andy and Syd Cohen: The Men Behind the Name 29 (2011)Leona Ford Washington Preserved Black History 29(2011)Ingeborg Heuser Brought Professional Ballet to City 29 (2011)Lee and Beulah Moor Left Legacy of Love 29 (2011)
From the Editors 28 (2010)Chasin’ Away the Blues: Texas Sunday Legislation 28 (2010)Simeon Hart Pioneered Local Industry 28 (2010)Felix Martinez: Southwestern Renaissance Man 28 (2010)Teresa Urrea: La Santa de Cabora Inspired Mexican Revolution 28 (2010)Utopia in Mesilla: The Shalam Colony 28 (2010)Stahmann Farms Produce Pecans on Two Hemispheres 28 (2010)Betty Mary Goetting Brought Birth Control to El Paso 28 (2010)Maud Sullivan Made El Paso Public Library a Cultural Center 28 (2010)Lucy Acosta’s Legacy Continues in LULAC 28 (2010)Belen Robles: Voice for the Latino Community 28 (2010)Toltec Club: Of Ghosts and Guests 28 (2010)
Strong Women Building a Strong City -- From the Editors 27(2008)Notable Women of El Paso 27(2009)The Chew Legacy: The Story of Herlinda Wong Chew 27(2009)Desert Nightingale: Louise Dietrich 27(2009)1909-2009: YWCA Celebrates 100 Years in El Paso 27(2009)Mabel Welch: El Paso’s First Female Architect 27(2009)Myrna Deckert Remains Modest About Achievements 27(2009)Suzie Azar Still Reaches for the Sky 27 (2009)The Moocher: Callie Fairley, First Woman Vice Detective in El Paso 27(2009)Alicia R. Chacón Came to Politics Naturally 27 (2009)Rosa Guerrero: Cultural Dynamo 27 (2009)
From the Past to the Present -- From the Editor 26 (2007/08)Yandell Boulevard Named for Prominent El Paso Physician 26 (2007/08)Japanese Immigrants Came Slowly to Borderland 26 (2007/08)World War II Affected Japanese Immigrants 26 (2007/08)Living, Breathing New Mexico Ghost Town: Hillsboro 26 (2007/08)Canutillo Developed from Land Grant 26 (2007/08)Rómulo Escobar Zerman: Juárez Agronomist and Teacher 26 (2007/08)El Paso Mayor: Tom Lea Jr. 26 (2007/08)Ted Karam: Lebanese Immigrant Lived American Dream 26 (2007/08)Publication Credits 26 (2007/08)
From the Director 25 (2006)First El Paso Protestant Church: St. Clement's 25 (2006)Bowie High School: Always a Bear 25 (2006)Golden Gloves Grew Out of El Paso's Love of Boxing 25 (2006)LULAC Fought Hard to Guarantee Rights 25 (2006)El Paso Women Gained Power in LULAC 25 (2006)McKelligon Canyon: From Cattle to Culture 25 (2006)Tortugas Celebrates Virgen de Guadalupe, San Juan 25 (2006)Bataan Death March and POW Camps 25 (2006)Bataan Survivors Recall Horrors 25 (2006)Anthony Family Had Five Sons in World War II 25 (2006)Sober on the Border 25 (2006)Clyde W. Tombaugh: Farm Boy Reached for the Stars 25 (2006)A Taste of Southwest Wine 25 (2006)
From the Director 24 (2005)From the Editors 24 (2005)Gypsie Davenport and May Palmer Ran Infamous Brothels 24 (2005)Pioneer Attorney William Burges Tackled Unpopular Issues 24 (2005)Richard Fenner Burges: Renaissance Man 24 (2005)Charles Kelly Wielded Power with Political 'Ring' 24 (2005)Tom Charles Wanted World to Know White Sands 24 (2005)Dripping Springs has Rich History 24 (2005)Thomas B. White Directed Innovative La Tuna for 19 Years 24 (2005)Cowboys on the Range --- Missile Range, That Is 24 (2005)Ranchers vs. the Feds: The McNew Saga 24 (2005)Mexican Repatriation in 1930s 24 (2005)White House Department Store 24 (2005)Thomason Hospital Celebrates 90 Years 24 (2005)R.E. Thomason Shaped City, State, Nation 24 (2005)
Postcards from the Past Editor's Column 23 (2004)From the Editors 23 (2004)Solomon C. Schutz Helped Bring Law and Order to El Paso 23 (2004)James Gillett Showed Courage in El Paso 23 (2004)Jim White Explored Carlsbad Caverns for Years 23 (2004)Ben Lilly: Mountain Man of the Southwest 23 (2004)Aldo Leopold Proposed Land Ethics 23 (2004)Escontrias Ranch: A Link to Hueco Tanks Park 23 (2004)Hueco Tanks is Site of Controversy 23 (2004)Marcelino Serna Became World War I Hero 23 (2004)Sam Dreben Soldiered All Over the World 23 (2004)Kern Place Neighborhood: The Man Behind the Name 23 (2004)Farah Manufacturing Now Just a Memory 23 (2004)Texas Knights of Columbus Began in El Paso 23 (2004)
Look for Us on the Web - Editor's Column 22 (2003)From the Editors 22 (2003)Victorio Fought to the Death for Homeland 22 (2003)O. T. Bassett and Charles R. Morehead 22 (2003)S. H. Newman: Pioneer Newspaperman Fought Vice 22 (2003)Elfego Baca Lived More Than Nine Lives 22 (2003)Woman's Club Has Long Served City 22 (2003)Cathedral's Beauty Pleases 22 (2003)Albert J. Fountain's Achievements Eclipsed by Mysterious Death 22 (2003)Albert B. Fall's Career Ended in Disgrace 22 (2003)Cloudcroft Baby Sanatorium Saved Many 22 (2003)Dale Resler Worked Hard for El Paso 22 (2003)Price's Dairy Still Family Owned 22 (2003)Woodlawn Bottling Brought Pepsi to Town 22 (2003)Union Depot Witnessed Growth of El Paso 22 (2003)
We're Now on the Web --From the Editor 21(2002)From the Editors 21(2002)Downtown Opium Dens Attracted Many 21(2002)Juneteenth Celebrates Freedom for Texas Slaves 21(2002)Black Cowboys Rode the Trails, Too 21(2002)Ku Klux Klan Had Short Life in El Paso 21(2002)Mining Became Big Business in Southwest 21(2002)Smeltertown Still Exists in Memories 21 (2002)El Paso Played Important Role in the Mexican Revolution 21 (2002)Pancho Villa Led Northern Forces in Revolution 21 (2002)Soldaderas Played Important Roles in Revolution 21 (2002)Pershing, Villa Forever Linked to Columbus 21 (2002)Cristeros Became Mexican Martyrs 1926-1929 -- 21 (2002)Houchen Settlement House Helped New Arrivals 21 (2002)Otis A. Aultman Captured Border History in Pictures 21 (2002)
Hot Springs Have Long HistoryThe Building of a City -- From the Editor 20 (2001)From the Staff (Volume 20)Pat Garrett Enjoyed Controversy 20 (2001)Marshal Dallas Stoudenmire Terrorized Town 20 (2001)History Reveals Rivalry of Madams Etta Clark and Alice Abbott 20 (2001)Kohlberg, Krupp, Zielonka Became Business and Civic Leaders 20 (2001)Olga Kohlberg Pioneered Many Local Organizations 20 (2001)Henry Trost's Architectural Legacy Lives On 20 (2001)Sunset Heights Preserves History 20 (2001)Adolph Schwartz Built Local Retail Dynasty 20 (2001)Zach T. White Brought Progress to El Paso 20 (2001)Masons Became Leaders in Texas, El Paso 20 (2001)Smallpox Epidemic Showed Need for Hospitals20 (2001)El Paso High School Remains Classic 20 (2001)Bhutanese Architecture Distinguishes UTEP Campus 20 (2001)Elephant Butte Dam Solved Early Water Problems 20 (2001)
Pioneer Ranch became Concordia Cemetery 19 (2000)El Paso Grows Up 19 (2000)From the Staff 19 (2000)Chinese Immigrants Helped Build Railroad in El Paso 19 (2000)Volunteer Fire Department Grew into Professional Company 19 (2000)1880s Brought First Theaters to Town 19 (2000)Sisters of Charity Began Hotel Dieu Hospital 19 (2000)Tuberculosis Turned El Paso Into a Health Center 19 (2000)First Public School Built in 1884 19 (2000)Enigmatic Olivas Aoy Began School for Mexican Children 19 (2000)El Paso Public Library Began Modestly 19 (2000)Jesuits Continue to Influence Area 19 (2000)Sisters of Loretto Have Long Tradition in Southwest 19 (2000)Mormons Found Sanctuary in Mexico in 1880s 19 (2000)Mennonite Colonies in Mexico Accept Change Slowly 19 (2000)Flu Epidemic of 1918 Hit El Paso Hard 19 (2000)Early City Planners Saw Future in Scenic Drive 19 (2000)Prohibition Stimulated Economies of El Paso, Juárez 19 (2000)
The Editor's Column : The Building of a City 18 (1999)From the Editors 18 (1999)Magoffinsville Had Lasting Influence on El Paso 18 (1999)Town of El Paso Grew from Pioneer Settlements 18 (1999)Downtown El Paso Is Monument to Anson Mills 18 (1999)1848 War With Mexico Created Southwest 18 (1999)Colonel Doniphan and Volunteers Won Battle of Brazito 18 (1999)Gadsden Purchase Clarified U.S. Boundaries 18 (1999)Early Fort Bliss Occupied Pioneer Sites 18 (1999)Henry O. Flipper Paved Way for Integration of Military 18 (1999)Buffalo Soldiers Defended Western Frontier 18 (1999)El Paso Was Midpoint of Overland Mail Service 18 (1999)Salt War of 1877 Divided Southwest Residents 18 (1999)Geronimo Led Final Fight 18 (1999)Apache Indians Defended Homelands in Southwest 18 (1999)Texas Rangers Helped Keep Order on Frontier 18 (1999)Sarah Bowman and Tillie Howard: Madams of the 1800s 18 (1999)El Paso Grew Up with Arrival of Railroad 18 (1999)
Aztecs Ruled Complex, Rich Society 17 (1998)From the Editor 17 (1998)Aztec Beliefs Helped Conquer Mexico 17 (1998)Cortés Created New Order in Mexico 17 (1998)La Malinche Remains Controversial 17 (1998)Cabeza de Vaca: Travels in Texas 17 (1998)Estebán Furthered Legend of Cíbola 17 (1998)Coronado Searched for Cities of Gold 17 (1998)Oñate Conquered Desert to Explore Southwest 17 (1998)Festival Celebrates Oñate's Historic Arrival 17 (1998)Fray Garcia Left Great Legacy 17 (1998)Franciscans Brought Catholicism to Area 17 (1998)America's First Highway: El Camino Real 17 (1998)Pueblo Revolt Brought Tiguas South 17 (1998)Tigua Indians Survive 300 Years of Ordeals 17 (1998)Area Missions are Part of Living History 17 (1998)San Elizario Presidio Protected Settlers 17 (1998)Ethnic Terms Can Cause Confusion 17 (1998)
Oasis Restaurants Symbolized ‘50s Teen Scene 13 (1995)‘50s Cars Changed American Lifestyle And Image 13 (1995)Chevy Bel Air Charmed 1950 Car Buyers 13 (1995)San Jacinto Plaza Remains Heart Of Downtown El Paso 13 (1995)Smokey Bear: A Legend Is Made 13 (1995)El Paso's Company E Survivors Remember Rapido River Assaults 13 (1995)Company E Survivor Recalls Days As Prisoner Of War 13 (1995)El Paso Red Cross Essential to War Effort 13 (1995)World War II Took its Toll On The Home Front 13 (1995)Civil Air Patrol Protected Border During World War II -- 13 (1995)Quickie Divorces Granted in Juárez 13 (1995)Atomic Bomb Developed In Southwest 13 (1995)Former Crew Members On B-17s Remember Tough Times 13 (1995)Vintage Warplanes Keep Past Alive 13 (1995)The Cavalry Bugler: Essential To Horse and Man 13 (1995)Sun Carnival 1936 Style 13 (1995)H. Arthur Brown: El Paso Symphony Guru Of The ‘30s -- 13 (1995)Swing Music Helped Dispel The Blues Of The ‘30s and ‘40s -- 13 (1995)The General Store: A Hidden Treasure Of The Past 13 (1995)
Change on the Border 15 (1997)From the Editor 15 (1997)Latinos Work To Change Stereotypes In Hollywood 15 (1997)Cesar Chávez: Simple Man, People’s Hero 15 (1997)Shelter For Farm Workers Becomes Reality 15 (1997)Women’s Shelter Helps To Heal The Pain 15 (1997)Home Schools Become Popular Alternative 15 (1997)Renovation May Revive Downtown El Paso 15 (1997)Title IX Changed Women's Sports 15 (1997)Special Olympics Shine In El Paso 15 (1997)La Fe Clinic Serves South El Paso 15 (1997)ASARCO Works To Clean Up Its Act 15 (1997)A Growing Phenomenon: Single Fathers 15 (1997)Stepfamilies Become More Numerous 15 (1997)Teens Rebel Against Authority 15 (1997)Comics Retain Popularity 15 (1997)Tom Moore And Archie Have Timeless Appeal 15 (1997)
Life on the Border: 1950s & 1960s --14 (1996)From The Editors 14 (1996)A Baseball Team By Any Other Name 14 (1996)Drive-In Theaters Appealed to all Ages 14 (1996)El Paso Trolley First to Connect Two Nations 14 (1996)Barbie Doll Revolutionized Toy Industry 14 (1996)Rabies Took Bite of Sun City 14 (1996)Rabies: A Deadly Virus 14 (1996)Border Patrol Used Variety of Methods to Control Immigration 14 (1996)L. A. Nixon Fought Texas Voting Law 14 (1996)Douglass School Served Black Community Well 14 (1996)Thelma White Case Forced College Integration 14 (1996)Steve Crosno: An El Paso Original 14 (1996)Rock 'N' Roll Defined Teen Culture 14 (1996)A Shopping Mall by the People for the People 14 (1996)Chamizal Dispute Settled Peacefully 14 (1996)Turney Mansion Becomes Work of Art 14 (1996)First Hispanic Mayor Elected in 1957 -- 14 (1996)Flower Children Chose Alternative Lifestyle 14 (1996)
Three Decades of History 12 (1994)From the Editors 12 (1994)The Plaza Theater…Here to Stay!? 12 (1994)El Paso Broadcasting: The Stories Behind the Call Letters 12 (1994)Alphabet Agencies: FDR's Brainstorm 12 (1994)Chihuahuita in the 1930s: Tough Times in the Barrio 12 (1994)Hobo Sign Language Targeted El Paso 12 (1994)Self- Sufficiency Key to Farmers' Survival During Depression 12 (1994)Hanna's Story A Holocaust Survivor Remembers 12 (1994)Former Members Recall Life in Hitler Youth 12 (1994)German Prisoners of War Interned at Fort Bliss During World War II -- 12 (1994)German POWs Remembered at Fort Bliss 12 (1994)One German POW's Story 12 (1994)Ration Books and Victory Gardens: Coping with Shortages 12 (1994)Women Changed Wartime Work Patterns 12 (1994)Bracero Program Hurt Domestic Farm Workers 12 (1994)San Pedro Pharmacy Retains Look of the Past 12 (1994)Teenage Fashions of the Nifty Fifties 12 (1994)Rebel Image of Motorcyclists Set in 1950s -- 12 (1994)
Border Customs and Crafts From the Editor 10 (1992)From the Editors 10 (1992)King on the Mountain 10 (1992)Piñatas! 10 (1992)How to Play the Piñata Game 10 (1992)Out of a Cotton Boll Bloom Beautiful Crafts 10 (1992)Cotton Boll Entertains Too 10 (1992)Hands That Create Art and Soul 10 (1992)La Charreada - Mexican Horsemanship 10 (1992)Boots - A Family Tradition 10 (1992)Some Boys Still Grow Up to be Cowboys 10 (1992)Boot Capital of the World 10 (1992)The Magic of Mariachis 10 (1992)Ballet Folklorico - High School Style 10 (1992)New Generation of Mariachis 10 (1992)The Lady is a Bullfighter 10 (1992)The Midwife: Choices for Border Women 10 (1992)Retablos: Echoes of Faith 10 (1992)Tigua Indians: Dancing for St. Anthony 10 (1992)The Aztec and the Miracle 10 (1992)A Hispanic Girl's Coming of Age 10 (1992)Art - Low and Slow 10 (1992)Wedding Traditions on the Border 10 (1992)
Border Food Folkways From the Editor 9 (1991)From the Staff 9 (1991)Tortillas: Border Staff of Life 9 (1991)The Booming Tortilla Industry in Mexico 9 (1991)Where's The Beef? In El Paso! 9 (1991)How Do I Love Thee, Piggy? Let Me Count the Ways! 9 (1991)Tamales By Any Other Name Remain The Same 9 (1991)Rio Grande Thanksgiving 9 (1991)The Tigua Indians: Food for Thought 9 (1991)Corn: The Golden Gift from Our Ancestors 9 (1991)Border Pottery - Function and Beauty 9 (1991)Holy Hot Mole! 9 (1991)Looking Back at the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Men Behind the Chile Pepper 9 (1991)Hot Peppers : They're Not Just for Eating 9 (1991)Food, Spices Double as Folk Cures 9 (1991)Weeds or Edible Desert Plants? 9 (1991)Cactus: It's Good for You! 9 (1991)Day of the Dead Celebrates Spiritual Tradition 9 (1991)Nutricious, Delicious Beans 9 (1991)Menudo Makes The Big Time 9 (1991)Mediterranean Cuisine: Old Tradition, Fresh Idea 9 (1991)Lenten Foods: From Fasting to Fabulous 9 (1991)Tarahumaras Rely on Nature for Food 9 (1991)Tempting Sweet Breads : Pan de Dulce 9 (1991)
Border Customs and Crafts II From the Editor -- 11 (1993)From the Editors 11 (1993)The Best Little Asaderos in Texas 11 (1993)Glass Work Disappearing on Border 11 (1993)Cockfights Legal in Surrounding Areas 11 (1993)Local Craftsmen Keep Art of Saddlery Alive 11 (1993)James and Joseph Magoffin: El Paso Pioneers 11 (1993)Chile Ristras Brighten Border Homes 11 (1993)Magoffin Home Preserves El Paso's Past 11 (1993)Bavarian Custom Celebrated in El Paso: Oktoberfest 11 (1993)Munich on the Border 11 (1993)Santo Niño de Atocha Called Miracle Worker 11 (1993)Lenten Customs Vary 11 (1993)To Ask is to Receive 11 (1993)Border Maintains Tradition of Posadas 11 (1993)A Visit from Three Kings 11 (1993)Matachines: Soldiers of the Virgin 11 (1993)Dichos Are an Intricate Part of Mexican Culture 11 (1993)Cultural Superstitions Affect Behavior 11 (1993)Que Onda Homeboy! Why Do We Talk Like This? 11 (1993)Traditional Hispanic Children's Games Disappear 11 (1993)
El Paso Women to ResearchEl Paso Women to Research (by name)El Paso Men to ResearchEl Paso Men to Research (by name)
From the Editors 30 (2012)From the Editor, Credits and Contents 30 (2012)Jessie Hawkins and Jenna Welch: Love, Loss and Laughter 30 (2012)Woodrow Wilson Bean: One in a Million 30 (2012)David L. Carrasco Gave Back to Hometown 30 (2012)Cleofas Calleros Made Local History Important 30 (2012)Robert E. McKee: From Rags to Riches to Philanthropy 30 (2012)Kate Moore Brown: A Woman of Many Firsts 30 (2012)Fun in the 1890s: The McGinty Club 30 (2012)
Borderlands Web Issue From the Editor 31(2013/14)Acknowledgements 31(2013/14)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 31(2013/14)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 31 (2013/14)Harvey Girls Changed the West 31(2013/14)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 31(2013/14)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 31(2013/14)
Borderlands 32 Tolerance. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 32(2014/15)Henry Kellen Created El Paso Holocaust Museum 32(2014/15)Bicycle Padre Still Working 32(2014/15)El Paso Connections: Ambrose Bierce: writer 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Bobby Fuller, Rock Icon 32(2014/15)Mysterious Deaths: Tom Ogle, Inventor 32(2014/15)Jake Erlich: A Big Man in Many Ways 32(2014)Harvey Girls Changed the West 32(2014)
Borderlands 33 Service. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 33(2015)Nothing Is Impossible: Major General Heidi V. Brown 33 (2015)Local Latino Soldiers Receive Medal of Honor Decades after Heroism 33 (2015)Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA 33 (2015)Will the Real Leon Blevins Please stand up? 33 (2015)Carrie Tingley Hospital and the Couple Behind It 33 (2015)Mother Praxedes Carty: Serving God by Serving Others 33 (2015)
Borderlands 34 Inspiration. From the Editors and Acknowledgements 34(2016/17)Building Bridges Instead of Walls: Temple Mount Sinai 34 (2016/17)Ruben Salazar: A Bridge Between Two Societies 34 (2016/17)Luis Jimenez: Art Creates Dialogue 34 (2016/17)Richard "Tuff" Hedeman: The Michael Jordan of Professional Bull Riding 34 (2016/17)Rescue Mission of El Paso Provides Food and Opportunity 34 (2016/17)
35 From the EditorsArea Missions Are Part of Living History (with 2017 update)Downtown El Paso is Monument to Anson Mills (with 2017 update)Chihuahuita in the 1930s: Tough Times in the Barrio (with 2017 update)The Magic of Mariachis (with 2017 update)New Generation of Mariachis (with 2017 update)Looking Back at the Chile PepperMen Behind the Chile Pepper (with 2017 update)Hot Peppers: They're Not Just for EatingEl Paso Trolley First to Connect Two Nations (with 2017 update)Centro De Salud Familiar La Fe Serves El Paso County (with 2017 update)Tuberculosis Turned El Paso into a Health Center (with 2017 update)El Paso's Company E Survivors Remember Rapido River Assault (with 2017 update)Company E Survivor Recalls Days as Prisoner of War (with 2017 update)James and Joseph Magoffin: El Paso Pioneers (with 2017 update)
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Vernus Carey: Mr. YMCA

Article first published electronically in Volume 31, 2013/2014.  See PDF version of article printed in Volume 33, 2015.

By Isabel Hernandez, with additional research by Emmanuel Correa

Vernus CareyBullying among children is common today, but even 100 years ago, children bullied others because of their physical appearance, their family’s situation or other reasons. One little boy from the Midwest suffered ridicule because of his size and his feminine sounding first name: Vernice, a variant of Bernice.  In time, his small frame filled out and he came to be known as Vernus, a variant of Vernon and a name that hit its peak as a boy’s name in the 1920s.

Vernus Carey came to El Paso in 1914 with his widowed mother when he was 12. The young boy became active in the early Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA) and found a father figure in A. L. “Doc” Holm, physical education director and later general secretary of El Paso’s YMCA. Carey went on to serve his adopted city for 44 years in this organization dedicated to young people, a feat that earned him the name of “Mr. YMCA of El Paso.”

Image caption:  Vernus Carey spent his life working with young people through the YMCA.

The YMCA movement began in London, England, in 1844 by George Williams and a group of young men, who like many, had come to the city in search of jobs and found only pubs and brothels as places of recreation. They began the organization to study the Bible and hold religious services, hence the name they adopted that year, “Young Men’s Christian Association” or YMCA. The idea grew, with 24 more such groups rapidly forming in the city. Seven years later, an American sea captain, Thomas V. Sullivan, helped establish the YMCA in Boston, the first one in the U.S. Just two years later, 13 more Ys had been opened across the country.

In 1886, a group of El Paso businessmen met in the First Baptist Church, then located on San Antonio Street where the Toltec Building stands, to form the El Paso Young Men’s Christian Association. Its first activities were Christian fellowship and prayer meetings for young men held in a simple bare room. The group subsequently moved to a space near a livery stable on San Francisco Street.

An El Paso Times article by Carol Viescas tells us that after this first YMCA closed twice because of financial problems, the board decided to build its first facility and raised a whopping $105,000 in 1906, a sum with a purchasing power of at least $2,050,000 today, according to the Website Measuring Worth. In 1909, the YMCA opened a modern building, designed by noted architects Trost and Trost, on Oregon and Missouri Streets, across from the public library. The Y had a swimming pool, gymnasium, handball courts, an indoor track and four bowling alleys, this at a time when desperados still walked El Paso streets and just across the river the Mexican Revolution was about to commence.

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 As time has gone by, the Y has developed from being a strictly Christian movement to a nonsectarian organization dedicated to the development of mind, body and spirit. It has also progressed from being a “boys” club into a place where people of all faiths, genders and ages can find recreational and educational activities in branches all over the city. (The acronym YMCA officially gave way to just Y in 2010 in the U.S.  Both terms will be used in this article.)

Over the years there have been leaders who have stood out as models of excellence at the YMCA: Vernus M. Carey is one who made working at the Y his life’s work.

Carey was born in Burlington, Ind., and after moving to Texas, he attended El Paso High School and graduated from El Paso Junior College in 1922. Carey married Mary Louise Simpson and the couple had one child, Joan, born in 1930. When Carey found the YMCA, he formed a strong friendship with Doc Holm, who became his mentor.  In 1922, Carey became the assistant physical education director at the Y, after having served as a volunteer. This would be the beginning of his long career with the organization. When Doc Holm became general secretary, Carey moved up to director of physical education, a position he held until 1946.  

Carey’s love for athletics helped him motivate the youth of the community. As a child, Carey often had to protect himself by fighting physically when others teased him about his size and name. Little did he know then that in the future he would become a boxer and a wrestling champion in the Southwest. In his tribute to Carey upon his induction to the El Paso Historical Society Hall of Fame, Wallace Lowenfield, civic leader and owner of Casa Ford and other El Paso car dealerships, said that Carey “arranged for the first Golden Gloves tournament in El Paso,” an activity that continues today.

According to a 1919 El Paso High School yearbook, Carey also played basketball. Apart from using his fists and dribbling a ball, Carey was also a member of Holm’s first hexathlon team of gymnasts to win a YMCA international championship of North America, a feat the team repeated four more times.   

Dr. James NaismithThe fact that Carey was an outstanding athlete helped him to guide others in various sports. Among many of the sports he directed was basketball, a game that was invented in 1891 by alumnus and faculty member James Naismith for Springfield College in Massachusetts, a YMCA Training School. Naismith had been asked to come up with an indoor game that would amuse and distract students during New England’s harsh winters. He had 14 days in which to do it. Naismith nailed two peach baskets to a railing ten feet high and participants used a soccer ball. By 1893, iron hoops and a net replaced the fruit baskets, and by 1903, open-ended baskets saved players the task of retrieving the ball after every basket.

Image caption:  James Naismith with a basketball and a peach basket.   (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

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El Pasoan Bud Lassiter, who was a member of the Y’s Leaders Club, says in Lowenfield’s Password article, “Most of us came to the ‘Y’ attracted by athletics. … That some became outstanding athletes is verified at least in part by the 1941 Texas Miners Basketball team, which won the first championship of any miner team, in any sport.” All the members of the team had competed in leagues run by Vernus Carey.

Many athletes were created at the Y with Carey as their mentor and coach. In 1942, Carey even began a program to condition young men who had not passed the physical requirements of the military by participating in calisthenics, body building, gymnastics and basketball.  His own love of sports motivated him to teach others the discipline and enjoyment sports bring.  

Another of Carey’s most effective programs was the Leaders Club which taught young people leadership skills and empowered them to help others to develop in their own community. Carey had been part of this Y activity himself under Doc Holm and led members for years to respect themselves and others with the same caring attitude which his own mentor had displayed. The club, with some similarities to the Big Brothers program, included boys from ages 12 to 18. Today it is important for young people to develop a healthy self-esteem, an idea Carey inculcated into the young men in this organization through sports and other team activities.

According to a 2011 El Paso Times article by Kevin Pearson, past president and CEO of the El Paso YMCA, 18 of the 20 members of the Leaders Club known as the Desipers enlisted in the military after the US entered World War II, with the other two working at war plants. Several of these young men were also members of the aforementioned Miner’s basketball team; they listened to their coach who encouraged them to wait until after their season ended to enlist.

These “boys” became engineers, pilots and officers, leaders in their country at war. The young men corresponded regularly with Vernus Carey who then shared news with the others. Pearson wrote that even after the war, the men continued to meet at the YMCA, becoming leaders in their community, with several serving on YMCA Boards of Directors.  

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During World War II, Carey and his wife established a club for young married couples, known as the 50-50 Club, and maintained it following the war to help these young adults readjust to married life, even forming basketball and volleyball leagues. Because older adults found a way to help the war effort and young men and women were serving their country, less attention could be paid to teenagers and their plaintive cry of nothing to do in El Paso. Enter Vernus Carey and the YMCA.

Carey established  the Y Co-ed Club for high school students and found a way to provide a distraction from the war that consumed their parents: the Teen Canteen. Frank Mangan pointed out in his book El Paso in Pictures that despite the war, “life went on for the local kids.” Carey somehow knew the right thing to do: create a place for youngsters to meet and have fun. Mangan wrote that the teens danced to Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey and Benny Goodman while drinking Cokes, and they “puffed an occasional cigarette outside.” The Teen Canteen opened in the old Jewish Temple on Oregon Street and Yandell Boulevard in 1944 and was later incorporated into the Central Y. 

Apart from mentoring others in sports and other leadership activities, Carey also enjoyed educating children about the importance of loving nature. His purpose was to teach city children to discover and respect all forms of life and to love the outdoors. Carey ran the Y’s Skyline Camp in the Sacramento Mountains near Cloudcroft for about 10 years during the Depression.  It must have been an unforgettable experience for those who attended these camps as they still remembered their times in Y activities led by Carey even after he died. The late Frank Mangan, El Paso writer, historian and publisher, was one of the children that Carey cared for. In Lowenfield’s 1991 tribute to Carey, Mangan said, “Some of my fondest memories are those summers spent at Skyline Ranch. As a camp director, Vernus taught us more than any other human being could have— about nature and how to get along with and appreciate other campers.”

Holm and Carey worked together for about 20 years, and in those years they inspired many young people. After 22 years as the YMCA’s general secretary, Holm retired and chose Carey to succeed him as the next general secretary in 1946. The trust and affection that Holm had for Carey inspired him to take the same ideas and expand on them while initiating new programs for the Y. Carey became the YMCA’s executive officer and would continue to serve as trainer, mentor and confidante to El Paso youth for 16 more years.

In 1946, Carey organized the Boy’s Trail Camp, later known as Carey’s Ranch, a private camp for boys in the Sacramento Mountains six miles from Cloudcroft, N. M. Carey bought 160 acres which originally was designed for boys to learn horsemanship, to explore natural sites, to participate in polo and other horseback games and to go on pack trips. The program also offered archery, marksmanship, golf and crafts. Carey’s love of nature and passion for sports led him to offer opportunities for different outdoor experiences than the Y.

Carey opened the camp early on to girls, who, for the most part, had few opportunities for camping, organized outdoor activities and horseback riding. In later years, Carey’s daughter Joan led the sessions scheduled for girls with her husband, Jim Goodman, leading the boys’ sessions. Carey himself directed the equestrian activities, using his own string of quarter horses. The culmination of each session was a two to four-day wilderness pack trip.

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Lowenfeld quoted Barbara Kaster who recalled her experiences at Carey’s Camp this way: “He continually encouraged us to try new things, to mount the horses with pride and strength, to shoot with accuracy, to learn the names of all the wild flowers.” So long before women won broad civil rights and the right to compete in athletics through Title 9, El Paso girls were learning how to explore nature on horseback and participate in camping and competitive sports through Carey’s camp.

Sessions were organized by gender and age, with an emphasis on teens. In a 1966 El Paso Herald-Post article, Carey explained, “A lot of people don’t like to fool with teenagers because they are tougher to handle. But they make as much if not more use of what we have to offer as the little ones.” That many of Carey’s campers learned how to handle horses well is illustrated in the same article which made note that “many a Carey’s Camp graduate and undergraduate came off with top honors” at a 1966 Riding and Driving Club Spring Horse Show.

Carey motivated and captured the attention of thousands of young El Pasoans with such activities. In 1956, Y-Indian Guides came to El Paso, a program for fathers and sons six to nine years old, using the lore of American Indians. Carey said, “It is a home centered program based on the simple conviction that educating a son is the father’s responsibility as well as the mother’s … [it] is a program for the busy but thinking father which gives him an opportunity to be a companion to his son at an age when the boy is most receptive.” The national program included crafts, storytelling, informal discussions, hikes, swimming, campouts and more.

Perhaps keenly aware of how important a father is to raising a daughter, Carey also began a similar program for fathers and daughters called Indian Princesses. Today these programs have shed the references to Native Americans at the national level and the groups are known as Y-Guides or YMCA Adventure Guides, still promoting a love of nature and the importance of family ties and community.

 By 1948, the Y was serving a community of about 130,000, more than four times the population of El Paso when the first Y was built on North Oregon Street. That was the year the Board of Directors decided to buy an entire block of land on Montana Street where Baily School was located. This year also kicked off the beginning of a 10-year fund raising program, culminating in the building of the Central YMCA, an all-inclusive community center, including lodging and food service for young men away from home. As general secretary, Carey led fund raising activities to the tune of more than $2 million. This large complex, considered one of the finest in the nation, opened in 1958 at 701 Montana.

For decades, the Y provided housing for hundreds of young men coming into the city. In addition it had a food service, a men’s health department, a co-ed department, snack bar, lounge, club rooms, craft shop, gymnasium and swimming pool— with a women’s dressing room. Carey is given the credit for opening the Y to women through various activities even before the building of the Central Y.

In addition to his Y duties, Carey belonged to the Lions Club and the Valley Congregational Church in the Lower Valley where the Careys lived. He was president of the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame in 1962 and worked with the Sun Carnival (Sun Bowl) Association for many years. Not surprisingly, Carey was a member of the El Paso County Sheriff’s Posse, under the leadership of Chris Fox, when riding horses was still a condition for membership. It was an adventurous way to watch over the town. The Sheriff’s Posse enjoyed their Sundays “riding for the sheer joy and pleasure of it,” wrote Hawley Richeson in his history of the organization titled The El Paso Sheriff’s Posse: Fifty Fit 1936-1986. The posse went for a five-day “Spring Trail Ride” for years.

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The late Wallace Lowenfield met Carey when Lowenfield was just a young boy. In his 1991 tribute to Carey published in 1992 in Password, the journal of the El Paso Historical Society, he wrote that Carey “was the rock we could rely on. And to this day thousands of El Pasoans stand proudly and securely upon that rock.”

Vernus Carey retired on January 1, 1963, after more than 40 years of service to the El Paso community through his work at the Y. At the time of his retirement, the Y boasted a membership of 8,600 and Carey was deeply involved in the plan to begin branch locations in other parts of the city and to improve facilities at Skyline Ranch Camp.

Still fit and youthful at age 60, Carey continued raising and training horses as well as directing the equestrian program at his camp in Cloudcroft until 1972 when he and his family sold it. In a 1962 El Paso Times article, Carey said, “I have always loved kids…I look back over 40 years and events, at the young men scattered all over the country and there is satisfaction that you watched the normal kids and the problem kids grow up and develop into something worthwhile. I have enjoyed it very much.”

After all the years of hard work, dedication and love, the general secretary was honored with several awards and acknowledgments. He also was inducted into the El Paso Athletic Hall of Fame in 1971, the same year as Don Haskins. Carey was a Hall of Honor inductee into the El Paso County Historical Society in 1991, four years after his death in 1987.

Carey inspired countless lives and was a man ahead of his time. He appeared to know the importance of every stage of childhood and strived to develop programs for children of all ages— and adults as well. He knew that girls and women also needed opportunities for sports and outdoor pursuits and designed activities for them, too.  He knew how important the father-child relationship was at a time when many men had little to do with the day-to-day raising of children. He raised his own daughter to love nature and taught hundreds of children to love and care for horses, beginning the Kids Rodeo in El Paso and directing horse shows for children.

Today the Y is a different place than it was in Carey’s day. The once bustling building on Montana was closed as a YMCA facility in 2007 and turned into the city’s Pat O’Rourke Recreation Center in 2010 after renovation through Community Development Block Grants. The YMCA now is organized by branches, including the Westside Family Y, the Loya Family Y in the Lower Valley and the Bowling Family Y in the Northeast. Skyline Ranch Camp continued operations until 1980 when it was sold to private parties.

Children do not go to outdoor camps as much as they used to; rather they attend computer camps and play video games. But the Ys of El Paso and the rest of the U.S. still offer a multitude of exercise classes and promote fitness for the entire family. Their goal is still the one that guided Doc Holm and Vernus Carey: the development of body, mind and spirit.

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