IN THE SUMMER OF 1950, a dozen spirited 12- and 13-year-old boys found themselves in front of Judge Roy Stewart at the McCracken County courthouse. The juveniles were facing theft charges for stealing furniture from homes for their newly built dirt-cave clubhouse. Fortunately, Oscar Cross, then a janitor at the courthouse, heard their plight and asked the judge if he could take on the job of redirecting the boys and supervising their rehabilitation.
The judge gave them meeting space in a basement room of the courthouse and the Junior Legion Boys Club was born. Cross offered them board games, hikes and guidance in those early years. Each of those original twelve members went on to lead successful lives.
Today the Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club has over 500 members with an average of 40-60 kids using the facility each day. Nine staff members tutor, mentor, organize games and crafts, arrange day trips, and assist older teens with college applications and career networking.
Since 1997 Clarence Nunn has been the “father figure” behind the guidance being doled out at the Oscar Cross Club. Clarence Nunn grew up in the Club and is one of its success stories. He began going to the Club as a 5-year-old around 1954. “The Club meant so much to me—gave me the guidance that I needed,” he remembers. “Mr. Cross had a way of dealing with us and he had so much support from our families. As director here now, I still have that support from the families. When a kid knows his parents and I are in agreement, we get stuff straight very fast and that’s exactly what you need.”
Clarence Nunn left Paducah in the late 1960s for a career in law enforcement in Michigan. He retired and came back home in 1997 to direct the future of the Oscar Cross Boys and Girls Club.
“Over the last 55 years, the Club has given thousands of kids hope and opportunity and a way to stay on a straight path,” Clarence says. The Club, of course, is only as good as those who lead it forward—those with the kind of commitment and care provided by people like Clarence Nunn.
“Among the most critical challenges young people in this generation face are developing decision-making and goalsetting skills. They need direction in making choices that affect their lives in the future,” he believes. With the kind of direction given by Clarence Nunn and the supporting staff at the Oscar Cross Club, many of these young lives will, indeed, become beautiful in the end.