STORIED LIVES: Tim Harvey Remembers the Y in the Day

When Tim Harvey joined the Rye YMCA at the age of 6 in 1933, the entire staff could be counted on both hands.

a3 tim harvey
Published April 5, 2013 5:00 AM
4 min read


a3 tim harveyWhen Tim Harvey joined the Rye YMCA at the age of 6 in 1933, the entire staff could be counted on both hands.


By Denise Woodin


a3 tim harveyWhen Tim Harvey joined the Rye YMCA at the age of 6 in 1933, the entire staff could be counted on both hands.


“It’s really amazing to see how many functions go on at the Y now,” Harvey marveled in a recent conversation. “Back then, there was the director, Pa Cope; his secretary, Minnie Loescher; Mr. Oster, who ran the gym; Mr. Murphy, who was in charge of the under 16 guys; Jimmy Ryan, the maintenance man; and ‘Pop’ Sibley,” who held the all-important role of stocking the nickel Coke machine.


Born in Darien, into a family with deep roots in Rye, Harvey moved to Rye when he was 4. During the Depression, the Y was a “very eclectic mix of kids,” Harvey recalled with a clarity that melted away the decades. “It was much more neighborhood-oriented in those days. Families had one car and the dad took that to work. So kids walked, biked, or took the bus to the Y. The bus was just 15 cents a ride.”


Back then, basketball wasn’t big, noted Harvey, but they had games and gymnastics. “I was the smallest guy, so I was always at the top of the pyramid.” Nor was there a pool, but Pa Cope would arrange basketball games at the Greenwich or New York City Y, which did have pools. Harvey remembers as a young teen taking the train into Manhattan, where the Rye Y boys would play basketball, swim and take in a movie.


“The Y was my home away from home,” he said.


During the school year, Harvey and his siblings — two sisters and a brother—attended Rye Grammar School and later Rye High School. But summer — a time for watermelon, hot dog, and marshmallow-eating contests and arts and crafts —was spent at Rye Rec.


“Rye Rec started on the Y property and was very active in the summer,” noted Harvey. “In the late 1930s and early 1940s, we would play baseball in the morning and go on bicycles to Rye Beach in the afternoons.”


From the ages of 7 through 9, Harvey spent two weeks each summer at the Y’s upstate residential camp, Camp Mohican. “The campers were from all over. As I remember, it was $10 a week. Pa Cope was a fabulous storyteller. Ghost stories after the sun went down were his specialty.”  


While Harvey’s involvement in the Y waned during his high school and college years — he was busy with academics and sports — he remembers helping Pa Cope move Camp Mohican from Black Mountain to Gull Bay and working as a junior counselor. “All of the adult males had left for the service, so Pa had to rely on 16-year-old kids in responsible positions.”


Although it has been roughly 70 years since Pa Cope served as a role model for Rye’s boys, men of a certain age still remember him vividly. “He taught Sunday school at the Episcopal Church,” Harvey recalled. “He was a machine gunner in the English Army from 1914-1918. He never got a scratch. Then, when the war was over, he left the country.”


According to Harvey, Cope was very interested in keeping the 16-21 year-olds out of trouble. “He was well connected with all the businesses in town — the Y hosted regular Lions Club lunches — and used his connections to find jobs for young men. Many of the jobs were at Bullard’s Machine Tool Company in Bridgeport.”


Harvey also remembers Joe O’Brien, a popular older boy who helped Pa Cope with anything that needed doing and later became the Rye Y’s Athletic Director.  “Joe was a clean-cut, all-American guy. He was a mentor to me when I was a young teen.”


Over the next several decades, Harvey’s stint in the Navy, followed by college (Yale University, Class of 1950) and a successful career in industrial administration took him all over the world. During that time, he joined eight or nine Y’s in several locations, including Guelph, Ontario, where he lived for 13 years.


In 1954, Harvey married his first wife and had two children.


Then, in 1999, Harvey re-connected with Jean McMath at a memorial service for her sister. The pair had met in seventh grade when Harvey hit her in the back of the head with a snowball. “She squealed to the principal and that’s how we met!” Jean and Tim married in 2001 and remained together until her death in March 2011. Around that time, Harvey returned to Rye after living in Greenwich. 


“In the middle of that,” he continued, “I got sick with pneumonia and the flu. My doctor recommended pulmonary rehab at Greenwich Hospital. I started exercising regularly and lost 40 pounds. I went through the YMCA’s Diabetes Prevention Program. Now, I come into the Y three times a week. I do fitness training with Laura Laura. I take the Tai Chi class. And in between, I walk up and down the street or at Playland.”


Harvey concluded, “The number of people who come through the door and the number of programs and activities truly amazes me. I’m sure Pa Cope is looking down and wondering how the Y does it all.”


Next year, the Rye YMCA will celebrate its centennial. If you have a story, from any era, that you’d like to share, contact Sally Wright at 967-6363, ext. 202, or


The author is Director of Community Impact and Social Responsibility at the Rye YMCA.


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