Lancers mark golden anniversary of boys club with a golden purpose

June 02, 1996|By John Steadman

That it has lasted 50 years, this inkling of an idea that came to three boys as they walked along a northwest Baltimore street, is an ongoing documentary to the character of those involved. The Lancers Boys Club stands for half a century of extraordinary excellence.

While doing for others it also has served itself. The boys of yesteryear are the men of today, involved in diverse roles of national and community leadership. It's one of those uplifting stories in an all-for-one caustic world of general selfishness that sounds too good to be real -- based on an awareness that service to those in need is the most commendable of human responses.

The Lancers are not affiliated with a church, synagogue, political party or fraternal organization. More than 3,000 members are included in its alumni. If you're a Lancer, present or past, there's a pride that goes with it. No buttons or badges adorn their chests but deep within they know there's a price to pay, measured in the cost of giving of themselves in the unified spirit of volunteerism.

But, hold on, there are fun and games to lend balance because the Lancers started off basically to be a sports-oriented organization. Yet they never allowed themselves to become one-dimensional. There are visits to the symphony, to Broadway shows, the Metropolitan opera, concerts by the Morgan State University jazz band and to the Peabody Conservatory. From a sports aspect, they've made trips to South America, Europe, Canada, Australia and around the world in 82 days to compete in lacrosse.

The young man who was the first leader of the Lancers and still is -- Baltimore Circuit Chief Judge Robert I. H. Hammerman -- has made it all happen. "I'd say the judge has taken the boys club concept to a higher level than any I've ever heard about," says Bob Scott, retired coach and athletic director of Johns Hopkins University. "The Lancers have done more for the youth of this area than any group I've ever known or heard about."

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke was a Lancer, so was "L.A. Law" actor Michael Tucker; Lou Noonberg, managing partner of the Washington office of Piper & Marbury; Jerry Schnydman, director of alumni relations at Johns Hopkins; Herb Better, managing partner of Zuckerman, Spaeder, Goldstein, Taylor and Better.

The three boys, two 11 years old and the other 10, who agreed in 1946 that they ought to form a club and then recruited Hammerman, went on to high measures of achievement -- Alvin "Buzzy" Krongard, chairman/CEO of Alex Brown Inc.; Ken Parker, a West Point graduate and later owner of a national computer company; and Jerry Sachs, retired president of the Washington Bullets and Capitals.

"We were walking along Wabash Avenue, near Dorchester, when the three of us decided we ought to form a boys club," recalls Sachs. "We knew, though, we needed a leader. We were a little too young to be in charge. So we knocked on the door of Bob Hammerman, who lived three houses away from Buzzy. We wanted him to be our adviser. He was in his freshman year at Hopkins."

They first gathered around the dining room table in Krongard's house. When the gathering started to expand they got permission from Rev. Hendly Clews, pastor of Trinity Methodist Church, to use the recreation room. Later, when the membership reached 200 the Lancers moved to Fallstaff Middle School and then, on a temporary basis, to Friends School.

There are no restrictions, except to be a high school student. There's a complete diversity of nationalities and neighborhoods yet they come together to enhance common interests. Hammerman is there on Fridays, leading discussions on myriad of subjects such as government, current events, sports, career possibilities and ways to make a difference in the lives of others.

The Lancers have gone to homes for the elderly, assisted the physically handicapped at Children's Hospital and, right now, are involved in rehabilitating houses in Baltimore for Bosnian refugees. "Bob is every member's big brother," says Sachs. "Had we not found him, I'm sure he would have been drawn to another area of humane input. He's a remakable man."

Because of Hammerman's sincerity and ability to describe what the Lancers represent, he has attracted a list of outstanding speakers to the weekly meetings. No other club in Baltimore has had a lineup comparable to the Lancers.

For starters: four Supreme Court Justices; Attorney General Janet Reno; famed lawyer F. Lee Bailey; William Webster, former director of the FBI and CIA; Digger Phelps, one-time basketball coach at Notre Dame; author Tom Clancy; Hall of Fame athletes Brooks Robinson, Art Donovan and Wes Unseld; Bob Schieffer, CBS anchorman on "Face The Nation"; Orioles owner Peter Angelos; Gene Corrigan, commissioner of the Atlantic Coast Conference; Madeline Kunin, deputy U.S. secretary of education and former governor of Vermont.

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