Looking Back in Time

By Carlie Boswell, Enrollment and March Coordinator

In case you haven’t heard, Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands is turning 60 years old and we could not be more excited! It all started in 1955 when The Omaha Jaycees established a Big Brothers program. In 1959, they successfully incorporated the Agency to meet the needs of boys from father-absent homes.

There is a binder in our office that has clipped articles glued on pages. These articles date back to 1961 and detail the history of our agency. As a self-proclaimed history nerd, I sat down at my desk and spent way too much time reading through these glimpses of our history as an agency. Needless to say, as a person born almost 30 years from the beginning of the agency, it was definitely a culture shock to read through some of the articles and see what the world looked like at the time. So I turned to ‘Hits of the 1960s’ on Spotify and dove into it.

Picture this: Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” is on the FM radio. Almost half of the population in America is under 18 and drive-ins are where you go to meet up with friends. A hamburger costs 20 cents. Color TV has pushed out typical nights of reading and the British Invasion has started.

In 1961, Big Brothers’ annual budget was $15,000. Our slogan was “no man ever stands so straight as when he stoops to help a boy.”  In January 1961, the board of our agency was beginning the search for an Executive Director and by December of that year Chris Muller was hired. Articles from 1962 and 1963 spoke about the guidance sought by male mentees and different donations made to the agency. By February 1969, there were 79 Big and Little matches with a number of children still waiting.

As the 60’s moved into the 70’s (and the music I was listening to became Stevie Wonder and Queen), Big Sisters appeared in the area. In fall of 1971, the Omaha Big Sisters opened with the “aim to match ‘girls who need friends’ with big sisters.” Omaha Big Sisters began as a joint project through several agencies and had advisement from Big Brothers of Omaha and Council Bluffs, Omaha Public Schools, Urban League of Nebraska and a number of other community partners. In September 1973, when the annual budget had grown to $150,000, it was announced that Big Brothers was taking on the Big Sisters program, making it officially…Big Brothers Big Sisters of the Midlands!

May 1973 shot of Dodge Street in Omaha, NE by Charles O’Rear

Dr. Earl V. Brown was interviewed in an article published in the December 1969 UNO newspaper.  Dr. Brown was a veterinarian, World War II veteran and the Omaha-Council Bluffs “Big Brother of the Year.” Dr. Brown spoke about his time as a Big and the two Little Brothers he had been able to mentor. My favorite quote from all of the cut out articles was his, saying “it’s not that I’m to be a Santa Claus or even a father. I’m a Big Brother. I am there to provide a missing companionship, not money.” Dr. Brown so greatly voiced our agency’s goal, both in 1969 and still to this day.

Our agency has grown tremendously from 1959. We now have almost 40 staff members and an annual budget of $2.5 million. We are thrilled to be celebrating 60 years and annually serving over 1,000 youth in our community. We hope you will join us as we celebrate all year long!

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