Banner for Optimist International Friend of Youth.

76 Years of Optimism in Ontario (1924-2000)

                               The year was 1924. Toronto was a lot smaller than it is today, with a
                               population of about 500,000. Life was different back then. In 1924, there were
                               no traffic lights, no parking meters and believe it or not, people were buying
                               cars and driving them around without need of a licence.

                               Optimist International goes back to around the year 1911. A bunch of nice
                               fellows in Buffalo, N.Y., used to get together every so often. They'd eat lunch
                               and shoot the breeze and figure out ways to make their community a better
                               place for everyone. They didn't have a lot of money, but they had a vision and
                               lots of determination.

                               Word spread and the first Canadian Optimist Club was finally formed by a
                               dedicated young man by the name of Bill Skilling.

                               Bill Skilling and two of his friends had begun to meet in December of 1923.
                               Because of those devoted early pioneer Optimists, Ontario clubs, as well as
                               Optimist International survived the Great Depression of the 1930's and the war
                               years, from 1939 to 1945.

                               Optimists International had a "men only" policy in force, up until 1981, when
                               the organization decided to allow women to join. This wasn't achieved until
                               1987. In that summer of 1987, the first three women to join the Optimist Club
                               of East Ottawa were Claire Duncis, Rita Tanguay and Judy Gervais.

                               Since 1924, Optimist International has worked hard to provide boys with extra
                               skills that were then not learned in school. They have supported youth sports
                               both in their communities and in association with schools. They not only
                               helped financially, but they also attended games, to encourage the players of
                               the various teams they sponsored.

                               One of the first priorities of the early Optimist clubs was to form Junior
                               Optimist Clubs, where kids were given the opportunity to help other kids. They
                               believed that building a youth club was a solid investment in the future. Today
                               youngsters enter anything from essay contests to golf tournaments through
                               the support of various Optimist Clubs in Ontario.

                               Optimist Clubs in Ontario have been serving youth for 76 years.