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Remembering Teen Town

Trip down memory lane to focus on former hangout

The heydays of Hartselle Teen Town, an institution that provided wholesome recreation for well-behaved youth in the 1950s, will be the focus of a 60-year reunion at First Christian Church in Hartselle Oct. 3.
The church will observe its regular worship service at 11 a.m., followed by a covered dish lunch and a down memory lane program aimed at honoring the ministry of Bro. Tommy Hatchett who organized Teen Town in March 1950.  Adults who were members of Teen Town as teenagers are invited guests.
Bro. Hatchett, a 93-year-old retired minister who now lives in Florida, spearheaded a drive to provide the town’s youth with a hangout under the sponsorship of the former Morgan County High School P.T.A and with the support of many community leaders. He served as the group’s counselor for two years before moving to Tennessee to continue his ministry and further his formal education.
Bro. Hatchett met with a group of MCHS students on Feb. 16, 1950, to gauge interest and lay the groundwork for a teen club. Officers were elected as follows: Johnny Cain, president; Henry Kracke, vice president; Jack McClanahan, treasurer; Mitchie Mitchell, secretary; and Phillip Orr, reporter.
Three days later, the officers met with a school P.T.A. committee to make preparations for the opening of the club in the First Christian Church basement. Committee members were Mrs. Lowell Nance, Mrs. A.D. Sample, Mrs. James E. Peck, Mrs. H.M. Betterton and Mrs. W.H. Block.
“Teenagers didn’t have a lot of recreational activities back then,” said Frank Stewart, a Teen Town mayor. “We didn’t have a bowling alley or a skating ring and there was no such things as a cell phone or video game. A swimming pool was about all we had during the summer.
“Teen Town served a good purpose and was very popular among teens. It was a good place to spend time and have fun, and it left us with a lot of fond memories.”
Teen Town membership was opened to young people from sixth grade through 19 years of age, with each member paying a monthly fee of 50 cents.  The fee was later dropped to 35 cents. Membership was divided into two groups with each group having access to the Teen Town Hall at different times.
Recreational opportunities included shuffleboard, ping-pong, badminton, billiards, darts and board games.  Lounge furniture, jukebox, Coke machines and snack bar were also provided. Plus, each session had volunteer adult chaperones.
Teen Town sponsored a baseball team under the name of “Teen Town Terrors” and conducted a “Queen of Hearts” beauty pageant as a fundraising project. It also received monetary support from community organizations and individuals.
The organization was handicapped because it didn’t have a permanent meeting place.  It relocated to the old National Guard Armory building, across from the Railroad Depot in 1951, but had to hunt a new home when the guard reorganized. The third location was in a building on Barclay Street, which was previously occupied by the Hartselle Laundry.
Teen Town reached its high point in 1952 with a membership exceeding l50. After Bro. Hatchett’s departure, however, participation dropped and it ceased to exist after about seven years.