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Nebraska Passport 2016: Hall of History Shares the Boys Town Story

Copyright Nebraska Tourism

​​This article is written by Todd von Kampen, World-Herald Correspondent. It was posted on on on July 17, 2016.

Though he died nearly 70 years ago, Boys Town’s famous founder still commands special attention on the campus of his beloved ministry for troubled youth.

The story, teachings and keepsakes of Monsignor Edward J. Flanagan (1886-1948) await visitors to the Boys Town Hall of History, which opened 30 years ago in the former grade school dining hall on the campus off 137th Street on the West Dodge Expressway.

Next year marks the centennial of establishment of Flanagan’s original home for homeless boys. Four years later, he bought the rolling, forested Overlook Farm that remains Boys Town’s main campus and national headquarters.

The 10,000-square-foot Hall of History’s physical and audiovisual displays tell not only of Flanagan’s national and worldwide impact but also of the evolution of child care in America.

Its most famous artifact remains the Oscar won by Spencer Tracy for playing Flanagan in the 1938 movie “Boys Town” filmed on the campus — and later shipped by Tracy to Flanagan unannounced.

Other highlights include a mini-theater in the front half of the bus in which Flanagan drove Boys Town athletic teams to games; alumni stories and artifacts; audio and movie clips of Flanagan and prominent visitors, such as President Harry S. Truman; and mannequins showing one boy carrying another on his back — depicting the famous Boys Town slogan “He ain’t heavy, Father … he’s m’brother” — as well as Flanagan with a boy. About the statue

A new symbol — a statue of an older boy carrying a littler girl on his back; the young man black, the girl white — will be at the entrance next year when Boys Town celebrates its 100th anniversary. (Boys Town has been admitting girls since 1979.)

Its first symbol was of a single little boy with outstretched arms. When that plaster of Paris statue disintegrated in Nebraska’s weather in the early 1940s, Flanagan opted for a successor statue with one brother carrying another. That version underwent additional changes in the 1970s, with the littler boy looking forward instead of having his head slumped over.

The statue from the ’40s is in the visitors center; the ’70s statue will be moved to the Boys Town Hall of History.

Need to know

Website:; click on About and then History
Phone: 402-498-1122
Address: 14057 Flanagan Blvd., Boys Town, NE 68010
Admission: Free
Hours: 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday