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Hall of History

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Say hello to our “Oscar” and experience many other exhibits in the award-winning Boys Town Hall of History!

The Hall of History museum presents the unique history of Boys Town through permanent exhibits that use audio and ​​​video presentations. You’ll discover how Boys Town programs developed and how we continue our mission to change the way America cares for children and families.

The museum is located in the former dining hall built by Father Flanagan in 1939. Some of the artifacts on display include the Best Actor Oscar presented to Spencer Tracy for his role as Father Flanagan in the motion picture “Boys Town,” and the Flex bus that once carried Boys Town athletic teams across America. Visitors can listen to ​​voices from the past to learn how Father Flanagan's revolution in child care began, and how Boys Town continues to work to improve the future of America’s children and families.

 
  • Read the Transcript

    This old bus has many a story to tell. Not only of games won and lost but also of a sad chapter in our nation's history when children were prevented from the joys of athletic competition purely due to the color of their skin.

    Why would an Omaha school need a bus specially equipped to travel great distances? It all started with a disheartening incident in 1946. It was one of Father Flanagan's core beliefs that every boy engage in some form of athletic competition to build his character and physical strength. And from its inception, and at Father Flanagan's insistence, Boys Town's policy was to accept all boys in need regardless of race. Because of this, Boys Town's sports teams were fully integrated at a time in America when this was sadly a rare occurrence even in large Midwestern cities such as Omaha. This meant that in order to compete, Boys Town teams had to travel relatively large distances by road, rail, and air to play games against other integrated institutions.

    In 1946, the Boys Town football team traveled to Miami, Florida to play an exhibition game in front of thousands of spectators at Burdine Stadium later known as the Orange Bowl. Originally slated to stay at the Blackstone Hotel on Miami Beach, the team was forced to find accommodations elsewhere when the hotel refused to allow Boys Town's integrated squad to stay there.

    At the stadium, things took a turn for the worse when the game's organizers forced Boys Town's non-white players to sit out the game. At one point, the team's African-American quarterback was booed by the crowd simply for venturing onto the field to bring water to his teammates. Upon hearing of this, Father Flanagan refused to allow his athletic teams or any other Boys Town groups to travel anywhere south of the Mason-Dixon Line.

    So in early 1953, Boys Town used donations to purchase this bus, a 1952 Flxible Visicoach, built in Loudonville, Ohio to transport its student-athletes around the nation. After it was taken out of service in the 1960s, the bus was left to rust on the Boys Town farm until it was discovered, restored, and cut in half by Boys Town students so it could be placed on permanent display in the Hall of History. Today, Boys Town alumni visiting the campus once again climb those familiar steps, turn left, and take a seat on a bus that now takes them on a journey back in time without ever moving so much as a foot.

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